Chapter Four: Every Time I See That Girl, You Know I Wanna Lay Down And Die
–I Saw Her Again Last Night
First, I want to say that I have no idea how Fraternities or Hospitals work, so all of the technical stuff–I just made up.
There is violence in this chapter. There is death. There is stupidity. There is righteous indignation. You have been warned.
There is also more sex between consenting adults.
The buildings, organizations,and wilderness areas are real.
Stiles sat on the sofa in Derek’s loft, notebook forgotten in his lap.
He was supposed to be writing a ‘Hello’ letter to one of his soon-to-be dorm mates, but he was utterly distracted by his boyfriend.
Derek had been doing pull-ups from a bar hung from the ceiling.
He was now sitting on a weight bench, doing arm curls with free weight dumbbells.
Derek was shirtless and wearing cut-off sweatpants, which accounted for Stiles’ distraction.
“Not that I’m complaining—because I’m totally not—but when did you start weight-training?”
Derek paused his workout. “In my second year at college. I couldn’t always run every day, because of classes, and a few of the jocks in my dorm had made comments about never seeing me in the gym.”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah—you had to disguise the werewolf physique. I can see that.”
Derek finished his arm curls and began a bench-press set.
Stiles stared as each lift and drop accentuated Derek’s perfect chest and flat belly.
He quickly looked away and began writing before he started drooling.
“I bet you had to tone it down at the gym,” Stiles murmured as he wrote.
“Yeah, I did. I finally got a weight set of my own because I was wasting my time not getting a workout at the gym.”
Stiles’ eyes drifted to the barbell Derek was lifting.
Stiles had no doubts that Derek could lift his car, as obviously the weights were for keeping toned.
Stiles smirked to himself. “Yeah. I’ll stick with running and a good diet, thanks.”
Derek set the barbell in the holder on the weight bench and sat up. “Lifting weights doesn’t have to be about bulking up, Stiles. Toning your muscles helps blood flow, which helps burn calories.” Derek stalked across the room to the sofa. “You don’t have to get ripped. In fact, I’d rather you didn’t. I don’t want anyone to get any ideas about you.”
Stiles held out his arms and allowed Derek to straddle his lap and snuggle close, spreading his scent all over the younger man.
“People can get all the ideas they want,” Stiles said as he cuddled his Mate. “You’re the only one I want, so it won’t matter.”
Stiles pressed his open mouth to Derek’s throat, tasting the sweaty saltiness of his skin. Derek shuddered and returned the kiss, rubbing his lips across Stiles’ forehead.
“You’re the only one for me, too, Stiles. I’ll do my best to keep an eye on your father while you’re gone.”
Stiles smiled up at Derek. “I know you will. I’m glad the two of you get along. It would kill me if you didn’t.”
Derek raised his hand and rubbed a thumb over Stiles’ claiming mark. “I thought he was going to kill me over this.”
Stiles covered Derek’s hand with his own. “Nah. He wasn’t exactly thrilled, but he knows we’re really serious now.”
Stiles blushed, remembering the scene in his house the day after prom.
**Stiles had been coming from the bathroom, showering before bed, when he passed his father in the hallway. He had only been wearing a towel around his waist, so his entire upper body was bare. John had casually paused to ask about prom and the morning after when his gaze zeroed in on the fresh, new bite-mark on Stiles’ neck.
“What the hell is that?!”
Stiles covered the mark with a hand, too late to do more than draw more attention to it. “Um…a claiming mark? Derek and I sort of….do you really want to know?”
John shook his head. “Not details, I don’t. But—a claiming mark? So, what? Does this mean you’re Werewolf Married?”
Stiles blushed harder. “Maybe?” Stiles took a deep breath and moved toward his room. “It means that Derek sees me as his permanent Mate; that he sees a future with me. And I see one with him, or I would never have let him bite me. He’s it for me, dad.”
John held out his hands in supplication. “Okay, son, I get it. But you’re not a werewolf now, are you?”
“No. Only an Alpha can give a transformative Bite. Derek just did this so that other Wolves know that I’m taken.”
“What if you don’t want to be taken anymore? You’ll still have that scar.”
Stiles gave his father a flat look. “That’s not going to happen, Dad. In no reality am I ever not going to want to be with Derek. Now. In four years. In ten years. In twenty. It doesn’t matter. He’s mine, and I am his.”
“Did you bite him, too?”
“No. I have something else planned for him.” **
The ‘something else’ was currently on Derek’s right wrist: a copper wrist-band, an inch wide, etched with arcane sigils and runes. Stiles’ initials were clearly visible in the center of the design: IJS. Stiles had spelled the band with locater spells, warning spells, and love/protection spells. If Derek was ever in danger, or lost somehow, Stiles would ‘feel’ it and be able to find Derek. Stiles would also ‘feel’ if Derek was in emotional or mental distress, so he could call to offer support while away for college. He was taking the Courtship seriously, so he still wanted to bear Derek’s burdens while they were apart.
Stiles lowered both arms so that he could grip Derek’s hips as Derek settled on his lap. He leaned forward and kissed Derek, gently licking against his lower lip. Derek groaned and deepened the kiss, thrusting his tongue against Stiles’. Derek’s hands drifted from Stiles’ shoulders to his chest, to the hem of his shirt and then he tugged, lifting the shirt up. They parted from the kiss only so that Derek could remove the shirt, then they pressed close together, chest to chest.
The kissing went on and on for several moments, never going farther than that. This wasn’t about sex. This was simply Mates being close and taking comfort in contact. Stiles never seemed to get enough of it.
Finally, Derek pulled back and stood from Stiles’ lap. “I’m going to shower, and then we can head out for dinner. Where did you want to go?”
“Um, how about Bamboo Panda? We haven’t had decent Chinese food in a while.”
Derek nodded and walked to the bathroom. “Okay, then. You might want to change your shirt. Bamboo Panda is dressier than the buffet place we usually go to.”
Stiles stood and wandered to the bedroom area of the loft. “Do I still have the blue shirt here?”
“Yeah, but you don’t have a vest.”
While Derek showered, Stiles donned the light blue button-down that he left behind a week prior. Stiles and Derek had taken to doing laundry together on Derek’s off days, since Derek was often busy at the hospital. Together-time was at a premium, so laundry day was sacred to them both. Sometimes Stiles would lose an article of clothing, or he would take home something of Derek’s. They would trade back when they saw each other.
Much later, Derek and Stiles were sitting in a cozy booth in one of the nicer restaurants in Beacon Hills. The décor was classic: wooden paneling leading to pale textured wallpaper, soft-covered pendant lamps hung over the booths while the tables had covered candles, and every table had a red cloth covering under a glass surface for easy cleaning. It wasn’t as nice as the Hale’s place, but it wasn’t a diner or fast-food joint. The clientele also tended to be families or older couples, so Derek and Stiles would go there to be alone without risk of being mobbed by high school students.
They chatted while they ate, mostly about what subjects Stiles was most looking-forward to studying and which he wanted to avoid. Derek would recommend a good study spot or running trail, and Stiles would ask about entertainment venues close to campus.
Derek suddenly stiffened in his seat and then slouched, as if trying to make himself smaller. Stiles looked over his shoulder toward the door and saw a group of young adults, dressed in jeans and pullovers—a mix of three women and two men.
Stiles turned back to Derek. “Someone you know?”
Derek nodded. “My Intern class from the hospital.”
Stiles turned back to the group waiting to be seated. They were waiting for the hostess and talking amongst themselves, not paying attention to the other patrons seated in the dining room. The men were of average height, around five-eight or five-nine, one with dark brown hair and the other with deep auburn hair. The women were a mix of tall and short, with the shortest looking like she was around Lydia’s height—five-three—and the tallest around five-eight. There were two blondes and one brunette.
He faced Derek again, who was staring at his plate as if the sweet-and-sour chicken was the most interesting thing in the world. “So, which one is giving you trouble?”
Derek looked up sharply. “What?”
Stiles smirked. “Come on, Derek. You’ve already told me that you’re being sexually harassed at work. Which one is it?”
Derek’s eyes drifted to follow the group, now being seated. “Schiff. The tall blonde. She’s still after me, even after HR had their little chat. She’s relentless, always turning up where I am and trying to stand too close.”
Stiles frowned. “You don’t think she somehow followed us here, do you? Because that would be totally creepy. And also somehow illegal, since we only decided last-minute to come here.”
Derek laughed. “No. She doesn’t know where I live, so I doubt she’s managed to bug the place. Plus, I think I would hear the whine of an electronic listening device. She just hounds me at the hospital. She always manages to be on my rounds shift, and she tries to sit with me in the cafeteria. I keep telling her that I’m not interested; that I’m happy with my boyfriend.”
“That’s totally uncool, man. But if you’ve already complained, then you might have to get legal with her. Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. She could get dropped from the program.”
Derek smiled. “I’m just glad you don’t think I’m encouraging it. Those two guys over there think I should be happy that a beautiful woman is interested in me.”
Stiles laughed, brightly amused. “Dude! I’m a guy, and you’re dating me. You Mated me! I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be encouraging her.”
“That’s true. I guess some pretty women just don’t understand when a man isn’t interested.”
“Do you want to try and sneak out the back way?”
Derek laughed. “No. We’re going to enjoy our meal, and then we’ll leave through the front door, like normal people. If they say anything, we’ll stop and say hello. Maybe if she actually sees you, she’ll believe that I have a boyfriend and I’m happy.”
Stiles reached out toward Derek’s plate and snagged a piece of chicken with his fork. “I’m happy with you, too, Derek. And I don’t care who knows it.”
They finished their meal with more pleasant conversation; the other med students were totally forgotten. Derek paid the check and they waited for the receipt patiently when they heard Derek’s name being called from across the restaurant.
“Hale? Is that you?”
Stiles rolled his eyes and they both turned toward the voice. The brunet male had ‘spoken’, garnering attention from everyone in the restaurant.
At least he now looked sheepish.
Their waiter returned with Derek’s receipt, and Derek and Stiles stood from their seats. Stiles hooked his arm around Derek’s. “Well, now that everyone here knows who you are, we may as well drop by their table.”
Derek led Stiles to the table full of interns, an easy smile on his face. “Morgan, how are you?”
The brunet blushed bright red. “Totally embarrassed, thanks. Sorry about that.”
The blonde, Schiff, gave them a considering look. “Who’s your friend, Hale?”
Derek rubbed the back of his neck absently. “Sorry. This is my boyfriend, Stiles. Stiles, this is Dan Morgan, Drew McNeill, Janice Curry, Arlena Schiff, and Rebecca Powers.”
Stiles nodded in greeting. “Nice to meet you. Hate to greet and run, but this is a rare day off, as I’m sure you appreciate, so I’m going to steal Derek away.”
They all said good-bye and Derek allowed Stiles to pull him from the restaurant, ignoring the calculating look he was receiving from Schiff.
Stiles eagerly opened the envelope he retrieved from the mailbox. It was a ‘hello’ letter from one of his dorm-mates, and Stiles wanted to know as much about him before meeting him for the first time when they moved into the dorms.
You’ll have to tell me how to pronounce that when we meet. I’m Brian Wiley, as you know, and I’m from Palo Alto. I played football in high school, as well as soccer and tennis. My main interests are photography, art, and computers. I’ll be in the Computer Programming program at school, but mainly I’m just looking forward to being away from home for the first time.
The rest of the letter went on in the same vein. Stiles figured his new roomie was a bit of a geek who never really traveled from home, just like Stiles. He hoped they would get along.
Scott was quietly freaking about his own new roomie: an English major from Sacramento who hoped to become an investigative journalist.
“How am I supposed to hide being a werewolf from a guy who wants to snoop for a living?”
Stiles laughed. “We’ll work it out, buddy, don’t worry. And maybe he’ll just be a normal guy and you’ll be great friends.”
Since the state of California required all first year students to live in dorms, all of the Pack members were trying to prepare for living with strangers for a year. Lydia and Jackson were planning to just deal for a year and then find an apartment together for the rest of their college careers. Stiles and Scott were trying to figure if they could afford to do the same thing.
“Maybe we won’t have to, Scott. Maybe you’ll get along with your roomie and I’ll get along with mine, and we’ll have new friends all through school.”
Scott looked at him skeptically. “I don’t know, Stiles. My furry issues make keeping secrets necessary, and friendships can’t be based in secrets.”
“Scott, just be yourself, and try not to maul him. You’re a great guy. Being a werewolf hasn’t changed that.”
Stiles sat on the back deck of the Hale house watching the Pack wrestle in the large yard. The usual Fourth of July picnic and barbeque had been rained out, so the Pack was together the following weekend, running drills and play-tracking through the woods. Allison and Lydia had volunteered to be tracking bait, and Boyd and Danny were helping with the food preparations. Stiles was sitting with Michael and Nicky, playing cards in the sunshine.
“Are you excited about the new house, Nicky?”
The boy looked up from his cards. “Yeah! My new room is going to be bigger, with bookshelves and a desk!”
Stiles smiled. “Are you getting ready for the baby?”
“Mom is. Dad won’t let her go to her studio anymore, so she’s been working in the library here. She has lots of sketches for decorating the nursery, and she’s going to let me help paint it.”
“That’s cool. Is she going with a theme? Allison’s mom went with Classic Pooh for CJ.”
Nicky shook his head as he added a card to the discard pile. “Nothing like that. She’s making a mural for one wall, and I get to help paint it.”
Michael smiled at this cousin. “Uncle Peter isn’t even allowed to help. Aunt Amanda says he’s of no use with a paintbrush.”
“That’s okay,” said Stiles, picking up several cards at once. “Peter has other talents. Like picking the most comfortable furniture. You and the baby are going to be so lucky, Nicky!”
“I know. I can’t wait to be a big brother.” Nicky threw down three pairs of cards and discarded one. “Rummy! I’m gonna go and get some water. Thanks for the game, Stiles!”
Nicky ran into the house and Stiles and Michael gathered the cards. “Did you want to play, Michael?”
“No, thanks. Stiles? Can I talk to you about something personal?”
Stiles looked at the younger boy. “Sure, Michael. Did you want to go somewhere else?”
Michael looked into the yard, where the werewolves could likely overhear them. “Do you mind?”
Stiles shook his head. “Of course not. Let’s tell your mom that we’re going for a walk before dinner.”
Stiles and Michael walked slowly through the woods, away from the Hale property and eavesdropping werewolves. Stiles could see that the teenager had something heavy on his mind, so he vowed to do his best to help.
They walked in silence for a while as Michael gathered his thoughts. “Stiles, how did you know you loved Derek?”
Stiles stopped walking. “Wow. That’s an interesting question.” Stiles walked to an over-turned tree and sat on the fallen log. “I don’t honestly know when my feelings turned to love, Michael. He was always my friend. I always liked him. He respected me and he listened to me and we just cared for each other.”
Michael sat beside Stiles. “So you didn’t ‘see fireworks’?”
Stiles laughed. “Oh, yeah I did! The first time he kissed me, I thought my head was going to explode! But love isn’t always fireworks, Michael. Sometimes it’s just a feeling like you belong. Sometimes it’s just contentment. What’s going on, Michael?”
Michael sighed. “There’s a girl in my class that was hanging around a lot before school let out. She kept hinting that she’d like me to ask her out.”
Stiles nodded. “And you don’t like her?”
“No. Not like a girlfriend. I mean, I guess she’s pretty, and she’s really smart, but I’m not attracted to her at all.”
Stiles hummed. “Okay. That’s perfectly fine, you know. You don’t have to be attracted to every pretty girl in the world, even if they’d like you to be. And you don’t even have to be attracted to girls at all. Is there a guy you like? Or even several? Because you’re too young to settle down.”
Michael shook his head. “No. There are pretty and smart boys at school, too, but there is really no attraction there either.”
Stiles sighed deeply. “Michael, when I started high school, there were a lot of older kids that I didn’t really know, so there was a possibility of lots of dates if I was interested. I had a lot going on then. I was studying magic pretty heavily, and learning to cook on weekends. I had Cross Country, Lacrosse, and Track, so I was busy training, too. And I had my studies, of course, because high school is for learning and I had to keep my grades up. I even took half a year off to study with Roland McCook in Colorado so that I could prepare for my Hunt.
“I wasn’t popular like Jackson and Danny, but there were girls I could have asked out. But I wasn’t attracted to them. I didn’t really like any of the guys like that, either. A lot of the kids I went to school with thought I was asexual, because I wasn’t interested in dating, but really I was just into Derek by then and only wanted him.”
“But you couldn’t date, because he’s so much older. I bet that was weird.”
Stiles shrugged. “It wasn’t too weird. Derek asked Dad for permission to court me just before I turned sixteen, so even though we never dated it felt like I had a boyfriend. The point is, you don’t have to be ready to date yet. You don’t have to be ready to date until you’re really ready, Michael. It’s okay not to be interested in anyone yet.”
Michael’s face screwed up into a pained expression. “But what if I’m never interested in anyone? I can tell if someone is pretty or kind or attractive, but I don’t feel attraction to anyone. Not even Brad Pitt or Taylor Swift. I just don’t think I want a girlfriend or boyfriend at all.”
Stiles smiled gently. “Well, that’s okay, Michael. It could all change some day, if you meet the right person, or it might not. People who never feel romantic or sexual attraction toward others are called asexual, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not going to say that nobody is going to call you a freak or anything, because people are assholes, but nobody in your family will call you a freak.”
Michael heaved a huge sigh. “So I’m not weird?”
Stiles laughed and clapped Michael on the back. “I never said that. But your sexuality is normal. Nobody ever talks about asexuality, but it is normal. It just means that, while you understand attractiveness, you don’t find yourself physically attracted to anyone. You aren’t interested in sex or other forms of physical contact. It doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t have sex, just that it’s not that important to you.”
Michael nodded. “That’s cool. I thought I was broken or something.”
Stiles hugged Michael to his side. “You’re not broken. You’re just different, and that’s okay. Now, let’s get back and prevent Scott from burning the burgers. That boy has no sense of how to treat meat.”
Late in July, Stiles led the recently graduated members of the Pack through the woods toward the Nemeton. They were going to be digging up the old, dead roots from around the new growth and carrying them to the Hale property. Jackson and Danny were hauling one carpenter’s cart along an overgrown path, and Scott and Isaac were hauling another. Erica, Boyd, and Allison were trailing closely behind them, chattering about Allison’s baby brother, CJ.
When they reached the tree, Stiles set out ‘feelers’ to find the roots, and he, Boyd, and Isaac grabbed shovels to dig down and expose the roots. The Wolves were going to pull the roots out of the ground, prying them loose with the shovels when they caught under new roots or rocks.
“So, what is the deal with this, Stiles?” asked Jackson and he piled dead wood into his cart. “I mean, are we landscaping in the woods, or what?”
“Or what, Jackson.” Stiles dumped a long, rotted root into the cart and moved to another area. “We need to get the dead wood away from the Nemeton, so that rot doesn’t develop around the new roots. This way, we’ll keep the energy convergences clean and healthy, and the Ley Lines will be clear. Energy will travel more efficiently, like cars on a clear highway. Once we’re done, we’re gonna build a bonfire with the dead roots and some herbs that I harvested this week. It’s a spell to keep the Pack healthy and prosperous, so we’ll flourish even though we’ll be scattered for college.”
Erica wiped sweat from her brow and hefted another large root from the hole she was working on. “That’s so cool. I never knew that magic could be like this. I always thought it was more ‘Harry Potter’ than earthy stuff.”
“It can be both,” Stiles said as he dug around some roots. “I mix potions, too. And herbology is important for a lot of spells. I had to give Dad a detailed list of instructions for the garden for while I’m gone. I don’t just grow spell ingredients there, so I want him to be able to enjoy fresh veggies while I’m away.”
“My mom said she loves eating at your house, Stiles,” said Scott, filling dirt into an emptied hole. “She said she’s lost, like, ten pounds since she started dating your dad. And she’s not snacking at work anymore.”
“Yeah, Dad’s last physical was outstanding! He’s been keeping track of which recipes he likes best and we cook together every week now. The hard part for me is going to be eating in a dining hall because I won’t have a kitchen to cook in. I bet I’ll gain so much weight by Christmas break!”
“Oh, no you won’t,” said Danny as he and Allison loaded another root into Jackson’s cart. “I’ll get you on track with exercise every day, because I have no intention of gaining the ‘freshman fifteen’ while I’m at school. Plus, I looked into our dorm situation, and our dining facility serves a large variety of things, so it won’t be totally un-healthy.”
Stiles, Danny, and Scott had lucked out with dorm assignments, as all three were going to be living in Emerson Hall. They’d be in suite configurations, so they’d each have three or more room-mates instead of just one, but there was a pool area on site. If they liked the dorm, but not the roomies, they had decided to stay and try to get a suite together in their second year. Stiles was going to be on the second floor in a four-person suite with two upper-classmen and a computer programming major. Danny and Scott were both on the third floor. Scott was especially worried about sharing with three other people because of his ‘furry issue’. Danny was in a six-person suite, but it was okay because he was totally a social animal.
Stiles nodded. “Yeah, Dad and I are going bike-shopping to see if I can find something to pedal across campus with. And the pools will be good for exercise. Derek told me all about the running trails that he used, so that’s all good. I just wish I had access to an actual kitchen. I like to bake when I’m stressed, and I won’t be able to do that now.”
Two hours later the group was dragging carts full of rotted and dead tree roots into the Hale back yard where Stiles had plotted out a bonfire area. He had used chalk to trace runes in a circle far enough away from the house that sparks wouldn’t be dangerous. The runes were for general protection and containment, so that the fire stayed in the circle. Outside of the runes, Stiles had drawn spells in Theban and pictographs, melding the magical alphabets in his own curious style that drew power from his own center.
Donna Maria had tried to admonish him for mixing magical languages, but he insisted that he did what felt natural, and it was something that no one else could mimic successfully. Since she couldn’t argue against that point, she let the whole thing drop. Stiles had long since grown past her teachings, and she couldn’t deny that his magic was strong.
Stiles instructed the Wolves in how to pile the wood for maximum burn. Once the bonfire was constructed, he carefully laid a circle of mountain ash around the whole thing, sealing the magic. The rest of the Pack, Wolves and humans, had gathered close to the wood pile, each holding a gold-striped white candle.
“Okay,” said Stiles, clapping his hands, “Here’s how it’s going to go. We’re all going to stand in a circle around this pile, holding our candles out in front of us. You want to keep your arms straight out, because I’m going to ignite the candles with the spell, and it’s gonna be sudden. Once that happens, I want you all to toss your candles into the pile. Don’t worry about them bouncing out; they can’t. Once the fire catches, I guess we can eat, drink, and party!”
The Pack obeyed Stiles’ instructions, and Stiles stood between his father and Derek, with Melissa, Scott, Cora, Erica, Boyd, Isaac, and Allison on one side, and Talia, Robert, Peter, Amanda and Nicholas, Regan and Laurence and Adam, Jackson and Lydia on the other. Other members of the Pack, distant members that Stiles knew in passing, filled out the circle. In between people were markers of quartz crystals representing unofficial members like Camden Lahey and the Argents and Whittemores—all people who wanted to take part in the ‘Prosper and Grow’ ritual but couldn’t attend for some reason or other, so that there would be a glitter of crystal in the firelight once the spell was set.
Stiles raised his arms out-stretched, and the others followed his example. He took a deep, calming breath and centered his energy, focusing on his plan and intent. He closed his eyes, envisioning what was to come until the fire burned brightly in his mind.
Opening his eyes, Stiles spoke loudly and clearly, so that he could be heard by all in attendance.
“We burn the past, and kill the rot, and put the dead to rest.
We light our path, and ignite our hopes, and brighten our futures in life and love.”
In one, solid flash, every candle burst into flame, startling several people even though they knew to expect it. They all, as one, tossed the candles into the bonfire pile, and the dead roots smoldered, then burned hot and bright.
Everyone stood and watched the fire for a few moments, and then Robert called for volunteers to carry food outside.
John draped his arm over Stiles’ shoulder and he leaned into his son. He had never actually participated in any of Stiles’ magic before, even though he wore or carried several charms that were made for him. His wallet, he knew, was near indestructible, and he never removed the star-shaped talisman that Stiles crafted for him. But this?
This was amazing.
“You did good, Stiles. How long will this burn?”
Stiles hummed. “Oh, a few hours at least. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if it burns until morning. I put a hard whammy on it. That’s why we’re camping out beside the fire tonight. It won’t get out of control, but it would be irresponsible to leave it unattended.”
Stiles, Scott, Cora, Derek, Michael, Nicky, and Peter were all planning to sleep outside beside the fire, watching the stars and telling stories. It was going to be a grand adventure for Nicky, who had never been allowed to take part in Pack activities like this before. There was a pile of sleeping bags on the back deck, along with a small selection of story books. They were going to avoid scary stories, focusing mainly on folk tales and family histories.
“Did you want me to stay? I don’t mind.”
Stiles looked at his father and smiled. “Nah, you don’t have to worry about it. It was more than enough that you came to the ritual. You and Melissa should take advantage of a night off and an empty house while you can.”
“Okay, let’s eat then. Those ribs smell amazing!”
Stiles was checking things off of his packing list when his cell rang in with ‘Money For Nothing’, by Dire Straits.
“Yo! Jackson! What’s up?”
“Lydia wants to go camping before we head out to Stanford. Free camping, Stiles. Lydia. Wants. To. Go. Camping.”
Stiles had never heard Jackson so distressed. Sure, it was odd that Lydia, perfect lady and mad math genius, wanted to go free camping, especially since they practically had to drag her out the last time she went. But still….
“Um, okay? Is this a bad thing?”
Jackson sighed. “Just…yeah. Can you come and talk to her, please. She’s freaking me out.”
“Where are you?” Stiles dropped his list and grabbed his wallet and car keys as he headed for the door.
“We’re at the Volvo dealership south of town.”
“I’ll meet you at the Woods Edge Diner in thirty. Should I bring anyone else?”
There was a muffled conversation and then Jackson replied, “Can you bring Scott, Cora, and Alpha Hale? This may need an intervention.”
“Okay, I’ll call the Hale house on my way. I think Scott and Cora are out there this morning.”
Stiles disconnected the call and placed one to Talia’s personal cell as he climbed into his jeep.
“Alpha Hale, this is Stiles. Are Scott and Cora with you? And are you all available to help a Pack member in crisis?”
“I am always available to help Pack, Stiles. You know that. Scott and Cora are outside with Peter and Nicholas.”
“I’m on my way to pick you all up. Jackson called and asked for help, but I’m not really sure why. I’ll explain on the way, okay?”
“We’ll be ready.”
Stiles backed out of the driveway after securing his phone in the cup holder between seats. He never drove while on the phone. Too many drivers’ Ed videos about road accidents and distracted driving took deep root into his brain. His sheriff father was happy about Stiles’ safe driving habits, so they never really talked about it.
On the way out to the Hale property, Stiles tried to think about why Lydia would want to go camping. Sure, she eventually had a good time, and she proved to be one of the best trappers in the group, but she still said that the next time she went into the woods, a cabin with hot water and plumbing had best be involved.
And a Volvo dealership was involved, too.
Stiles—and everyone else college-bound really—was only weeks away from moving away from home and into dormitories for their next education adventure. Camping, while enjoyable for most of them, was not quite on the bill for the near future.
Stiles pulled into the Hale driveway to find all three Pack members waiting outside, each wearing blatant confusion on their faces. Scott and Cora filed into the back seat and Talia buckled herself into the front passenger seat, and Stiles turned around in the yard and headed out of town.
“So, Jackson called. He sounded…lost. He said Lydia wanted to go camping before we all went off to school.”
Scott and Cora sounded off from the backseat, while Talia merely looked pensive.
“I know! So, he requested that we ‘intervene’ with him, to figure out what’s wrong.”
Talia looked over at Stiles. “Has anything happened recently to upset her?”
Stiles shook his head. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen much of them since the bonfire ritual. I’ve been busy getting ready for school, and I know they have. Mostly I’ve been trying to spend as much time with Derek and my father as I can before I leave.”
Twenty minutes later, Stiles was parking in front of an old-fashioned diner at the side of the highway. Jackson’s Porsche was already there, so the foursome entered the building looking for him. He and Lydia were sitting in a large booth at the far end of the diner. Jackson looked concerned.
Lydia looked pissed.
Stiles and company filed toward the booth after indicating to the hostess that they were with the other couple. She followed with menus, and a waitress brought coffee and water to the table.
Talia scooted into the booth so that she sat next to Lydia, and Stiles sat next to her. Scott and Cora sat beside Jackson on the other side of the table. Talia reached out and covered Lydia’s hand with her own, and Lydia took a deep, shuddering breath.
“My ass-hat father is getting married to the home-wrecker in October. He wants me there. He wants me there so badly that he’s buying me a car for college, and promised to pay for insurance until I graduate and get a job. My mother started drinking again, and she’s saying that she’s no good without a man, and that my father ruined her.”
Lydia looked up at Stiles. “I want to take my mother free camping, like you took me. I want to teach her how to build a shelter and a cook fire, and how to catch and clean a fish. I want to show her that she doesn’t need a man. That she can depend on herself. I can’t leave her alone like this.”
Lydia broke into sobs, and Talia hugged her close as Jackson watched helplessly.
“I think that’s a fine idea, Lydia,” said Talia after a few moments. “You can make it a Mother/Child camping trip. I’d certainly love to go and learn those things. I hunt, of course, on Moon Runs, but the whole camping/fishing/wilderness thing eludes me.”
“I bet I can get my mom to come,” said Scott. “She’s never done anything like that at all. She’s never really even been on vacation.”
Jackson nodded. “It would be a way to spend some time with my mom before I left. She’d be totally out of her element, but I bet she’d be up for it.”
Stiles reached into his vest pocket for the notepad that he was perpetually carrying. “Okay, so we’ve got Mrs. Whittemore, Melissa, Ms. Martin….who else?”
Cora looked up from her phone, where she’d been texting. “Erica says to count her and her mom in, and Boyd is asking his mom now. Okay—the Boyds are in.”
Scott took out his phone, as did Jackson, and texts began to fly—all plotting out a major camping trip.
Talia kissed Lydia’s temple as the girl calmed. “So, since your ass-hat father is buying you a car, what are you getting?”
Lydia looked up and smirked. “Well, Jackson has the Porsche, which is totally flashy but impractical, so I’m going Volvo. Daddy will be here in an hour to put money down on a shiny blue, four-wheel drive Volvo XC-90 SUV. It’s insanely expensive, totally practical, and it’ll last forever, if I treat it right. And I can use it to transport Jackson’s and my stuff to and from Stanford.”
Talia nodded in approval. “Very sensible. And flashy. I approve of your choice.”
“Well,” said Lydia, “I wasn’t going to go with the station wagon. I wanted cargo space, but I also wanted style.”
All of the texting was finished, and Stiles had begun finalizing plans for the camp-out. “Okay, so Melissa managed to get another nurse to trade shifts with her, and all the other moms are on board with last-minute vacation plans. We’re good for Tuesday through Saturday, so we all have to get the females outfitted for the trip. I have three backpacks at the house, and I can grab Derek’s. Who else has what?”
And for the next hour, while waiting for Lydia’s father, the small group took personal inventory of their camping supplies (of which they needed very little, because they’d be living off the land) and arranged to have a Mom-meeting the next afternoon to prepare the newbies for the trip.
Stiles and company left the diner well before Mr. Martin arrived, so that Talia wouldn’t be tempted to rip out his throat for how he treated his wife and daughter.
Stiles looked around the campfire at the collected group:
Lydia and Gloria Martin—looking appropriately grubby in jeans and t-shirts and hiking boots.
Vernon Boyd IV and his mother, Rolanda, wearing matching red-and-yellow shirts emblazoned with ‘Boyd Family Reunion 1998’—from a much happier time (Boyd’s shirt was obviously his father’s).
Erica and Anita Reyes, chattering about how nice the stars look through the trees.
Scott and Melissa McCall, laughing with Jackson and Anne Whittemore while poking sticks into the fire.
Cora and Talia Hale, heads together as they listened to the sounds of the forest around them—possibly tracking a rabbit by sound.
Most of the ladies looked quite out of place, most notably Melissa and Anne, but they all paid close attention when building their branch shelters and laying snares for dinner. Melissa was most interested in learning about edible plants in the wild environment—and which ones to avoid. Rolanda and Gloria had to be read into the Werewolf issue before the trip, and they both spent the day asking Anne, Melissa, and Talia questions while they hiked deeper into Preserve.
The plan for the next day was fishing—bare-handed without a pole or bait. Anita most wanted to learn that, as Erica had waxed quite poetically about it the last time she went out. Rolanda was happy to just lay a snare for a rabbit, since she’d been eating grocery store meat all her life. Aside from Melissa, who was a nurse and therefore used to gross stuff, all of the ladies were squeamish about killing, skinning, gutting, and roasting rabbits. Well, okay, Melissa and Talia weren’t squeamish. Talia had used her natural ability as a Wolf for hunting, and she happily supplied meat for the group, with the understanding that she wouldn’t have to clean the animals herself. Stiles insisted that they were all going to clean their own fish.
They spent the evening laughing and getting to know each other. And getting to know their offspring.
Anne was so tickled at using a flint-and-steel to start a fire, she jumped up and put the fire right out, which caused another round of laughter.
Stiles banked the fire, so that it would burn itself out safely, and he turned his attention to Lydia. She took her cue, and stood up, brushing the leaves and dirt from her pants.
“All my life, my father called me his pretty princess. He used it as an endearment, but he honestly saw me that way. He would tell me that I would find a nice man someday who would take care of me, and I’d never want for anything. He said my pretty face was my ticket to an easy life.”
She took a deep breath and began to walk slowly around the fire circle. All eyes were on her as she continued her story. “I know my mom isn’t stupid. She has a degree, and she used to teach before she got married. But Dad was an old-fashioned idiot who wanted to work and have a stay-at-home wife. And that’s okay. But soon he had her convinced that she was only a wife and mother, and that she was only worth what he decided she was worth. And he was trying to do that to me. In the third grade, I discovered that math was fun! And he told me that thinking too hard would give me wrinkles, and then no man would want me.
“Who tells that to an eight-year-old? So, I hid my love of math and science. I never signed up for science fair, until junior high. And when I did a project, I never told him about it. He got his greatest joy taking me shopping for the latest fashions and buying me ridiculous jewelry and toys. I had the best of everything, as long as he thought I was a simple girly-girl. I almost fell into that trap. And then I started dating Jackson.” Anne nudged Jackson’s shoulder and hugged him as Lydia kept speaking. “I almost told him that I’d be happy to play the dumb cheerleader for his popular friends, just like their girlfriends did. And he told me that he wanted me to shine all on my own—that he was proud of how smart I was.
“I got so mad when I saw that Mom was hiding her light, just for Dad. And then Dad cheated—with his secretary of all people. He picked a younger model—certainly not a prettier one—and he gave Mom the boot like she was last year’s suit. And he expected me to keep being his perfect princess. He’s still buying my favor. He wants me at his wedding this fall. I hate it! But what I really hate is what it did to my wonderful mother. Somehow, she thinks that she’s not worth anything on her own. When I heard her say that she needed a man to be anything, I decided to bring her out here. To show her that she doesn’t need a man. I learned that I could—if I had to—survive on my own in the wild. That I am capable. I want her to know that, too.”
Lydia reclaimed her seat next to her sobbing mother, and wrapped the older woman in a hug. “I don’t ever want my mom to think that she needs a man to make her life complete. Because I think she’s perfect the way she is. So—camping as a re-affirmation project.”
Stile walked over to the Martins and pulled Gloria up into a hug, and one by one, the other women—the mothers—gathered to hug her and tell her that she is strong, appreciated, and better off without the ass-hat.
On Saturday afternoon, a week before everyone left for college, a whole gaggle of laughing, dirty mothers-and-children, plus Stiles, collapsed beside cars in the Hale front yard. Robert, Michael, Nicholas, and Peter were there to meet them, each holding super-soaker water guns filled with soapy water. They opened fire on the bedraggled group, metaphorically washing away any doubts or fears that the women had before entering the woods on Tuesday morning. Then Robert grabbed the garden hose and rinsed them all in cold water before calling to Michael to bring hot cocoa and sandwiches out to the group.
They were tired, dirty, soapy, soaked, and hungry.
They were also laughing and hugging their children, having a new appreciation for those they had birthed.
Stiles counted it as a win.
On August sixteenth, Christopher Argent found himself on a plane headed east to Vermont. He hadn’t wanted to leave Victoria and CJ. Allison had already left for San Diego State, and Victoria would be alone with an active six-month-old. But Victoria insisted that he go alone. She had actually shoved him out the door, in fact.
A small group of women that he barely knew on sight had converged on his house on Monday declaring that the Pack Mothers Association was there ‘to induct Victoria properly so that she would never feel alone’, and Christopher felt the need to seek out John Stilinski for answers. After learning about the camping trip that Victoria and Allison had missed because of CJ, he was pleased that Victoria now had emotional support from outside the family.
Christopher also smirked at the idea that Stiles had anything at all to do with the female bonding going on in his living room.
The fact that Ignacek ‘Stiles’ Stilinski, a young man with no living mother, had organized a trip designed to bring mothers and their children closer before the children left for college had also surprised Christopher. He knew that Ignacek was a powerful Mage and talented Emissary. He also suspected that the young man was also Mate to the future Alpha of the Hale Pack. To find out now that the young man was a sympathetic care-giver to the humans in the periphery of the Pack somehow didn’t surprise him at all.
Those women, who included Melissa McCall, Anne Whittemore, and Rolanda Boyd—a personal trainer Christopher had seen at the gym he used, but did not include Talia Hale (who would not force her personality into the home of a known Hunter uninvited) had sat down with Victoria and explained the camping trip and their new empowerment as mothers of extraordinary children. They were there, they said, to make sure Victoria never felt alone or insignificant. They were promising to meet once a week for lunch, to compare notes about their children and to give personal progress reports. They offered companionship and babysitting and personal support for when Victoria got overwhelmed—if she ever did get overwhelmed. They were introduced to CJ and chatted about their jobs and hobbies. Because Victoria hadn’t been out in the woods with them the previous week, they came to her because she was one of them; Allison was still dating Isaac, who was Pack, so Victoria qualified as a Pack Mother.
So, Christopher boarded the plane knowing that, while he wasn’t there with Victoria and CJ, they certainly were not alone.
His thoughts drifted to the reason for the flight: Kate Argent, once again in trouble and in his life.
Chris remembered the phone call he received in February, only a week after CJ was born:
**“May I speak with Christopher Argent?”
“This is he.”
“My name is Sergeant McAffey, of the Vermont State Police. Do you have a sister named Katherine?”
Chris sighed and sat back in his desk chair. “What has she done now?”
“I’m sorry to inform you that she was in an extremely bad vehicular accident in January. She’s currently in the hospital in Morrisville, Vermont, in a coma.”
Chris ran a trembling hand across his face. “Why has it taken so long to contact me?”
“Mr. Argent, there were several people involved in the accident, which occurred on a logging road in the mountains. The driver of the logging truck was killed, as was the driver of the vehicle your sister was in. It took a long time to situate the scene, much less to sort out survivors and get them to hospitals. Your sister had in her possession several IDs with many different names. We started internet searches for all of the names and Katherine Argent pinged only a week ago—along with her prior legal troubles. We had been trying to reach her listed emergency contact, Gerard Argent, ever since.”
Chris sighed. “Yes, that is our father. He died last fall. What can you tell me about her condition?”
“I can’t tell you much at all, since I’m not a doctor. She’s in a coma, most likely from a bad head injury. She was badly damaged in the accident, and one arm had to be amputated because it was almost entirely severed in the crash. There was only one other survivor. Here is the contact number for the hospital. They can give you more information.”
“Thank you for calling.” **
Chris had left Victoria and his newborn son for a few days so that he could fly to Vermont and make arrangement for Kate’s care. She had been in a long-term facility for several months, but now she had taken a turn for the worse. Chris took the time to mourn his younger sister. They were not close in age, but he had adored her when they were younger, before she became crazed with the fanatic need to Hunt that had also driven their father.
Things were different now.
Christ took out his phone and opened the photo app, gazing into the eyes of his children.
Allison was off to college, wanting to be a teacher so she could distance herself from her Hunting legacy.
CJ was a bright-eyed baby boy who had recently begun laughing every day. At six months, his development was slow, but he was progressing just fine. CJ was Christopher’s bright spot every day.
His family was almost gone.
His father, Gerard, turned into an Alpha and killed before he could attack Allison.
Kate, comatose after an horrific road accident and now near death.
All he had were his wife and children.
As the plane landed, Christopher Argent vowed that he would not make the same mistake that Gerard did; he would not turn against his ideals, he would not turn away from his family, and he would not forget how precious life and family were.
Days later, Kate Argent quietly passed from her mortal life.
Christopher had arranged for her to be cremated, and her ashes were interred in a small cemetery in Vermont. She was never going to impact his family again.
Stiles bundled his way into his small dorm room carrying only his duffle bag. All of his other possessions were still in the jeep, as he needed to magically ‘clear’ the room before he settled in.
The suite wasn’t large: two two-person bedrooms and a shared living space, and a bathroom. The bedrooms were cramped with two beds, two desks, two wardrobes, and not much floor space. His suitemates were already here from the looks of things. They were obviously out and about, but their belongings were evident in the rooms.
That suited Stiles just fine, as he wanted no witnesses to his magic-using.
He placed his duffle bag on the one empty bed and opened it, removing several items and laying them on the bed. He had a spray-bottle containing purified water, an owl-feather fan (a gift from Roland McCook), and a small bowl of crystals.
But first, he took a photograph of Derek and himself and pinned it to the cork-board over his desk.
Stiles placed the bowl of crystals on the floor in the center of the room and proceeded to spray a gentle mist all around the room, fanning it into corners and nooks. He whispered his spell silently as he sprayed, and a golden glow filled the room.
Finally, the last of the water was sprayed and the glow began to spin in a gentle tornado of magic, swirling faster and faster as it gathered any left-over misery, anxiety, grief, and negativity from previous occupants.
Then the tornado whipped itself into the center of the room and sucked into the bowl of crystals, which turned dark with the trapped negativity.
Stiles pulled a zipper bag from his duffle and placed the bowl inside for later disposal. He would use the light of the coming Full Moon to clean the crystals and then he would scrub the bowl with salt.
He was replacing the magical instruments into his duffle when the door to the suite opened and his roomies walked it.
“Hey! New Guy is here!!”
Stiles turned to see three young men walking into his room. Two were obviously more comfortable in the dorm situation, so Stiles had pegged them as the upperclassmen, Troy Bennett and Michael Carnes. They had been roomies as freshmen three years before, and they became close friends so they decided to stay roomies throughout college. The third man sat down on the ‘occupied’ bed in the room and smiled at Stiles in greeting.
Until his smile faded.
Stiles tried to follow his gaze, to see why the young man had suddenly turned off the ‘friendly’, but all he could see was his photo of Derek.
“Great,” sneered the young man. “You’re a lousy fag. They warned me this could happen.”
Stiles stiffened immediately and pulled his phone from his bag. He sent a quick text to Scott and Danny (trouble, TTYL) and walked into the hallway, ignoring the two men in the hall. They began talking, but Stiles couldn’t hear it. He was more focused on finding a Resident Advisor.
Why bother unpacking when he wasn’t going to be staying in the room.
On the main floor, the welcome desk was crowded with incoming students receiving their room assignments. He quickly found the Resident Advisor, and took the man aside.
“Hey, Richard, right? I have a problem.”
Richard frowned slightly. “What can I help you with, Mr…?”
“Stilinski. I’m supposed to be in 213 with Carnes, Bennett, and Wiley. I need to know if there’s an issue with finding a new room.”
Richard frowned more deeply. “You want a new room on the first day? How bad could it possibly be?”
Stiles looked grim. “Well, instead of ‘hey, how ya doing?’, I got ‘great, you’re a fag.’ I think that’s a huge problem. I’m not waving any rainbow flags or shouting from rooftops, but I have a boyfriend and right now the only proof of that is a small picture I pinned to my corkboard. Wiley saw it and became Mr. Homophobe 2013. I don’t really relish living in that situation for the next four years or so, so yeah—can I get late reassigned?”
“That’s…yeah. That’s an issue. Let’s go upstairs and see if we can figure this out, okay?”
Stiles shrugged. “Fine, but I’m telling you—I’m not going to feel comfortable sleeping in a room with someone who has that attitude.”
The two walked up the stairs to the second floor, where Stiles was amused to see Danny and Scott waiting in the hall outside room 213. Inside the room, they could hear the raised voices of a very heated discussion. Scott shook his head and offered a fist-bump in solidarity, so Stiles was sure Scott could hear every word being said. They opened the door to hear:
“Not cool, at all! This place is pretty forward, man, so you gotta get over yourself!”
“No, I don’t think so! I’m not sharing a room with a dirty fag!”
Richard walked into the room, followed closely by Stiles, Scott, and Danny.
“What seems to be the problem?” asked Richard as the group entered the living area.
Wiley looked up and pointed at Stiles. “He’s the problem! I’m not getting raped in my sleep because of him!”
Stiles snorted. “Really? Because no gay man can control himself around you? Yeah, right! I’m out of here as soon as possible, anyway, if Richard here can get me moved.”
Stiles looked expectantly at Richard, who shrugged. “I’ll look and see if we have any cancellations, but the dorms are usually full. Maybe we can switch you with someone in another building. But I gotta tell you, the campus isn’t exactly asshole-free.”
Wiley frowned. “I’m not an asshole! I’m not sharing with a dirty fag. I was here first, so he can just get out!”
“Nah, man,” said one of the other roomies—a tall African-American with a shaved head. “I think you should be the one to get out. Ain’t no guy gonna rape you in your sleep around here, and you can’t catch gay like the flu! This is 2013! Get your head out of your ass!”
“Yeah,” said the other one—blond and green-eyed, the perfect Frat Boy, if his Greek t-shirt was anything to go by. “If anyone here should move out, it should be you. Troy and I don’t have a problem with this guy being gay. Three of my frat brothers are gay. This is college! You’re going to see a lot of gay people around. I don’t need a homophobe room-mate in my last year at school.”
Richard raised an eyebrow at Wiley. “You got a problem moving?”
“Yeah! I just unpacked everything! This guy doesn’t even have a suitcase in there yet.”
Richard wrapped an arm around Wiley’s shoulders and guided the young man out of the suite. “You can pack again. In fact, once we find you a new assignment, I’ll help you pack. Let’s let Stilinski get settled with the people who don’t hate him on sight.”
With that, Wiley was gone and Scott and Danny entered the suite.
“That was incredibly stupid for a first day,” said Scott. “All of my suite-mates seem pretty cool, even if they’re all crossword junkies.”
Stiles gave Scott a blank look. “And how did you figure that out? You’ve been here an hour.”
Scott shrugged. “Mitch put up one of those huge crossword posters on the wall in our living room. They were all gathered around it when I got your text.”
Stiles looked at Danny, who smiled. “I haven’t really met my suitemates yet. I think they’re out exploring campus right now.”
Stiles turned back to his other suitemates. “So, you’re Troy and Michael, huh? I’m Stiles. It’s nice to not be offending you with my boyfriend-having ways.”
Troy laughed. “Man, that’s a good one! I’m glad I don’t have to worry about pronouncing your name!”
Stiles rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah—my mom was all about honoring her father-in-law. My dad’s name is a jumble, too. So—it’s not a problem that I have a boyfriend?”
“No,” said Michael, the other roomie. “As long as you don’t plan on having sex in the living room. While I respect your right to have gay sex—or any kind of sex, really—I don’t need to see it up close and personal.”
Stiles laughed. “No chance of that at all, man. Derek is doing his medical internship and residency back home, so if I want to see him, I’ll have to go home to do it. He won’t be visiting here anytime soon.”
“That’s rough,” said Troy. “So you won’t be dating while you’re here? The ‘LGBTQIA’ center here is really active. You could meet a lot of interesting people!”
Stiles shook his head. “I can’t really explain it, but I’m not totally gay. I’m pretty sure I’m only Derek-sexual. He’s totally it for me, so dating isn’t a thing I will be doing.” Stiles turned back to his Pack mates. “Hey, Danny, sounds like your options will be good, though.”
Danny nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be heading over there this week to check things out. Come on, Scott—we’ve got unpacking to do.”
Scott nodded. “Do you want help carrying your stuff from the jeep, Stiles? I’m almost done upstairs.”
Stiles shook his head. “Nah, I’m good. Did you want me to come up and ‘clear the air’?” Stiles indicated his magical meanderings, and Scott and Danny both nodded back. “Okay. Send me a text when it’s a good time, but it has to be today.”
Scott and Danny left and Stiles turned back to his suitemates. “Sorry to be such a drama bother on the first day.”
“You aren’t,” said Troy. “So why don’t Michael and I help you get your stuff inside and we can get to know each other a little bit before we get our replacement.”
Much later, Stiles was sitting in the living area with Troy and Michael debating the pros and cons of joining a fraternity when someone knocked on the door. Michael opened it and revealed Resident Advisor Richard and an Asian-American boy—no, young man.
“Hey, guys!” Richard walked in, leading the young man inside. “This is Clay Ward. He has magnanimously agreed to move from the Segundo dorms, where your former ‘mate, Wiley, is now situated. I hope you all get along.”
And with that, Richard left the four alone to face each other.
“Well,” said Stiles, clapping his hands, “Do you have stuff to move. Of course you do! Let’s all help Clay get his stuff up here and then we can talk about dinner. I have to be upstairs after food, so we’ll catch up after that, okay?”
Stiles had carefully cleansed Danny’s and Scott’s rooms and arranged to meet with his friends the next day for breakfast. He was hoping that he would manage to get along with his suitemates. Clay and Michael were both basketball players, and Clay and Troy were both studying History, so Stiles really didn’t have much in common with any of them.
Clay didn’t seem offended with Stiles’ photos, so that was a plus.
Clay, like Stiles, was a first year freshman, so they were going to be spending a lot of time together during Freshman Orientation. It turned out that Troy and Michael were Orientation Assistants; returning upperclassmen who came back early to help incoming freshmen learn campus layouts and class structures.
The week before classes started was spent in a variety of activities from scavenger hunts designed to learn where class and activity buildings were to mixers with other dorms. Stiles, Scott, and Danny had a lot of fun meeting other students and making new friends. They wouldn’t officially learn about clubs, fraternities, student organizations or extra-curricular sports until classes began and the rest of the upperclassmen returned for the semester, but Scott and Danny were both already interested in a few organizations.
Michael was happy to answer any questions about Greek Life on campus, since there were a lot of fraternities and sororities on campus. There were social fraternities and service frats, and of course the professional frats. There were other clubs, of course, and that meant a whole lot of opportunities to meet people, make friends during school, and make contacts for after school.
Stiles attacked this prospect like he did everything else: he made lists.
Pros and cons for joining a social frat, a professional frat, or any club that seemed interesting.
The full moon that week was on Wednesday, so Stiles and Scott made plans to head off campus for a Moon Run. Danny said he’d join them another month, but he wanted to spend some time with his roomies. Stiles and Scott headed to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, where Derek spent his Moon Runs during his tenure at Davis. Scott got to be wild and wolfy, and Stiles spent the evening purifying his used crystals. They were back at Emerson Hall by three o’clock in the morning, happy but exhausted.
Classes were tougher than in high school, but Stiles welcomed the challenge. He got along famously with his suitemates, proving that Wiley was an exception as well as an asshole.
Still, Stiles was thinking about applying for one of the residential apartments for the next year, if only to have his own kitchen to cook in. The dining halls were okay, and the food wasn’t bad, but he was still very health-conscious and had a yearning to bake cookies.
Which made no sense at all, but he was away from home, and his father and Derek, and he was stressed.
He was close enough to home that a trip back for a weekend wasn’t much of a stretch, but he had made the decision not to go back for Labor Day Weekend, opting instead to bond with new friends on campus. He was enjoying the pools and running trails, and had a new appreciation for Ultimate Frisbee, which is a real thing that he thought the internet had made up. So, he was keeping in shape, and he was doing his homework, and he was being social.
But he had to re-implement the weekly Skype calls to Derek, because he missed his Mate.
So there he was, sitting at his desk, laptop open in front of him. He was actually working on an essay for his English class, but he was really waiting for Derek, who was late for their chat session.
It happened sometimes, so Stiles was very understanding. At ten minutes past eight o’clock, Stiles’ computer dinged, indicating Skype was active, so he put aside his work and activated the call.
“Hey, Derek! You look wiped!”
Derek, indeed, looked exhausted. “Yeah. It’s been a long couple of days. I’ve been doing ride-alongs with the ambulance crew this week. It’s an option for now, but it will be a required task in my second year of residency, so I wanted to see how it would go.”
Stiles smirked. “And I suppose it gets you out of the hospital and away from Schiff.”
“Yeah, it does do that. But that was only for this week, so I have a day off and then it’s back to normal. How are classes going?”
“Ah, well, I’m not in high school anymore, that’s for sure! But I’m doing okay. My suitemates are great, after that false start.”
Derek snorted. “I have trouble believing that there are still backwards assholes like that out there.”
“Yeah, well, according to Clay, who directly traded rooms with the guy, Wiley’s new roomie is a football player who is large, tough, and dating a cheerleader. A male cheerleader. So—karma, you know. I bet he’s not going to try bullying that guy! Clay is okay. He doesn’t snore and he keeps his side of the room clean, so I have no complaints. So—Fall Rush is starting next month. You never wanted to go Greek?”
Derek shook his head. “No. I have enough ‘Alpha’ going on, so I never wanted to put letters on a t-shirt. There are a lot of good groups there, though, so I’m sure you could find one or two that would interest you. I won’t think badly of you either way, you know.”
“I know that. It’s just…some of those guys are really into community service, and that is something that is important to me. And the professional frats could help me with my business major.”
Derek nodded. “Well, if you’re thinking along that line, remember the business frats are good if you’re looking to join a Fortune Five Hundred company, but not so good for starting your own business. While the social frats are mainly social, you can build good contacts that way, too. My uncle Frederick was a frat boy, and he has a lot of friends and contacts nationwide through his fraternity.”
“That’s good to know. Well, you should get to bed, and I should get back to this essay. I miss you. I’m going to try to get home for the Moon Run in October, if not sooner. So, can you try to make time for me?”
“I will make all the time for you. I promise. I’ll put in for time off in October. I have a long weekend due to me anyway.”
“Nite, Derek. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Stiles.”
“So, how’s Stanford, Lydia?” Stiles was sitting in the courtyard area of his dorm, enjoying a bit of sunshine and catching up with Lydia via Skype.
“It’s fine. At least I’m feeling challenged. Jackson is doing well. He’s decided to pledge a fraternity, of course. I am going to wait a year to see if a sorority can handle my awesomeness.”
Stiles laughed. “Of course you are! I think any organization would be lucky to have you. I’m still on the fence about frats, though. I guess I can hit some parties and see what the fuss is, and pledge next year if I want to. I’m going to be heading home for October’s Moon Run, and I’m dragging Scott with me. I think Danny wants to go, too, but I’ll have to check. Is that something you think you can swing, or should we just wait until semester break to see you two?”
Lydia sighed. “I will, unfortunately, be in San Francisco in October. My father’s wedding, remember? Jackson is going with me, to keep me sane. Give Allison my best, if you see her.”
“Yeah, I will. Gotta go—class in twenty! Hugs to you, my titian goddess. Make sure Jackson doesn’t wolf-out and kill someone at the wedding. Your car may be paid for, but your father is still paying insurance.”
Michael Carnes, Stiles’ suitemate, happily invited Stiles, Scott, Danny, and Clay to his fraternity’s ‘smoker’, a hideous name for pre-pledge party. “It’s because in olden times, frat brothers all sat around smoking cigars and drinking brandy while trying to entice young men to join. We don’t smoke or drink, unless we’re of age to do so. Well, to drink anyway. Smoking is a nasty habit, and I don’t do it at all. We make smokers go outside.”
Still, the party was fun. Stiles had been to five other ‘smokers’ in the past week, and all of them were masses of drunken idiocy. Lots of underclassmen hitting the cheap beer and trying to look cool enough to belong. The frat brothers, wearing fraternity colors and letters, would offer alcohol and not-so-sage advice, extolling the virtues of each fraternity. At each one, Stiles would decline to drink, and would receive looks of disbelief.
Michael had sworn that his fraternity was different, and he was right.
For one thing, sodas were served, and not beer. For another thing, instead of loud music and the lure of sorority sisters, the fraternity brothers gathered around a pool table or a dart board, and they were all ready to answer any and all questions about the frat.
And Stiles and Scott liked the answers.
A week later, in the middle of October (right before his trip back to Beacon Hills) both Stiles and Scott received invitations to rush Tau Kappa Epsilon. All they had to do was attend the first Pledge Party right before Thanksgiving break.
Stiles passed a sign that read ‘You Are Now Entering Beacon Hills, Pop. 78,565 Have A Nice Day!’ and he breathed a sigh of relief.
He had managed to stay away for almost two months, which was torture to a homebody like Stiles, but now he was home. The three-hour drive from Davis was uneventful. Scott and Danny kept him entertained during the trip. He dropped Danny off first, and then Scott, and now he was pulling into the drive in front of his house.
The cruiser was missing, so his father was still at work. Stiles bundled his bag into the house and headed to the laundry room. It was cliché, but Stiles was determined to be a typical college student.
He was also planning a menu in his head, because he had every intention to cook a decent meal for him and his father while he was home.
Once his laundry was loaded into the washer, Stiles strode up the stairs and into his room, where he collapsed onto his bed and pulled out his cell phone to call Derek.
“I’m HO—Ome!!” Stiles sang into the phone. “I missed you like crazy, and I know it’s really late, but can we have breakfast tomorrow?”
Derek laughed. “Yes, we can have breakfast tomorrow. And I’d really like it if you stayed the night tomorrow night, after the Run. I need to be near you.”
Stiles smiled. “I need that, too, Der. How are things going?”
“More of the same. Writing reports, asking questions—OH! I put in stitches yesterday! Under supervision, but still.”
“Ah, my boyfriend, the doctor! You can tell me all about it, but I must warn you to skip the really gross stuff. I can handle a lot, but let’s not test that, okay?”
Stiles and Derek talked for an hour, until the Sheriff came home and put a halt to the call in order to spend time with his kid.
Stiles and John cooked a late dinner together, grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, and caught up on all the details their frequent phone calls had left out.
“So, when we go back to school, I have two papers to turn in and a test in Biology. I’ve been hitting the running trails every other day, but I’m seriously really considering a bike to get across campus. I can exercise and save gas at the same time.”
“Well, maybe I can get you that bike for a Christmas gift, so you can have it sooner than next year. Now, tell me about this fraternity. Is it going to interfere with your classes in any way?”
“Nope. I’ll have a few extra social obligations, but my roomie, Mike, said they’re really responsible about scholastic endeavors. Two of the other frats had their charters put on probation because the brothers got too involved in parties and grades dropped. TKE isn’t like that. In fact, they have regular study parties during Mid-terms and Finals weeks. Lots of coffee and snacks and books. They frown upon brothers being on academic probation.”
“Okay. I trust your judgment. And, nothing illegal, okay?”
“Dad, please! I haven’t had to break the law yet, so why start now?”
The Full Moon on October eighteenth wasn’t scheduled to rise until 11:38pm, so there was going to be an early-evening cook-out at the Hale house. Stiles and his father were happy to socialize with the Hale Pack, which for this Moon Run consisted of Talia and Robert, Peter, Cora and Scott, Derek, Isaac and Camden, Erica, and Nicky—who wasn’t really old enough to Run with the Pack, but was presenting early as a Wolf, so was included in the fun.
Peter’s wife, Amanda, was heavy with her second pregnancy, and she had a seat of honor on the back deck, where she was chattering happily with Melissa McCall.
Melissa hadn’t moved in with the Sheriff yet, but it was a near thing. Melissa loved her home, which she was awarded in her divorce, and she happily paid the mortgage on it, and John stayed overnights twice a week. John owned his home outright, having paid off the mortgage with some of the life insurance from his late wife, and Stiles still called it home. Melissa stayed overnights once or twice a week, depending on her work schedule. Neither wanted to give up their homes, so they maintained a compromise: they would trade-off spending the nights, and if either child showed interest in buying the family home after college, the other parent would move into the remaining house.
So far, unbeknownst to Stiles, John was in negotiations with Derek about his house. He knew that Derek and Stiles would be married some day, and that Derek wouldn’t want to keep the loft as his home once he started a family. And there was also the subject of Stiles’ magical garden and workshop in the shed, which would be possible to relocate, but not easily. Derek agreed to consider buying the Stilinski home, but wouldn’t commit to anything until Stiles was out of school, which would be in five or so years.
John wasn’t pushing, and Derek wasn’t really keeping it from Stiles because a lot could happen in five years.
At the moment, Stiles was just happy to be wrapped in Derek’s arms while they waited for the grilling meat to be finished. He leaned back against Derek, letting his head rest on the older man’s shoulder. Derek would, on occasion, brush his lips against Stiles’ temple, but mainly he enjoyed scenting his Mate.
He could feel his Wolf rising to the surface, and while he would run with his family after dinner, much later he would slowly take Stiles apart and revel in the sounds, sight, and taste of his Mate. It had been much too long since they had had any quality time together. Stiles was far enough away to make Derek miss him, but close enough to tease with semi-frequent visits, and yet he had managed to stay away for almost three months.
It was driving Derek crazy.
Once dinner was finished and leftovers were cleared away, the humans who weren’t running took seats on the back deck. Stiles and Danny were going to run with the wolves, just for fun since they knew they would never keep up.
John and Melissa brought mugs of tea out to the deck and settled next to Amanda in her comfy deck chair. They were all settled under blankets, as the mid-October night had turned chilly. Peter was not running with the rest of the Pack, so he kissed his wife and took young Nicky to the secure basement under the main house, where the boy could shift and rough-house with his father without getting hurt.
Stiles and Scott each gave Melissa a kiss on the cheek, and then Scott removed his shirt and shoes and shifted to his Beta form for the run. Isaac and Erica had already shifted, and Stiles was waiting beside Derek, who was stripping with his mother for a Full Shift.
Derek and Talia were the only ones in the Pack able to do a Full Shift, and their Wolf Forms were almost identical. Talia’s large black wolf had a touch of white around the eyes, and Derek’s had white on the tips of his ears. Both Wolves were large—larger than natural wolves, almost as large as ponies. The coloring was the only way to tell them apart at a distance. Their eye color was different, as well. Talia had red Alpha eyes, and Derek’s were orange-gold. Both sets of eyes glowed bright in the dark night.
Stiles pressed a hot, hard kiss to Derek’s mouth before Derek shifted, and he joined Danny in a runner’s stretch.
The Wolves bounded off into the woods, the Betas following the Alpha and Successor, and Stiles and Danny followed close behind.
Midnight passed, then one o’clock.
By one-thirty, Stiles and Danny had stumbled back from the woods. Peter had long-since taken Nicky and Amanda to bed, and Melissa was yawning into her cold tea.
John stood from his seat and stretched in a yawn. “Are you guys ready for a ride back?”
Stiles shook his head. “Danny is, but I’m staying to wait for Derek. I’ll be staying with him tonight and part of tomorrow. He can bring me home tomorrow evening. He’s having dinner with us, okay?”
“Yeah, that’s fine. Have a good night, and try to get some rest, okay? Come on, Danny. Let’s get you home before your parents send out a search party.”
Danny laughed. “Nah—Mom would just call the police. I figure if you take me home, I’ll be alright.”
The rest of the Pack blew in from their run, shifting back in the chill of the night, steam flowing off their bodies.
Stiles handed Scott his keys while Derek dressed. “Drive safe, bro! That’s my baby I’m trusting you with.”
Scott smirked. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll drive it over tomorrow for dinner. Have fun!”
“You know I will!”
Scott mock-shuddered. “Yeah, I just don’t want to hear about it!”
Stiles was laughing as Scott drove away. Derek bid his parents good-night, and pulled Stiles gently toward his vehicle. Derek kissed Stiles as he opened the passenger door. “I’ve been waiting for this for forever!”
“Well, let’s get going, then. The night isn’t getting younger.”
Derek was proud of the fact that he kept to the speed limit on the way to the loft. He wanted nothing more than to get Stiles naked and into his bed, but he behaved himself.
Mostly because Stiles would not be impressed if Derek acted like a neanderthal.
But once they were inside the loft, Derek wasted no time in pushing Stiles against the wall and plundering his mouth in a hard kiss.
Derek tasted and growled, pulling Stiles’ t-shirt roughly from his body. Derek ran rough fingers down Stiles’ arms and across his back while kissing and biting down Stiles neck and across his chest.
Stiles pushed against Derek, trying to free himself from the older man’s embrace.
“Derek! Bed! Now! I want you so bad, but I don’t want to do this in front of the freaking door!”
Derek pulled back and took a calming breath. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I just….”
“Hey! I get it, really. I want you so bad I can taste it. But the bed will be so much more comfortable. And I can ditch my shoes and pants over there…so, let’s go, huh?”
Stiles pushed away from the wall as Derek locked the door (another good reason to move further into the loft), and he stripped the rest of his clothes off while Derek turned off lights in the main living space. Stiles pulled back the covers on the bed and settled himself in the middle, back braced on the pillows. When Derek rounded the room divider, all he could see was Stiles, spread invitingly across his bed.
His Wolf wanted to howl at the sight. Instead, Derek stripped the last of his clothes and he crawled up from the foot of the bed until he completely covered his Mate.
“Hi there, handsome,” grinned Stiles. “I really missed you.”
In reply, Derek ducked down and kissed along Stiles collarbones until he reached the edge of the Claiming Scar. He bit down on the juncture of Stiles shoulder and neck, mimicking the Claiming bite, and Stiles moaned his name in delight.
“No more teasing, Derek. I need you.”
Derek lifted his head. “I’m not teasing. I need….my Wolf needs to Know you again. It’s been so long….” And he ducked back down to lick from Stiles’ breastbone to his navel. Derek delighted in the taste of his Mate, and he licked downward to his groin. Stiles moaned deeply as Derek licked along his hardening cock, gently pulling the shaft into his mouth. Derek sucked Stiles into full hardness, savoring the taste and scent of the younger man’s musk. He laved down along both legs to the ankle, but avoiding the feet, and back up again. Once he reached Stiles’ groin, he pulled back and flipped Stiles over onto his front side so that he could concentrate his attention to Stiles’ back, ass, and shoulders.
Stiles’ fingers scrabbled for hold against the sheets and pillows as Derek licked, bit, and kissed from ankle to shoulder, and then he felt Derek’s thumbs on the crack of his ass, pulling the cheeks apart gently as Derek licked inside.
“Oh, god! Derek! I can’t…PLEASE!”
Derek licked and bit, using tongue and fingers to open Stiles gently. Once Stiles was as open as he could get without lube, Derek pulled back and reached for his nightstand. He removed a bottle of lube and a condom, ripping it open and slicking his own erection.
“Are you ready? Stiles, are you ready for me?”
“Yes! I need you, now!”
Derek lined himself up to Stiles’ slick hole and pushed in, rocking back and forth until he was fully seated inside his Mate.
Stiles moaned and thrust in counterpoint to Derek’s movements, and Derek pulled Stiles’ hips so that the younger man was up high on his knees. Derek began thrusting harder and harder, pulling Stiles back onto his cock. He shifted slightly, angling his hips forward, and Stiles screamed as Derek hit his prostate over and over again.
“Close! Derek, so close!”
Derek could feel his own orgasm building, so he reached around to Stiles’ cock and began to jerk his Mate as he thrust inside.
Stiles grunted and fell forward as he came, thick ropes of cum streaming up his chest and over Derek’s fist. Derek quickly followed with his own orgasm. He thrust deeply into Stiles as he pulsed in orgasm. Derek gently pulled out of Stiles and collapsed to the side, pulling the other man into his arms.
“I missed you so much, Stiles. We can’t do that again. Ever.”
Stiles nodded drowsily. “Okay. I’ll try to come home more often. I just didn’t want to be that guy, you know? The college student who is home every weekend and never really leaves home. I’m already going to be the one who doesn’t party.”
Derek kissed Stiles shoulder before getting up to dispose of the condom. He walked into the bathroom and ran a cloth under the hot water tap, bringing it out to clean up his Mate. “I know. And I know I didn’t come home all that often, either. But maybe you can make it back once a month? It doesn’t even have to be on the full moon, since they don’t always happen on weekends.”
Stiles rolled onto his back and held out his arms so that Derek could fold himself into his Mate’s embrace. “Yeah, I can try for once a month. I have a plan, though. I want to start super-studying, even over the summer semester, so that I can get my degree early. And I’m going to be pledging the frat, so a lot of my weekends are going to be busy. A-and, you have your residency and hospital work, so don’t think you won’t be busy.” Stiles kissed Derek deeply and pressed his head to his chest so that Derek could listen to his heartbeat while they slept. “We’ll wing it, okay. We’ll do the weekly Skype thing, and we’ll schedule weekends when we can both get the time. And every night, I’ll kiss the ring you put on my finger, and I’ll thank all the gods that you are mine.”
Derek grinned into Stiles’ chest. “And at Christmas, we’re getting tattoos that match, so everyone knows we belong together.”
Stiles yawned hugely. “We’ll discuss the tattoo thing in the morning.”
Knocking at the loft door woke Stiles and Derek from a deeply satisfying slumber.
Derek stood to pull on pants while Stiles checked the clock: ten o’clock. Too early for visitors after a Moon Run, if you asked him. Stiles pulled on his own sleep pants and he followed Derek around the room divider. Stiles headed to the kitchen for coffee while Derek dealt with the persistent visitor.
“Dude, I hope it’s not Mormons! They’ll never leave.”
Derek was chuckling as he opened the door, but he quickly sobered when he revealed a tall, gorgeous blonde.
“Schiff. What are you doing here?”
“Hale, looking good! You should go shirtless more often!” The blonde woman openly leered at Derek.
Derek scowled at her. “And I repeat, what are you doing here?”
The woman, Schiff, shrugged. “We have the same day off, so I thought we could spend it together.”
From the kitchen, Stiles could hear the exchange clearly, but he took time to brew two cups of coffee from the single-cup brewer before he made his presence known. He carried Derek’s mug to him as he heard Derek ask:
“And how did you find where I live? It’s not common knowledge at the hospital.”
Again, Schiff shrugged. “I have my ways. I figured it was time we got to know each other a little better. And I’m so glad I came.”
Stiles could hear the smarm in her tone, so he poked his head around the door as he handed Derek the mug. “Um, Der, were you expecting company this morning?”
To say Schiff was shocked would be an understatement. “Um…hello?”
Derek frowned into his mug. “Schiff was just leaving. Now.” And he closed the door in Schiff’s face.
Derek leaned into Stiles and kissed his shoulder. “We need to take a shower and head out. I have to go to the hospital.”
Stiles frowned. “You didn’t have work today. You told me you didn’t have work today.”
Derek rinsed his mug and placed it in the sink. “I don’t. But I do have a complaint to make, and I need to do it today.”
Stiles rinsed his own mug and followed Derek into the bathroom. “What complaint?”
Derek turned on the shower and turned to face Stiles. “There is one way, and one way only, that Schiff found out my address. She got it from the files in the hospital. And that is such a violation; I don’t even know how they’re going to handle it.”
While Stiles dressed, Derek placed a call to the administrator of the hospital, requesting a meeting with the Resident Director and the head of Human Resources. It was odd that they would both be in on a Saturday, but it was budget day, so all of the department heads were there. Since it was a formal request, and they were due a short lunch break, Derek was granted a meeting for just before noon.
Stiles bit his bottom lip. “Do you want me to go with you? I mean, I can stick around here, or walk over to Scott’s house to pick up my jeep.”
Derek shook his head. “No, I want you with me. I need you to center me, because I’m really pissed. I can’t afford to alienate any of the administrators because I love my work and want to be a doctor more than anything. After I’m done at the hospital, if I’m not done at the hospital, I’m going to want to spend the day with my Mate.”
“Okay, then, let’s go. Time’s a wasting!”
“Mr. Hale, how can we help you today? I had thought that this is one of your rare days off.”
Dr. Dunbar was sitting at the table in the conference room, surrounded by other hospital administrators.
“It is, sir, and I hate to be here bothering you all, but I have an issue. And unless that issue is resolved, then I’ll have to pull from the program here and go to another city.”
Dunbar frowned in displeasure. “I’d hate to see that, Mr. Hale. You are, if I can be forgiven for saying this, one of my favorite students. What is this issue?”
Derek squared his shoulders and Stiles stood solidly beside him, offering strength. “I have complained several times about the attention Ms. Schiff has been giving me. It’s inappropriate and unwanted, and she refused to stop.”
Dr. Carlson, hospital Chief of Staff, sat back in his seat and folded his hands across his lap. “Are you really complaining about a beautiful woman flirting with you? I thought this was a serious complaint!”
Derek addressed the man who would be his boss. “It is a serious complaint. If a female staffer complained that a man was flirting and harassing her, you’d be all over him. Just because I have testicles and not ovaries doesn’t not make it harassment. And this morning, she was at my apartment door, telling me that we should get to know each other better.”
“Well, we can certainly tell her to stop flirting here,” said Carlson, “But off hours, it’s none of our business.”
Derek frowned at the man. “With all due respect, sir, I believe it is your business. I don’t give out my address to anyone. If I’m on call, my phone is public knowledge. When I asked how she got my address, she said she had her ways. I bet if you ask the HR admin, you’ll find that Schiff accessed my personnel file. And I think that’s illegal. Sexual harassment is illegal. You’ve all heard me ask her personally to stop flirting. You’ve all heard me complain to Dr. Dunbar and to Mrs. Nixon in HR. Now I’m complaining to you all at once. I have a case, I have a witness—I have several witnesses to her behavior prior to today. You can take me seriously or not. My family is full of personal liberty lawyers, so I can always go to them.”
Carlson stood from his chair and walked to the phone on the wall. “I don’t think lawyers will be necessary. Do you mind waiting until Monday for this to be settled? I want to get some information first, and then we can confront Ms. Schiff then.”
Derek nodded. “I just want to be taken seriously. Becoming a doctor means everything to me. This town means everything to me. I want to stay here, but not at the expense of my dignity.”
Dr. Dunbar stood and offered his hand to Derek. “I appreciate your concerns, Mr. Hale. We do take you seriously, and I agree that you should retain your dignity as much as possible.” He glanced sideways at Stiles and offered a smile. “It is obvious that you have never shown an interest in a personal relationship with Ms. Schiff. I don’t know why she persists, but it will stop.”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll see you all on Monday.”
After the meeting at the hospital, Derek and Stiles headed for the library to say hello to Donna Maria. Stiles kept in contact with her while at school, but it would have been rude not to stop in while he was in town.
Dinner that evening, with the Sheriff and the McCalls, was filled with laughter and fun conversation about classes. Stiles and Scott were both excited to pledge the fraternity, announcing that they would finally be brothers of some sort. John just looked at Melissa and snorted.
Finally the evening turned late, and Melissa and Scott left to spend some quality time alone. Derek and John sat chatting over tea at the table while Stiles washed the dishes. Derek had offered to help, but Stiles wanted to do it for his father.
Derek was finally beginning to enjoy his time with John, knowing that his relationship with Stiles was understood and respected. John had watched closely over the years and decided that Derek would never harm Stiles in any way, and the age difference only stood to showcase how much Derek held Stiles in high regard.
Stiles came into the dining room wiping his hands on a paper towel. “Okay, dishes are finished. Did you want to stay over here, to get more snuggle-time before I leave tomorrow morning?”
Derek nodded and looked to John. “Yeah, if it’s okay with your father.”
John stood and took the tea mugs to the dishwasher. “That’s fine. Don’t stay up too late. I have an early shift tomorrow, so you should stop by the station on the way out of town, okay, son?”
“Yeah, Dad. I will. I doubt we’ll be up much longer. I’m wiped, and I still have to finish a paper when I get back to school.”
Stiles enjoyed sleeping next to Derek. The feel of his strong arms, and the sound of his heartbeat, filled him with deep contentment.
He was in love.
Full-on in love.
This was his Mate; his future and his family.
Stiles wished he could pack Derek into his duffle and take him back to school with him.
The rest of the semester didn’t exactly fly by.
Stiles’ fraternity didn’t believe in hazing, so they concentrated on community service. While freshmen men all around campus were dressed in women’s clothing or doing stupid pledge tricks between classes, the Tau Kappa Epsilon pledges were walking female students across campus after night classes and holding car washes for charities. They even held mid-night breakfasts for study groups during mid-terms.
It was fun, but it was just added activity between classes.
Stiles and Scott did manage to support Danny in a drag race for charity for his frat, Delta Lambda Phi.
Danny did not look good in a dress.
Derek called Stiles after classes on the Monday after his visit home, to tell him that Schiff had to admit to bribing the HR admin assistant into giving her his address, and she was given the opportunity to transfer to Shasta Regional Medical Center in Redding, about two hours away. The hospital administrators apologized for not taking Derek seriously, and admitted it was because they never really considered that a man could be harassed by a fellow student.
Stiles was relieved, because Derek was once again able to concentrate on his work and studies rather than avoiding an annoying classmate. With that pressure off, Stiles wasn’t pressured to come home more often—which was good, because he wasn’t able to.
Finally, final exams were long past, and Stiles was loading his jeep with his belongings for a long break back home. Scott was riding with him, so Stiles was arranging everything carefully to make room for all of their stuff. It was amazing what they had accumulated over the last four months. Sure, they could have left some of it here, since they would be returning to the dorm in January, but Stiles wanted to sift through his junk and sort out anything that he was certain he wouldn’t need in the second semester.
And of course, he would have to add some things that he would need but didn’t have.
Like his magic-only laptop.
The last box was stuffed in the back of the jeep and Stiles was just locking his room when Scott joined him in the hall. Danny was already in the parking lot waiting for them, as Stiles would be following him along the highway and back to Beacon Hills. They were lucky that the weather was good here, but in the mountains there could be snow, so they were using the buddy-system on the road.
“You all set?” Stiles asked Scott.
“Yeah. My phone is all charged and I’ve already called Mom to tell her that we’re hitting the road.”
“Good. She’ll tell Dad, and he’ll pass it on to Derek. If we get caught in traffic or a weather system, the whole town will start to panic at once.”
Scott just laughed as they climbed into the jeep. Danny honked as he pulled past them out of the parking lot, and Stiles gave a silent salute to the dorm and pulled out behind him. It had been a good semester. His grades were good, he had new friends, he found several places to meditate, and he was joining a fraternity.
All in all, Stiles was pretty proud of himself.
He had even managed to find the perfect Christmas gifts for his important people.
For Derek, he had designed a magical tattoo. He spent a lot of time online with the witch-tattoo artist in Paradise, making sure they could have a solitary appointment when the time was right. Talia had gone to check out ‘The Colorist’s Studio’ to see if it would be amenable to read-in Jasper to the existence of werewolves, and she said he was trust-worthy and understanding.
But first, he had to get home and spend at least a day in his own room, getting used to his own old bed.
Really, Stiles wanted to move in with Derek for the break, but logistically that wouldn’t work. Derek was a busy med student, and Stiles was going to be helping Donna Maria at the library, so their free time might not mesh all that often.
But on the nights that Melissa was staying at Stiles’ house, he was going to be staying with Derek.
Scott spent almost the whole trip home on the phone, texting with Cora. She would be having a short break from her training closer to Christmas, but she would not be there when they arrived. Scott missed his girlfriend, and Stiles could totally sympathize. Her training was taking place in the Klamath National Forest near the Oregon border, so she was farther from home than Scott was.
Stiles kept his eyes on the road and just enjoyed the silence. He had stopped using his radio on the long drive between Davis and Beacon Hills, deciding to enjoy the long expanse of highway instead. Music tended to relax him while he drove, and he didn’t want to accidentally trance-out on the long trip.
Three and a half hours later, Stiles was pulling into the curb outside of the McCall house.
“Let’s get you unloaded, so I can get home. Dad is working late tonight, so I can get some laundry done before he gets home.”
“Yeah. Mom should be home soon. I texted her when we hit the town limit sign. Are we doing the family dinner thing tomorrow?”
Stiles shrugged and he hefted a box out of the back seat. “I’m not sure. I think Derek is off tomorrow night, so I may be going over there.”
Scott unlocked the front door and they carried their loads up the stairs. “Man, it’s going to be weird sleeping in a quiet house now.”
Stiles chuckled. “I know. I’m used to Clay stomping all around the room early in the morning while he gets ready for class. Still, it’ll be nice to spend time with the Pack again. I hate that we’re all so spread out.”
“Yeah. It sucks that Cora won’t be home until the twentieth, though.”
“That’s only two weeks away, bro. Okay, that’s everything of yours. I’m outta here! Call ya later!”
Peter was out of town for Pack business, and Nicholas had begged to go with him, so Amanda was alone when the furniture for the nursery was delivered. Since Stiles and his father were out at the Hale property visiting Talia, they volunteered to help her set it up. Talia told them that she would meet them at Peter’s house and Stiles went to direct the delivery truck through the wooded drive past the main house.
“Tell me again,” said John as Amanda opened the front door, “Why you’re waiting until now to get the nursery set up.”
Amanda was due to give birth around the first of January, so this was cutting things quite close.
“The set that I wanted was back-ordered. It was supposed to be here in November, but there was a factory delay. I’m just glad it’s here before the baby.”
“Yeah, I can see that. Does anything need assembled?”
Amanda shook her head. “Um, I don’t think so. It just needs to be put into place.”
“Well, Dad and I can move furniture,” said Stiles as the truck parked in front of the new house. “I’m just curious to see the paint job you did in there. Nicky was telling us about it this summer, but I don’t think he explained it right.”
Amanda laughed. “What did he say?”
“He said you were painting the woods on the wall, but that the colors were wrong.”
“That’s…very close, actually. Since Peter and I opted to not learn the sex of the baby, I decided to paint three walls a neutral eggshell, and I put a fantasy mural in bright pastels on the fourth wall. It’s all very Middle Earth, but calm.”
John looked very confused. “I have no idea what you just said. Okay, you go sign for the furniture and Stiles and I will direct traffic. Then you can tell us exactly where you want everything.”
The delivery truck had long-ago left the house, and Stiles and John had dutifully moved everything into place, when Talia knocked on the front door and let herself in.
“So sorry that I’m late, Amanda. Robert called to let me know that he and Michael were going to be late due to Christmas shopping.”
“It’s alright, Talia. These wonderful men got me all squared away. I am sorry I took the Sheriff away from your discussion, though.”
John had left work to find Talia because there was a report faxed to his office about a possible sighting of Laura Hale. Stiles was already there on Emissary business, so the three had been in deep discussion around the kitchen table when Amanda came for help.
“Well, we really couldn’t do much anyway,” said Talia. “I haven’t heard from Laura in a very long time. If she is near here, I can only hope it means that she’s come to her senses and wants to reconcile with the Pack.”
Amanda led the trio from the nursery to the front door. “How likely is that, really? I mean, if she was the one killing those Omegas, could she really have been leaning toward reconciliation?”
Talia frowned a bit. “It’s doubtful, but as a mother, I have to have hope. She is my oldest child. I refuse to believe that she’s gone Rogue until I see the proof for myself.”
John opened the door and he and Stiles headed for the driveway so they could walk back to the main house. Once they were outside, Talia froze and scented the air. “John, stop! There’s something out there.”
John and Stiles froze in the driveway and Stiles sent a push into the surrounding woods, trying to feel what Talia could smell. “It’s a Wolf. One I don’t recognize.”
“Yes,” said Talia. “I don’t know the scent either. Amanda, please call Derek to come home. And call Robert to make sure he keeps Michael away from the property.”
Amanda ducked inside to find her cell phone, and Stiles sent another push to try and locate the Wolf. “I can’t get a feel on it, Alpha. There’s something masking its magic somehow.”
“Is there anything I can do?” asked John, feeling helpless even though he should have been in charge. As a man of the law, routing out a trespasser was his duty, but he was human and had no real power if there was a rogue Wolf in the area.
“No,” said Talia, beginning to Shift, “This is something I should handle. If an Omega has wandered on to my territory, I have to find out why he’s here. It could be totally innocent.”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “Right. How likely is that?”
Amanda came back out to the porch. “Derek is on the way. He told his supervisor that there was a family emergency. Robert is going to wait for you to call.”
“Good. I’m going to run the close perimeter, to see if I can find trace of the intruder. John, please watch over Amanda.”
“Of course,” said John, moving back to the house. “Stiles? Are you coming?”
“No, I’m going to try and feel them out, whoever it is.”
As a partially Shifted Talia ran away from the little house, Stiles began to reach for the ley lines to feel for a foreign presence.
Watching from the woods, four Wolves relaxed in the safe comfort of the shielding charm they wore. The witch that performed the magic assured them that it would keep them hidden until they wanted to be seen—hoping that the spell work would save her life.
Brendon Hollis had no real use for witches. He merely took what he needed, and ripped the elderly woman apart.
Now, he stood well within Hale Territory, watching the Alpha chase shadows while he finished his plotting.
“You said the Emissary is useless. He doesn’t look useless to me.”
The Omega Bitch, Laura Hale, shrugged beside him. “He will be. All we need to do is take out the father, and the boy will fall apart.”
Hollis grunted. “Then that’s your first job. Kill the lawman and neutralize the Emissary.”
She turned toward him. “And then you’ll kill the human bitch and let me take out my mother, right? So I can get her Alpha power?”
Hollis glared at the Omega. “How do you know killing the human will weaken her?”
“She’s always had a weakness for humans. You don’t even have to kill her. Just do enough damage to distract Talia, and I can take care of the rest.”
Hollis turned back to the other Wolves—his twin sons. “You stay here! I don’t want you messing this up. If you’re good, I’ll let you rip the baby from that body and dispose of it however you like.”
The twins shrunk back from the Alpha and cowered from his hatred. They couldn’t run; he would catch them and their lives would be over. It was best if they stayed out of sight until the killing was over.
The Omega bitch squared her shoulders. “We should do this now, before my dear brother shows up. Once I’m Alpha, I’ll take care of him.”
A few moments later, Talia was returning to the house, followed by the Emissary.
Talia opened the door. “Are you okay in here?”
“Yes,” said Amanda, nervously rubbing her huge baby bump. “Did you find anything?”
Talia stepped inside to allow Stiles entry. “I found nothing. What about you?”
Stiles shook his head. “I can feel a shimmer in the magic, like a recent spell, but I can’t locate the source. If it’s okay with Amanda, I’d like to put a shield on the house.”
Just as Amanda was about to answer, both the front and back doors burst open, flying from the hinges.
Talia stood on guard at the front as a huge Wolf—an Alpha Male—forced his way inside.
From the back door, shifted into Beta form, came a female. John shoved Amanda behind him to shield her from the new intruder.
“That’s cute,” said the Beta, in a voice Talia could never forget. “Hello mother. Long time, no see.”
“Laura? What are you doing?” Talia’s claws were out in defensive measures, but she couldn’t watch both Alpha and Omega.
Laura strode forward, heading for John and Amanda. “I’m here to take what is rightfully mine. And you, dear Sheriff, are standing in my way!”
“Dad!” Stiles shouted as Laura Hale launched herself forward, claws ripping through the air as she attacked the human man in front of her.
But her claws hit an invisible shield, sparking in the air as if she had hit an electrified fence. She bounced backward in shock, and John stood stock still.
Laura growled in agitation and drew back to attack again, but John recovered quickly and drew his gun.
John fired two shots at Laura as the unknown Alpha launched past Talia and ripped into a stunned Amanda, digging his claws deep into her chest.
Everything after the gunfire happened very quickly.
Laura dropped to the floor, two holes in her center chest.
Talia ripped the Alpha from her sister-in-law and dug her claws into his spine, severing his spinal cord and killing him instantly.
Stiles grabbed at Amanda and lowered her to the floor as he tried to cover and compress her wounds.
“Hurts…so…much.” Amanda gasped as she clutched her bump. “My baby…”
Stiles looked up frantically, ignoring the carnage around him. “Alpha! You have to help! I can’t stop the bleeding!”
“Please! My baby!” Amanda cried desperately.
Stiles looked into Amanda’s eyes as Talia finally crossed the room, having ripped the spine completely out of the attacking Alpha. “I know, I know. It’s going to be fine, Amanda. Right, Talia?” He looked at his Alpha. “It’s all going to be fine!”
Talia shook her head. “She’s too badly injured. I’d have to give her the Bite for her to survive, and the baby would be in danger.”
John’s voice interrupted the discussion. “I have an ambulance on the way. They were told it was a knife attack. Will that cover?”
Talia looked grim. “It might, were it not for that body in front of the door.”
A noise attracted John’s attention, and he looked across the room to find two young men, identical in every way, standing in the open doorway. John drew his weapon and aimed at the new intruders. “Hold it! I have Wolfsbane ammunition in here, so you don’t really want to try anything.”
One of the men stood forward. “We don’t want trouble. Let us help.”
Talia looked up. “This woman may well die right here! How can you possibly help?”
“Let us take our father out of here. We can bury the body in the woods. You can say the woman attacked alone.”
John nodded. “I’ll go with you, to make sure you don’t cause any more trouble. Stiles—can you deliver that baby so that Talia can give the Bite?”
Stiles shook his head. “I have no idea. I’ve never even seen a baby born before.”
Talia gripped Stiles’ arm. “You have to do this. I can take her pain, but I’ll have to concentrate on that. You have to bring the baby safely.”
“Okay,” Stiles gulped. “Okay, let me get some towels. I’ll be right back.”
Stiles climbed up the stairs quickly and searched for the linen closet. Talia leaned over Amanda and gently stroked her face. “We’re going to save the baby, Amanda. I promise.”
Amanda nodded slightly. “Please. Hurts so bad.”
“I know it does. You’re bleeding really badly. If you want to live, I’ll have to give you the Bite. Do you understand?”
“Yes…might die anyway. My baby…”
Stiles jumped down the stairs and piled the clean towels on the floor next to Amanda’s still form.
“I have to get your pants off, Amanda. I apologize for the indignity.”
Stiles quickly stripped the clothing off of the woman’s lower body and placed two towels under her to protect her from the hard floor. John returned alone, already talking on his cell to the ambulance driver. “She’s bleeding out and is trying to give birth. We can’t make her stop labor, so just give us the instructions we need to help her before you get here!”
John put the phone on speaker, and Stiles listened very carefully as the paramedic described in graphic detail what he needed to do to bring the baby safely into the world.
Stiles was never going to eat spaghetti again.
This was totally gross.
Minutes later, as Amanda gave a shuddering gasp, they heard Derek’s Samurai pull into the drive, followed by the screaming sirens of the ambulance and police cars.
Deputies Reed and Lahey were the officers on the scene, so they were covered in that respect.
John took Derek aside and told him that he needed to explain werewolves to the paramedics, because Talia was going to have to Bite Amanda in the transport to the hospital or the new mother would not survive her injuries.
Through all of the chaos, a shrill cry pierced the air.
Stiles was holding a squalling, thrashing, baby girl—totally covered in goo and other body fluids.
“Someone come take this baby before I pass out!!”
The aftermath of the attack was still hazy in Stiles’ mind.
Laura had brought Brendon Hollis to the Hale territory with plans to kill her mother and brother and steal the Alpha gifts for herself.
The twin Wolves, Ethan and Aiden Hollis, were the oft-abused sons of Alpha Hollis, and they begged for sanctuary from the Hale Pack because they believed they would be killed by the Hollis Pack if they returned to that territory. They agreed to explain the whole plot, including the fact that Hollis would never have allowed Omega Laura to obtain Alpha Power, in exchange for the safety of the Hales.
Brendon Hollis’ body would never be found. Since he was buried deep in the woods still wearing the witch’s charm, even Stiles could not locate the lingering werewolf magic.
Ethan and Aiden willfully disposed of their own charms, not feeling the need to stay hidden after Alpha Hale agreed to give sanctuary.
John’s report stated that Laura had attacked Amanda Hale with a knife, striking the pregnant woman deep in the chest and triggering early labor as she almost bled out. The California State Review Board found his weapon discharge in defense of another person to be legal and valid. Talia, Amanda, and Stiles had stood as witness to the attack, so the story had validation in the eyes of the law.
Derek had gained new friends among the paramedics based out of Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital, especially since that particular crew now knew about werewolves. In the future, when his Residency schedule called for ambulance ride-alongs, that crew always requested that Derek ride with them over all the other Residents.
Talia had claimed the body of her wayward daughter and had her cremated. Stiles mixed Laura’s ashes with aconite blossoms and Mountain Ash, and took the remains away from the preserve to be spread into a source of running water. The Hale family held a private memorial, so that they could remember the girl that once was and not the vengeful woman that returned to them.
Christmas was a somber affair at the Hale house.
Amanda was released from the hospital after a difficult recovery. She had almost rejected the Bite, and was in a medically induced coma for three days while she healed.
Peter and Nicky never left her bedside and they both took turns feeding tiny Hope (Nicky’s idea) while in the hospital.
Stiles refused to allow Peter to thank him for delivering Hope. He had done what was necessary, and he was just as happy to forget it ever happened.
Instead, Stiles, Scott, Isaac, and Jackson took those three days to completely clean Peter’s home, and to repair the damage done to the doors and floor during the attack. That way, Amanda had a whole home to return to when she was released.
On December 25, 2013, Derek’s twenty-fifth birthday, Derek sat in his mother’s office with Alpha Hale and Financial Manager Peter Hale, and received his final portion of the Hale Family Trust. With careful investments, over the last four years it had grown to a respectable $100,000. Derek had opted to allow Peter to continue to invest the money for his future. He kept only enough to do some careful repairs on his trusty vehicle and to pay for the magical tattoos that he and Stiles were going to get two days later. Derek had plans to buy a home with that money once Stiles was out of school and they were ready to build a home together.
As for Laura’s left-over portion of the Trust; Derek and Talia decided that it should be equally divided among the new Pack members. Peter allowed that any interest that had grown since Laura had refused delivery years before should be added to the total, and Derek agreed. His reasoning was that Laura had attacked the Pack when she went after Amanda and Alpha Hale, so the Pack should receive reparations.
Peter gratefully cut Executive Checks for Jackson, Isaac, Erica, and Scott in the amount of $20,000 each.
Isaac tucked his into a savings account, and Erica bought a used car. Scott and Jackson both decided to allow Peter to continue investing for them, in case schooling got expensive beyond their grants and scholarships.
December 29, 2013
Derek sat patiently in the client chair in the back of ‘The Colorist’s Studio’ as Jasper worked Wolfsbane-infused white ink into his right bicep. Stiles was sitting slightly behind him, holding his left hand in a tight grip.
The room was quite except for the buzz of the tattoo gun and the muttering of his Mate, as Stiles chanted over and over the spells of love, protection, and safety that mixed with the magical ink.
The ink would match the mark that was worked into Stiles’ own right bicep.
The haze of endorphins rode over his senses, and Derek sat back and closed his eyes, allowing the magic to flow through his veins.
Chapter Five: Sweet Dreams That Leave All Worries Behind You
–Dream a Little Dream of Me
NOTES: Let’s just go into this knowing that I know nothing about fraternities or how they work. I also fudged how assault investigations happen on college campuses. I had a point to make, so I made it. If you take offense, then I’m sorry. This is for fun; it’s not a legal treatise on campus investigatory services.
Flower meanings for Melissa’s birthday bouquet:
Bluebell: Gratitude, Lady’s Seal: Be My Support, White Camellia: Adoration, Winter Daphane: I Would Not Have You Otherwise,
Flora’s Bell: Without Pretension
Also: Alanna is a tribute to a reader. She knows who she is and why this is here!
December 25, 2013
At the Hale House, after lingering festivities:
Stiles sat curled on Derek’s lap, a sketchpad in his hands. He was humming Christmas carols as he worked out the pattern for the matching tattoos that Derek had requested.
The whole holiday was somber.
Stiles was about to add to the sad atmosphere.
“Derek, before our appointment, we really need to talk about something.”
Derek nodded. “Okay. What do we need to talk about?”
Stiles extricated himself from Derek’s arms and settled beside him on the bed. “I know you love me, but I need to know something. And please don’t think I doubt your love for me, okay. It’s just…with these tattoos and the spells I’m making for us—it’s just important, okay?”
Derek frowned. “Stiles. Whatever it is, it’s fine, okay? Just ask. I’ll always tell you the truth.”
Stiles swallowed and took a deep breath. “Okay. I know you really cared for Paige, and that ended disastrously. And I know basically what happened with Kate Argent. And although I never met the woman, I assume she was attractive…just—do you think you love me because I’m male? That you’ve had all these troubles with women, so you chose to love me because I have a dick?”
Derek grinned at Stiles’ red face. “Stiles, you are my Mate, okay? And it’s not like there is only one Mate for each werewolf. That’s a nice fairy-tale, but it doesn’t work that way.” Derek reached out and took Stiles’ hands in his own. “I dated in college.” Stiles head lifted and he gasped, but Derek continued. “Sure, you and I Skyped all the time, and we were friends, but I did have a life while on campus. I went through the same orientation that you did, and I went to the same mixers and parties. I even got invited to frat parties. Yes, I loved Paige, in that ‘first time’ kind of love that kids have. And I guess Kate Argent was attractive—but really, she gave off such a greasy-evil vibe that I only wanted to shower off any contact I had with her. So I gave dating a try once I got out of high school.
“I thought that once I was away from home, things would be different. And they were. But you have to understand; Wolves aren’t promiscuous, okay? Sex wasn’t going to happen on a casual basis.” Derek smiled and shrugged. “I did kiss a few girls. And I kissed a few guys. And it was okay. But it was just okay. Nothing spectacular. By the time I had been away for a couple of years, I knew what I wanted in a Mate. So I came home for break, and I sat down and had a very serious conversation with your father.”
Stiles smiled shyly. “And he wanted to make sure I knew that I could back out of the courtship if I wanted to.”
Derek nodded and kissed Stiles’ knuckles. “Yes, because the last thing I wanted to do was force you into anything. I feel complete when I’m with you. None of the dates I had in school made me feel even sort of comfortable. And a lot of those people only wanted sex, so they were disappointed when I said ‘no’.”
Stiles smiled. “I only ever wanted to be with you. I never even considered dating.” He leaned forward and kissed Derek gently on the mouth. “I’m sorry I had to ask, but it was important.”
“Because of the spells on the tattoos?”
Stiles nodded. “I’m spelling them to protect your heart. It’s to make sure you can’t be coerced by drugs or love spells or compulsions. Even I won’t be able to cast on you. And mine will do the same for me, so my heart will always be protected for you. Because the tattoo is permanent, the spell will be, too. If we weren’t….”
“If we weren’t ‘IT’ for each other,” Derek continued for him, “Then the spell would trap us together. Okay, I understand. I like the idea that you want to protect me from love spells and roofies. My heart belongs only to you.”
Stiles smirked. “To me and any children that we may adopt in the distant future. I don’t like the idea that someone like Schiff can come around and force their way into your life.”
“Okay, that’s good. So, show me the design.”
Things had finally gotten back on keel after the bloody attack that left Amanda Hale a new werewolf.
Peter was over the moon about his new daughter, and he delighted in teaching Nicholas how to feed her.
He only hated that his wife was forced into the change.
“It should have been her choice,” Peter growled. “Something she wanted at a later date, not so she could live to be a mother to her children. As much as I once loved Laura, I could raise her back just to kill her again for bringing that monster to us.”
Peter and Nicholas had moved into their new home, while Amanda spent a great deal of time at the main house learning how to be a Wolf. Since she was a human from a Pack and had married a Wolf, she knew basically what to expect. Her family was less than thrilled at her change, but Talia assured them that Amanda was not in danger and that little Hope was doing well. Even so, Peter was planning a visit to his in-laws once Amanda was healed and in full control.
Stiles had even recovered from the trauma of having to deliver the baby in such extreme circumstances, although he was reluctant to hold the baby once she was home from the hospital.
“That’s fine,” he would say, “I’ve held her enough for now. Maybe once the image of her all bloody and gooey gets out of my head.”
Still, he spent the full week that Amanda and Hope were in the hospital constructing and spelling a dream catcher for over the baby’s crib. Just because he lost sleep over the trauma didn’t mean Hope had to have nightmares.
Stiles was also impressed with the fact that his father had taken to carrying a spare clip of Wolfsbane bullets for his service gun, and has the presence of mind to switch it out before Laura had burst into the house. John had obtained the bullets from Christopher Argent not long after Gerard attacked Isaac and Allison, hoping he would never need them but knowing it would be safer to have them.
After New Year’s, once John had been able to finally come to grips with his actions on that day, the whole thing was forced back onto him.
FBI Agent Rafael McCall blew back into town in a storm of rage, pissed that his former suspect was dead at the Sheriff’s hands.
Even though John had been declared not-guilty in the defense of others, McCall seemed to take personal offense that he couldn’t question Laura Hale about those disappearances so long ago. So, he forced an inquest, dragging Sheriff Stilinski, Talia Hale, Ignacek Stilinski, and Amanda Hale into an interview room with several Review Board members and two senior Federal Agents.
“Agent McCall,” said Senior Agent Michael Kreely (head of the San Diego Branch of the FBI), “I don’t understand what you want to accomplish here. The Sheriff acted in defense of others in clear and present danger.”
McCall scowled. “And he knew I wanted Laura Hale for questioning. We still haven’t solved those missing persons cases.”
Kreely frowned. “And what? Do you believe that Sheriff Stilinski killed Laura Hale out of spite to you?”
“I need to understand what happened. I need to know why I wasn’t notified that Laura Hale had made reappearance.”
John frowned at the Agent. “I don’t really know how I was expected to inform you of something I didn’t even know about. You haven’t informed me of any new evidence in those cases, so I wasn’t aware that you needed to be involved here at all.”
McCall rounded on him. “And just what were you doing at the Hale’s home, anyway? Why were you in position to shoot Ms. Hale?”
John’s eyebrow rose in incredulity. “Well, my presence at the Hale home wouldn’t be out of place. I’m quite friendly with Talia and Robert Hale, and my son is dating their son, Derek. I was out there because your office sent me a fax that Laura had been sighted near here, so I wanted to warn Talia of the fact.”
“And that placed you at the home of Amanda Hale?” Agent McCall all but snarled at him.
John shook his head. “No. Amanda put me at her home. Her husband was out of town, and her furniture delivery was coming, so she asked me and my son to help her get the furniture situated. We’re both able-bodied men, and she was heavily pregnant, so we agreed.”
“And you just happened to be armed?”
John frowned harder. “It was the end of my shift. I had come to see Talia while on duty, so of course I was armed. My weapon is part of my uniform.” John looked to the Review Board. “I assure you, I do know how to secure a weapon so that I would not accidentally discharge it while moving furniture.”
“We do understand that, Sheriff,” said Kreely. “You have been cleared in the shooting. None of us here believe that it was unavoidable.”
“Then why are we all here, again, after the first inquest?”
Kreely snorted. “Because Agent McCall is a squeaky wheel, and he needs validation.”
“I resent that!” exclaimed McCall. “I just fail to understand why my main suspect is dead.”
John shot an unimpressed look at the agent. “Maybe because she attacked a very pregnant woman with a knife, and then turned the knife on me. I reacted on instinct, and instinct did not say ‘shoot to warn’. My life was in danger, Amanda was bleeding badly, and I reacted to the stress very quickly. If Laura was your main suspect in any case, I don’t understand why you didn’t do more to find her. I received a fax that she was near Beacon Hills, but you were nowhere around to hunt for her. I’m sorry that you can’t close those cases with her in custody, but I’m not sorry for my actions that day.”
Agent Kreely stood and offered his hand to John. “Again, I’m sorry for this, Sheriff. You aren’t to be blamed, and there is no further need for you—any of you—to be here. Thank you for coming in and allowing us the use of your station.”
The Inquest members all filed out of the room, and Talia gathered Amanda to her side. “We’ll see you for dinner tomorrow night, John?”
“Yeah, Talia. We’ll be there. You two go home and have a rest. Stiles, will I see you at home?”
Stiles gave Agent McCall the side-eye as he answered his father. “Yeah. Scott is coming over for a while. We have a Pledge project to finish before break is over.”
After Stiles, Talia, and Amanda left the building, John turned to McCall. “Look, I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but you need to back off here! Go find some new evidence for your case and close it, but do it away from Beacon Hills. We don’t need you here.”
“Funny,” said McCall, “I think you just might need me here. You need some oversight around this place. I’m thinking of transferring from San Diego to San Francisco, so I can be closer. Maybe I can keep an eye on my son while I’m at it.”
John shook his head. “Scott is fine. Scott has been fine. He’s an adult now, and he hardly needs you to watch over him. Melissa did a fine job raising him after you walked out.”
McCall snorted. “Walked out? Is that what she called it?”
John opened the door to the interview room and made to exit. “She asked you to get out and get yourself together. You made the choice to back away from her and your son. You only have yourself to blame is Scott is distant!”
“And Melissa? Just how long did you wait to make a move on her?”
John turned quickly to face the other man. “I asked her out for the first time right before Stiles’ senior year. I was still mourning the loss of my wife, after all these years, and Melissa was a dear friend. Anything else you want to know is probably none of your business, so you might want to reconsider the questions. If you want to repair your relationship with Scott, Then I suggest you find some common ground with him, and leave Melissa out of it. Scott is very happy that she and I are dating.”
With that, John left the interview room and entered his office, closing the door firmly behind him.
Stiles happily pulled into the driveway of his father’s house at five o’clock in the evening on May sixteenth.
His first year at college was over.
His grades were awesome. He had several new friends. He and Scott had successfully pledged a fraternity and were now ‘brothers’ of a sort. He had plans to take three online courses over the summer so that he could progress his education.
Stiles looked up at his house—the house he grew up in—and smiled.
College was fine, but home was home.
The front door opened and John Stilinski stepped out onto the porch. “You need help there, son?”
Stiles grinned and got out of the jeep. “Yeah, if you don’t mind. I know I brought home stuff at semester break, but I think it grew back this semester.”
John laughed and he joined his son in unloading the vehicle. “Are you seeing Derek tonight?”
“Nope. We have plans for breakfast tomorrow, though. I wanted to get situated here first, you know?”
“That’s fine. I’ll be heading to Melissa’s for dinner tonight, though, so you’ll be alone. I hope you don’t mind.”
Stiles shook his head. “Not at all. I have a Skype session scheduled with Davi Coates tonight around eight o’clock. I think I’ll be locked in my room all night.”
“Okay,” said John, hefting a box from the jeep, “Just don’t forget the world exists while you’re here. I know you’re taking summer classes online, but don’t forget to get outside and get some air.”
“Oh, I won’t, Dad. We’re planning a camping trip after everyone is home from school. And I really need to check out the garden, to make sure you did okay with it.”
Three hours later, Stiles’ computer pinged with a Skype call, and he closed the browser he was searching.
“Hey, Davi, how are things where you are?”
“Things are well, Ignacek. How is school going?”
“Progress is being made. I’m a frat boy now, so that’s new!”
Stiles spent the next two hours catching up with the Emissary to the Arritas Pack, a search-dog trainer in Arizona. He had kept in touch with her during the school year, so she was aware of the whole Laura Hale mess from December. Frederick Hale mourned his niece, but had quickly moved past it all. Laura was very much not the pleasant young woman that Frederick had watched grow up.
Davi had been passing along Werewolf Lore to Stiles ever since they met when Stiles was in high school. Stiles was compiling quite the personal library, full of Folklore, history, and myth. Now he was gathering information about other supernatural beings that might be in the area.
“I’ll be visiting the Nemeton tomorrow morning after breakfast. I need to find my anchor there again after so much time away.”
Davi nodded. “Your magical connection with the land there is something special. I almost envy that.”
“Well,” said Stiles, “Not every Emissary is a Mage-in-training. I’d like to have your talent with animals.”
“I could always send you a dog, you know. Good friendship, that.”
Stiles grimaced. “Maybe after college. Right now, it wouldn’t be fair to get a dog and then leave it behind when I went back to campus. And I don’t think Dad would want a dog around that wasn’t a police dog. Which reminds me, I need to visit the kennels while I’m home.”
After the call was over, Stiles stripped and stepped into a hot shower, washing the road—and the dorms—away from his body.
Early in the morning, Stiles would spend time with Derek. He missed his boyfriend very much. Stiles managed to come home about once a month to visit, and they still called once a week, but he longed for physical contact.
As he washed, he gently prodded the colorful tattoo on his right bicep. The almost shapeless swirls of red, pink, green and blue pulsed under his fingers. He felt an answering pulse in his blood, as Derek reacted to the shared magic of the tattoos.
Derek knew Stiles was home, but he was at the hospital late and would have to wait to see him.
Stiles pressed firmly into the tattoo, and sent a wave of love to Derek. That was an unforeseen side-effect of the magic that he had pushed into the ink: while the tattoos protected their hearts and emotions, they could also be used to send thoughts back and forth between the two of them. Once he had figured it out, Stiles had panicked and wanted to cancel the spells, but Derek insisted that they stay intact. He liked that he could send emotions to Stiles from long distances.
They still sent flowers to each other, but sending feelings and thoughts was a more intimate way to confirm their relationship.
Stiles dried himself and dressed in sleep pants and a tank top. He opened the window to his bedroom to let in the late-Spring air. It was still cool in the mountains of Beacon Hills, but summer was right around the corner, and Stiles’ magic was telling him that it would be a scorcher. Before getting into bed, Stiles set out his clothes for the next day: Khaki trousers, white button-down oxford shirt, khaki vest, and dark tan moccasins.
His manner of dress had made him an icon in his fraternity. While other brothers were wearing faded and torn jeans and t-shirts, Stiles dressed like a preppy hipster. He only wore jeans for working on the jeep or cleaning around the house, or working in the garden and camping while at home. He now owned three t-shirts and two sweatshirts that weren’t grease-stained and torn, and those were in his fraternity colors of Cherry Red and Silver and had the Greek letters for Kappa Tau Epsilon across the chest. The whole fraternity praised his ability to stand out as a snappy dresser while not actually looking like he was trying too hard.
Of course, he had had to explain about the flowers that he sometimes wore in his lapel, because they were as iconic as the button down shirts and waistcoats. As a joke, one of the brothers, a fashion major, had made Stiles a red waistcoat with silver piping that he could wear on Greek Days during Rush Weeks instead of resorting to one of the t-shirts. Instead of a watch-pocket, like his other waistcoats, this one had a TKE crest on the front. Stiles loved it, and wore it at least once a week. He definitely stood out in his Pledge Class photo.
For that matter, so did Scott, who was wearing dark glasses. Werewolf eyes flared in flash-photos, and Scott didn’t want to resort to contact lenses like Jackson and Isaac did.
Stiles set his alarm and sat cross-legged on his bed and began to meditate. He’d need to center his mind before trying to sleep in his childhood bed.
Stiles sat across from Derek in the booth at the diner and pushed a small jeweler’s box across the table at him.
“What’s this?” Derek looked askance at the box, poking it with one finger.
Stiles nodded at it. “I just thought…well, some of the guys have given these to their sweeties….” Stiles ran a hand nervously across the back of his neck. “Maybe this is a bad idea.” He reached across the table for the box, but Derek had quickly snatched it up and opened it, revealing a small golden tie-tack shaped like a badge, with three small white pearls across it.
“What is this?”
Stiles blushed. “It’s, um, the TKE badge? It’s like, my pledge pin.”
Derek looked up and grinned. “You want me to wear your pin?”
Stiles groaned and rolled his head back. “Well, when you say it that way….”
“No! No, no, I like it!” Derek removed the golden pin and attached it to the collar of his blue shirt. “I’ll have to see if I can wear it on my lab coat at the hospital, but I can definitely wear it on my off days. Mom is going to love this!”
Stiles pounded his head on the table, bumping his coffee cup. “This was such a bad idea.”
“Hey, Stiles?” Stiles looked up from his despair and found Derek smiling serenely at him. “I like it, okay. Really. I’m proud to wear it.”
Stiles smiled and nodded. “Good. My ‘Big Brother’, Mitch, said I could give it to you. He gave one to his fiancée after he was initiated.”
“Does Scott have one to give to Cora?”
Stiles lifted one unimpressed eyebrow. “Do you really think Cora would take it?”
Derek snorted and shook his head. “Nope. But it would be fun to watch her flounder over it.”
The waitress brought their waffle platters to the table, winking at Derek when she spied the pin. Derek blushed and speared a piece of sausage with his fork as Stiles giggled and poured syrup on his waffle. “So, how is the Residency going, now that predatory females are gone?”
Derek swallowed his mouthful of sausage. “Oh, I still get flirted at, mostly by the older nurses. But everything is going really well. I’ll actually be getting my M.D. after next semester, and then it’s two more years of residency before I declare my specialty. Mom is looking forward to calling me ‘Doctor’.”
Stiles smirked. “Yeah? Well, so am I. Doctor Derek Hale. I do like the sound of that. Are you still going into pediatrics?”
Derek nodded around his coffee. “My advisor is pushing me toward Obstetrics as well, but Pediatrics is my main love. Although I’m still bummed that you got to deliver a baby before I did.”
Stiles shuddered. “Please, let’s never mention that again. I’ll be running out by Amanda’s place this afternoon, when I’m done in the woods. She sent me an e-mail that she wanted to ask me something, and I think she and Peter want to make me Hope’s godfather. I have no idea how I’d answer that request.”
“You don’t want it?” Derek tilted his head as he watched his boyfriend.
“Well, it’s an honor for sure. But it can also be a huge responsibility. I can’t really be here for her for a while.” Derek made to speak, but Stiles lifted a hand to stop him. “I know she’s just a baby now, and she won’t really need a godparent for a while, but I’d still like to spend time with her as she’s growing. And I can’t do that from Davis. Right now, I’m concentrating on school, my degree, and you.”
Derek nodded. “Okay. Well, they won’t be offended, so don’t worry about saying ‘no’ if that’s what she wants. But,” he said, pointing his fork at Stiles, “she could only want you to set wards around the house. I know Mom wants you to set wards around the main house this summer.”
“This is true. Why don’t you want me to ward the loft?”
“Because I’m not going to be in the loft forever. It’s fine for just me, but someday you’re going to move in with me, and that loft is too small for both of us. I have my personal shields on my body all the time, so a home ward doesn’t make sense.”
“Fair enough. I need to jump-up my dad’s talisman in a few weeks. I know it protected him in December, but I want to strengthen the magic on it at the Full Moon.”
“Yeah—Mom tried to describe it to me, what happened when Laura attacked. Apparently it was pretty spectacular. Maybe you can do a whole big thing, and strengthen all of the talismans at the same time. We can get the whole Pack together for a ritual at the Moon Run.”
Stiles nodded and swiped a piece of waffle through the syrup puddle on his plate. “That’s not a bad idea. The magic won’t ever wear off the talismans, but an extra push never hurt anyone.”
After breakfast was finished, Stiles and Derek made to part ways in the parking lot. Stiles kissed Derek softly, brushing his fingers over the pin on his collar and smiling with satisfaction. “I’ll call you later, okay?”
Derek hummed and leaned in for another kiss. “Okay. Have fun with the trees!”
Stiles walked purposefully around the truck of the Nemeton, feeling the energy of the Ley Lines pushing upward into the soles of his moccasins and through his body. Stiles felt the magic of the land merge with his own personal magic, and he pressed back with intent, pushing positive energy toward the Nemeton.
For a moment, all was silent as the Nemeton received the energy, feeding from it like if fed from the sunlight and rain water.
Stiles closed his eyes and saw the energy pulses travel into and out of the now mighty and strong tree growing in deep in the woods of the preserve.
Healthy green and gold waves ebbed and flowed, growing brighter and brighter, building a strong shield around the tree. With a final push of magic, bright purple flowers sprang out of the earth around the base of the tree. Stiles nodded in satisfaction and patted the tree trunk.
“I missed you, buddy! But you’re doing so great!”
Stiles left the Nemeton behind, stalking silently through the woods toward the Hale property. He reached out all of his senses and felt the energy of the land around him.
He could hear bird calls, happy chirping in nests indicating new births.
He could hear the buzzing of insects, and the thrums of frogs in the distant woods.
He kicked at the deadfall on the ground, but made no sound as he maneuvered through the woods. Silent-walking was a talent that Stiles rarely had time to practice while at school. Along the asphalt and concrete walkways, his moccasins and loafers barely made noise anyway. Still, Roland McCook’s teachings were never far from his mind.
He could sense a presence behind him as he neared the Hale property, and send a small wave of power in that direction, startling the fox that stalked along behind him.
Stiles smirked. He had been warned, by both Donna Maria and Roland, that Nature would possibly send a Familiar to him when his magic settled, but right now he had no need for one. Still—a fox would be pretty cool!
So would an owl.
Or a hawk.
Stiles shook his head to clear his thoughts as he exited the woods behind the Hale house. He could see Derek’s Samurai parked in front of the main house and reached up to touch his arm over the tattoo, sending a greeting pulse to Derek and to let him know that he was there and would need a ride back into town.
Stiles diverted to the cottage on the far edge of the clearing and knocked on the front door.
Peter answered the knock, gently cradling his infant daughter to his chest as he opened the door.
“Stiles! Good of you to come. How is school treating you?”
Stiles passed the man as he entered the cottage and he reached out to brush his hand over Hope’s back. “It’s fine. I’m taking some on-line classes this summer, to knock out some more requirements before I begin my Major program. How have you guys been?”
Peter closed the door and led Stiles into the living room. “Amanda is back at work in her studio finally. I wasn’t sure if she would ever want to leave Hope at home so that she could get back to her art.”
Stiles smiled. “Well, she already ‘made’ this little beauty, so why should she go back to the regular artwork?”
Peter snorted. “And do you know—that was her exact argument? But still, the artistic soul cries out to create. Nicky has decided to go to summer camp this year, so we’ll be packing him off in a few weeks. Then it will just be me and Hope, daddy-bonding all day long.”
Stiles sat in an over-stuffed armchair and smiled at the older man. “I’m sure it’s such a hardship, bonding with your daughter.”
“Well,” said Peter, settling Hope onto a play mat on the floor, “It’s been a while since I’ve had an infant. So, Amanda is in town with her sketch pad and blowtorch, but she wanted to ask if you could help her design a different talisman for her? She likes the Aconite blossoms, but as an artist, she needs something unique unto herself.”
Stiles raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Yeah! Sure, I can do that. Um, did you want a special matching one? To, you know, match hers once it’s done?”
Peter reached up and pulled a leather cord from under his shirt, revealing the purple blossom charm that every member of the Hale Pack wore. “I’m actually quite fond of this one. But thank you for the offer. While you are here, though, I would like to request something for myself.”
“Do you think you can help me plant a protection-garden for the front of the house? Pretty flowers with a purpose, so to speak?”
Stiles stood and looked out the front window, taking note of available sunlight. “Yeah. Let me do some research, okay? You might have a light issue, so we’ll have to plant around that. Did you just want beds, or did you want a design?”
Peter looked surprised. “I didn’t realize that I had a choice.”
Stiles turned back to the older man. “Well, designs can add protection or other charms. Like mandalas, you know? I mean, I don’t think we have to go into a lot of detail, but a sunburst design could offer more protection than, say, a crescent shape.”
Peter shook his head, dazed. “I think we both need to do some research. I just want a safe place for Hope to play.”
“Okay, then, that’s where I’ll start my research—kid-friendly protective plants.”
Stiles and Peter talked for another half hour, discussing merits of some flowering plants over greenery, before Stiles stood to leave.
“I’ll e-mail you some ideas, and you and Amanda can decide together. I’ll drop into her studio later today or tomorrow.”
Stiles’ summer was spent in equal amounts in the woods, on his computer, or in Derek’s presence. He didn’t stay at the loft very often because of Derek’s schedule and his own on-line class work, but they managed meals together twice a week, and they studied together often in the Stilinski living room.
In late July, another Free-camping excursion was planned. Derek managed to get three days off in the middle of a week, so Scott wrangled the same three days off. Cora was back for a short break before starting her full-time job as a Park Ranger Cadet near Quincey, only an hour’s drive away. Isaac and Camden Lahey both bribed and cajoled time off together from the helpful Sheriff and several deputies, so they both went. Erica was one of the deputies that traded shifts, so she was happy to spend a long weekend with Boyd just before the camping trip.
Oddly, Gloria Martin was raring to go out again, and she all but begged Lydia and Jackson to come with her. Anne Whittemore went along, to spend time with her new friend.
Allison begged her father to take over CJ duties for those days so that she could take Victoria out for the first time.
Stiles, again, made sure everyone had disposable cameras for the two-day camp out. He firmly believed in the ‘pics or it didn’t happen’ philosophy.
Classes officially started on August twenty-fifth, but Stiles and Scott were joining many other TKE brothers in acting as Orientation Assistants, so they would be going back to the dorms early to assist with incoming freshmen and all of the fun that came with showing them the ropes of life on campus.
This time Stiles promised to be back for Labor Day Weekend, so he and Derek went ahead and made plans for then.
Derek came over to help Stiles load the jeep with his things, including his special ‘magical’ laptop and a locked firebox to hold it in, before he drove over to the McCall’s house to load Scott and his gear.
“This summer just flew by,” said Derek as he placed the last box. “It feels like I hardly got to see you.”
Stiles pulled the older man into a hug. “I know, Der. But I have to double-up on classes when I can if I want to graduate early. I want to succeed more than anything, so I can come home to you. I love college, but it’s only a passage to what I want to do with my life.”
“I know. I’ll try to come visit you, and you can introduce me to your fraternity.” Derek leaned in and pressed his nose to the junction of Stiles’ shoulder and neck, inhaling deeply to catch the scent of his Mate. “Remember to call when you get there.”
“I will. Now, kiss me so I can go get Scott and we can hit the road.”
Derek complied, kissing Stiles deeply, tasting every inch of his mouth. Stiles moaned and pulled away reluctantly. “I have to go. If you keep doing that, I’ll never get out of here.”
“I’m not sorry. I love you.”
Stiles smiled brightly. “I love you, too.”
Several hours later, Stiles and Scott were gathering their keys to their rooms in Emerson Hall, gearing up for another year. Stiles and Scott were rooming together this year, in a four-person suite with two incoming freshmen. Danny was going to be just down the hall on the same floor. They had toyed with the idea of applying for one of the apartments, if only to have a kitchen to cook real food in, but decided that they rather enjoyed the dorm they already had.
The pool was a good incentive, but so was the locking bike storage.
Stiles and Scott both had mountain bikes strapped to the back of the jeep this year. Stiles didn’t mind walking to classes, but walking to the library in the early mornings was a drag.
Their first order of business as returning TKE brothers was to meet with the rest of the frat brothers to discuss the upcoming year. Scott was wearing his usual uniform of jeans and sneakers with a red TKE t-shirt, but Stiles was happily wearing his Cherry-red waistcoat.
Todd, the fashion major, took one look at him and burst out laughing. “Oh, man! I have to make you another one of those! You’re gonna wear that out!”
Stiles bro-punched his shoulder. “It’s all good. It’s just my style!”
Jeff, the chapter president, brought up a previously mentioned idea of escorting co-eds across campus after night classes, and Stiles and Scott immediately signed up. They both knew how daunting the campus could be after dark, and while Davis was a relatively safe campus, extra security could never be a bad idea. All in all, most of the brothers who lived in dorms signed up, along with several brothers from different frats. It wasn’t totally inter-Greek, but there was enough of a spread that almost the entire Greek alphabet was represented. Stiles was happy to see that Danny had also signed up, looking sharp in his green and gold Delta Lambda Phi t-shirt. All told, there were around fifty frat boys from several frats that had signed up to be night class escorts, and didn’t that make them all giggle like children.
“My dad is going to be so proud of me,” laughed Stiles, “Going to college to become an escort!”
Since the Full Moon for August was the Sunday before they arrived on Campus, Stiles, Scott, and Danny made plans to head to the Yolo Wilderness Area for the September Moon. Stiles happily mounted a lunar calendar on his corkboard, right beside his class schedule for the semester. Once classes started, those two schedules were going to rule his life.
Freshman orientation began on August thirteenth, with incoming students arriving on the eleventh. No-one from a fraternity or sorority was allowed to wear their Letters during orientation, so they put their colors in the closet until classes began. Once classes started, Stiles could wear his t-shirts if he wanted, or his waistcoat(s), as was his preference. They were all politely asked by the Administration not to wear Greek colors or letters during the escorting services, because they didn’t want to promote some frats over others.
Stiles and Scott had a lot of fun, organizing their teams for the campus-wide scavenger hunts and flag-football games. They remembered their own orientation the year before, and knew how important it was to make sure the new students got comfortable on campus with the building layouts. Playing tour-guide was kind of fun.
After the first week of orientation, Stiles happily sat in front of his laptop Skyping with Derek. Scott was in the living room area of the suite, chatting with their new suitemates.
“How is everything going?”
“It’s all good so far, but classes don’t start for another week.”
“How big is your load this semester?” Derek looked concerned, but he also trusted Stiles not to get too overwhelmed.
Stiles smiled at his boyfriend. “I have a full load of eighteen hours. I only have two night classes, though, on Monday and Wednesday. And, get this—my last class of the week is over at three o’clock on Thursday. That means I have a lot of early-morning classes, but I can come home on Thursday afternoon and not leave again until Sunday morning. Scott is Friday-free, too, but he has eight o’clock classes every other day!”
Derek rolled his eyes. “So basically, neither one of you is going to get any sleep.”
“Oh, we’ll sleep. We may over-sleep on Saturdays, but we’ll figure it out. We’ve both signed up to be night-class escorts, to help get female students across campus safely.”
“That’s a really good idea. Your dad will be proud of you for it.”
“Yeah, it’s basically Inter-Greek community service. Well, I better let you go, since you look about to fall out.”
Derek tried, and failed, to hide a yawn. “Yeah. I’ll see you here next week?”
“Yup. Is Monday going to be good for you this semester? My class lets out at 8:30.”
“So you’ll be home before ten? That should be fine. If I have to reschedule, I’ll shoot you an e-mail.”
Stiles’ class schedule for the semester went like this:
Mon: 8-9:30, 11-1, 5-8:30
Tue: 10-12, 1-3
Wed: 8-9:30, 11-1, 3-5, 6-8:30
Thu: 10-12, 1-3
He had long weekends, but would have a tight schedule during the week. Still, he was a good student, and had learned how to manage his time well while studying with Roland McCook. As long as he could meditate several times during the week, and could get away to Yolo to practice some light magic, he would be fine.
Stiles understood that his magic was just like a muscle; he had to exercise it to keep it healthy.
Stiles and Scott were loading into the jeep after Stiles’ last class on Wednesday night on October eighth, each carrying their laptops and class books. They were headed to Yolo for a Moon Run, and were running late in meeting Danny at the Student Union Hall.
“Um, Hey, guys!” a timid voice interrupted them. Stiles turned toward the voice, and saw Donald Richman, a freshman from Emerson Hall—but not one of their roomies. “What are you doing?”
Stiles stood away from the jeep. “Hey, Donald. We’re off to meet Danny. We have to head off campus for a bit tonight.”
Donald looked slightly dejected. “Oh. Sorry to interrupt.”
“No, hey, it’s okay. Did you need something?” Donald was a quiet kid from Henderson, Nevada, and he was having trouble fitting in so far from home. Stiles tried very hard to be kind when he saw Donald, but the kid was so shy.
“I’m just heading back to Emerson. It’s later than I thought I would be, but the lecture ran over.”
Scott frowned. “Did you want a ride? We could totally take you.”
Donald smiled a little, still shy around the older guys. “If you don’t mind. I was going to ride my bike, but thought the walk would be okay.”
“Nah, it’s fine. I’ll send Danny a text on the way.” Scott moved to the back seat so that Donald could take the front. “Do you have a light on your bike?”
The younger man nodded. “Yeah. My mom made sure I had a headlight for night riding.”
Donald was quiet on the short drive across campus, but thanked them for taking him back.
“Really,” said Stiles as the boy got out of the jeep, “It’s no problem. I know how it is when a lecture goes long. I don’t always drive to class, and that walk is a bear when it gets colder.”
Stiles and Scott waved at Donald, and then they redirected to the Student Union. Scott was beginning to get a little furry, so they knew Moon-rise was coming up. Danny was pacing on the sidewalk in front of the building as they pulled up.
“Cutting it a little close, aren’t we? Moon is up at ten-fifty. Are we going to make it to the woods on time?”
Stiles shrugged and wiggled the fingers on his right hand. “We will if I have anything to say about it.”
Stiles headed toward the highway, waving his hand at every traffic light they met; the lights turned from red to green before they passed, and the traffic ‘magically’ got out of his way. Stiles pulled into the wilderness area and found a distant parking area away from any security patrols. He tapped the hood of the jeep as they all piled out, and the air around the vehicle shimmered, cloaking the jeep from prying eyes.
Danny shook his head as they wandered into the dark woods, Scott already stripping off his shirt and shoes to Shift. “You are seriously scary, Stilinski.”
Stiles smirked in response. “I have to use it, or I’ll lose it. I might as well use the magic to my advantage without breaking any laws. Nobody gets hurt, and we don’t get caught.”
Stiles and Danny ran with Scott for about half an hour, and then they settled under a wide tree with their laptops and began transcribing notes from various classes.
“You didn’t have any escort duties tonight?”
Stiles shook his head. “Nope. I have two Tri-Delts that I escort on Monday nights and a freshman girl, Alanna Franklin, that has Tuesday and Wednesday night classes, but she texted and cancelled tonight. I think her class was cancelled.”
Danny nodded. “My last escort duty was after the six o’clock Bio lab. I have a trio of Pi Phi’s, which would seem like a ‘safety in numbers’ thing, but they insisted on having an escort.”
Stiles nudged him in the shoulder. “It’s the dimples, man. They just can’t resist the dimples.”
“Fuck you very much.”
Scott ran up to them before midnight and re-dressed for the drive back to campus. “Thanks for transferring my notes for Am. Lit., Danny. That test next week is gonna kill me.”
Danny smiled as he climbed into the back seat. “Not a problem, Scott. It’s the lease I could do, as it’s the only class we share this semester.”
The next day, as Stiles was walking to his first class from the dining hall, he ran across Alanna Franklin sitting in the shade. He was going to say hello, but he noticed her posture: head down, shoulders hunched, dark glasses—she was definitely hung over. Stiles moved on, marveling at the social habits of students away from home for the first time. Alanna was a freshman from Santa Clarita, and was a very personable girl. She was out-going and friendly, so Stiles didn’t wonder that she had lots of friends on campus. He just didn’t understand the whole ‘drinking until drunk’ thing. Hangovers looked painful, was the thing, so why do it?
During orientation, safety talks were given with the understanding that under-age drinking was going to happen. There were rules against it, not to mention laws, but everyone acknowledged that young people away from home had to feel their own way around. Incoming freshmen were politely asked not to drink, but if they were going to do so, they were asked to do it safely. They were told to have designated drivers, and to stay in safe groups, and to look out for their friends and to alert a Resident Advisor if someone looked like they were in danger of alcohol poisoning or other trouble.
Stiles and Scott had seen enough under-age drinkers during their own freshman year, especially during Rush Week, when the fraternities and sororities were trying to lure new members. Stiles had carried home several dorm-mates after binges, although not his own suite-mates, thank goodness. He still maintained that drinking was just never going to be his thing. He liked being in control of his own body, thank you very much. Also, his best friend was a werewolf—who was he going to get drunk with?
Rush Week was starting in earnest soon, so Stiles was on the look-out for drunken stumblers across campus. Tau Kappa Epsilon wasn’t a frat that encouraged drinking during their parties, but they did often volunteer to get the drunks home safely.
Stiles dipped his head to sniff his boutonniere—a purple azalea that Derek had delivered that morning as a surprise, and he walked into the class building for his Economics class. He gave a heavy sigh, thinking about the very dry lecture he was going to have to listen to. Sometimes, he really missed Finstock.
After class, Stiles met with several TKE brothers for lunch so they could compare notes on the Escort Service. His own ‘Big Brother’, Mitch, nodded to the flower on his chest and asked, “What does that one mean, Stiles?”
“Purple Azalea—means ‘Take Care of Yourself for Me’.”
“That is too precious, man. I have got to learn this stuff. Melanie would love it.” Mitch’s girlfriend was a Tri-Delt studying Agriculture. They’d been together for three years, and Stiles expected that Mitch would propose before he graduated.
“I can give you a list, if you want. Derek and I have been doing this for a long time now. We basically have the local florist trained. She actually has a sign in her shop that says ‘Say It With Flowers—We’ll Show You How’.”
Mitch laughed. “That’s pretty good. So, what does the Teke red carnation mean?”
Stiles took a sip of his soda as he considered the frat’s symbolic flower. “The red carnation actually has two meanings. I’d go for ‘admiration’ for the frat.”
Jeff, the president, asked, “What is the other meaning?”
“Um, ‘My heart aches for you’. So, not a good meaning for a brotherhood, huh?”
Scott had joined them at that point. “Did Stiles tell you he was in charge of flowers for our group for the school formals? We would tell him what message we wanted to say, and give him the money, and he’d order the corsages for our dates.”
Jeff gave Stiles a considering look. “Okay, so—new proclamation: Stilinski is in charge of corsages for the TKE formal in the spring! If you don’t mind, that is.”
Stiles smiled good naturedly. “I can do that, but if I’m doing it for all the brothers, I’ll need lots of time in advance for ordering. I can go through my local florist back home, and she can ship to here, but for that many flowers she’ll need lots of warning.”
Stiles wandered through the rooms of the TKE chapter house during their first Rush Week mixer, chatting with fellow brothers and meeting prospective pledges. There were freshman men and women walking around getting to know everyone and asking questions. The mixers were co-ed, so all of the students could see what parties were like for all of the different frats.
A high-pitched giggle rang through the air, and Stiles paused on his trek to turn back toward the front den. There was a small group of stumbling women, fresh from a party a few houses down—probably Delta Gamma, as they were all carrying pink cups. They were also quite tipsy, as Stiles observed the weaving meanderings as the girls moved through the den. Stiles immediately recognized Alanna Franklin as the loud giggler. She was short, around five-two, and very thin with a large bust. It was hard to ignore, really, as she looked like she was going to tip over forward all the time.
And she liked wearing tight, low-cut tops.
Her bright red hair also stood out, so she was really hard to ignore. He liked talking to her while he was walking her back to her dorm after the night classes. She was obviously very smart—about most things.
Alanna stumbled against another girl, and beer sloshed from her cup onto the floor.
Stiles looked at his watch—it was only eight o’clock.
He sighed and nodded to Jeff, who was watching worriedly as the drunken girls tried to move further into the house. Stiles made his way over to Alanna, who was the only one he knew, and he gently took hold of her elbow.
“Hey, Alanna! How are you doing?”
The small red-head looked at him and tried to focus, squinting at his face. “Stiles? What are you doing here?”
“This is my fraternity.” He looked pointedly at her cup. “I see you’ve been busy tonight already. Maybe you’ve had enough?”
Alanna shook her head. “Nooooooo! ‘S early!”
“Yeah, but you’re totally wasted. Who are you here with?”
“My roomie, Becca!” Alanna gestured wildly behind her, spilling more beer onto the floor. Stiles looked around and saw a slightly worried-looking brunette watching from the doorway. He raised his hand to get her attention.
“Becca?” The brunette nodded and walked over to them. “I think Alanna has had enough excitement. Can you get her home, or should I call campus security to give you a ride?”
Alanna pouted at him. “C’n you take me ho-ome?”
Stiles shook his head in the negative. “Sorry, ladies, but I’m on clean-up, and I rode my bike over. You are in no shape to be walking around anymore tonight.”
Becca grimaced. “I can flag down a security car. How do you know Alanna?”
Stiles gave a rueful look. “I’m her safety escort after class on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.”
“Oh. Well, nice to meet you!” Becca grabbed Alanna around the waste. “Come on, Alanna. Let’s go back. You need some water and some sleep. You have a paper to write tomorrow. Bye!” she said, waving as she dragged Alanna from the room.
Jeff and Mitch had wrangled the rest of the giggling girls out of the house before anyone did too much damage. Not all of them were drunk, so they were dealt with easily. Jeff walked up to Stiles after escorting the girls out of the house. “Well, that was interesting. Was that ginger a friend of yours?”
“Just my escort-ee two nights a week. I’ve seen her hung-over once before, but I didn’t know she was a hard partier.”
Jeff shrugged. “She’s eighteen and away from home for the first time. It happens.”
Stiles just put his hands in his trouser pockets. “When I was eighteen, I was a senior in high school and had other things to do than to drink. Hell, I have other things to do now.”
Jeff laughed and clapped Stiles on the shoulder. “Yeah, well, not everyone is as upstanding as you are. You don’t ever drink?”
Stiles shrugged carelessly. “Oh, well, I have some champagne at New Year’s, and sometimes my dad will give me wine with our home-made lasagna when we cook together, but it’s not a thing I do. For one thing, my dad is the Sheriff back home.” Jeff cringed, and Stiles smirked. “Yeah, exactly. And for another thing, I never did like the idea of losing control of my faculties. When I want to chill out and relax, I meditate or play video games.”
“That’s cool. I’m not a drinker, either. My grandfather was an alcoholic, so I know what lies down that road. I mean, everything in moderation, and all that. But, getting drunk like that? Nope.”
The next day, Stiles came upon Becca and Alanna in the library while he was working on a term paper. Becca was diligently flipping through several texts and scribbling notes, but Alanna looked like death frozen-over.
“Hello, ladies! How are you today?”
Alanna groaned, but Becca gave a rueful grin. “I’m trying to make sense of ‘Electra’ versus ‘Lysistrata’, and Alanna is trying not to die.”
“Well, obviously you made it home okay. I’m glad to see that.”
“Yeah, thanks for your concern. The parties were fun, but now I have mid-terms and a cranky room-mate.”
Stiles gestured to his own backpack. “Yeah, me too. Alanna—I’ll see you Tuesday night. Have a good day!”
He heard Alanna groan again as he walked to the back stacks in search of the reference books he needed.
After two mostly solitary Moon Runs in the Yolo Wilderness Area, Scott was happy to be back in Beacon Hills with part of his Pack. Stiles was happy as well, as finals were coming up and he really needed a break from all of the campus brouhaha.
While Scott ran through the Preserve with the Hale Pack, Stiles sat on the back deck of the Hale house with his father. They were discussing his classes and his fraternity activities.
They also discussed his concern for the oft-drunken Alanna.
“I don’t know, Dad. I mean, we talk all the time while I’m walking her to her dorm, and she’s really smart. She wants to be an art historian, but she’s also mad about science! And yet, I’ve seen her hung-over lots of times when I’m walking to my Wednesday morning class. Tuesday night is one of the nights I escort her home, so that means she goes out right after I drop her off.”
“Well, son, you can’t be her parent. You’re doing your best to be a friend, and that’s all you can do. Do you talk to her room-mate at all?”
“Becca? Not really. I’ve only met her twice. She seems to watch out for Alanna, but I think she’s tired of being a babysitter.”
John shook his head glumly. “I’m just so glad you have a good head on your shoulders, Stiles. You are such a good person. Your mother would be so proud.”
Stiles teared up a bit. “I’m glad I’m a son she would be proud of.”
A distant howl broke into their conversation, and Stiles laughed. “That’s Derek!”
John looked surprised. “You can tell just from that?”
Stiles shrugged. “Well, I think it’s a Mate thing, but yeah—I know his howl.”
“I don’t even want to know….So,” John continued, “Other than one constantly drunk girl, how is that escort thing going?”
“We all get together on Sunday evenings, bar papers due, and compare our duties. Some of the guys are ‘on call’, which means they get paged if a woman wants an escort from the library or an extra lecture, but I’m one of the ones who has a regular schedule because of my own night classes.”
“You aren’t too bogged down, are you? Taking too many classes?”
“Nope. I’m good, Dad. I’ll be taking summer classes on-line again, and I may stay on campus next year for a full summer semester. I’m really motivated to move through this program.”
John frowned slightly. “Okay. But don’t rush too hard. I don’t want you to burn out. When will you have your classes picked for next semester?”
Stiles thought for a moment. “I sign up next week, before finals. Why?”
“I’d really like to do a special party for Melissa’s birthday in March. The fourteenth is on a Saturday next year, so it would be nice if you and Scott could make it for a long weekend.”
Stiles nodded. “I know my proposed class schedule will be similar to this semester, with night classes on Monday and Tuesday, and an early let-out on Thursday again. I like having Fridays free. I can do tutoring for the frat or come home for a long weekend. I’m not sure what Scott has in mind, though. We can ask him when he gets back. It’s right before Spring Break, so the professors might decide to become total bastards right about then.”
Several howls could now be heard, as the Pack made their way back to the house. Stiles looked up in time to see a large black wolf charging across the yard toward him and his father, and he stood up to put distance between them.
“Derek! No! Don’t!” But it was all for naught, as Derek launched toward Stiles, knocking him over and landing on top of him. The giant canine chuffed into Stiles’ neck, and a rough tongue licked doggie kisses all over his face.
“That is so nasty! Derek! Down!”
John was helpless with laughter as he watched his son wrestle with the wolf-form of his boyfriend. The rest of the Pack, led by a shifting Talia, joined in the laughter as they returned from the woods. Finally Derek raised up from the squirming Stiles and moved away to shift from his Wolf.
Naked but unashamed, Derek huffed at his boyfriend. “You’re supposed to like when I kiss you.”
Stiles rose to his elbows. He lifted one eyebrow sardonically. “I love when you kiss me. Dog-slobber, however, is not the same thing.”
Derek paused with his shirt half-on. “Nice, Stiles. Real nice.”
“You love me.”
Derek blushed as he finished dressing. “Yeah, whatever. Are you staying with me tonight?”
Stiles climbed to his feet. “I thought I would, if that’s okay?”
Derek smiled at Stiles as he fastened his shoes. “Yeah. Breakfast with your dad in the morning?”
Stiles turned to John with a question in his eyes, and John nodded in the affirmative. “Yeah, we can meet at the diner around nine-thirty?”
Stiles hummed in agreement. “Yeah, that’s a good time. I can sleep-in for a bit.”
John snorted. “Like you’ll be sleeping.”
Stiles graced him with an unrepentant grin. “And I’m sure Melissa won’t be staying at our place, right?”
Much later, Stiles stretched out and rubbed a foot against Derek’s leg. “I love this bed! It’s so much nicer than the one in the dorm.”
Derek reached out and pulled Stiles into his embrace. “I love this bed when you’re in it. I got a Cal-King with you in mind, you know. I know you like to sprawl!”
Stiles sighed. “Yeah, but I like cuddling even more. I wish I could be here to see you get your big diploma.”
Derek nuzzled into Stiles’ neck. “It won’t matter. I’m not having a ceremony, like when I graduated high school. I’ll receive the diploma in the mail, but I’ll still be at the hospital doing my Residency. So, I may have an MD after my name, but nothing really is going to change.”
“Hmm…okay. But you should send me a photo of the diploma anyway, so I can celebrate for you. I’ll have a special salted-caramel cocoa in your honor!”
Derek chuckled. “Most people would offer to toast me with a decent micro-brew.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not most people.”
Derek kissed Stiles on the nose. “No, you’re mine, and that’s much better.”
Stiles was happy that his semester was over. His grades were excellent, as always, and he made the Dean’s list for the third time.
He also got his planned schedule for the spring semester:
Mon: 8-9:30, 10-11:30, 2-3:30, 5-7
Tues: 10-12, 3-5, 5-7
Wed: 8-9:30, 10-11:30, 2-3:30
Thur: 10-12, 3-5
He had Fridays free, which meant that he could come home for long weekends once a month. Scott also had early-out Thursdays and free Fridays, so they planned on travelling back for Melissa’s surprise party.
But right now, Stiles was in his living room, wrapping Christmas gifts. Dozens of cookies (not the ones he sold to the Hales) were cooling on racks in the kitchen already, and he had a pie list waiting for when his father got home.
Stiles had spent the previous day shopping with his father, picking up last-minute presents for Scott and Melissa, since he couldn’t shop for Scott while at school. Rooming together meant he couldn’t hide anything from his wolfy best friend.
Stiles’ cell rang with Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’, and he answered with a happy “Lydia! What can I do for you?”
“Hello, Stiles. I’m calling to invite you and Derek—if he can make it—to a New Year’s party at my family Lake House. I know you usually spend the holiday with the Hales, but I feel that we should branch out a bit.”
“Actually, that sounds like fun. Who else have you invited?”
Lydia hummed. “Jackson, of course, and Allison and Isaac. He has that holiday off since he’s working Christmas. Scott and Cora are invited, of course, but they may still go to Alpha Hale’s place. I also have some friends from Stanford coming up. I’d like you all to meet them.”
Stiles smiled at the hesitance in her voice. “I’m sure they’re all very nice, Lydia. I’m not sure if Derek can make it, but I’ll be happy to come. Let me know what you’d like me to bring, okay?”
Lydia sighed. “Thanks. I’ll make a list and let you know. I must go now. Mom is home, and we’re having dinner out tonight.”
Stiles smiled as he thought of his odd friendships. Lydia and Jackson would be, in any other circumstance, the power couple to end all power couples. They were physically perfect and beautiful, and they could take over the world. But Jackson’s wolf was grounded in Lydia, and her self-worth was only just now building back up to what it was when she was a fearless pre-teen. Stiles knew that if Jackson decided that Lydia was his Mate, they would be so good for each other.
Derek had tried to explain Mates to Jackson and Scott once, just so they knew what the concept meant. There were myths that Mates were pre-destined but that wasn’t true. Derek had proven that when he admitted to a puppy love for Paige and dating in college. Mates were ‘home’ to a werewolf, but they weren’t fated, and they could change. Possibly. If a relationship ended for some reason.
Stiles had no intention of testing that. He wasn’t going to let his relationship end or die. Derek was his ‘forever love’, and Stiles had every intention of proving that every day.
He finished wrapping his gifts just as John’s cruiser pulled into the driveway. He piled the gifts carefully on the coffee table and greeted his father at the door.
“Hey, pops! How was work?”
John shrugged out of his jacket and hung it on the hall tree. “It was fine. The really stupid behavior usually doesn’t start until after Christmas.”
Stiles huffed a laugh. “Maybe because they’re still waiting for Santa! So, what did you want for dinner, before we start those pies?”
John screwed his face in concentration. “Do we have any thawed hamburger?”
“I think so. You want burgers?”
“Yeah. No bacon, but I think I have tomatoes in the fridge.”
Stiles nodded as he headed into the kitchen to clear work space. “You go ahead and shower and I’ll get the burgers on.”
Twenty minutes later, Stiles and John were hunkered over plates of home fries and burgers. Covered trays of cookies were stacked on the counters and the kitchen smelled of an odd mix of vanilla and ground beef.
“These are good, kiddo. I really miss your cooking sometimes.”
Stiles raised one eyebrow. “Only sometimes?”
“Well, I can cook, you know. And Melissa and I make a good team in the kitchen. Making it at home is cheaper than fast food every day.”
Stiles nodded. “I know! The dining hall food is okay, but I think I’m going to apply for one of the apartments on campus next fall. They have kitchens, and I really miss cooking.”
John glanced at his son. “Don’t you dream of moving into the frat house?”
Stiles barked laughter. “Are you kidding? Do you know how messy frat boys are? No, I like the dorms just fine. Plus, it’s quieter there, so I can study when I need to. If I lived in the House, I’d have to spend all my time in the library.”
“That reminds me—good job on the Dean’s list!”
“Thanks. I’m working hard, you know. I have a plan! And I’m sticking to it.”
John nodded. “I see that. And I’m really proud of you for it. You and Scott are really great examples of dream children. That Greenberg kid almost failed out of State College last semester. Too many parties and not enough studying.”
“And you know this how?”
“I saw his father at the grocery store last week. Apparently, he’s been waiting to get away from home so he could ‘re-invent’ himself.”
“As a party animal?” Stiles scoffed. “He was a lousy student in high school. He was only marginally good in Lacrosse. I’m not sure why he would have thought college would be easier.”
Stiles pulled the last cherry pie from the oven and set it on a rack to cool. John was boxing the other cooled pies and placing bows on top, ready to be taken into the Sheriff’s station for the deputies to share. There was a tall stack of boxed cookies for Melissa to take into the hospital for her fellow nurses as well. The baking was one way for Stiles to show his appreciation to the people who mattered to him, and the nurses who cared for his mother and the deputies who kept his father safe definitely fell into that category.
Derek had his own stack of cookie boxes to share with his fellow Residents. It was never too soon to foster buttered-up relations with the doctors he worked with every day. Derek was an okay cook, but he was no baker, so Stiles was happy to fill that position for him.
Stiles was going to the Hale house for Christmas dinner and John was headed to the hospital to take dinner to Melissa, so tonight was just for him and his dad to spend time together. Aside from the baking together, they were going to watch their favorite Christmas movies and chill out together. John had just loaded ‘Die Hard’ into the DVD player, and Stiles poured fresh coffee into their mugs. He carried the coffee into the living room and John followed with plates of pie for each of them.
As he settled onto the sofa beside his father, Stiles thought to himself that he was a very lucky person. He had a great father, a good home, and a wonderful boyfriend.
Life just couldn’t get any better.
“Really?!?” Stiles stared at the two fraternity presidents, Jeff McCoy of Tau Kappa Epsilon and Roger Simpson of Alpha Sigma Phi.
Jeff nodded at him. “Yup. She was happy to sign up for escorts, but she requested you personally. If it’s a problem, you just let us know and we’ll handle it.”
Stiles shook his head, dazed. “It’s not a problem. It’s just….Alanna Franklin and I aren’t really friends. I mean, we talked last semester, but mainly I lectured her about her partying. Not in a nagging way, mind, but still….I just figured she would rather walk with someone else.”
“Nope,” said Roger. “She expressly asked for ‘That Stiles Guy’, if you were available on Tuesday and Thursday nights.”
Stiles frowned. “Well, I have a night class on Tuesday on that side of campus, but I might not be available every Thursday. I don’t have classes past five, so I may be going home early some weekends.”
Jeff nodded. “Okay, I’ll send her a text explaining that you can only really be counted on for Tuesdays. We have plenty of volunteers, so she won’t be left foundering.”
“Okay. Do I have anyone on Monday night, or am I off the hook for that day?”
Jeff looked at the sign-up sheet and then back at Stiles. “I’d like to keep you in an on-call basis for that day, but there aren’t that many that have signed up for this semester. I talked to Susan Bates at the Women’s Studies group, and she said a lot of the women are starting to travel in groups across campus at night. We’re not going to drop the program, because it’s a good one, but we may not need more volunteers until fall when new freshmen arrive again.”
And so Stiles rode his bicycle to his dorm, puzzling over the fact that a freshman girl he barely knew had requested him personally to walk her home after her late classes. He decided to put it down to the fact that he was generally a friendly person that tried to help people find their way around in a new place.
Stiles groaned as he flopped backward onto his bed. Across the room, Scott snorted at him. Stiles rolled his head toward his best friend and frowned.
“What? This chemistry class is kicking my ass! I don’t know why I even signed up for it.”
Scott rolled his eyes. “You signed up for it because you needed a science lecture and lab and all of the Bio classes were full. Now,” he continued, pointing at Stiles, “You need to log into your computer, because Derek is going to Skype in any minute now, and I don’t want to hear you bitch about missing his call.”
“Right,” said Stiles, rolling to his feet. He walked over to his desk and opened the laptop, waiting for the call. “It’s only been two weeks! This semester is officially the worst.”
Scott scoffed. “No, it’s not. You love the rest of your classes. You just hate having Chemistry so late at night.”
Stiles nodded. “That is true. I always leave that class smelling like some poison, and I hate showering right before bed.”
Then Stiles’ laptop pinged with an incoming call, and he tuned out Scott in favor of Derek.
Stiles realized, rather uncomfortably, that the reason Alanna had hand-picked him for her night-class escort was so that she could flirt with him.
And he was flattered, really.
But he was so not interested.
He tried to keep the conversation light on the Tuesday night treks, sticking mainly to class work and campus activities, but Alanna kept brushing up against him while they walked on the darkened paths.
“Um, Alanna? You’re a very pretty girl, okay, and very smart. And I’m sure any other guy would be flattered by the attention, but I have a boyfriend.”
Alanna stopped dead in her tracks. “What?”
Stiles stood awkwardly beside her on the path. “I have a boyfriend. Back home. So, if you’re trying to flirt with me, well…it’s okay, but I’m really not interested.”
Alanna at least had the good grace to look sheepish. “Um, okay? It’s just that, well, you’re really nice, and I thought you liked me….”
“I do. Like you, I mean. You’re a great person, from what I can tell. I only really see you after class, when I’m walking you home. Even if I didn’t have someone, I never see you away from this situation, so I don’t know you very well.”
Alanna gave a small smile. “You could go out with me sometime?”
Stiles laughed. “I may be in a fraternity, but I’m not really a partier. But thanks for the invite anyway. Let’s get going, huh? I have some reading to do before morning class.”
“Okay. And Stiles? I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable. You’re the first really nice guy I’ve met here.”
“No worries, Alanna. But there are a lot of nice guys around here. And you’re young yet, so don’t be in such a hurry to get a man. Take some time to get to know how to be a college student first.”
The rest of the walk to Alanna’s dorm was silent, and she gave Stiles a hesitant hug when he dropped her at her dorm door. The rules said he only had to take her to the lobby, so he never went farther into the building than that.
“I guess I’ll see you next week then,” he said before backing away.
“Yeah, thanks again.” Alanna waved and slipped inside the dorm.
Stiles walked back to his own dorm wearing a bemused smile. She was nice, but she was too different for his tastes.
And she partied way too hard for her own good.
The next morning, as Stiles walked to his morning class, he again passed a hung-over Alanna sitting under that tree. Again, she did not see him and appeared to be alone in her suffering.
Stiles just sighed and moved along on his way.
Stiles and Scott pulled into the Stilinski driveway at nine o’clock at night on Friday the thirteenth. They were both exhausted and wanted to just get out of the jeep. The night was very rainy, so the visibility on the drive from Davis was sketchy at best. Stiles was a safe driver, so he was extra careful on the trip home that night.
Stiles rolled his head along the headrest so that he faced Scott. “You’re still staying over here, right. Because I could take you home if you wanted.”
Scott shook his head. “Nah—it would ruin the surprise if I went home. Your dad spent a lot of time planning this birthday for Mom. She has no idea that I’m coming home.”
“Okay. Let’s grab our bags and go inside. I could use a hot cup of tea right about now. I hate driving in bad weather.”
Scott gave a rueful smile. “I’m just glad you have a jeep. If I had to make the trip on my motorbike, I’d be screwed!”
The two friends walked into the dark house and made their way to the kitchen, dropping duffle bags in the front hall on the way. Stiles rifled through the cabinets, searching for his favorite lavender/chamomile tea, while Scott filled the kettle and turned on the stove burner.
“I need to shoot off a text to Dad, so he knows I’m home.”
“You might want to call Derek, too, so he doesn’t worry. I’m going to call Cora and hit the shower.”
Scott made his way upstairs to Stiles’ bedroom and Stiles texted his father at work.
Home finally. See you when you get home.
Then he dialed Derek’s number, pouring hot water into a mug as he did.
Stiles smiled at the sound of Derek’s voice. “Hey, babe. I’m finally home.”
He heard a deep sigh. “Thank goodness. How was the drive in?”
“Horrible. It’s really coming down hard across the mountains, so visibility was low.”
“I’m glad you’re safe. I missed you on the Moon Run.”
Stiles took a sip of the hot tea. “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. If I wasn’t planning on being home this weekend, I totally would have come home for that. Yolo is nice, but it’s not home, you know.”
“Yeah. So, what time is the party tomorrow?”
Stiles thought for a moment. “Um, around five, I think. Dad is taking her to Chico for a play at the college in the morning. I mean, the play is in the afternoon, but they’re leaving in the morning. Gods, I’m tired.”
Derek laughed softly. “Okay. Get some rest and call me in the morning. I have the day off, so you can call any time. I’ll just be doing laundry and cleaning the loft.”
“Yeah,” sighed Stiles as he rinsed his mug. “Scott and I have laundry, too. Then we’ll be heading out to help Talia decorate the room at ‘Carlysle’s on Baymont’. So, we should get together for lunch or something tomorrow.”
“Okay. G’night, Stiles. See you tomorrow.”
Stiles disconnected the call and walked up the stairs to his room, where he found Scott sprawled on the floor on a sleeping bag, chatting with his girlfriend on the phone.
He kicked Scott’s leg as he walked into the room, and he began to strip out of his clothes so he could shower before bed. Normally, Stiles hated to shower before bed, because showers usually woke him up, but the day had been long, and the drive was long, and Stiles just wanted hot water to run all over his body.
Melissa was both thrilled and touched with her surprise party.
Thrilled because Stiles and Scott were home from school without telling her they were coming.
Touched because almost the entire Pack was there to celebrate her life with her.
Robert had provided the largest private room at ‘Carlysle’ on Baymont’ and Stiles and Talia had decorated it tastefully with balloons and streamers in Melissa’s favorite colors. Stiles had also picked-up the flowers his father had ordered: a large bouquet of flowers that looked beautiful and held great meaning.
Bluebell, Lady’s Seal, White Camellia, Winter Daphane, and Flora’s Bell
All very beautiful on their own, but striking together.
Stiles had taken the list of flowers that his father had handed him and looked it over, lifting an eyebrow in wonder. He looked at his father and only said, “I hope you have a nice ring to back this up.” Because those flowers? That was a proposal waiting to happen.
And he was right.
As dessert was being served, John got down on bended knee in front of everyone and held a hand out to Melissa, who immediately choked up.
“I asked Scott at Christmas, and he said he gave his blessing. So, Melissa Evangeline McCall, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
Stiles looked at his best friend, who only shrugged and nodded toward the couple in front of the room as Melissa threw herself into John’s arms.
Stiles leaned into Scott and whispered, “I didn’t know you knew how to keep a secret.”
Scott whispered back, “I can, when it’s important like this. Now—what do those flowers mean?”
Stiles never did ask why John couldn’t order the flowers himself. He figured it was his father’s way of telling him his plans for the proposal. Derek could have helped with the flower meanings, but he and Stiles had pretty much trained the local florist well, so she could have done just as well. Plus, John did have access to Stiles’ magical library in his lab/workshop at the house. Stiles only kept it locked if he was working a spell in there, and he trusted John not to mess things up. John long ago admitted to enjoying going into the room, because it felt peaceful and powerful at the same time.
So, Stiles leaned into Derek’s arms and he watched his father and Melissa being congratulated by everyone in the dining room. He was really happy for his father. Really. He just wondered one thing.
“Where do you suppose they’ll live after they’re married?”
Derek leaned forward and kissed behind Stiles’ ear. “They’re going to live in her house.”
Stiles turned his head so that he could return the kiss. “Oh, yeah? How do you figure?”
“Because I’m buying your house from your father, so you and I can live there together.”
Stiles backed away from Derek slightly. “Really? When did you decide all of this?”
Derek shrugged. “We’ve been talking about my buying the house for a while. Before John decided to propose. I want a home with you, and you have a lot of magic invested in that particular house. Melissa has wanted John to move in for a while now, so it all made sense.”
Stiles gave him a flat, unimpressed look. “And you were going to tell me when?”
Derek smirked. “This weekend, when you came for the party. If you couldn’t have made it in, I was going to tell you during Spring Break in a week. We weren’t hiding anything. You’ve been busy, I’ve been busy. You were coming back for Spring Break, and it would have been perfect for planning any renovations that we want done after your dad moves out.”
Stiles leaned forward and kissed Derek. “Okay, you’re forgiven. Now, I’m gonna go and congratulate my dad!”
Melissa was beaming when Stiles got to them, and she grabbed him into a huge hug.
“You’re really going to be my family now!” she said breathlessly.
Stiles laughed. “Yeah, I really am! Scott and I are finally going to be brothers for real! Now let’s see that ring Dad put on ya!”
Melissa held out her hand to show off a simple, but pretty, plain gold band topped with a shimmering star sapphire. It was unconventional but classy, and Melissa obviously loved it.
Stiles nodded in agreement to his father. “Very nice. You have great taste.”
John chuckled. “It wasn’t hard. Melissa kept giving that ring longing looks whenever we walked past the jeweler’s downtown. I knew she’d like it more than a normal diamond.”
Stiles clapped his father on the shoulder. “It’s a beautiful ring for a beautiful woman. Now—about Derek buying the house?”
John looked unashamed. “I was going to propose the idea if he hadn’t brought it up himself. I love that house, but I want to build a home with Melissa, and she loves her own home. Our place is owned outright, with no mortgage, so it’ll be easy to sell to Derek ‘By Owner’ instead of through a broker. You love that house, Derek loves the house, it’s close to the hospital—all wins in my book. And you two can redecorate it during your school breaks.”
Stiles nodded. “Okay, so when are you getting married?”
John looked at Melissa on the other side of the room, hugging Scott and Cora. “We were thinking this summer. Maybe July, since June is so cliché. We haven’t really discussed it, so give us time to get used to the idea first.”
Stiles laughed and rejoined Derek at their table, ready to enjoy the rest of the party.
When Stiles entered the lobby of Emerson Hall the following Monday, all of his good cheer was burned away.
Stiles frowned at the campus Security officer. “Yes, that’s me.”
“Can you come with us, please?” The uniformed man indicated another security officer and a man in a brown Sheriff’s Deputy uniform.
“Why? What happened?”
The deputy strode forward. “We don’t need to go into this here. We can discuss this in the Security office.”
Stiles stepped back away from the man and pulled out his phone. “Just…give me a second, and I’ll be right with you.” When the officer made to grab him, Stiles held out a hand. “Let me place this call, and I’ll come with you. I promise.”
Stiles hit speed dial number three, and when the call connected he said, “Talia? It’s Stiles. Campus security and a county deputy are in my dorm asking to talk to me. No, I don’t know why; they won’t tell me. But we’re going to the main security office. Can you get here? Three hours? Good. Maybe bring my dad, okay?”
Stiles wasn’t particularly worried. He had broken no laws and always kept out of trouble on campus. Hell, he was part of the night class escort initiative. But, for some reason, these unhappy men wanted to speak with him, and they were very serious about it, so he wasn’t going in without backup: Talia, the lawyer, and his father, the Beacon County Sheriff.
Stiles allowed himself to be led to the security vehicle for the drive across campus, and he never initiated conversation on the trip. He didn’t even text, so as not to ire his escorts.
Stiles was led into an interview room, and he sat in a hard wooden chair and folded his hands together on the table top. He waited patiently for one of the uniformed men to speak, and after some silent deliberation, the head Security officer began.
“Do you know a Miss Alanna Franklin?”
Stiles nodded in affirmation. “Yes, I know her.”
“How well do you know her?”
Stiles frowned slightly. “Not too well, actually. I was her campus escort last semester during the Greek safety drive, and she requested me again this semester, but we have no classes together and she’s not in my dorm.”
The man nodded and referenced his notebook. “This weekend, Miss Franklin was assaulted. Witnesses saw you with her prior to the attack.”
Stiles pressed lips together, and he shook his head. “Nope.”
The officer scowled at him. “What do you mean, ‘nope’?”
Stiles gave the man a hard look. “I’m not answering any questions. Not yet, anyway. In three hours, I will answer any question you have. I know my rights as a student here, and I have the right to be silent, so I’m exercising that right.”
The man startled. “Mr. Stilinski….”
“Nope,” Stiles interrupted. “In three hours, you can start from the beginning. But not now.”
Through a window in the door, Stiles could see Jeff McCoy and two other TKE brothers in the hall, along with someone he recognized as a Student Advocate from the student affairs office. He crossed his arms across his chest and sat back defiantly in the hard chair. Once it became clear that he wasn’t going to speak, the officer gave a disappointed sigh and stood from the table.
“Would you like a coffee or water, while you’re just sitting here?”
Stiles just gave him a hard stare, so he left the room, closing the door behind him.
Through the window, Jeff was being led down the hall, along with the Advocate.
It was going to be a long three hours.
Actually, it was only two and one half hours, and that meant that either Talia or his father broke every speed limit possible to get there. If his father was driving, it was possible that there were sirens and flashing lights involved.
There was commotion in the hallway, and then the door to his room was opened and Talia and John walked in. Talia was wearing ‘business blue’ with her rainbow pin in place of honor on her lapel, and John was in uniform—minus his service weapon, which he would have left locked in the car.
“Stiles! Are you okay, son?”
Stiles sighed in relief, and stood to hug his father. “I’m fine. I don’t even know why I’m here, really. They said something about an assault, but I clammed up and refused to talk at that point.”
Talia nodded. “That’s fine. Why don’t we see what this is all about?”
She went to the door and signaled the officer in charge, and then she sat beside Stiles on the far side of the table, while John sat at the edge with his back to the wall. When the Head of Security walked into the room, he was visibly startled to see a County Sheriff in full uniform sitting with his ‘person of interest’.
Talia took charge, and John and Stiles were happy to let her. “Officer…Bailey. What is the reason you brought Ignacek in for questioning?”
Bailey forced himself to relax. “We have a female student that was sexually assaulted after a campus party. She was taken to the health center by her room-mate, who said the girl was in Mr. Stilinski’s company. Other witnesses gave a description that fit him to a T. We are waiting for a DNA analysis, because the attacker did not use a condom, but it really looks like Mr. Stilinski is the perpetrator.”
John and Talia both snorted, and Officer Bailey looked taken aback. “I just told you that this young man has been accused of rape, and you’re laughing?”
Stiles gave a wry grin. “Well, Officer Bailey—I was simply going to say that I didn’t do it, and you would have to prove otherwise. But you don’t need to prove anything, because you can’t. When did this attack take place?”
Bailey referred to his notes. “The room-mate took the victim to the health center around ten o’clock Saturday night.”
Stiles nodded. “And I assume she was at a party beforehand?”
“Yes, she had been drinking. But that doesn’t mean that she wasn’t attacked.”
Talia broke in. “No, but it does mean that she was an easy target. And I’m sure there are hundreds of men on this campus that match Ignacek’s description. But this younng man could not have done this thing.”
Bailey scowled. “Ma’am, with all due respect, I’m sure you don’t want to believe badly of him, but the room-mate identified him, as did the victim, once she sobered enough to answer questions.”
“You don’t understand, Officer Bailey. Ignacek could not have done this, because he was not on campus on Saturday night. He was in Beacon Hills, some three hours’ drive from here, on Saturday night.”
Bailey dropped his pen. “What? Why didn’t you say so?”
Stiles shrugged. “Because you wouldn’t have believed me. There’s been a propensity on college campuses to ‘solve’ rape cases no matter what. I’m sure you could have found loads of ‘witnesses’ that saw me at a party, or with the victim, and I figured I’d need my own alibi first.”
Officer Bailey looked at John with trepidation. “You can verify?”
John cracked a slight smile. “He’s my son. He came home Friday night, after his room-mate’s last class, so he could attend my fiancée’s birthday party on Saturday. He stayed until Sunday morning. Now, I wasn’t with him the whole time, but I was with him Friday night and Sunday morning before he left to return to campus. On Saturday, I assume he was with his boyfriend.”
Bailey frowned. “I see.” He looked at Stiles with apology. “I’m sorry to bring you in like this, Mr. Stilinski. We had to start with what we had, evidence-wise.”
“I’m not gonna say it was okay, because nothing about this was okay. I’m going to show my father and my friend my dorm room, and then I’m going to take them to lunch in town. Good-bye, Officer Bailey. I hope you catch this guy.”
As Stiles, Talia, and John were leaving the Security offices, they heard a distraught female yelling, “Why is he leaving? He did this! I know he did!” But Stiles refused to turn around to acknowledge the girl. He didn’t recognize the voice, but he knew it wasn’t Alanna, and he hoped she was with a counselor or something. She needed help, now more than ever, and he was upset that she had named him in the first place.
After they all climbed into John’s cruiser, with Talia laughingly in the back seat, John asked about the situation and what Stiles knew about it.
“Honest, Dad. I barely know the girl. I walk her home from night class on Tuesday nights. Last semester, I walked her home two nights a week. This semester, she tried to flirt with me, but I explained that I had a boyfriend and would not be interested.”
“Is she the type to lie about something like this?”
Stiles shook his head. “I don’t know, but I doubt it. The thing is, she parties hard almost every week. Maybe even a few time a week. I’ve seen her drunk around Fraternity Row more than once, and I see her hung over most Wednesday mornings. I don’t know if she stays with a group when she parties, or if she has a buddy system in play, so she could have been attacked almost anywhere on campus.” Stiles sighed. “I don’t know anything about the attack, but for some reason, she’s convinced that I did it and I don’t know why. Really? I’m just pissed that I got dragged into it. Does that make me a bad person?”
John patted Stiles’ knee. “No, son, it just makes you human. Just stay clear of her, and keep your nose clean, okay?”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah, I can do that.”
They caused quite a stir when they pulled in front of Emerson Hall: Stiles and a well-dressed woman in the company of a lawman in his official car.
He could hear the chatter as they climbed the stairs, so Stiles stopped on the lobby landing and announced: “Guys! This is my dad and my boyfriend’s mother! Get over it!”
After that, there was nervous laughter, and several of his dorm-mates introduced themselves to John and Talia. They were suitably impressed with Stiles’ room and his evident popularity. John was pleased that neither he nor Scott had become complete slobs while away at school.
After lunch at a town deli, John and Talia left to drive back to Beacon Hills, having both wished him luck in dealing with this mystery attack from that point forward.
“I believe in you, Stiles. Remember that, okay?” John said as he hugged Stiles.
“I know, Dad. Thanks for coming all this way for nothing.”
“It wasn’t nothing, and I’ll go any distance for you.”
Three weeks later, Scott and Stiles were in the living room of their suite writing papers when a knock fell on the door. Scott stood to answer it and Stiles stilled when he heard a familiar voice ask for him by name.
Stiles walked to the door to see Alanna standing in the hall. “I don’t think you should be here, Alanna.”
She was clearly upset, tears filling her eyes as she twisted her fingers together. She nodded. “I know. I just….”
Stiles interrupted. “No, you don’t know. You should not be here. I really don’t want to deal with you right now.”
“But…Look, I didn’t mean to blame you, okay? I was drunk. I didn’t know who I was with, and Becca said that it had to be you because you’re always around me after dark and I always talk about you. And it was easy to believe that it was you.”
Stiles frowned hard. “But it wasn’t me. I heard the official ‘description’, and it didn’t even sound like me: Curly hair and skinny, in jeans and a black t-shirt. I’m hardly skinny (he wasn’t—he was well built, and broad-shouldered) and I don’t wear jeans or t-shirts at all, unless I plan on getting grubby. The fact that you were drunk enough to not know who you were with is troubling and you should really do something about that. I’m not victim-blaming, but you can’t get drunk all the time and not expect bad things to happen. If you had even stayed with friends, you would have been safe.” Stiles shook his head. “I can’t deal right now, Alanna. You should go. I hope you have a better life from here out, but I can’t be part of it.”
Stiles closed the door and walked through the living room and into his bedroom, sitting heavily on his bed and drawing out his phone. He needed Derek right now.
Stiles sighed in relief. “Hey, baby. How’s my favourite new doctor?”
“I’m better than you, from the sound of it. What happened?”
Stiles took a deep, cleansing breath. “Just…you remember Alanna?”
“The one who said you raped her?”
Stiles sighed. “Yeah. She was just here, trying to explain herself and to apologize. And I don’t want her apologies; I want her to get help and to stay away from me. And that’s what I told her.”
Stiles felt a gentle pulse from the tattoo on his arm, and he knew Derek was sending support through the magical bond. “I’m here for you, Stiles. You only have a couple of months left, and then you’ll be back and we can spend some time working on the house.”
Stiles smiled. His father and Melissa were getting married in July, and John was moving into Melissa’s house bit by bit, sorting through what he wanted to keep and what he wanted to donate as he went along. One of Stiles’ projects for the summer was to help his father sort through his mother’s belongings in the attic. Derek was set to take possession of the deed in August, when his lease on the loft was over. Stiles and Derek would be taking time over the summer to re-paint the master bedroom and re-model the main bathroom upstairs and part of the kitchen. Derek had saved vacation time so that they could work together. They had drawn up plans over Spring Break, while Stiles was still reeling from his accusation at school.
“Yeah, it’s not too long, now. I have a huge research paper to write for History. The rest of my finals should be pretty straight forward. Loads of essay questions, and you know how much I love to ramble.”
Derek laughed. “I love you. You can call anytime you need to be reminded of that, okay?”
“Okay. I’m going to get back to my homework. We have a frat meeting tonight.”
Stiles and Scott went back to Beacon Hills for the April fourth Full Moon and Stiles seemed to be in good spirits. Scott was trying to convince Cora to come to Davis for his Fraternity banquet and formal dance, but she was reluctant. Cora was such a tomboy, and she really hated wearing dresses of any kind.
Stiles turned to Derek as he laughed at his sister. “Are you gonna wear a gown for me, baby?”
Derek laughed. “No, but I’ll be willing to wear a nicely tailored suit. If you want me to come, that is?”
“Of course I want you to come! Half the fraternity doesn’t believe you actually exist, because I say you’re so perfect!”
“I’m hardly perfect,” Derek scoffed. “But I will be glad to come and meet your frat brothers. When is the banquet?”
Stiles pulled out his phone and hit the calendar app. “Um, it’s on May second, so right before the Full Moon. Is that going to be a problem?”
Derek shook his head. “I’ve had full control of my Wolf since I was eighteen, Stiles. Unless someone does something totally stupid and tries to start a fight, I’ll be fine.”
“And if someone starts a fight?”
“Then I may wolf-out trying to protect you.”
Stiles was surprised to find Derek in the lobby of Emerson Hall the morning of May first. It was a Friday, so he didn’t have classes, but he was meeting with several of his frat brothers to finalize transportation issues for the banquet.
“Derek?” The older man turned toward him and smiled. Stiles smiled back. “What are you doing here?”
Derek shrugged and walked to Stiles, pulling him into a hug. “I missed you and I got antsy, so I left early. Is that a problem?”
Stiles kissed his Mate, ignoring the catcalls from lingering dorm-mates. “Nope. You can come to breakfast and meet some of the guys.”
“Okay. I know we’re staying in the hotel tomorrow night for the banquet, but what do you say to getting a room for tonight and just cuddling?”
“I’d say that sounds great. Especially since we’re sharing with Scott and your sister at the banquet!”
Derek grimaced. “Yeah, no sexy fun times there!”
Stiles laughed and pulled Derek from the building and into the bright spring sunshine. They held hands as they walked along the paths through the campus, and Stiles was happy to see that no-one really noticed, other than to ogle Derek, which was totally understandable.
Derek was hot like the sun, and totally deserved to be ogled. As long as nobody touched, Stiles was fine with that.
Stiles’ fraternity brothers were happy to meet Derek, and they welcomed him at their table as they ate and discussed the banquet.
“I have to admit,” said Jeff McCoy, “I kind of doubted that you were real, Derek. Stiles doesn’t really talk about you, and he never shows off photos, so the idea of you was like an excuse not to date.”
Derek laughed. “I don’t really like having my picture taken, so photos are rare. Even my own mother only has a few from my early childhood.” Derek reached out and held Stiles wrist in his large hand. “And I’m quite happy that he doesn’t date. I know he’s a catch, but I’d like to keep him to myself.”
As they all sat and talked outside the Student Union, a flash of copper caught Stiles’ eye, and he looked up to see Alanna Franklin watching him from about ten yards away. She looked miserable as she noticed Derek holding Stiles’ hand. Finally, she noticed that Stiles had seen her, and she squared her shoulders and walked away.
Derek leaned into Stiles’ personal space. “Is everything okay?”
Stiles turned and graced Derek with a huge smile. “Yeah. Everything is perfect!”
Stiles didn’t have class on Fridays, but he did have to hand in assignments, so after breakfast, Derek happily accompanied him to the library, where he finished two papers and e-mailed them to his TAs. After that, the rest of the day was theirs. Derek was happy to re-live his own college experiences as they toured campus. Stiles enjoyed seeing the school through Derek’s memories, since they had vastly different experiences in college.
Derek showed Stiles around the Medical College, and Stiles gave Derek a tour of the Business school. They both shared a love for several of the town businesses, and they had a late lunch at the deli Stiles knew he would miss once he graduated.
After Scott’s last class, the three of them played a rough card game until dinner time, and Derek took Stiles and their formal wear, and they checked into a hotel adjacent to the one the banquet would be held in.
Derek planned only to hold Stiles through the night, as he missed his Mate’s heartbeat, but once faced with a huge bed and no company, his thoughts quickly turned toward sex.
He flashed orange-gold eyes at Stiles as the younger man began stripping out of his clothing, and Stiles just laughed at him. “I see you, wolf-man! If you want me, you need to strip-off, too. I’m not having any of that nasty teasing that you do this time! I want you, and I want you now!”
Clothing was tossed all over the room as they both quickly got naked. Stiles was shocked into laughter as Derek picked him up and tossed him onto the bed before pouncing after him. Derek wasted no time in ravishing his Mate, using mouth, tongue, and fingers to drive Stiles into a frenzy. Just as Stiles was about to flip himself onto his front so that Derek could access his willing ass, Derek pushed off of Stiles’ body and laid back against the pillows.
“I want you to ride me.” Derek pulled Stiles on top of his own lap, pushing his legs apart so that Stiles straddled him. He opened a bottle of lube (and where did that come from?) and reached around to open Stiles quickly but gently as Stiles writhed on his lap. “I want to watch you while you ride me into the mattress!”
Stiles gasped and leaned forward to press a hot kiss to Derek’s mouth. “Jesus! You say stuff like that, and my brain stops working!”
Stiles lifted himself over Derek’s full erection and watched as Derek sheathed himself in a condom (where the hell did that come from?), and then he lowered his body until Derek was fully seated inside him. Stiles gasped and dug his fingers into Derek’s shoulders, and he began to rock back and forth, feeling Derek’s hardness pressing into his prostate with every movement.
“OH! God! Why haven’t we done this before?” Stiles’ movements grew faster and more erratic as the pleasure built inside him. Below him, Derek’s eyes had fully shifted and his fangs were beginning to drop, driving Stiles harder and harder.
He never knew when it became a kink, but Stiles really had a thing for Derek’s Beta-form.
Stiles could feel Derek’s claws pressing against his hips as he rode harder and faster, chasing the orgasm he could feel building. Finally, a sharp tingle built up at the base of his spine, and Stiles stiffened in release, followed immediately by Derek’s own orgasm. If Stiles could have come again so quickly, the sound of Derek growling and snarling would have sent him completely over the edge.
Stiles collapsed bonelessly against Derek’s chest, and he lay there gasping for breath. He could feel Derek shifting underneath him and he lifted his head to kiss his Mate.
“You broke me. Again.”
Derek tightened his hold on Stiles’ hips, and he lifted slightly as he pulled out of Stiles’ hole, holding the end of the condom tightly in place. Derek rolled off the bed and moved to dispose of the condom and then he wet a washcloth so that he could clean Stiles before the young man passed out.
Stiles was spread across the bed, eyes out of focus and face lax in bliss. “No, really, you broke me. How am I supposed to dance with my frat brothers tomorrow night if I’m broken?”
Derek pressed a kiss on Stiles’ shoulder. “Just tell them you went with a smile on your face. They’ve met me, so they’ll believe it.”
Stiles sniggered and he cuddled close to Derek and pulled a sheet over their bodies. “I love you so much. Every day, more and more. I’m so glad you came down early.”
Derek wrapped his arms around Stiles and began drifting off. “Me, too, Stiles. Me, too.”
Stiles stood happily beside his father, dressed in a full-blown tuxedo for the first time ever, and watched as John vowed to Honor and Cherish Melissa for as long as their love would last.
Stiles hoped that would be a good, long time. They both deserved a lot more happiness in their lives.
Beside him, Scott was beaming so large, his smile threatened to blind everyone in the area.
In a move that surprised absolutely everyone, Melissa announced that she wanted to be married in a truly magical place, so she asked Stiles if he could clear some space around the Nemeton for the ceremony. Shocked and delighted, Stiles recruited the Pack to help him, and large rocks and boulders were moved out of the way, but only after they were photographed so that they could be replaced exactly after the ceremony was over.
So, there they stood, in front of a huge growing tree deep in the woods, with sunlight dappling through branches over them to light the way. John and Stiles were wearing matching tuxedos, while Scott was wearing a tailored suit. Melissa was wearing a bright yellow and green print dress with a flowing skirt and a pale lace covering the whole thing. She was carrying a bouquet of daisies and dandelions and baby’s breath, which drew quiet laughter from the ladies in the Pack. Her dark curls were also encircled with a wreath of dandelions which set off the yellow of her dress.
Around and behind them were gathered the people closest to them. Derek stood close to Stiles and Cora was next to him, close to Scott. Several nurses and paramedics were standing in a close cluster beside the gaggle of deputies in their dress uniforms. The Hales and the Pack filled out the crowd, and the Pack Mothers’ Association all tossed rose petals after the vows were spoken.
As the whole group trudged through the woods toward their cars, Stiles lagged behind to thank the Nemeton for hosting such a loving ceremony. He felt Derek come to stand beside him and he reached back to link their fingers. Hands joined, Stiles laid his palm flat on the tree and pushed, filling the energy lines with all the love that gathered during the ceremony. Derek gasped softly as he felt the returning push against Stiles’ hand. The Nemeton was acknowledging the thanks and the honor, and was saying ‘You’re Welcome’ in its own way.
Still linked at the fingers, Stiles and Derek walked to Derek’s Samurai for the drive to Melissa’s house, where a small reception would be held.
“This was a good day.”
Derek hummed in agreement, lifting Stiles’ hand so he could kiss his knuckles. “It really was. Maybe someday, in the near future, we can come out here and do the same thing.”
Stiles beamed at his boyfriend. “You want to get married in front of the Nemeton?”
“Why not? It’s a source of magic in this area. The magic is a part of both of us, so this place should be special to both of us. I think Melissa had a great idea here.”
“Yeah, I was actually surprised about that. I guess that’s because she really didn’t react well when she first heard about magic all those years ago.”
After the reception, which wasn’t overly long since everyone wanted to give the newlyweds time to themselves, Stiles and Derek went back to their house.
It had such a nice ring to it, Stiles thought. After the end of the semester, Stiles returned to Beacon Hills and helped his father completely move out of the house and into Melissa’s home. Then, Stiles and John sorted through all of the stored things in the attic and basement, and donated or tossed anything they had no need or want for. Stiles, of course, kept his mother’s cookbooks and recipe files, along with several quilts that Claudia had made when she was well. John and Stiles divided equally the photo albums, and Stiles and Derek kept the dining room table and John’s bed, moving the latter into Stiles’ old room to use for guests.
Derek’s huge bed and dresser joined Stiles’ chest in the master bedroom, after a new paint job all around. Derek’s lease was officially up on August first, but he wasn’t fussed at all about moving out early. Stiles and Derek spent evenings sorting through paint samples and the IKEA catalog, trying to suss out their own tastes. Thanks to proper investments, they had the money to buy quality furnishings and accessories. There was a tentative plan to gut the kitchen and put in an addition, but that would wait until after Stiles returned to college. For now, there was new living room furniture and new bathroom fixtures, and all new paint. What they could do themselves, they did together during Derek’s off hours. Stiles was still taking two on-line courses over the summer, so time was limited and precious.
Still, every night, Stiles could sleep in Derek’s bed, and every morning, Stiles could drink his first coffee with his Mate in the kitchen he grew up in.
And on the days that Derek was late at the hospital, Stiles dutifully took food for his meals, and they ate together in the visitor’s courtyard.
And Derek did, indeed, wear Stiles’ fraternity pin on his lab coat lapel, next to the stethoscope that Stiles had given him for his birthday right after his return to Beacon Hills.
Chapter Six: Ooh, What a Dump, Now It’s a Palace
–People Like Us
NOTES:I’ve played fast and loose with a few things here:
I toyed with the pronunciation of Stiles’ given name, because I could find no actual guides for it on-line.
I also changed Lydia’s grandmother’s name from Lorraine to Aednat, which is pronounced ‘ey-nit’, because I liked it, and then it fit with my plot nicely. Good deal there.
Properties of all magic is real. If you want to learn more, ask or look it up. On this one point, I certainly do do my research!
The B&B mentioned is real. It has not, that I know of, been blown up by an aggravated witch.
A new semester of college was about to begin, and Stiles was preparing to knuckle-down and put a lot of time into his program for his MBA. His next two years were going to be very busy. Instead of summer classes next year, Stiles would be doing a summer internship with a local business—possibly local to school rather than to Beacon Hills—and he had to decide where to apply. His focus of study was small business enterprise, so he would be looking into successful shops near or around the college. There were plenty to choose from, but his advisor was encouraging him to look farther away. Stiles liked the idea of staying close to home, because his own business would be built there. He wanted to see the local marketplace at work.
Because of the needs of the Pack mentality, Stiles, Scott, and Danny decided to move in to a campus apartment together. Danny had decided that he liked the idea of belonging to the Pack, even as a human. He enjoyed the close family aspect, and he liked that he had emotional back-up no matter what was going on in his life. His last break-up was emotionally harrowing—a prominent basketball player for UC Davis who was firmly entrenched in the ‘closet’ and who became verbally abusive when Danny refused to hide the relationship—and the entire Hale Pack had rallied around him, offering tea, sympathy, cookies, and support. During summer break, while Stiles and Scott were getting used to new living arrangements (Scott was happy to have a new step-father, but living with him was odd, and Stiles was adjusting to living in his house with Derek), Danny was spending time with Jackson and Lydia at Lydia’s family lake house. He wasn’t looking for a boyfriend at the moment. Walker had almost burned him out, and Danny only wanted to renew loyal friendships. He was very lucky to have gotten out before the abuse turned physical.
The apartment was part of student housing, and was off-campus but within walking distance to several support halls. They had a three bed/three bath town-house with a kitchen and laundry, and Stiles was looking forward to doing his own cooking. There was also covered parking spaces and covered bicycle racks, so they wouldn’t have to worry about bad weather. Stiles was also happy to have exercise facilities and a pool again, even if the pool was more recreational. The idea was for them to get used to living like mature adults for when they graduated. The three students had full class-loads, and while Stiles and Danny had vehicles, Scott was mainly biking to class. The apartment was closest to the Veterinary College, so Scott would have no trouble getting to classes.
They all also had fraternity obligations, and brothers from both frats lived in the same complex, so they could remain socially active. Stiles had decided to back away from ‘escort duty’ after what happened the previous semester, and the fraternity president didn’t blame him one bit. Stiles would work on Rush Party planning and Philanthropy fundraising, and that would meet his obligations to Tau Kappa Epsilon. He would also possibly be sponsoring his own ‘Little Brother’ with the new pledge class, which he was oddly looking forward to. His own experiences with TKE showed that frats weren’t ‘All Party/All the Time’ like some freshmen thought, and Stiles wanted to pass along that information. The disturbing news about fraternities all over the country was giving Greek Life a bad name. Stiles and Scott were proud of their frat, as was Danny, and all three were disgusted by the behavior of some affecting the whole Greek organization.
Derek had decided to use the time that Stiles was away to fully remodel the house. He had the money, and Stiles would have total input for the design, so doing it while Stiles was away at school made sense. The summer was spent painting the bedrooms and re-fitting the upstairs bathroom, but ultimately Derek and Stiles wanted to increase the footprint of the lower floor. Now that John had moved all of his belongings out of the house, and the attic and basement were mostly clear, Derek had an idea of what he had to work with. Stiles agreed with most of the plans and he promised to be available via Skype for planning and design.
On campus, before anyone unpacked, Stiles was given free rein to clear and cleanse the space. He placed carved stones in the far corners of the downstairs space to set a safe perimeter, and each bedroom had a special totem for each occupant. Scott chose a small carved wolf figurine, and Danny had a shell necklace from his grandfather in Hawaii. Stiles chose an old desk nameplate from his father’s office, from before he was elected Sheriff. The totems were blessed and charged and placed in a prominent position in the rooms. The bathrooms were kept clear of magical items because they could be used by visitors, but Stiles smudged each one and a monthly schedule was set for re-smudging.
For the first time since freshman year, families accompanied the three to the campus, because they wanted to see the ‘not dorm’ accommodations. Small offerings were presented in the form of decorations to make the space more personal. Danny’s younger sister, age sixteen, made noises about visiting and sleeping on the sofa, but his parents put a stop to that. There were plenty of family weekends when they would all be receiving visitors, mostly around Homecoming or holidays, and the school was only three hours from Beacon Hills. At the very least, John and Melissa believed their sons when they were told that parties in the apartment would be a non-entity. Stiles was focused on his program, and Scott was never much of a partier. Danny was the most social of the three, and since his last bad relationship he was off parties for a time.
With a promise to call often from all the parents, Stiles and his new roomies were left to their own devises, and they quickly began making grocery lists and cooking schedules. Danny could cook, Stiles was a minor miracle in the kitchen, and Scott wanted to learn his way around an oven, so they were going to take turns making meals. Breakfast and lunch were going to be independent features because they all had different class schedules, but they were going to try dinner together at least three times a week. In between, they would cook what they wanted and save the rest in the fridge.
They all got Tupperware for ‘housewarming’ gifts that semester.
Derek gave Stiles some high-end cookware, saying he needed the good stuff to make quality food. As long as Scott and Danny cleaned what they used, Stiles didn’t mind sharing.
Stiles had no night classes this semester. He had two early-morning classes, which he hated, but his schedule was cramped until afternoon.
M: 8-10, 11-1, 2-4
T: 8-10, 1-3, 4-6
W: 8-10, 11-1, 2-4
TH: 8-10, 1-3, 4-6
F: 8-10, 11-1, 2-4
It was the first semester that he didn’t have Fridays free, but he had plenty of time for homework, and he could still steal away for weekends with Derek. Scott wasn’t so lucky, as he had class until five o’clock on Fridays.
The two weeks of Freshman Orientation were the usual blast. Lots of workshops and parties, and Stiles’ team won the scavenger hunt to find the lecture halls. It was a neat trick to learn the campus layout, and Stiles approved whole-heartedly as it had helped him find all of his classes his freshman year. This year, Stiles would not be on the Cross Country team because of his studies, but he attended the meets when he could. On August 8, Stiles, Scott, and Derek all traveled to the U C Davis campus for the first home meet of the season, and Stiles was debating travel south for the next meet in September. He was definitely going to the meet on September 27, because it was at Stanford and would be a chance to meet with Lydia and Jackson. Danny would be tagging along for that trip, but Scott would be staying behind.
Without major transportation.
Which got Stiles thinking hard—always a dangerous prospect.
Two quick phone calls to Peter and his father later, and Stiles was sitting in his (HIS!) living room with Scott as they sorted out the lunar plans for the semester.
“How would you like to buy my Jeep?”
The pen in Scott’s mouth dropped to the table as Scott gaped at Stiles. “Pardon?”
Stiles smirked. “Yeah, my Jeep? Would you like to buy it?”
“Um, don’t you need it?”
Stiles shook his head. “Well, see, I’ve been looking at vehicles. Slightly larger vehicles, with more cargo space inside and out. I’m going to need it for my shop, when I open it—unless I end up getting a van. And I’m going to need car-seat capabilities sooner or later, because Derek is totally ‘dad’ material. I spoke with Peter and my dad, and I can afford to buy outright right now, and I can build my own vehicle. I had one picked out, actually. But…I’d hate to trade in the Jeep.”
Scott frowned, a little bit bemused. “And you think I should buy it?”
Stiles glared at his oldest friend. “Look, you need something with four wheels and shelter from the elements. And if you get a dog—you know you want one—you can’t put it on the back of your motorcycle. Unless you get a side-car and a cool-ass bulldog. I know you like the Jeep and will take care of it. You’ve helped me work on it so much that maintenance won’t be a problem. And I bet, with the Pack money, you can afford it. I’m not asking much—just a few hundred. It’s an old Jeep. Heck, I built a lot of it with Derek and his dad.”
“Okay,” Scott nodded. “I do need a car, really. The motorcycle is nice during good weather, but I’m going to be a responsible adult and vet soon, and I should have something to transport patients in. I know I can’t afford something new right now. Maybe not ever, really. Do you promise to help with the mechanical stuff?”
Stiles laughed. “Of course I do. Oil changes, tire rotation, spark plugs—whatever needs done. Why pay a mechanic if you can do it yourself?”
“Okay, then. When did you plan on doing this?”
Stiles considered his schedule for a moment. “I think on Thanksgiving break. I have a line on what I want, and Derek and I are going to a dealership together.”
“Is he looking, too?”
Stiles shook his head. “I’m not sure. He likes his Samurai, but he’s had it for longer than I’ve had the Jeep, and we’ll have the same family considerations some day. But he’s going to go with me to pick out my new transport. You can drive back here in the Jeep with your own name on the title!”
Scott laughed. “Okay. Let me warn Mom, though. You may be living with your sweetie now, but I have to share garage space with her and your dad now! At least until I graduate and move out.”
Stiles blushed. “Yeah, that’s still going to take some getting used to. Besides, by the time I move back home full time, Derek will have finished with the renovations and it’ll be like living in a totally different house. At least he’s leaving the foundations alone for the most part, so the charms and spells that I’ve sunk into them won’t be disturbed.”
A knock on her office door in the middle of her day drew Talia Hale’s attention from the civil brief on her desk.
“Come in!” Talia sat back in her chair as Christopher Argent entered her office. “Mr. Argent, how can I help you?”
Christopher indicated a visitor’s chair and sat when Talia nodded her head. “I’m here to inform you that representatives from the Albright Clan will be arriving in Beacon Hills in the near future.”
Talia frowned. “I have received no calls or notifications. I’m sure my Emissary hasn’t, either, or else he would not have moved back to campus so soon.”
“No, they wouldn’t have contacted you yet. They’re still making plans.”
Talia folded her hands together on top of her desk. “I see. So why are you telling me about a Hunter Clan invading my territory?”
Chris held out his hands in supplication. “They’re not invading or anything. The Albrights are Victoria’s family.”
Talia sat straight upright. “I see.”
“No, maybe you don’t. See, when Gerard made the arranged marriage between Victoria and myself, the Albrights thought they were marrying into a respectable Hunter family. In Europe, the Argent name is very prominent and respected. The family is known for taking out dangerous Omega Wolves that threaten human civilizations, not attacking innocent Packs. Shortly after our marriage, Victoria’s older brother accompanied Gerard on a ‘sanctioned’ hunt, and several casualties were reported—two human teenagers. The Albrights pulled contact from Gerard and they only sporadically contacted Victoria. Phone call and letters, mostly, with the occasional e-mail more recently. They haven’t visited any of our homes since Allison was in elementary school.”
Talia cocked an eyebrow. “So this visit is to reconnect?”
Chris nodded. “Roger Albright is curious about my treaty with the Hale Pack. They also haven’t personally seen Allison since before she was in high school, when we visited them one summer, and they’ve never met CJ. They know this is Hale territory, so I’m sure they’ll make formal contact before travel plans are finalized.”
“I see. Thank you, Mr. Argent, for telling me so that I can prepare. How is your family, if I may ask?”
Chris gave a bright but tired smile. “I forgot what it was like to have an active toddler in the house. He wears us out and gives us energy at the same time!”
Talia laughed at his exasperation. “I remember Michael at that age. And he’s my only human child, so I also had all of the normal medical problems to deal with, which I didn’t have with any of the other children.”
“But don’t you have a human sibling as well?”
“Yes, my sister Regan. She married a human and had a human child, so they are the only fully humans in my immediate family. Adam is two years younger than Michael.”
Christopher nodded. “Well, we may be lacking sleep now, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. CJ is only two, so Victoria is relishing staying home with him for now, while I still travel a lot for work. When he’s older, she’ll most likely return to work as a teacher. It’s something she actually enjoys, even though she got into it as a cover for Hunts.”
“Teaching is something that your daughter studying for, yes? Isaac tells us all about her phone calls and e-mails at the Pack meetings.”
Christopher smiled proudly. “Yes, she’ll be entering her main focus program this year. All of her basic requirements and electives are finished so she can begin her Education program now.”
“What will her focus be?”
Chris smiled. “Her love was always History, but I think she’s switched to Special Education because of CJ. She’s so very in love with her brother.”
“The world needs more compassionate teachers, so I’m sure she’ll do well in whatever focus she picks.”
After Christopher left her office, Talia was on the phone with Stiles.
“Talia, what can I do for you today?”
“Emissary, I need all the information you can give me about the Albright Hunting Clan, and any Packs that are known to be in or near their home territory, and I need it as soon as possible.”
“Okay….It may take me some time. I’ll have to do some major computer magic—literally. Are you at work, or should I call your personal cell?”
“Call my cell. I’m at work, so if I don’t answer, leave a message and I’ll call you back.”
“And the reason you need this information is…?”
Talia smirked at the sound of indignant curiosity coming from her Emissary. “The Albrights are planning a visit to my territory, and I’d not like to be at a disadvantage.”
“Have they called you? Because nobody has contacted me about entering the territory, and that’s a serious breach of conduct.”
“Christopher Argent was just here to tell me that they will be in contact. And if they aren’t, then we can hold them in breach and they have no recourse. Victoria Argent was an Albright before she married. Ostensibly they are coming to visit her and her young son.”
Talia could clearly hear the scratching of pencil against paper as Stiles took notes of what he felt was important. Knowing Stiles as she did, he was probably also making rather arcane marks on a notepad that he would use to divine any knowledge that he would need to give her later.
“Um, okay, Alpha, I should have the information for you in a few hours. I have a few other calls to make first—and the magical computer work, of course.”
“Thank you, Emissary. I look forward to hearing from you.”
Whatever the real reason for the visit, Alpha Talia Hale would not be caught without information to use in defense of her Pack and territory.
Two hours later, after Talia dismissed her paralegal from the case briefing she was working on, Talia’s cell rang with Stiles’ call.
“Alpha Hale, are you sitting down?”
“I am, but should I be?”
Stiles gave a heavy sigh. “Yeah, well, maybe. The Albright Clan is pretty well known in Hunter circles. And please, never ask me how I find out the stuff that I do. Anyway—the Albrights are known in the United States, Canada, Nova Scotia, Ireland, and Scotland—quite a large territory, by the way—for herding Omega Wolves away from highly populated areas to protect the humans. Any organized Packs were left alone, as long as they didn’t attack humans. The Albrights weren’t separatists by any means, but they really didn’t care for the mixing of wolves and humans. That may be why Victoria Argent was so reluctant to move here. Albright families usually lived in rural areas, away from larger populations. They preferred farms and wooded cabins. If Victoria’s family is the Albright family that I’m thinking of, Beacon Hills is pretty cosmopolitan compared to what they’re used to.”
Talia frowned at her phone. “Victoria is quite an educated woman. She worked at a fashion buyer for a major department store. She’s currently a teacher for the California State Board of Education. That doesn’t sound like someone raised in a rural area away from a large population.”
“No, it really doesn’t. Except, the Albrights are Patriarchal, with is different than most Hunter Clans, and Ivor Albright—the current Patriarch of this branch—values educations on an astounding level. He has six children, four sons and two daughters, and all but two have PhDs. His son, Roger, is the one I’m guessing is coming for a visit, and he’s a History Professor at Northern Michigan University. I’m guessing Victoria has at least a Masters, since she teaches. The Albrights value education, arranged marriages, and keeping the Supernatural away from the General Population. I know Christopher moved his family here from St. Paul, Minnesota, but the Albright family that Ivor leads is from Ishpeming, Michigan, which is four hours and some change from Marquette, near Lake Superior but in the middle of nowhere.”
“I see. That makes more sense, then, since Christopher said that family hadn’t been to visit in quite a long time. Are there Packs nearby in their area?”
“There’s a small Pack—the Longworth Pack—in Bruce Crossing. They’re really small—like one Alpha and two Betas. They keep to themselves in the forest area. The Hobart Pack in White Pine is larger, about six Betas for one Alpha pair—all Wolves from what I can tell. There’s nothing like the Hale Pack out that way, what with how integrated to the community you are here. I haven’t studied whether or not Packs migrate, but since the Hales have been here since before this was a ‘country’, I figured they don’t. The largest Pack in the Michigan area is the Gale Pack in Traverse City. They keep to themselves as well, but their Emissary, Joseph Miller, is on my contact list for magical herb suppliers. He’s human, and the Pack has a few human members in peripheral positions. Kinda like my dad, you know; human’s in the ‘know’ but not really Pack members. It’s mostly West Coast, Southwestern, and East Coast Packs that have lots of human members. In the Mid-west, Packs don’t inter-marry, or whatever. Unless my sources are wrong, that’s what I can give you.”
“Thank you, Emissary. That’s good for now. Now I just have to wait and see if this Roger Albright knows enough to contact me personally before entering my town.”
“I’ll keep my phone on my at all times, too, in case he knows enough to contact the Emissary for the Pack first.”
It was two days later, near the dinner hour, that Talia received a phone call from Roger Albright. He was seeking formal permission to bring himself, his wife, and several family members into Hale territory.
“Victoria Argent is my oldest daughter, you see, and we haven’t seen her in a very long time. My wife is ill, and she would like to meet her newest grandchild before she gets too bad off.”
“I understand the sentiment, Mr. Albright. How many will be in your party?”
There was a long pause, and then, “We’re not sure. My daughter Elinore would like to come with her husband and son. The boy is fifteen, and school is an issue. My Oldest son, Adam, would also like to come, but his wife may not be able to get time from work. The family is spread fairly far apart, so co-coordinating something like this is difficult.”
“I see. You do realize that you will be monitored while you are here?”
“Yes, I understand that.”
“When were you planning to visit?”
“We were hoping for the holidays. I understand that Allison is away at school, and I’d like to visit with her as well. My wife is hoping for a Family Thanksgiving, so we’ll be making hotel reservations soon. When I have a final tally, I will call you back.”
“That is acceptable. You will be required to meet with the Pack Emissary, of course, and he should be here then as well.”
Meanwhile, at the Argent household, Victoria and Christopher were quietly freaking out in anticipation of the impending visit. They were trying not to alarm CJ, who was very perceptive for such a young child, but they weren’t certain as to how the Albrights would react to how closely the Argents were living with the Hale Pack.
“Derek, I hope this meeting hasn’t disrupted your work schedule too much.”
Derek sat comfortably in his mother’s office, sipping at a glass of iced tea. He was called officially, as Successor to the Alpha, for a preliminary meeting regarding a Washington State Pack that was seeking to move closer to Hale Territory. It was a rare slow day at the hospital, and Derek had been secluded in the Staff Lounge filling out paperwork and reviewing charts all morning, so when his mother called and invited him to lunch he jumped quickly out of his seat.
“No, it’s good. I’ve been reviewing charts all morning. This week started my Psych Rotation; right now there are no patients in my immediate future. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be required to attend rounds at Eichen House, so I have to become familiar with various treatments and issues.” Derek grimaced. “I have to learn to diagnose without using my Wolf senses. It’s amusing the heck out of Melissa McCall—um, Stilinski? Did she change her name after the wedding?”
Talia smirked. “No, she did not. She said the paperwork was a nightmare the first time, and as John wasn’t objectionable, she’s keeping her name. Although she may indeed be changing it in the near future after all.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
“Agent McCall has been trying to get a local transfer,” said Talia, wrinkling her nose in distaste. “And he’s apparently been proclaiming loudly around the police station that John might not be Melissa’s best choice if he couldn’t get her to drop his name. John has told her that the name is not a threat to him, but she’s tired of the bull–—anyway, as to why we’re here; The Baker Pack out of Seattle.”
Derek sat forward and reached for the file his mother handed him. “What do we know about them?” He steadfastly ignored the fact that his mother almost swore—something she never did unless really irritated.
“The Baker Pack is small, with an almost even mix of human and wolf. They’re almost lost in the city up there, and the Alpha has intimated a longing to move closer to a natural habitat.”
Derek frowned. “There are only four or five Packs in Washington and a lot of forested areas. Why would they want to move here?”
“I’m not sure. That’s why I’ve invited their Emissary to visit.”
Derek looked at his mother askance. “Should you meet without Stiles? Not,” he hurriedly continued when she looked to respond, “That I think you are less than capable of handling an Emissary. It’s just—well, it’s his job, right?”
Talia smiled, mollified. “It is, yes. But Derek, you should know as Alpha there are things you must do yourself. Meeting Emissaries of Packs that wish to move into your territory is one of those things.”
Derek nodded. “So I should expect to be at that meeting, right? As Successor, I mean?”
“Yes. We’ll be meeting in neutral territory, away from Beacon Hills. I’ve set the meeting for a week from Saturday, around noon. I know you have the weekend off, so we’ll travel on Friday afternoon to Ashland, Oregon. It’s a college town, so it qualifies as neutral. The Emissary, a woman by the name of Serena Walker, will take a room at a local inn, and we’ll meet there.”
“So we’ll be staying overnight?”
Talia nodded. “Yes. I want to get a room close to there, but not in that town. I want to play this close to my chest for as long as I can.”
“Do you suspect anything?”
Talia grinned over her coffee cup. “I suspect everything, Derek. It’s how I keep my Pack safe. Plus, as you said—why on earth would they want to move here when there is plenty of wooded area in Washington?”
September 12, 2015
Derek and Talia walked through the front door of the ‘Cowslip’s Belle Bed and Breakfast’ and asked for directions to Serena Walker’s room. They were shown to a Carriage house, and the upper suite, where Serena Walker had a formal tea prepared for them.
Derek kept himself from snorting when the woman greeted them; her interest was almost palpable when she looked his way.
The whole situation was almost a joke. The ‘Cowslip’s Belle’? The meaning of ‘cowslip’ was ‘winning grace’ and ‘pensiveness’—something he informed Talia of immediately. It was obvious by choice of location that this Emissary wanted something, and she wanted to project a specific image. There were other, loads of other, hotels and inns in the area—some more economical, like the one the Hales chose. As to the Emissary—well, she was quite the picture.
She was tall, around five-foot-six, and had a slender, willowy figure. There were curves in all the right places, but she wasn’t overtly voluptuous. Her hair was almost pitch black, and she wore it short and curly, and pulled it from her face with a bright pink ribbon. Her dress was pink, as well—pale pink with a rose pattern and a sweet-heart neckline showing a neat rope of pearls at her throat. On her feet were rose-pink ballet flats, and Derek seemed to recall old TV re-runs of the Donna Reed Show for some reason. She wore no other jewelry and no noticeable perfume, but Derek could detect a certain cinnamon odor about her.
Serena addressed Talia directly, but kept shooting coy glances toward Derek. From the look Talia gave him as they followed Serena out onto the balcony, she knew the Emissary found him to be a potential catch.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I had tea prepared for us. I spent some time in England for school, and it’s a habit that I never managed to leave behind.”
“That’s very sweet of you,” said Talia, and Derek could hear the amusement in her voice. Tea-time was generally around five o’clock in the afternoon, not mid-day, and it was the term used for the evening meal rather than simple refreshments, something Talia knew quite well.
Derek and Talia took seats around a small table covered with a formal tea set-up: plates of small sandwiches, teapot, cups and saucers, sugar bowl, creamer—all in a Cabbage Rose pattern. This was obviously something that she provided herself.
“This is a lovely Darjeeling blend that I fell in love with a few years ago. It’s slightly bitter, but very invigorating. Shall I pour?”
Talia nodded her head. “Please do. So, tell us about the Baker Pack.”
Stiles stood cheering in the stands of the football stadium as the Aggies scored a touch-down. Football was not really his scene, but he attended every game with his fraternity brothers. It was a school pride thing, and Stiles loved to show school pride.
Scott was to his left and Big Brother Mitch was to his right, and the stands were packed. Stiles imagined that almost every college campus across the country looked like this today: students wearing School Colors and waving pennants and banners, cheering the local team on an early September Saturday. He truly did enjoy college life!
Unexpectedly, Stiles felt a hot pulse from the tattoo on his right arm—a slight burn, like a warning. “Huh!” he muttered as he reached for the phone in his pocket.
“What’s up?” asked Scott, as he was the only one to hear Stiles’ exclamation.
“Not sure. Gimme a second, yeah?”
Stiles shot off a quick text, waited for a response, and then pocketed the phone again. He looked up to see Scott watching him with a pensive face. “Sorry. Magical stuff. Can’t explain, so don’t ask, okay?”
Scott nodded. “Don’t forget, you’re driving to the after party when the game is over.”
“Yeah, yeah. One day, you shall provide the transport.”
Scott grinned. “Uh-huh. Right around Thanksgiving.”
“Oh, dear,” said Serena as she poured the tea. “I’ve forgotten to fill the creamer. Please excuse me.” And she walked back into the room toward the kitchenette, creamer in hand.
Derek had taken a small sip of the bitter brew before adding sugar, and felt a hot twinge on his right arm. Just then, he felt his cell phone buzz in his pocket, and he quickly withdrew it to read the incoming text.
Someone Messing W/ You. B Careful. XXX
Talia raised an eyebrow at him and raised her own cup to drink, but stopped short when he gave a stiff shake of his head. He forcefully placed his cup back onto the saucer and pushed it back onto the table away from him, and sent a quick response text to Stiles (Got It. THNX). Talia also replaced her untouched teacup on the table just as Serena rejoined them, carrying the creamer.
“Sorry. I don’t take cream with my tea, but some people do. I almost feel as if I failed as a hostess for not providing it.”
Talia shook her head. “Not at all. Now, please, tell me about the Baker Pack. Why do they want to move to California? There seem to be plenty of wooded areas in their original territory.”
Serena smiled. “Well, that seems to be the crux of the problem. You see, the Baker Pack is mostly transitory. They don’t really have a territory, per se. They are looking for a Pack to join with.”
Talia frowned. “And none of the packs in Washington are amenable to this?”
Serena kept glancing at Derek as she sipped her own tea. “This is a really good blend. You both should have some. And, no, none of the Packs in Washington are to the Bakers’ liking. Most are old, well-established Packs with rigid structure and do not welcome change.”
This time Derek frowned, but stayed silent. That was so not true. The Wilcox Pack, which was based in Seattle and had been there for over sixty years, was very progressive. They were active in the music and computer industries and had been from the start, though they stayed clear of politics.
“I see,” said Talia stiffly. “And what sort of Pack is the Baker Pack looking to join?”
Serena simpered, offering more tea. Like the first sip wasn’t suspicious. “Really, they want an old-fashioned, family style Pack. The Alpha is young and would like to marry and have a family. He’s a new Alpha, having inherited the Power from his uncle, and all of the other Pack members are starting families.”
“And they thought moving to California and attempting to join my Pack would be to their liking?”
Serena smiled in a rather flirty manner toward Derek. “You all seem so friendly. Beacon Hills is a comfortable community; not too large, and not too rural. The Hale Pack is well known and very…attractive… to a new Alpha. I think we can all feel at home there.”
Serena’s smile was really getting to Derek, and not in a good way. She was flirting, which was something he was used to.
But she was becoming presumptuous, and that was a problem for him.
Derek looked the woman in the eye, which she seemed to enjoy. “Where will you go, if the Baker Pack integrates with our Pack?”
Serena stilled, seeming uncertain for the first time. “What—um, what do you mean? Integrates?”
Derek nodded, taking the lead when Talia sat back in her seat. “Yes. I mean, we won’t tolerate a new Pack in our territory, so they’ll have to be absorbed in and give up autonomy to us. The Alpha will have to step down from that position and agree to fall in with our leadership. And we already have an Emissary, so you won’t be needed, really.”
Serena frowned. “But I had this all set up for us.”
Talia leaned forward. “You had what set up? Taking territory that the Hales have held for more centuries than you will ever know? We’re not that easy, Serena.”
“No,” Serena denied quickly. “Not take the territory. We were going to inherit it, rightfully. Through marriage unions and children. You’re going to pass along the Alpha Power to your Successor, and I’m going to take over as his mate and Emissary. The Bakers will fill in the gaps with their own marriages within the Hale family.”
Derek shared a look with his mother. They could both feel the Power of Intent in Serena’s words, but it washed over them like a gentle mist. Finally, Talia’s expression cleared and she lifted a hand to her chest, over the talisman that she never removed. She smiled and stood, Derek following her lead.
“I’m sorry, Serena, but that isn’t going to happen. Not today. Not ever. Not with the Hale Pack. And once I place several careful phone calls, not with any Packs in Washington or Oregon, either. We’re fairly savvy with Magic in our Pack. Your little tricks won’t work on us. And whatever little poison was in that tea would have no effect on us, either.”
Serena gasped in shock. “It wasn’t poison! Really! I meant no harm. It was a simple compulsion. To gain your love and trust.”
Derek shook his head sadly. “Love and trust don’t work that way. I’m really sorry if you thought they did.”
“How did you know? About the tea?”
Derek smirked at her as he ushered Talia out of the suite. “We’re a protected Pack, Serena. Very protected. You should do your homework more thoroughly before you try to take over someone’s entire family.”
Serena stood and wrung her hands. “I would never have hurt you, you have to know that. I would have given you beautiful children, and you would have known devotion.”
“As long as you got your way? No thanks. I have devotion. I have my mother, my father, my uncles and nephews and niece. I know what love is, and it isn’t the prison that you offered. You may have some sort of hold on the Pack you belong to, but it won’t reach us.”
Derek had pushed Talia out the door and toward the Carriage House stairs when he felt the prickle of energy behind him. He had almost turned to face the door once again when a wave of heat engulfed him, and the room exploded into flame.
Talia was most of the way down the stairs when her son flew past her in the blast, so both were clear of fire and flying debris. Talia ran to Derek at the bottom of the stairs as a crowd of people ran out of the main building, drawn by the noise of the exploding room.
In the chaos, Talia determined that Derek wouldn’t have been damaged by human standards, and dusted him off as emergency vehicles arrived. They explained that they were almost at the foot of the stairs when the explosion occurred, so they didn’t know what could have caused it.
Once the fire was out, a careful search of the suite revealed no body, so they were left wondering what happened to the lovely Serena Walker. There was no trace of her anywhere, and although Derek couldn’t sense that much power from her, he figured she had enough to escape. He would ask Stiles later, after the official questioning was over.
Hours and many phone calls later, Derek and Talia were once again ensconced in a hotel on the other side of town from the B&B. Derek had explained to his Resident Advisor that he had to remain in Oregon for a few days because of an inquest. He managed to call Stiles when a flare of anxiety swept through the tattoo.
“She was clearly trying to bespell us for some reason, but the talisman you made for Mom and the tattoo that protects me kept us from her influence.”
“So she blew up her hotel room?” Stiles was incredulous.
Derek shrugged, even though Stiles couldn’t see him. “I don’t know. The investigators found a faulty gas line behind the stove in the kitchenette. I don’t know if she ignited it, or if it was accidental. Um , I’m just wondering here, but is teleportation a thing?”
Stiles was silent for long enough that Derek thought he lost the connection. Finally, he replied, “Um, I think that, under great stress and danger, my Magic would transport me very quickly to the nearest safe place or person. The tattoo on my chest had your initials, as well as Dad’s, Scott’s, and oddly enough Chris Argent’s. It’s a protection tattoo, but safe travel is part of it, and not only to keep me safe while in my car or on an airplane.”
Derek huffed a short laugh. “Okay. I’m getting one of those tattoos next. I’m sorry I worried you.”
Stiles snorted. “I wasn’t really worried. I had protections on you. I trust you. I know you would never be in danger because of your faith in me and my faith in you. Just, get home, okay? Dad heard about it, and he’s all abuzz about it.”
Derek smiled. “I love you.”
“Love you, too, Der.”
Since the Full Moon in November was the night before Thanksgiving, and the Albright Clan was scheduled to arrive on that Monday, Stiles and Scott decided to skip classes that week and head home. Normally, they would not have done that, as they both valued their grades so much, but their Mid-terms were over and they didn’t have any assignments due yet. Danny was going to be staying until Tuesday evening and Scott could have ridden in with him, but he wanted to support Stiles with his duties for the Pack
Fortunately for Stiles, John understood completely how important it was that Stiles be the first to greet the foreign Hunters in the territory. His only caveat? That Stiles remain on the Dean’s list at the end of the semester. So, after their last exams were over, Scott and Stiles piled into the Jeep for the ride to Beacon Hills. They pulled into town late Friday evening, and Stiles dropped Scott at the new McCall/Stilinski residence.
As Scott grabbed his over-full duffle from the back seat he asked, “So what’s the agenda for this weekend?”
“Well, Derek is off tomorrow, so we’re heading to the dealership for my new SUV. He’s driving, so I guess I can hand over the keys to this baby before we leave.”
Scott nodded. “The bank is open from nine to twelve tomorrow, so I’ll go and take out the money in the morning.”
Stiles shook his head. “I’d take a check, man. I trust you.”
“Nah, I’m thinking of it like a rite-of-passage, you know? You paid cash for the Jeep, so I’m paying cash for it. Then I’ll have the title and I can have mom put it in her safe-deposit box on Monday.”
“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow. I’m going to swing by the station to see Dad before I head home.”
Late Saturday afternoon, Stiles drove to his father’s house (snerk) in his brand-new, 2015 Chevy Tahoe. John, Melissa, and Scott were all standing out front waiting for him to pull up to the house. Melissa cooed pleasantly at the colors and shiny-newness while Scott and John got the ‘mechanic’s’ tour: hood up, tail-gate open, doors wide. Derek assured John that the newer vehicle would be as easy to care for as the much-loved Jeep, and that he and Stiles could help Scott with mechanic work on the Jeep if needed.
“One day,” said Scott with a smile, “I’m going to have a new car—brand new, like this one. But I figure we can all keep the Jeep running for a long time coming for now.”
The doorbell drew Christopher away from his family in the den. Allison looked up and followed her father with her eyes as he walked into the front hall. She stood from the floor, where she had been playing with CJ, and brushed her hands on her jeans. Her grandfather, one she barely remembered, looked askance at her, but she shrugged him off. The Albrights had arrived shortly after breakfast, and they were only just getting to know the small Argent family after such a long absence from Victoria’s life.
Christopher reentered the room, followed by a well-dressed young man. He waved at Victoria and smiled at Allison.
“Hey, Allison! How were mid-terms?”
Allison shrugged. “Pretty good, I think. Developmental Education is going to be a challenge, I think.”
The older gentleman, who was Roger Albright, stood and joined Allison in front of the room. “Is this a friend of yours from school, Allison?”
“Yes,” she replied. “And no.” Allison looked at Stiles and said, “I can’t pronounce your name, sorry.” She giggled and Stiles smirked.
“It’s ‘EEN-Ya Chek’. Very Polish, and a pain in my behind.” He winked at Allison and faced the older man beside her. “I am Ignacek Stilinski, Emissary to the Hale Pack, and I’m here to make sure you don’t start BS in my neck of the woods.”
Stiles held out a hand in greeting, and the man returned the hand-shake. “I am Roger Albright. My daughter is Victoria.” He motioned behind him, to the others seated in the room. He made a come-here gesture, and they all rose from their seats. “This is my wife, Elaine,” he introduced a rather frail looking red-head with piercing green eyes. “And this is my daughter, Elinore, and her husband Douglas and son, Gary.” Elinore mostly resembled Roger, although Stiles could see Victoria in her eyes as well. Roger was tall with dark hair and dark eyes, as was the boy, Gary. “And my eldest son, Adam and his wife, Claire.” Adam had the same eyes as Elaine and Victoria, but Claire was soft-looking, almost gentle.
After shaking hands with every member of the Albright party, and getting a very thorough magical read on all of them, Stiles stood back and motioned to Roger. “I think you and I have some protocol to follow, so why not let your family visit here while we get that out of the way, okay?”
Roger nodded, and Christopher led the two through the house and into the kitchen. He gestured toward the coffee maker. “I guess you should be awake for this conversation. It’s fresh and there’s creamer in the fridge.”
Stiles nodded. “Thanks, Mr. Argent. Is the kettle hot?”
Chris smirked and pulled a box of tea from the cabinet over the coffee maker. “The water’s still hot from Victoria’s morning cup. Here’s the tea you like.”
“Thanks. If you need, I can order more for you.”
“I’ll let Victoria know, then. We’ll see you soon.”
Chris left the kitchen and Stiles busied himself with making tea. He looked over his shoulder at the older man. “Would you like coffee or tea? I’m fond of this blend, and I make a gift of it to Mrs. Argent every year for her birthday and Christmas.”
Roger frowned. “What sort of Emissary are you?”
Stiles barked in laughter. “Wow! Okay, tea it is, then. You do not need caffeine right now.” Stiles poured hot water into two mugs and set the tea to steep. “So, to answer the question: I’m the best kind of Emissary. I give guidance and protection when necessary, I use my many talents to make sure our territory is safe from all dangers,” Stiles looked pointedly at Roger, “And I help the Alpha maintain peace and well-being in the territory.”
“Aren’t you young to be an Emissary?” Roger took the offered tea and gave an experimental sip, nodding in approval. “I’m not really experienced with dealing with established Packs with full Emissaries, but you seem young.”
Stiles nodded in agreement. “Well, I’m a special case. I have a talent, you see, and I’ve been training in that talent since I was a kid. Alpha Hale recognized my potential, and offered to aid in my training—with my father’s permission—and when I was old and powerful enough, she offered to make me her new Emissary, since her previous one was a dud.”
“How was he a dud, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Stiles snorted. “Oh, I don’t mind. The man is still around, so I guess that’s something. He knew about a potential danger to the Pack, and decided to keep it to himself, to see how it all played out. Alpha Hale took exception to that.”
Roger considered the answer and nodded. “I suppose I would take exception to that as well. So answer me something, if you would. How do you get along with the Argents in the territory?”
Stiles shifted on his barstool and spun his tea mug in his hands for a moment. “Well, I have no issue with Allison, obviously. She’s a sweetie, and is going to be such a bright, shining star around here once she graduates. Christopher and Victoria came to us before they moved here.” When Roger reacted visibly, Stiles sat up straight in his seat. “You didn’t know that? Yeah, well, they came to us, Alpha Hale and I, and asked permission to move here. Christopher wanted to put some physical and Karmic distance between him and his father. Alpha Hale and I took that as a good sign, you know, that they were going to be honorable. Still, we made sure that they knew that they would be under constant scrutiny until we could be sure that they weren’t cut from the same cloth as Gerard or Kate.”
Roger shook his head and slumped a bit in his chair. “I hated what that man was, but I didn’t know about it until I had tied my daughter to the son.”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah, he was bat-shit crazy alright. I guess for a long time we were all just waiting to see if Chris would flip his lid, too. So far, so good, on that front.”
“We had no real established Packs where I come from,” said Roger, staring into his mug. “Recently, my father was approached by a Pack Emissary—an old man with feathers in his hair. He wanted safe passage for a Pack, and a possible treaty. My father is old. Hell, I’m old. We have been putting down dangerous Omegas all my life, but we’ve never worked with a healthy Pack. So, he sent me and my siblings out to gather information about how to make that work.”
Stiles considered Roger’s words as he refilled the kettle to heat more water. “Where did your family end up headed?”
“Oh, well, there’s four of us sons. We’re a Patriarchal Clan, you know?” At Stiles’ nod, Roger continued. “I came here, mostly because I haven’t seen my daughter in a long time, and there’s a new grand-baby and my wife is ill. One of my brothers went to Arizona, and one went to New York. The last stayed in Michigan with my father.”
“Okay, well, I can work with that. In Arizona, near the California border, is the Arritas Pack. I work with their Emissary sometimes. They’re good people, all of them. Also, the Calaveras Clan of Hunters on the border to Mexico—I can get you a number for their Matriarch. Alpha Hale has had a treaty with them for, well, forever really. For as long as there’s been an Alpha Hale, there has been a treaty of some sort with the Calaveras Clan. It keeps people alive. I don’t personally know anyone in New York, but I bet I can find someone. Emissaries don’t keep a network, but we have contacts that we can use.”
Roger stared at the young man in amazement. “It’s that easy?”
Stiles laughed and looked over his shoulder at the older man. “You think this is easy? Man, it is so not easy. There are rogue Hunters out there just like rogue werewolves. My job is to keep my Pack safe. I work with people that I’ve come to trust, and we share relevant information when we can. Davi Coates, the Emissary for the Arritas Pack, trains search and rescue dogs for a living, so she travels all over the country. She has contacts that I don’t, so I can use her. I have contacts that she doesn’t, so she will call me for information. I have good contacts in Oregon and Colorado, but not New York; she might have some there. I get that you Hunt for a reason. I’ve met some bad Wolves. Really bad ones. But the Hale Pack is all good, and I’d like them to stick around for a while, you know?”
Roger nodded. “I’ve met some good Wolves in my time. They’d never assist a Hunt, but I made sure to keep clear of them. I’d like to meet with Alpha Hale now that we’re here; let her get the measure of me like I can get of her. Victoria was never raised to live with the Wolves, you know. I’m surprised that she lives here so calmly.”
“It hasn’t all been calm. It all started with Kate Argent when I was too young to know what was going on. A few years ago, Gerard reared back and proved that he was all bad, and Allison almost got caught in that mess. I believe Victoria was very pregnant at the time and was told to take things easy. She carried to term and had a healthy baby, so that’s something.”
Roger smiled and accepted the refilled mug of tea that Stiles offered. “He is a happy baby, isn’t he? I’ve been keeping in distant touch with Victoria since she married; a phone call or letter here and there, and we were present for Allison’s birth. When she told us that she was pregnant again, so late in her life, Elaine and I were very worried that some harm would come to her or the child. I’m so glad that a developmental disability is the only problem the boy has. Of course, with Down’s there is the possibility for future problems. I know this. But he seems healthy enough. Rambunctious, too.”
Stiles laughed. “Well, he’s two. Rambunctious is part of the job description, you know? So, let’s take some tea to the family, and I’ll call Alpha Hale and arrange for a meet, say, on Friday? And you can chat with her, and maybe we can teach you how to have a treaty with a healthy Pack.”
“Alright, young man, that sounds good to me. This is really good tea. I may have to get the ordering information from you.”
“Ah, well, magical tea, you know. I may be able to order it for you, but you might not be able to get it for yourself.”
The Moon Run that week was subdued for once. Even though they had proven to be harmless visitors, having new, unknown Hunters in town had bothered everybody. Isaac had even tried to beg off going to the Argent’s home for after-Thanksgiving dessert, and that had been a tradition since he and Allison had started dating. Camden had to offer to go with him in order for him to agree.
Since Camden was going to be working the late shift on Thanksgiving night and would be in uniform, Isaac felt safe with his brother present.
Stiles was savoring every morning that he got to wake beside Derek that week. Derek was still on his Psych Rotation, so he had ‘banker’s hours’ for the time being. They could go to bed together, snuggle, and wake together the whole week Stiles was home. And in the evenings before bed, Stiles and Derek would review the renovation plans for the house.
Derek was planning on turning the old sewing room in the basement into his own office. The area was large enough to accommodate bookshelves, and the ceiling was high enough not to feel cramped. When Claudia was alive, she spent hours down there mending clothes or sewing quilts. John also used it as storage for camping and fishing gear. When Claudia died, it became throw-away storage. What they didn’t bother putting into the attic got shoved into the basement. Clearing it out had been a bear of a job that Stiles and John undertook over the summer.
An addition for the back of the house was planned, and construction would begin after the winter holidays. Derek was going to enlarge the kitchen/dining area, giving Stiles a kitchen he could brag about and a dining room big enough to seat most of the Pack—or a good sized family, when the time came. John’s old office would become Stiles’ new office/workspace, and the magic room upstairs would become a guest room again. The downstairs bathroom would be expanded to include a tub/shower combo instead of just the toilet/sink set that it now had. Once Stiles could be home for a long enough time to supervise, a greenhouse would be put into the back yard so he could grow his own magical herbs for year-round use. Derek had been given the low-down on how to care for the garden, and Derek took fresh vegetables to his mother almost weekly during the summer—unless Melissa came over to claim them once they ripened.
Derek was trying to enjoy home-ownership when he wasn’t at the hospital, but he missed Stiles daily. Knowing that Stiles wouldn’t even be home during the summer next year was going to be hard. He needed his Mate with him; near him. He planned the renovations with Stiles in mind, wanting to make his childhood home a place that he wanted to raise his own family in. Stiles contributed in small but important ways; Stiles picked the flooring pattern and the wall colors, he chose the appliances for the kitchen and the cabinet design, and Stiles chose the greenhouse design that he wanted. When Stiles graduated from college in a year, the house that he grew up in would almost be a new home for Derek and him to grow old in.
Stiles happily pulled into his driveway after a long semester. He made the Dean’s List, he was sure, and his final exams went well—even if his grades weren’t due for another two days. He was busy trying to line up an Internship for the coming summer, and his second semester of Masters program classes was going to be hard, but oh so worth it. Danny and Scott may have had another year or two (three, in Scott’s case) at Davis ahead of them, but Stiles was going to graduate just a bit early, thanks to two years of online summer classes up to this point.
The porch light was on, but Derek’s Samurai was not in the driveway. The garage door was closed, but Stiles knew Derek was at work, so he pulled to a stop at the far left of the driveway, leaving room for Derek to park later.
It meant so much when Stiles was growing up.
His father and mother, laughing together in the den after dinner. Making Christmas cookies in the cool December afternoons. Finishing homework projects at the dining room table while his mother made dinner.
Running in the mornings with his father and Scott when he started high school. Burying himself in the magic tomes that Donna Maria foisted on him every weekend. Washing his Cross Country uniforms with his father’s Sheriff Department uniform.
Painting the living room walls pale yellow so that the afternoon sun would light it up. Planning dinner menus with Derek while he worked through medical charts for the following day’s shift. Window shopping online for new linens and curtains for when the total remodel was finished.
So many different meanings for one word. One house, different lives.
Stiles carried his belongings into the house—meager though they were, as he was returning to the same apartment that he spent the previous semester in. He could store basic supplies in the apartment between semesters, even if he had to pack up the valuables. Box after box went out of the Tahoe and into the house—dumped unceremoniously in the den; out of the way, but out of the vehicle. Stiles had finished laundry before leaving campus, so he only had to put away his packed clothing. His textbooks were going into the den until his office could be set up. He could have put them in the basement, but that was going to be Derek’s space and Stiles didn’t want to invade. His cookware he left behind, because he’d be needing it in a few weeks anyway. He’d left his sheets and towels for the same reason.
Once done, Stiles checked the pantry and fridge, gauging the stock of food items in the house. Derek could and did cook for himself, but if he was spending a lot of shifts at the hospital, Stiles would be lucky to find milk that hadn’t spoiled. The cupboards were bare, but Stiles did find a grocery list, so Derek was at least a little prepared for him to be home. He grabbed the list and sent a text to Derek on his way out the door. After alerting Derek to his presence, he quickly called his father to see what his shift was that evening, and offered to make dinner for him and Melissa. Scott was due home in two days, as he had one late final. Planning a creamy veggie lasagna, Stiles drove to the local grocer and bought what he would need, as well as a few staples from Derek’s list. The rest of the shopping could wait until Derek had a free day. Shopping as a couple was a thrill that Stiles hoped he’d never outgrow.
As he unloaded groceries and set up for dinner, Stiles placed calls to Donna Maria and Talia Hale, checking in and announcing his presence. He also called Peter and left a message that he wanted to meet soon over financial matters. That branch of the Hale family was out of town visiting Amanda’s family. Little Hope Hale had just had a birthday, and Amanda’s parents were going to be doing the grandparent thing and spoiling her rotten, Stiles was sure. From all accounts, Nicky was the one to watch where Hope was concerned. Peter was a doter, and Amanda was a great mother, but Nicky was a fierce big brother! When Stiles was home for Thanksgiving, Nicky followed Hope around like a large shadow, never letting her out of his sight. And she loved every bit of it. Nicky was always up for a tea party or Disney video. At ten years of age, that was almost unheard of.
Stiles was just putting the lasagna in the oven when Derek came through the front door, firmly closing it behind him. When Stiles turned from the oven, it was to come face-to-face with his beloved werewolf.
Offering a sweet, chaste kiss, Stiles asked, “Did you miss me?”
“Of course I did. I always miss you when you are far from me.” Derek lowered his head to nuzzle Stiles’ neck and scent him properly. “You could be here all day, every day, and I’d miss you if you went to the market.”
Stiles laughed. “That’s a little creepy. But, look at it this way: I’m one semester closer to being home all the time.”
Derek pulled back after another quick kiss. “Yes you are, and I’m going to be there for your graduation if it kills someone. Oh, and I need the date of your fraternity banquet this spring, so I can put in for the weekend off again.”
“Can do, babe. The guys are looking forward to seeing you again. I’d be jealous if I didn’t know how much they liked me.”
Derek shrugged and walked to the front hall to dispose of his shoes. “I’m a new quantity for them. Most of the frat brothers have girlfriends that either go to that school or are there every weekend. I’ve graduated already and I’m never there, so I’m shiny to them. If I visited every weekend, they’d just be used to me.”
“I suppose so. I think it’s also because of how gorgeous you are. Even the straight guys give you second looks.”
Derek gave Stiles an unimpressed look. “And I suppose you think you’re some plain dishrag, huh?”
Stiles shrugged. “I know I’m okay. I’m fit and in shape. I dress well and carry myself with confidence. I’m no slouch, but you have it going on!”
Stiles gave a salacious wink, and Derek knew he was mainly joking. Both Derek and Stiles were as physically active as they could be, running and swimming and weight-lifting. Derek worked a lot, as a medical student had very little free time, and Stiles was trying to graduate as early as possible without working himself to death. Derek dressed like a doctor: button-down shirts, with or without a tie on any given day, permanent-press trousers, no-slip loafers with cushioned socks. Totally unremarkable and yet professional. Stiles was a hipster dream—pressed slacks and trousers, loafers or moccasins, button-down oxford shirts with tailored waistcoats in various colors. Stiles had even taken to wearing a pocket-watch on a chain with his waistcoats, like a proper Englishman. Derek scoured many antique shops on his off days just to find the perfect watch and chain as a Christmas gift a few years back. It was the perfect counter to the custom stethoscope that Stiles had given him for his birthday before he returned to Beacon Hills to start his residency.
The point was, Stiles was very striking by any definition. He had even suffered a hair tutorial by Lydia the prior winter, and learned how to use ‘gel’ and ‘texturizer’ to tousle his hair into some sinful vision of post-sex bed head that was most becoming. Derek could fantasize about Stiles’ hair alone. It always looked windblown and casual, but at the same time as if Derek had spent hours running his fingers through it. Derek knew Stiles got lots of second and third looks from the co-eds on campus. He had witnessed it personally the last time he visited Stiles on campus. But Stiles was blind to it.
Still, if Stiles wanted to delude himself into thinking that nobody noticed how beautiful he was, it was all to Derek’s advantage. Derek could ogle all day long, and Stiles was oblivious.
“Anyway, Melissa caught me on my way out of the hospital and told me to pass along that she would bring the wine for dinner, okay?”
Stiles nodded. “That works, because I forgot to buy some. I never drink, so being of legal age hasn’t affected me as much as some of my classmates. When they turned twenty-one, it was such a big deal. That’s one of the reasons we decided to move out of the regular dorms.”
“And here I thought it was so you could sneak dates in after hours.”
“Ha. Ha. Just for that, you get to make the garlic bread. I’m going to take a shower and change. I need to get the road dust off of me.”
“With that fancy new SUV, you shouldn’t have any dust on you.”
“You know what I mean. Even if it’s only a three hour drive, after a long semester, the trip seems so long and tiring. I’ll be down in a few, okay. The timer is set on the oven, so put the garlic bread when there’s ten minutes left. I’ll be down before then.”
“Do you want me to start moving your stuff upstairs so we can get it out of the den?”
“Yeah,” Stiles replied as he moved up the stairs, stripping as he went. He lobbed his clothed into the hamper across from the bed and headed for the shower.
Ten minutes and some very hot water later, and Stiles was dressed in dark grey slacks and a dark grey waistcoat over a pale lavender shirt. His uniform may be strict, but he knew when to add color. He slipped on black loafers and noticed that Derek had left a flower on the dresser for him: a purple gilly flower for fidelity. Stiles smiled and pinned it into place on his chest. He noticed his boxes stacked neatly along the wall in the hall, waiting for him to sort them out. He figured he could store them in his old bedroom, as the likelihood of them having guests anytime soon was small.
Stiles bounded down the stairs and into the kitchen, where he found Derek prepping the garlic bread for the oven. “I’m back! That smells so good! Did you ever tell your dad that we found several of my mom’s old cookbooks when we cleared out the attic?”
Derek nodded and rinsed his knife in the sink. “Yeah. He was very interested in the old ones from your great-grandparents. He got this odd glazed look and started rambling about a family-style Polish restaurant to go with Carlysle’s on Baymont.”
Stiles laughed. “Maybe he should let us test a few of those recipes first. Old-world recipes sound charming and delicious, but sometimes it really meant making do with rationed goods during war-time.”
“I’ll be sure to pass that along. In any case, your cookies continue to sell like gold at Carlysle’s, so I’m sure that if you have any hidden treasures in those books, he’d like to see them.”
“I read through them when we found them. If your father can suddenly read Polish, he can look for hidden treasures if he wants to.”
“Lydia, really, are you okay? You’re looking really run down.” Stiles watched his friend carefully. She appeared fine, unless you really knew her. Then you could see the slight bags under her eyes, and the dull list to her usually bright hair. “Are classes getting to you this badly?”
Lydia heaved a heavy sigh. “I’m really not, Stiles.” She looked up at his through her lashes and whispered, “I’ve been hearing voices. A lot.”
Stiles gaped at her. “Seriously? Since when?”
Lydia shrugged. “For a long time, really. It started when I was little, really. I’d hear odd whispering sometimes, when I was drifting off to sleep. It didn’t happen often, so I never knew what it was. And I could never make out what they were saying anyway, so I could have been imagining it.”
“But you weren’t, were you?” Stiles prodded.
Lydia shook her head. “No. And in high school, when all of that stuff started with Jackson becoming a werewolf, I started hearing them more often, but only when I was drifting off to sleep, so I could pass it off as stress. I mean, finding out about werewolves can be stressful, right?”
Stiles chuckled softly. “Yeah, I guess it can be. Have you talked to anyone about this?”
“No. I didn’t want to worry my mother, what with the divorce and everything. It got a little worse around the time Father-dearest got re-married, but, hey—more stress, right?”
“Yeah.” Stiles chewed on his lower lip for a moment. “Is it bad at school, with all of your classes? I know the Engineering Program must be difficult. I’m just going for my MBA in Small Business Enterprise, and I’m stressed out!”
Lydia shook her head and sipped her tea. “Oddly enough, it’s when I’m doing schoolwork that I can concentrate and keep the voices at bay.”
Stiles cocked his head. “So, what? Math stops the voices?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I’m just so focused that I don’t notice them. But that’s not all.”
Stiles reached across the table and patted her hand. “Hey, we’re all friends here. Well, it’s just me, but I’m your friend. You can tell me anything, and I so will not judge.”
Lydia nodded. “Okay, around Halloween this year, I started having dreams about my grandmother. Really vivid dreams, like she was there with me. And she was trying to tell me something, but her voice was garbled and indistinct, and it was a language I didn’t understand.”
“Okay, but that couldn’t be too weird. You speak Spanish, and a bit of German, and Latin—if that really counts. And in dreams, languages are really weird anyway. So not understanding it isn’t odd.”
“Yeah. It was really pretty, though. Kinda sing-song-y and melodic.” Lydia sighed. “I haven’t thought about Gramma in a long time. She died when I was really young, and Father never talked about her after she died.”
Stiles considered his friend for a moment. “Lydia, I hate to ask, but could she have been some kind of magical person? You know, a witch or something?”
“I really don’t know, Stiles. I knew that she made the best hot cocoa, and she told great stories at bedtime, and she liked to watch Disney movies with me.” Lydia gave a sad smile. “She called me her little Ariel, like the little mermaid.”
“Because of your pretty hair, right?”
“Yeah, and because we always swam in the lake together.”
Stiles frowned. “Is that who the Lake House belonged to?”
“Yeah. She was Father’s mother, but she left the Lake House to me. Cut him clean out. The will said my mom would be the trustee, and I would inherit outright when I reached twenty-five. Father wanted to sell the place, but Mom wouldn’t allow it.”
“Okay, so what do you know about your grandmother?”
“Nothing. Just what I told you.”
“Did your mother know her well? I’m mean, obviously she did, but could she tell you if she was a witch or anything?”
Lydia laughed. “Stiles, my mother barely knows werewolves, and that’s only because we forced it on her. She begged us never to tell Father, so we didn’t. I doubt she could spot a witch if one had kicked her!”
Stiles nodded. “Okay. But let’s call her anyway, okay? At worst, she can come over and tell us some nice stories about you as a little kid, and she’ll know that something is bothering you and she can help. Trust me; parents do not like not knowing when their children are in trouble. You could be fifty, and she’d still want to help you.”
An hour later, Gloria Martin was sitting with Stiles and Lydia in his den. Stiles had his magical laptop open, just for options, but mainly he wanted to ask questions.
Gloria sat in a comfy armchair, looking worriedly at her daughter. “Honestly, Lydia, you should have said something! There could be any number of problems going on!”
“I’m sorry Mom, really! I was handling it just fine. The schoolwork was helping until Halloween.”
“Halloween! That was over a month ago! What happened then?”
Lydia fiddled her fingers together. “I started dreaming about Gramma and hearing her trying to talk to me.”
Gloria frowned. “Your grandmother? We can just call her. She’ll talk to you about anything, you know that. Hell, we can go visit if you want; she lives in Scottsdale!”
“No, Mom; Gramma Martin.”
“She died when you were six, Lydia. Why would you be dreaming about her now?”
Stiles interrupted. “Mrs. Martin, what can you tell us about, um, Mrs. Martin?”
Gloria laughed. “Her name was Aednat Seanasaigh before she married my father-in-law. It was very old-world Irish, and I loved her name. I loved everything about her, really. Her parents were immigrants from Ireland, but she was raised in San Francisco. She still had a lilt when she spoke, just like her parents.
“She was the first to make me feel like family when I met James in college. Her parents had passed long ago, but Aednat still remembered stories from Ireland. She and James Sr. were very kind to me, and I spent a lot of time with her when he died. James was a total loss, of course. He threw himself into his work, as became a pattern with him, and Lydia wasn’t born yet, so all I had was his mother because my own was so far away.”
Stiles went into the kitchen to get some water for them all. Talking was thirsty work, and he really didn’t want any chemicals to interfere with the stories, even caffeine. So far, he’d learned that Lydia’s paternal grandmother was a young widow from Irish stock. Nothing big there. She sounded like a nice enough lady, and she clearly doted on Lydia. Walking back into the den with a tray of glasses and a water pitcher, Stiles heard Gloria telling Lydia about Aednat’s best friend, Maddy, who died in an accident on the lake.
“They were very close, you see, after James Sr. died. Aednat never went anywhere without Maddy. There was talk that they might have been lovers, which would have been a huge scandal back then. I didn’t care one way or the other. I was so happy that Aednat had someone, you know? James ignored the whole thing and never really spoke to his mother after the stories started. It was horrible the way he acted. One hint of something being wrong, and he pulled away into his stupid job!”
Lydia smiled at her mother. “Well, we know he’s an ass, so that’s no surprise.”
“What happened next?” Stiles prompted, suddenly feeling like a breakthrough was about to happen.
“Well, we weren’t there, but Maddy was at the Lake House because she wanted to go boating. It was a clear day, and the forecast was good, but Aednat said she felt—off, somehow. So I took her shopping with Lydia. She began fretting almost immediately the farther we got from the lake. By the time we were in San Francisco, she was in a right state, mumbling and rocking back and forth. Lydia was getting upset as well, so I took her to her father’s office so she could calm down while I took care of Aednat.
“I’ll never forget that day, really. It was horrible. Around one o’clock, Aednat just started…the only word for it is ‘keening’. A steady, mournful wail—low, like a wounded animal. She started tearing at her hair and ripping her fingernails down her arms, making them bleed. They had to sedate her at the hospital, and she never recovered. She was admitted to Eichen House two days later, and killed herself within a week.”
Lydia broke into a sob, and Gloria wrapped her arms around her shoulders to comfort her daughter. “We found out at the hospital that there was a sudden squall on the lake that afternoon, and Maddy was knocked off her boat and drowned.”
Stiles took a deep breath. “Was that ‘sudden squall’ around one o’clock, by any chance?”
Gloria startled. “I’m not really sure. It could have been. There are records, so it would be easy to find out. After Aednat died, we found out that she wanted Lydia to have the Lake House, and James immediately wanted to sell it. He hated anything to do with it, but I held out. I figured that one day it could be a place for good memories again, and it is.”
Stiles nodded and reached for his laptop. “It really is. The parties that Lydia hosts out there are lots of fun, and it’s a very serene area. It has a good vibe to it, but I’ve never reached for any magical tones there.” He began typing furiously, opening windows left and right as he gave the laptop gentle pulses of magic. This machine—a gift from Derek so many years ago—had only been used for magical workings, and Stiles had given it so many boosts over the years that it almost ran itself. The battery never went dead and dust never stayed on the screen. Stiles had to keep it in a special hidden place or else he’d be tempted to use it for schoolwork.
“What are you looking for?” asked Lydia, who was looking at the laptop with envy in her eyes.
“This,” said Stiles, reading from the screen. “’The Wailing Woman’—an old Irish myth. Only I’m thinking it’s not so much myth as legend, like werewolves and witches and mages. It says that they cry at the death of loved ones. Some people believe that Wailing Women, or Banshees, are attached to families, and that they’ll cry when a member of that family dies.”
Stiles looked at Lydia and smiled gently. “What if it’s simpler than that? When did you first start hearing the whispering?”
Lydia frowned. “When I was six. Oh! When my Gramma died!”
“Uh-huh. And that sing-song-y language? Listen to this.” Stiles played a sound bite from the laptop, an Irish ballad in the original language, and Lydia nodded. “That’s gaelic. It’s only spoken in Ireland, Wales, and parts of Scotland. It’s very pretty, and I tossed around the idea of learning it back in high school, because I thought it would be good for spells. Then I decided that Polish was good enough, and I already spoke that.”
Lydia sat forward and hugged her mother, then faced Stiles. “So, you think I’m really hearing my Gramma?”
“I think it’s a possibility that you are, or are becoming, a Banshee. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, okay? You said the voices were getting clearer on Halloween, and that’s traditionally a time when the veil between our world and the Spirit world is thin, so spirits can communicate better.”
“So, what? I’m gonna start crying when someone I love dies, and then I’ll go nuts?”
“Lydia, calm down, okay! Like I said, this isn’t all bad. Way back then, Aednat was uneasy on the day Maddy died. She knew something was going to happen, but she couldn’t stop it. As the day went on, she got worse, right?”
Gloria nodded. “Yes, the closer to noon, the more she began acting agitated. It was like she wanted to be somewhere else, and didn’t know where.”
Stiles sat back in his chair and sipped some water. “Okay, so let’s look at Lydia’s past. Sorry, Lyds, but you just became a test case.”
Lydia smiled. “It it helps me, then I don’t mind.”
“Okay, so you began hearing whispering at night when you were drifting to sleep. That was probably your Gramma trying to get a message to you. You were really young, so you would not have known what it was. The next big ‘stressor’ was at sixteen, when all that stuff with the werewolves happened, right? So, you were older and a bit more experienced with life, and you were now closer to the supernatural—or as Roland McCook calls it, the ‘Other-natural’. So the messages began again, when your Gramma’s spirit might have thought that you could understand the messages. But you still couldn’t, even though you accepted that the world wasn’t as black and white as you might have liked.”
“Okay, I can buy that. And if Halloween is so special, then it would make sense if I was going to get more messages then. As if any of this could make any sense.” Lydia huffed in annoyance.
“Yeah, well, I can accept magic as normal, so you’ll have to accept this. The way I see it, being a Banshee isn’t bad or a death omen. It’s an other-natural warning system. If you get the notion that someone you care for is ill or in danger, you’ll get these ‘urges’ to fix it. And then it becomes a way to stop bad things from happening. Have you been getting unusually fidget-y lately?”
Lydia giggled slightly. “No more than usual with finals going on. Which is good, because I have no way to control or understand this.”
Gloria sighed. “I never knew any of this could be possible, and now we’re in the middle of it.”
“But, Mom, at least I’m human. Mostly human? Stiles, I am human, right?”
Stiles shrugged. “I was looking up Irish names before I found ‘Wailing Women’, and I found Aednat. It means ‘Little Fire’. Like a ‘spark’. Like me. I’m a Spark—a conduit for magic. It’s why Donna Maria started training me so young after my Mom died. I could have easily gotten out of control with Wild Magic and hurt someone without knowing what I was doing. At the very least, you may have some Fae blood in you from your Gramma’s family. I’d have to do a magical genealogical check to find out more. I can do it; I have the time now.”
Stiles looked Lydia in the eye directly. “I want to help you, but I don’t know enough about this to do so. I can probably find the information, if you want, but there is a timing thing that we’ll have to work with, okay?”
“What kind of timing thing?”
“There are two days when the veil between worlds is thin. One is Halloween. The other is Beltane. It’s a Celtic Fire Festival, and the fae can cross over then.”
“I thought that was Midsummer.”
“No, Shakespeare said it was Midsummer. Because ‘A Beltane Night’s Dream’ didn’t have the same ring to it, I guess. Beltane is in May, usually the first, sometimes the second. If we’re going to talk with your Gramma’s spirit, that would be the day to do it. If she did have fae blood, then she’ll come through loud and clear on Beltane.”
Gloria and Lydia both nodded, and Lydia squared her shoulders in resolve. “Okay, so we research as much as possible now, and you and I find a way to talk to Gramma in May.”
“I want to be there, Lydia. You’re my baby girl, and I don’t want you to go through this along.”
Stiles smiled. “Okay, then. I’ll make some calls and see if I can find any reference material for you. I know how you love research!”
The Moon Run in December was on the twenty-fifth.
Christmas and Derek’s birthday.
It was a triple-whammy, and Stiles was looking forward to seeing the whole Pack and giving out his gifts.
For Derek, Stiles had found a pocket-watch, much like the one Derek gave to him. He’d had it engraved with the Hale Triskelion that Derek had tattooed on his back. He knew that Derek could wear it at work, and it would be another link between the two of them.
He had small trinkets for his friends and family; little magical charms to keep them warm and healthy in the winter months. It was something he could work on at college that didn’t take too much time away from class work.
Ever since his talk with Lydia and her mother, Stiles had spent nearly every waking hour in his shed/workshop, fashioning a charm specifically for Lydia. Understanding her fashion sense, and wanting to give her something that she wouldn’t have to hide, Stiles carved a wood-and-crystal bracelet from apple wood, blue lace agate, chrysoprase, and malachite. The delicate colors of pale wood, light blue, and light and dark green set off her eyes and hair-color, and she could wear it every day. He was physically tired but magically energized from the construction, and he was almost buzzing during the Run.
He received lots of hugs, and a thankful kiss (from Lydia) for his gifts, and then he burned off the magical energy with incredible sex with Derek—a feat that had the house fairly glowing with protective magic. It seeped into the framework and settled into the foundation, and Stiles doubted that anything short of an earthquake would damage the house now.
He’d probably have to make some major adjustments before the addition could be put in, and then Derek wanted to ‘bless’ the house again once all of the renovations were complete.
Chapter Seven: Nobody Can Tell Ya There’s Only One Song Worth Singin’
–Make Your Own Kind Of Music
NOTES: This is it; the end! It’s been a fun ride, but it was time to end it.
There will be some who are unsatisfied with this ending. Some will think I left stuff out of the story.
They will be right. I did leave stuff out of this story. I meant to do so. You can fill in blanks, if you feel the need. I may also pick up this story at a later date. I’m not sure about that. Certainly there are more stories to tell in this universe.
The Gaelic in the story was roughly translated. Here are the sentences in English:
“I seek Aednat Martin.”
“Have you come to speak to us?”
“My little Ariel, is that really you?”
“May the gods be with you, beloved grand-daughter.”
As always, thanks for reading.
Alicia Boyd was taken from the Beacon Hills Community Ice Rink on February 18, 2007. She was eight years old.
At that time, she had not seen her father, Vernon Boyd III, for eight months—and then, only sporadically. Vernon the elder was estranged from Alicia’s mother, Rolanda, and lived far away, only allowing visits once a year or so. So, when he turned up at the ice rink and invited her to have ice cream with him, Alicia was hesitant. Only when her father promised that her brother, Vernie, would meet them outside, did she agree to go. Once outside the rink and in his car, Alicia learned that her father had lied to her. She was given a drink laced with a strong sedative and she quickly fell asleep. When she woke, she was in a strange place where no one spoke English.
Every night before bed, Alicia repeated the same words over and over to herself: My name is Alicia Boyd. I live in Beacon Hills with my mother, my little sisters, and my big brother, Vernie.
For many years, Alicia, whose father called her “Rabbit”, lived and worked on a farm in Courtenay, France. Her father had smuggled her there with forged papers and a loyal girlfriend. She grew up, was home-schooled, and learned to live her new life, but she never forgot her old one. She repeated her mantra every night and every morning, and she plotted in secret. In late December, just before Christmas, Alicia finally acted on her plans.
Alicia packed a small pack of warm clothing, food, and as much money as she could secret away from her unknowing father, and she ran into the night. She hitched rides when she could, but she always made sure to stay from main roads. In every township, with every ride, she would tell a responsible person, “My name is Alicia Boyd. I live in Beacon Hills with my mother, my little sisters, and my big brother, Vernie.” If she was asked how she came to be in France, she only said her father brought her. Enough people believed her, and she finally ended up in Paris and the American Consulate.
On December 26th, an Embassy official made an internet search for Beacon Hills, and found the name in California. He placed a phone call to the first ‘official’ number he could think of, the Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department, and made an inquiry about a possible kidnapping of one Alicia Boyd.
Deputy Michael Reed almost dropped the phone.
“So your sister is finally coming home, huh?” Stiles was grinning at Boyd as he stirred the pot containing his home-made cocoa. Beside him, leaning on the counter, Vernon Boyd IV was watching through the window as Erica Reyes, Isaac Lahey, and Derek wrestled in the back yard. The large man was smiling, a huge grin that transformed his face from stern to open.
“Yeah, she is. There’s paperwork or stuff to get through first, and all sorts of federal agents are after my father, but Alicia should be home by New Year’s. My mom is driving everyone crazy with the house-cleaning.”
Stiles chuckled softly. “I bet. You know, my dad never dropped the case. He always hoped Alicia would come home.”
Boyd turned to face his friend. “I know. I’m grateful. My mom is grateful. When everything went cold, your dad would call just to let us know that he was still searching. He even got cozy with the FBI—but not McCall’s dad. Your dad would call every year on Christmas and on the anniversary of her disappearance, just to make sure Mom was doing okay.” Boyd sighed deeply. “Kelly and Kasey were so young when Alicia disappeared. They don’t even really remember her, you know.”
“Well, no,” said Stiles as he poured cocoa into mugs. “But I’m sure you all told them about her, so they have to be excited to finally meet her. And it’s the holidays, so a family reunion is a good thing, right?”
Boyd nodded. “Yeah, it is. The Feds have been explaining how Dad managed to get Alicia out of the country. Since the statute of limitations for kidnapping in California is six years, and it’s been eight, bringing him to justice is going to be hard. Tell the truth, we’re just really glad Alicia is coming home. It’s going to be a great New Year; that’s all I can say.”
Stiles was leaning back against the headboard, tapping away at his magical laptop, when Derek came into the room from the bathroom. He looked up at his boyfriend and his mouth went dry.
Derek was shirtless—bare, actually, with a towel around his waist. His face was slightly damp from washing, but Derek hadn’t shaved, so his stubble glistened with the water.
“You should stay like that, you know?”
Derek’s eyebrow lifted. “Stay like what?”
Stiles gestured with his right hand. “The not-clean-shaven thing. I like the scruff. It’s sexy, but not overtly so. You look mature—and hot.”
Derek smirked. “I could stay like this. As long as I keep it neat, there are no regs against it.”
Stiles set his laptop aside and made grabby-hands at Derek. “I like it! Come here!”
Derek crossed the room and sat on the bed at Stiles’ side. He leaned forward to press a soft kiss against Stiles’ mouth, and then he drew back. “There’s something I wanted to ask you.”
Stiles pouted. “You want to ask questions instead of having sex?”
The corner of Derek’s mouth lifted. “It’s a sex question. Does that count?”
“Okay. That sort of counts. Ask away, Babe.”
Derek folded his hands together and lowered his gaze. “Um, why have you never asked to top me in bed?”
“What?” Stiles gaped at his boyfriend. “What kind of question is that?”
Derek looked back at Stiles. “It’s just, we’re equals, right? And our sex life, what we have when we can manage to get together, is pretty good, right?”
“Pretty good? Our sex life is freaking awesome! Don’t you like it?”
Derek reached for Stiles, pulling him into an embrace. “Of course I do! I love being with you. It just seems weird to me that you always want to be on the bottom.”
“I’m on top sometimes!” Stiles flushed with indignation.
“You know what I mean. Did you not want to do…that? Or did you think that I’d say no?”
Stiles’ blush got deeper and Derek leaned closer toward him. “What is that? What’s going on, Stiles?”
Stiles swallowed deeply and looked up. “It’s not like I’ve never thought about it. I mean, you were my first; you know that. I looked at porn, both gay and straight, and I did have some fantastic fantasies for a while. But then…we had actual sex. And it blew the fantasies out of the water.” Stiles blushed again, but continued. “And, well, you had to study anatomy, so you probably know all about the prostate. And did you know that some men have very, um, sensitive reactions to having their prostates stimulated?”
Derek nodded. “I did know that, yes.”
“Well, I’m, um, one of those men. And I guess I just got really greedy about it, and I wanted to keep it for myself.”
Derek smirked. “Well, now I really do want to try it with you on top!”
And so they did.
Stiles sat on the bench by his mother’s grave on the anniversary of her death. He got out to the cemetery as often as he could, and mostly on this date. He used the time to tell his mother about what was new in his life and what plans he was making. Stiles knew his father came fairly often, as well.
Derek had come to the cemetery with him this time, but was visiting another site. When Laura was killed, the Hale family had her cremated and had her ashes scatters so that she could not magically be brought back, but the death was common knowledge. To keep up appearances, Talia and Robert Hale placed a stone for their oldest daughter in the family plot. Instead of the obvious empty gesture, the Hales visited often to pay respects to the girl that once was rather than the woman who turned bad. At Stiles’ suggestion, an Asphodel lily was planted over the false grave.
“Hey, Mom, I’m back again. The weather has been pretty good this winter. My schooling is going really well, too.” Stiles looked skyward at the fluffy clouds drifting overhead. “Derek bought our house after Dad married Melissa. We’re planning some major renovations for after I go back to school. I think you would really like the plans. The kitchen alone is going to be awesome.
“I’ve also been in conference with Peter about my shop. He’s going to be looking for a site for me while I finish at school. I have a solid idea about what kind of shop it’s going to be: books, jewelry, paraphernalia—all the magical stuff a good practitioner needs. Amanda Hale asked permission to sell some of her smaller pieces there, as well, so there’s going to be a small art gallery in the shop. Everything is looking good right now. I think you’d be so proud of how things have turned out.
“I miss you every day, Mom. I think about you every day. I wish you could be here, to help me raise my own family. I’m glad you’re watching over me and Dad, though. It’s good to have an angel on my side.”
Stiles met Derek at the car once they each finished their visit, and they drove to meet Scott and Cora at their favorite diner for lunch.
“I wish you could have met her when she was still vital,” said Stiles with a wry grin.
Derek smiled at Stiles. “I know she was awesome, Stiles. I have the best part of her.”
Classes kept Stiles and Scott incredibly busy for two months. Neither was involved with the campus escorting service anymore, as they were moving closer to completing their degrees. Stiles was steadfastly teaching Scott and Danny how to be more competent in the kitchen, and they all took turns trying new recipes that they found online. Stiles was also working with the fraternity, raising money for the local food bank. He was slowly making good community contacts and had a solid line on his internship with a Mom and Pop news-stand/grocery near the Davis campus. As a business, they were solid and had good community ties. The owners were second-generation, and Stiles knew he could learn more about running a small business there than with the larger advertising firm that his advisor was suggesting.
It also meant that he could take night classes and still live in his campus apartment during the internship. Since Danny was staying on campus for the summer semester as well, Stiles would have company while away from home.
In February, Stiles was pleasantly surprised to walk out of a class building and see Derek waiting under a tree outside.
“Hey! What are you doing here?” Stiles practically pounced on his boyfriend in front of his class-mates.
“I wanted to surprise you,” said Derek with a huge grin.
“Well, you did!” Stiles placed a smacking kiss on Derek’s cheek. “So, what’s up?”
“Can we go somewhere for lunch? Do you have another class after this?”
Stiles shook his head. “Nothing that I can’t skip, just this once. Did you want to go somewhere in particular?”
Derek grabbed Stiles’ hand and pulled him toward the parking area. “I want to hit the campus diner. I have a craving for their roast beef and fries.”
Stiles snickered and allowed himself to be dragged toward fatty beef and gravy over white bread.
After eating the overly-salty food and drinking bad diner iced tea, Stiles and Derek wandered, hand in hand, toward a park area near the diner. They sat on a picnic table and watched students wandering around the quad. After several moments of quiet reflection, Stiles finally broke the silence.
“Not that I’m not happy to see you, but what made you drive all the way down here in the middle of the week?”
Derek reached across the small gap between them and picked up Stiles left hand, cradling it between both of his own. He gently ran the flat of his thumb across the surface of the signet ring that he gave Stiles years before, as a promise of things to come. Finally, Derek looked up and pinned Stiles with his piercing gaze.
“A long time ago, it seems, I started falling hard for you. I was young, but you were younger, and I vowed to never take you for granted. I wanted to grow to know you, to see if my feelings would grow—if our feelings would grow. And they did. I love you so much more than I ever thought possible.” Derek leaned forward and kissed Stiles lightly on the mouth. “I’m sure, now that we’re both adults and fully self-aware, that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. You are amazing, in so many ways, and I’m so glad for having you in my life—as a friend, and as a lover.”
Stiles would never admit, but he could feel tears welling in his eyes. Derek was never a big talker, but when he did, he made every word count. They were childhood friends who grew to love each other, and Stiles wanted everything that Derek was talking about. He reached out to cup his free hand over Derek’s rough cheek, and he leaned in to kiss Derek sweetly. “I love you, too, you know. And I want a long future with you, too.”
Derek smiled and reached one hand into his blazer pocket. He pulled out a small velvet box and presented it to Stiles. “I found this a while ago, before Christmas, but I wanted to wait until it felt right. Then you were busy with Lydia and her issue, and the time didn’t seem right.” Derek flipped open the hinged box to reveal a pale moonstone set in a thick gold band. It was curved around another gold ring, notched to fit together as a stacking pair. “I don’t want you to finish school without knowing how serious I am about us. I know you have my Mark on you—and I’m not sorry about that, by the way. But this promise ring has held a space for a while now, so I want to make it official. Ignacek Jovan Stilinski, will you do me the honor of becoming my Mate and Husband?”
Stiles’ face broke into a huge smile and he threw his arms around Derek in a hard hug.
“Of course I will! There should have been no question!” Stiles drew back and removed his triskelion signet ring, placing it on his right hand. He held out his left hand and looked at Derek expectantly. Derek smirked and removed the moonstone ring from the box. He held it to Stiles’ finger and raised his eyes to meet Stiles’.
“I’m still nervous about this, you know? I almost feel like you’re too good to be true; like someone will take you away from me.”
As he slid the ring fully onto Stiles’ finger, Stiles said, “Nobody could ever take me away from you. You and me? We belong together.” Once the ring was seated, Derek lifted Stiles’ hand and kissed the ring.
“I’d like to set the date soon, if that’s okay? For after you graduate, of course, but I’d like to have a date in mind.”
Stiles nodded. “Of course. That makes sense. I’ll be graduated by December, if I work my internship correctly. You’ll have taken a permanent position somewhere by then, right?”
“Yeah. Right now, it looks like I’ll be staying at the hospital—in the Pediatrics Department, of course. Dr. Dunbar is still trying to get me to switch to Emergency, so I have a feeling that I’ll be the Pediatric On-call for Emergency once I get settled.”
Stiles laughed. “You like Dunbar, and don’t even try to hide it. The only reason you never switched to Emergency is because you like kids so much.”
Derek shrugged. “That’s probably true. Just don’t tell him that, okay? So, do you think you’d like to get married in January, then?”
Stiles hummed. “Well, January would be nice—new start in a new life in the New Year, and all that. But do you think it would be too cold in the woods in January?”
Derek smiled as he remembered his idea of saying vows in front of the Nemeton. “I think we can pray for good weather. I have faith that, for one day, it will be okay for us to make our families stomp through the woods for a short but meaningful ceremony.”
Stiles stood and pulled Derek to his feet. “We can always ask the Wolves to stand staggered with the humans to help keep them warm. Come on—Scott should be back at the apartment by now. I want to show off my ring!”
Scott was dutifully impressed by the moonstone ring, as was Danny, and Derek helped Stiles fix dinner for all of them before retiring to Stiles’ room for sleep—and only sleep—before driving back to Beacon Hills the next day.
The following evening, while Stiles was tapping furiously at his laptop in the living area of the apartment, Scott settled next to him on the sofa.
“So,” Scott began, “You’re officially engaged now.”
Stiles looked up from his notes and grinned. “I am. Isn’t that so cool!”
“It is. I, um, I’ve been thinking about asking Cora to marry me.”
Stiles grinned. “Dude! That’s so cool!”
Scott squirmed a bit. “Do you think she’d say ‘yes’?”
“Of course she will.” Stiles sat his laptop on the coffee table and turned to fully face his oldest friend. “Why wouldn’t she? I mean, she’s not the type to squeal and fluster, but she loves you.”
Scott gave a small smile. “Yeah. She’s definitely not a girly-girl, but she does tell me how she feels. I just…I don’t want her to think I’m proposing because you have a ring now. And I want to show her in a special way how much she means to me. I can’t afford a sparkly ring, not that she’d wear one, and I know she’d want to be low-key about a wedding, too.”
Stiles frowned. “I fail to see any difficulty here, Scott. You don’t need to give her a huge diamond. Hell, your mom picked an unconventional stone for her engagement to my dad. And I would have been happy to keep the triskelion ring forever—although I admit that the moonstone is cool. And do you really want a huge to-do for a wedding? I mean, I fully expect to be invited to a country-club wedding for Lydia and Jackson one day, but you really aren’t the type.”
Scott shook his head. “Nope. I’d be happy in front of a Justice of the Peace at the courthouse. Actually, I was thinking of asking Alpha Hale if she could preside, as, you know, a notary or something. Is that weird?”
Stiles snorted. “It’s not weird, really. But you’d better ask Cora to marry you before you ask her mother to marry you.”
Scott laughed at that. “Yeah, that might be good. I, um, want to ask your opinion of a couple of things, as the engaged friend I have. If that’s okay?”
“Go for it. I’ll try to offer good council.”
Scott nodded and opened his notebook to a drawing of a shield bearing a castle in the center. “This is the Delgado Coat of Arms. It’s my mom’s family. I, um, wanted to get a ring, like your signet, with this on it—as an engagement ring for Cora. She works in the Wildlife Rescue department, and that’s a rough and tumble job, so I don’t think a fancy stone would suit her.”
Stiles looked at the image and nodded. “Well, I think she’ll like it. If it’s from you, she’ll definitely love it.”
Scott nodded in agreement. “Yeah. I asked Derek where he got your ring made, and that jeweler is near here. I’d like to have it for her by summer. Okay—so, here’s the thing: I don’t want her to take my name. I’ve been a McCall all my life. My father is shit; you know this, I know this, everybody knows this. I don’t want to saddle Cora with the name of a man who walked out of me when I was a kid. So—do you think it would be weird if I took the name ‘Hale’ after we get married?”
Stiles snorted. “Dude—did you forget that Cora’s father took the name ‘Hale’ after marriage?”
Scott groaned. “I did forget that. So, it’s not a weird thing, then?”
“Nah. I think she’ll be honored. I know Alpha Hale will be honored if you take her name when you marry her daughter. And before you ask, I think your mother will understand.”
“Oh, good,” Scott sighed in relief.
The Tau Kappa Epsilon banquet is held on April 23 that year. It’s also the day after the full moon, so Derek and Cora travelled to Davis on the Thursday prior to stay with Stiles and Scott for the Moon Run.
Before the Run, which they did in the Yolo Wilderness Area as usual, Scott presented Cora with the castle signet ring and asked her to marry him—after school was finished for him. Of course she said yes, and she gleefully placed the ring on her finger before shifting and chasing Scott through the woods. Derek, Stiles and Danny gave them a huge head-start before running through the trees after them.
Cora even wore a pretty tea-length dress to the banquet, much to everyone’s surprise.
Two weeks later, Stiles was driving to Beacon Hills for another Pack Member.
Lydia Martin had used the time since semester break coming to grips with becoming a Banshee. She had done her research—as much as she could—and she spent countless hours on the phone with her mother, who offered as much support as she could. Jackson was Lydia’s rock throughout the whole thing, proving that he would stand by her and with her, no matter what.
Because the time was coming that Lydia could possibly receive a message from her grandmother, Lydia decided that she wanted to be in a comfortable and familiar place: her family’s lake house.
Stiles agreed that that would be a good place to be, since the lake house had belonged to Lydia’s grandmother. So he was travelling to Beacon Hills to meet with Lydia, Gloria Martin, and Jackson Whittemore at the lake house. He had carefully packed special candles, herbs, and crystals—all in order to facilitate easy communication with a long-passed relative.
Lydia had told him, over many phone and Skype calls, that she never removed the bracelet he made for her, and that her dreams were peaceful now. Stiles was relieved, but that wasn’t why he made the bracelet. The stones and wood were chosen to ease communication with Aednat Seanasaigh Martin, who had passed from this world to the next as a Banshee. Stiles figured that if Lydia were to continue to hear voices, it might help her if the voices were clearer.
Stiles made a stop at the Sheriff’s station, to let his father know that he was passing through, before heading past the Preserve to the lake on the far side of the forest. John was aware of the mission, so to speak, so he didn’t mind that Stiles would be missing classes on Monday morning. Lydia and Jackson would also be missing their classes, as Beltane was on a Sunday, and the drive back to Stanford would be longer than the one Stiles had to Davis.
The area was beautiful—just coming to life with Spring. New flowers were budding and the trees were bright green now. It was mid-Spring, so there were few visitors on the lake, and Stiles took a moment to breathe and just become part of his surroundings before he walked to the front door.
Gloria Martin met him at the door, but he could hear Lydia and Jackson from farther in the house.
“This isn’t going to hurt her, is it?” Gloria was clearly worried for her daughter.
Stiles shook his head. “It’s not going to hurt her. I promise. From what I can tell, from my research, Lydia is becoming a Banshee. It’s in her base genetics. But, because she didn’t know it was a possibility, she was fighting it—and that is what was hurting her. On Beltane—tonight, at moonrise—the veil between the worlds will be lifted, just like at Halloween, and Aednat will be able to speak clearly to Lydia. If she has practical information to ease the way, tonight is when Lydia will get that information. If Aednat can’t actually ease Lydia into this, then the veil will still be lifted and hopefully my magic will be able to ease the way. Either way, Lydia needs any answers she can get, and tonight is the best time to get them.”
Gloria nodded and stepped back. “Okay, then. Come in and get something to eat. Jackson was nice enough to help us build a fire by the lakeshore, so we’ll have that space. Do you need to set up anything?”
“Yeah, thanks. I’ll grab a snack and then go and inspect the fire Jackson set.”
Stiles wasn’t actually worried; after years of free-camping with Stiles and Scott, Jackson certainly knew the proper way to build a fire. But Stiles did need to clear the space and magically charge it. So, after a hug hello to Lydia, and a manly handshake for Jackson, Stiles ate the roast beef sandwich that was prepared for him, and the three students chatted aimlessly about classes and impending graduation. Stiles dutifully showed off his engagement ring, which impressed Lydia and Gloria greatly.
“Derek has good taste,” said Lydia, as she moved Stiles’ hand around, positioning the ring in the light of the room.
Stiles snorted. “Derek has a wicked sense of humor! A moonstone ring, in the shape of the Full Moon, to the Emissary fiancé to the Alpha Successor? Did you not see that one coming?”
Lydia’s eyebrow arched elegantly before her eyes crinkled in amusement, and then she giggled in delight. “Okay, yes—that is funny. But it’s still a beautiful ring.”
“It is, yes. And the actual band that goes with it is notched, so the two rings will nest together.”
“Have you set a tentative date yet?” Lydia was full of questions, possibly to distract herself from what was to come, but Jackson was also paying close attention.
Stiles knew that Jackson was in deep consultation with David Whittemore about proposing to Lydia soon, and he was also talking to Peter and Robert Hale about Mating Marks and what they meant. During summer break last year, Jackson had asked to see Stiles’ Mark, so he could note where it was placed and how large it could be. Jackson longed to Mark Lydia as his, but he would never keep her from wearing her pretty dresses if he could avoid it. Peter had told Jackson that Amanda’s Mark was on her shoulder, like Stiles’ Mark, but Robert’s—from Talia—was on his hip.
They talked about innocuous topics until the sun began to set, and then Stiles wandered to the fire pit area. He placed crystal clusters at the compass points and smudged with a lavender/sage smudge stick until the energy felt clean and clear. He beckoned everyone to come closer, and he smudged each person so that their personal energy was clear and open. They all sat around the small fire pit that Jackson had dug into the sand on the lakeshore as the sun sank below the horizon line, and Stiles used his spark to light the fire.
Stiles directed his comments to Lydia, but he bade them all to open their minds and energy to the night, so that the spirits around them would not feel afraid. Once they were all focused on the fire in front of them, Stiles sent his magic—his spark—into the ether, looking for the opening in the veil. When he felt a shift in the air around them, he pulled on his power to open the chasm wider.
“Aednat? Lorg mi Aednat Martin. An bhfuil a thagann tú chun labhairt le linn?” Stiles spoke loudly and clearly toward the rift he felt above the fire. Lydia glanced at him and raised one delicate eyebrow, but Stiles just shrugged.
Finally, a willowy voice returned the call: “Mo Ariel beag , is é sin i ndáiríre tú?”
Lydia gasped. “Gramma? Is that you?”
“Oh, my little Ariel! How I have missed you!”
Lydia sobbed. “I miss you, too, Gramma. Have you been trying to talk to me?”
“I have. Oh, I have, my sweet girl. I have so much to tell you!”
“I couldn’t hear you before now. I’m so sorry, but I tried to hear you!”
Long into the night, as Stiles forced more and more power into the link, Lydia and Gloria spoke to Aednat from beyond the veil. Jackson held Lydia’s hand in support, but kept silent throughout the exchange. Lydia learned about her gift; how she would sense oncoming danger and death for her loved ones, but could use that knowledge to save them or prevent the danger. Lydia learned what signs to look for, when her other-worldly senses would go haywire, so that she could pin-point the danger and locate the person indicated. If Aednat could have done this while alive, she likely could have saved Maddy that day on the lake.
Lydia also learned how the bracelet that Stiles gave her would amplify those senses, so that she could ‘hear’ the warnings more clearly.
In the wee hours, as the sun was beginning to rise on May 2, Aednat’s ‘voice’ was beginning to waver, so they prepared to say good-bye.
“I’ll not be able to contact you again, little Ariel. I could only break through to give you this information. T’would be breaking the rules too much to come through too often.”
“It’s fine, Gramma. I’m so sorry that you suffered so much. I wish you could have saved Maddy. I wish you could have seen me grow up. I promise to use this gift well, Gramma. I won’t let it kill me the way it killed you.”
“Féadfaidh na déithe a bheith in éineacht leat i gcónaí , gariníon beloved .”
When the connection through the veil was broken, Stiles snuffed the fire and everyone stood and stretched, easing the kinks from sitting on the ground for so long. Gloria hugged her daughter close, and then walked back to the house, mumbling about making coffee before taking a long nap. Jackson helped Stiles bury the dead fire under the sand to prevent re-ignition and Lydia gathered Stiles’ crystals into a cloth pouch. Finally they headed back to the house. Jackson wrapped an arm around Lydia and pulled her close. Lydia shot a piercing look at Stiles.
“Gaelic, Stiles? I’m impressed.”
Stiles shrugged. “I thought, since we were calling extremely long distance, I would try a local dialect first. Just don’t expect me to be able to converse that way for long periods. My grasp of languages is pretty good, but if I don’t use it, I lose it. I don’t see a need for Gaelic in the long run.”
Lydia nodded. “It is a pretty language. Maybe I’ll take it up. Can you send me your resources?”
“Yeah, sure. I gotta warn you, though; it’s not an easy language to learn. Lots of consonants, not enough vowels. And the vowels they do have, don’t make a lot of sense.”
Lydia was in much higher spirits when they reached the house, so Stiles counted that as a win.
Stiles made it home for his father’s first anniversary party, but it was a close thing. He was ‘working’ full time with his internship, doing inventory and stocking shelves, and he had a few night classes to round out his degree. He was very busy. He was almost exhausted.
But, by golly, he was going home for his father’s anniversary dinner.
It was the “paper” anniversary, so Stiles got John and Melissa a nice card and took them out to breakfast at a local restaurant near the hospital before Melissa’s work shift. Once Melissa was at work, Stiles and John headed back to John’s house to get ready for the small dinner party.
“What did you get for Melissa, Dad?” Stiles asked as he pulled a large roast from the freezer.
John was pulling out the leaves on the dining room table to make room for guests, and he paused in his task to fetch something from the den. Wordlessly, John handed Stiles a manila envelope, which Stiles opened carefully. Inside were two round-trip airplane tickets to Seattle and two tickets for a Princess Alaskan Cruise, with an ocean-view stateroom. Stiles looked at his father, impressed.
“Very classy, Dad. Of course, now you’ll have to top this every year from here on in.”
John chuckled and rubbed his knuckles on Stiles’ head as he retrieved the envelope. “I’m not too concerned, son. I want to give Melissa one really good vacation, you know. Just take her somewhere she would never think of for herself. And after this, we can take it easy in our marriage. I’ll be retiring young, I think, thanks to Peter’s investment advice, but Melissa wants to work for a while longer.”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah, Peter is really good for making money, alright. What do you want to do after you retire? Because you don’t seem the type to just sit around the house all day, you know?”
John smirked. “I have some ideas, but I have time to think about it. Now, tell me about any wedding plans you and Derek have.”
Stiles and John just enjoyed the day, talking about the house renovations going on in John’s former home and Stiles’ graduation plans. Scott came home in time to help with dinner, smiling because he could drive himself instead of having to skip classes to catch a ride.
By the time Scott left to pick Melissa up at the hospital, Stiles and John had the roast out of the oven and resting and the table set for six people. Derek and Cora would be joining them, as they would soon be official members of the family.
Melissa was thrilled with the idea of a seven day cruise to Alaska. They sat around the table, eating and laughing and planning a packing list. Melissa had the vacation time saved up, as she had never really had time or money to go anywhere, so John had submitted her vacation request on the sly after he made the cruise reservations. Stiles made them both promise to take loads of photos, and he offered to give them travel tokens for a safe journey. Of course they agreed to the tokens.
As for Melissa’s gift to John—she presented him with official court papers, changing her legal name from McCall to Stilinski.
John’s smile was bright as the sun.
Stiles was just walking through his front door when his phone rang with a general ring tone. He checked the caller ID, but did not recognize the number. Still, he flicked the screen to answer.
“Hello? Can I help you?”
“Is this Ignacek Stilinski?”
“Yes, this is he. To whom am I speaking?”
“I’m not sure if you remember me. This is Roger Albright.”
Stiles sat on his sofa and pulled a notebook across the coffee table toward him. “Yes, Mr. Albright. I do remember you. How is your wife? She was ill when we last spoke.”
“My wife is well. It is kind of you to ask after her. I am calling you, officially as Emissary to the Hale Pack, to inform you of a status change within the Albright Clan. My father, Ivor, has passed away. He was old, and ailing, and he went peacefully to the great beyond. Patriarchy of the Clan has passed to me, and it is part of my duty to the Clan to inform any allies of the change in status. I had hoped that I could count the Hale Pack as allies.”
Stiles smirked into the phone as he made appropriate notes. “I hope that you can count us as allies, Mr. Albright. And I am sincerely sorry for your loss. I do thank you for the call. Is there anything that I, as Emissary, can do for you or your family?”
“Yes, thanks. My daughter, Elinore, would like to visit with her sister for a while, to rekindle relations. She would be travelling alone, as her husband has work and her son has school. She has requested that I call for safe passage.”
Stiles remembered Elinore: tall and dark-haired, with the same piercing green eyes that Victoria Argent had. Stiles also remembered the feel he got from Elinore when he shook her hand.
While the rest of the Albright Clan felt rather benign and curious, Elinore contained a quiet distain for him, as if she didn’t like to touch his hand. As if the thought of touching Stiles made her feel unclean.
“Mr. Albright,” said Stiles after a moment, “May I ask how relations are going between your close Clan and the Wolves that are around you? I remember that you wanted help in negotiating treaties.”
There was a sigh, and then, “We’re doing okay, now. I have personally met with the head of the Calaveras Clan. Nona Vera Anita is a very interesting and intense woman.”
Stiles laughed. “I’ve only spoken to her on the phone. Most of my contact down that way is with Emissary Davi Coates.”
“Yes, I met with her as well. In fact, I have arranged to take two of her dogs for the campus police department at the university where I teach. I have also worked with my brothers to maintain treaties with two Packs in Grand Rapids and Decatur. And I am personally in good contact with the Gale Pack, so I can get that tea you introduced me to on my own.”
Stiles laughed again. “It is good tea, you have to admit. And your daughter? How is she about the Wolves?”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
Stiles sighed. “I’ll be completely honest, Mr. Albright, because I am an honest person. When I first met you and your family when you came to visit the Argents, I took special care to shake hands with each and every one of you, even the minor child.”
“Yes, I remember that.”
“Uh-huh. And the reason I do that—the reason any Mage does that—is so that I can feel the energy and intent of a person. I’m really good at feeling intentions of people when I meet them. You and your wife; the two of you were nervous and anxious, but I put that down to being with your daughter after so long a time and being in an unknown place. Your son was…strong-willed, but eager—like he wanted to make sure everything ran smoothly during the visit.”
Albright snorted. “Yes, well, Adam was always protective of Victoria, and he wasn’t much happy with me when I arranged her marriage to Christopher. Especially after we learned what kind of man Gerard Argent was. He would have wanted to do anything in his power to make that visit work, because Victoria was special to him.”
“Okay, I can see that. His wife was curious but open to read, and your son-in-law and grandson were also open to read. I like that kind of energy; it doesn’t hide anything. But your daughter was trying to keep her intentions well hidden. I must say, I was impressed. She played a nice game, but she couldn’t really hide from me. She doesn’t care for werewolves, not at all. And that’s okay, because some people don’t. I’m really sure that Victoria doesn’t, for instance. And Christopher is iffy on the matter. But Elinore? She outright hates Wolves. I let her slide back then because she was under your purview and you would keep her under control. But now, and alone? I can’t allow Elinore into my territory. She’s pervasive, and she could mean harm to my Pack. I can’t, and would never try, to keep Victoria from visiting her sister, but I can prevent Elinore from entering my territory. And that is my official ruling as Emissary.”
“Alright, Mr. Stilinski. I understand your reasons. I even agree with your reasons. They don’t make me very happy, because that means that my own daughter could set back everything that my father and I hoped to gain in our relations with Packs, but I’ll abide by it. I’ll let her know. If you could allow me a week to call Victoria myself, to let her know of the reasoning, I would much appreciate it.”
“I can do that, Mr. Albright. I do hope the rest of your week goes well.”
Once the call was ended, Stiles wasted no time in calling Alpha Hale. He might have promised to not call the Argents, but he made no such promise about contacting his Alpha. Stiles had a feeling that Elinore might try to sneak in under the radar, and Stiles was not leaving his Pack undefended.
Victoria Argent was surprised, but pleasantly so, to open her door to find her younger sister, Elinore, standing there.
“Elinore! I didn’t know you were coming!” Victoria stepped back and allowed the other woman entry. “Please, come in!”
“Thank you. I wanted to surprise you. I was so happy to see you last Thanksgiving, but we really didn’t have any real sister-time, so I thought I’d come back for a visit.”
Victoria smiled. “Of course. I was just about to make some lunch for CJ. Would you like something to eat? Or some coffee?”
“Coffee is fine,” said Elinore as she followed Victoria through the house.
CJ was happily gurgling in his booster seat at the kitchen table and he brightened when his mother re-entered the room.
“So, how have you been since I last saw you?” Elinore asked as she took a seat at the kitchen table.
Victoria paused to kiss her son on the forehead as she made her way to the refrigerator. “I’m fine. I was sorry to hear about Grandfather’s passing, of course. I would have liked to have gone to the funeral, but CJ is too young to travel by plane just yet. He’ll be going into part-time day care in the spring, so I’ll be trying to get back into teaching part time again.”
Elinore gave a slight smile. “That sounds good for you. He’s getting so big now!”
Victoria smiled at her son. “He’s my joy. His development is very good. We were worried about other health and developmental concerns, but he seems to have no other issues. He’s walking—well, toddling, really. And he says my name and calls Allison ‘Ally’. He refuses to call Christopher ‘Daddy’, which Allison thinks is hilarious.”
Victoria sat beside CJ and fed him sliced banana and a sliced hotdog. “How have you been, really? Is your son doing well in school?”
“Yes, he’s doing fine. He wants to study accounting and finance, and I suppose his math talent is good enough for it. I never cared for numbers, but Douglas is a math whiz. I suppose some things are truly hereditary after all.”
“Where are you staying, Elinore? There are several nice hotels in town.”
Elinore visibly started. “I suppose I was hoping to stay here for a day or so.”
Victoria frowned. “I wouldn’t mind you staying, of course, if I’d had any notice of you coming. But Allison is coming for a weekend, and she’s bringing two of her room-mates. Christopher has gone to the grocery store to stock up before they get here. We’re going to have a rather full house for the weekend.”
The house phone rang, and Victoria stood to answer it. The caller ID showed that it was Christopher calling. “Excuse me for a moment, Elinore. Chris? Did you forget the list?”
“Victoria? Are you alone right now? Just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ please.”
“No, dear. I’m sure Allison won’t care if you get ice cream.”
“I just received a call from the Emissary that your sister was planning to visit—and he’s banned her from the territory because she may mean harm to the Pack. Do you understand?”
“CJ needs more applesauce. I was going to give him some for lunch, but we’re all out.”
“I’m on my way home, and I have Alpha Hale with me. Are you going to fight this in any way?”
“Of course not. Oh, and bananas, too, please.” Victoria smiled tightly as Christopher disconnected the call. She turned back to the table, where her sister was trying to interact with CJ, and she forced a more pleasant smile. “Sometimes that man can forget the simplest things.”
Elinore laughed. “I know the feeling. At least your husband makes a list. Douglas likes to shop on the fly, and then it’s like a total surprise when we unpack the groceries.”
Victoria grabbed a wet-wipe and proceeded to clean CJ’s face and hands. “Why are you here, Elinore? I know we didn’t really get to spend time together alone when you were last here, but you hadn’t even called since then.”
Elinore sat back in her seat. “Well, I guess…how can you do it, Victoria? Live in close quarters with those monsters? I need to understand!”
Victoria was taken aback. “Excuse me?”
“Those mongrels—the Hale Pack, or whatever they’re called. How can you be so friendly with them?”
Victoria pulled CJ out of his booster seat and carried him into the living room, where she placed him in a play-pen with colored wooden blocks. Elinore followed close behind.
Once CJ was settled, Victoria turned to her sister. “I was never really thrilled to live so close to an established Pack. There weren’t Wolves at all in St. Paul, and I was very happy there. I made a good home, I had a good job, and I accompanied Christopher on hunts when necessary. I had power there, too, because the Argents are a Matriarchal Family, as are most of the old Hunting Families. Then we learned that Christopher’s father had completely abandoned the Code—and so had his sister. People we trusted began to turn away from us, simply because of the name Argent. My own father pulled away from me! My own family!
“And then, one day, Christopher got a phone call from the Matriarch of the Calaveras Clan, telling him that his sister had been arrested and was suspected of trying to take out the Hale Pack. He was warned that she was going to drag the Argent name down, and if he wanted to survive he had to turn away from his sister. He and I both did our research, and we found out the truth. Gerard Argent was going rogue, Kate Argent got off on seducing teenaged Wolves so she could target the adults in the Pack, and Christopher decided that we needed to build up our own reputation. So he called Alpha Hale and asked for safe passage and a treaty.”
Victoria paced heavily in front of her fireplace as Elinore watched from the safety of the sofa. “I was against it, but Alpha Hale had more information for us. It all came down to the fact that we could build our own reputation by allying with the Hale Pack, and we could protect each other. Then Gerard somehow trapped an Alpha and forced it to give him the Bite, and he went after Allison. He wanted to Turn Allison and build a different breed of Hunter. Allison’s boyfriend got in front of her to protect her, and he was bitten instead, and Alpha Hale came to his aid.”
While Victoria was speaking, Christopher and Talia Hale entered un-noticed through the front door, and they stood in the entry-way, listening to Victoria explain her co-existence with werewolves to her ignorant sister.
“We’ve learned to respect each other over the years. There are others here—other mothers of bitten Wolves. They call themselves the Pack Mothers’ Association, and they count me as a member. We have lunch frequently, or we’ll get manicures together. Or, god forbid, we’ll go camping with our children. Sometimes one or two of them will come and take CJ for an evening so that Christopher and I can have alone time. And I learned, Elinore, how an effective Pack survives. I may not always like the Wolves, but I respect THIS Pack. Hell, CJ’s favorite doctor at the hospital is the Alpha Successor, and I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Dr. Hale is very good with him, and CJ responds well to him.”
Christopher stepped forward. “Elinore, when your father called to inform us of your grandfather’s passing, Emissary Stilinski told him that you would be forbidden from entering the territory alone. I’m sure your father told you this.”
Elinore stood, shaken to see Christopher and the Alpha. “Yes, he told me. But that’s ridiculous! I should be able to visit my sister if I want to.”
Christopher nodded. “I agree. If you weren’t so abjectly against werewolves, that would be the case. I searched your car outside before we came in. I found weapons: sniper rifles, shotguns, wolfsbane ammunition. Why come loaded for bear for just a friendly family visit? Why drive across the country at all? If you’d have flown in, we could have met you at the airport. Of course, you could never have carried the weapons on a plane.”
Elinore’s eyes flashed in anger. “You’ve destroyed my sister! I was going to save her! The marriage to you should never have happened, and I was going to bring her home!”
Elinore turned to plead with Victoria, only to find that her sister had a handgun leveled at her heart.
“Elinore,” said Victoria with deadly calm,” I’m going to have to ask you to leave my home. Christopher will, of course, take the weapons that you brought with you, and Father will be called so that he’s informed of your actions.”
“But…Vicky! We can get you help! You don’t know what they’ve done to you! You were so strong!”
“I’m still strong, Elinore. This is my home, and my family, and I will do anything to protect both. Even from you.”
Deputies from the Sheriff’s Department were called to escort Elinore Albright-Gray to the airport, where she boarded a plane back to Michigan. Victoria called her father personally, to inform him of his errant daughter’s forbidden visit and her intentions.
Talia Hale offered to take CJ for the day so that Christopher could take Victoria on a relaxing spa visit.
They got the His/Hers Mani-Pedi combo.
During the Thanksgiving Break, Stiles spent time at his dining room table sorting through his school records, planning for his final presentation and graduation. He had doubled-up on as many summers as he could, and taken full regular semester loads every semester since he started college. His managed, still, to visit his home frequently, to date his equally-busy boyfriend, to join and actively participate in a fraternity and perform a very busy and intensive internship. He entered UC Davis in August of 2013, and it was now three years later.
Stiles was looking at graduating in December, a whole semester early.
If he could get all of his paperwork together.
Derek was happily at the hospital, but he left Stiles a full pot of coffee and a fresh-baked pan of cinnamon rolls, so Stiles could deal.
Stiles had meetings scheduled with Alpha Hale (to renew wards on various properties in town) and Peter Hale (to look at possible store locations) for Tuesday of that week, and Derek and he were having Thanksgiving dinner with the Hale family (Stiles was baking pies). This was technically a vacation week, but Stiles was busy as ever.
Still, nothing could beat going to bed next to Derek, and waking up beside him the next day.
Stiles also spent a bit of time on wedding plans, because that was closing in on him as well.
Perhaps that phrasing was bad. Stiles very much wanted to be married to Derek. Stiles was actually looking forward to starting that new part of his life.
Soon, he’d be a college graduate, a shop owner, a husband, and a full-time Emissary. Donna Maria was planning on throwing him a graduation party, and Scott was writing and re-writing the Best Man Speech (all caps necessary). John was looking forward to seeing his son more often, as well.
Scott was looking at a few more years in Veterinary School, and Lydia and Jackson had more time ahead of them, as well. Stiles was going to be the first college graduate of his group of friends.
Of course, he had great motivation.
He needed to be in Beacon Hills to be an effective Emissary. He couldn’t properly protect his Pack and territory if he wasn’t there.
Stiles also had a driving need to lay official claim to Derek.
There was a way, magically, for Stiles to give Derek a Mating Mark just like the one Derek gave to him, but they first had to solidify their relationship. They had to be officially married and joined together for the Mark to take.
Stiles understood the theory behind it; all too often a human could try to lay claim to a Wolf for a lark but then back out of the relationship, and the Wolf would be stuck. They couldn’t move on, or form another relationship, if they were Marked by another.
Just because it wasn’t true that there was only one True Mate for each Wolf didn’t mean that once a Wolf had that Mate he could just move on if the relationship ended.
But Stiles knew that he and Derek were forever. That was why Stiles allowed Derek to Mark him already. And why Stiles happily took a ring from Derek (twice). And why Stiles and Derek had matching tattoos.
So, Derek was happily going to take Stiles’ Mark—after they were married.
But first, Stiles had to get his life together for early graduation.
Oh, the joy of it all!
Peter Hale had never lied to Stiles in all the time that they’d known each other.
So when Peter called Stiles to say that he had found the perfect shop location, Stiles was excited to see it.
And it was perfect.
It was a two-storey brick free-standing building on a busy business-district street downtown, three doors down from a coffee shop and across the street from a bakery and a deli. It was in good repair, with a new roof and new plumbing, and had hardwood floors both upstairs and down. There was a huge display window to the left of the front door, and there was a glass and oak counter top where the cash-register area was located. There was also a three-stall bathroom and a small kitchen area on the first storey. Upstairs, there was one wall of windows and three walls of floor-to-ceiling shelves, with lots of open space for specialty shelves and displays. The stairway was in a back corner in full view of the cashier area, so it would be easy to monitor who went upstairs. The whole of the first floor was open-plan, so Stiles could easily put in bookshelves and jewelry displays.
Another plus about this location: Peter and Frederick Hale had both approached Stiles about investing in his shop. They both believed in him and wanted him to succeed. And with Peter’s investment came Amanda Hale’s request to place some of her smaller sculptures there for show and sell, and the area was big enough to be part art gallery.
As Stiles and Peter wandered through the shop, Stiles planned where he would place sale shelves and what inventory would go in which section. He planned to keep the magical paraphernalia upstairs, away from the general populace. He already had a list of sources for inventory, so he knew he had the ability to build up a good business.
The best part of all, really, was the ability to buy the building outright, instead of renting it. Peter and Frederick both insisted on investing in the real estate of the building, and Stiles was sure that the utilities would be fine.
There was even plenty of parking in the rear of the building, with four large spaces for employees and a loading area for deliveries. Since most of the traffic would be on foot, just like the rest of the downtown area, Stiles didn’t have to worry about having a parking lot for customers. There was a large community parking lot at the end of the block for all of the businesses to use.
Stiles nodded in approval, and Peter whipped out his cell and dialed the realtor, ready to seal the deal. Papers would be drawn up and ready to sign on Friday, so Stiles was ready to move to Talia’s office to renew the wards there.
From the law office, Stiles would move to the Sheriff’s Station, since his father kindly asked Stiles to ward that property as well, and then Stiles would travel to the Preserve and the Hale properties there—the main house, Peter’s house, and the house Cora was having built so she and Scott could move in after he graduated. Amanda also requested protection wards on her main studio, and Robert and Regan asked about warding the restaurant.
Stiles was going to have a very busy day.
Stiles walked into his bedroom after a long day of pie-baking for Thanksgiving. He enjoyed his time in the kitchen, especially in the renovated kitchen in his own home, but there was only so much crust one should be allowed to deal with.
Stiles made four pumpkins pies, three late-berry pies, four chocolate-silk pies and two lemon meringue pies, and most weren’t even going to the Hale house the next day. The chocolate and lemon were going to the Sheriff’s station and the hospital, in an even split, for the deputies and nurses that had to work on Thanksgiving, and two pumpkin were going to the hospital for Derek’s co-workers in the pediatric ward.
But now, all Stiles wanted to do was shower off the flour and wait in bed for Derek.
He had plans for Derek.
The fact was, Derek worked every day since Stiles had been home, and he returned every night totally exhausted. They saw each other in the morning, before Derek left for the hospital, and then Stiles managed to cuddle with Derek after his shift was over. Derek was working long hours because he wanted Thanksgiving Day off. His hours would be getting more regular after the holidays, which was good because Stiles wanted to enjoy living with him full time, but for now it was all long hours and very little sleep.
But tonight, Derek was due home before six, and Stiles wanted to hold him and appreciate him as much as he could.
And sex was definitely in the plans.
By the time Stiles was out of the shower, Derek was pulling into the driveway. Stiles looked out the front window to see the unfamiliar shape of Derek’s Volvo station wagon parked next to his own Tahoe.
Derek finally bought a new car after a tired driver slammed into the Samurai in the hospital parking lot. The Samurai was almost totaled, and the driver was fined hugely. It was lucky that the guy only took out three cars, and that no person was hurt.
Stiles met Derek at the door with a kiss and a mug of hot tea.
“Go shower, babe. You look wrecked. Have you eaten?”
Derek returned the kiss and gratefully took the mug. “I had a sandwich, but I could go for something more filling.”
“Okay, you get clean and relaxed, and I’ll heat up some of the left-over chili for you.”
Derek moaned into his mug. “God, I love you.”
Stiles smirked. “I know you do. Now, get, you!”
After he had showered and eaten, Derek looked much more alive.
Stiles held out his hand to Derek, and pulled him to his feet. “Do backrubs work on werewolves?”
Derek allowed himself to be guided back up the stairs. “Why? Do you want to give me a backrub?”
Stiles nodded. “I do. I want to soothe your sore shoulders, and rub away all the tension from the hospital this week. I just want to take care of you, Derek.”
Derek grinned. “Well, the hot water in the shower pretty much took care of the shoulders, but you can certainly try to rub away all of the tension. There was talk around the main lounge about Schiff coming back to work in the Emergency Room after New Year’s. I don’t know how accurate that was, but it was enough to make my day drag out.”
“Awe, babe, no! I guess it’s a good thing I’m going to be around to chase that bitch away!”
Derek chuckled and pulled Stiles onto the bed. “Well, it was only talk. I don’t have proof that it’s going to happen. And I do have the ability to keep her away, you know. After that complaint I made last time, I doubt the Hospital Chief would risk a harassment lawsuit by bringing her back unless she’d totally turned herself around. Now, how about you let me remind myself how nice your body is?”
Stiles sat up and pulled his shirt off. He laughed out loud when Derek then tackled him to the bed, rubbing his rough cheeks all over Stiles’ chest and abdomen. “Oh, God! I’m so glad you decided to keep it scruffy! That is the best feeling ever!”
The laughter soon turned to moans of pleasure as Derek ran his tongue down Stiles’ sternum until he reached his belly button. Derek licked and sucked across Stiles’ lower belly and bit into his hips. Derek pulled Stile’s sweatpants off and tossed them toward the laundry hamper, and he buried his face into the crevice between Stiles’ thigh and groin, scenting his lover thoroughly.
“I’m so sorry that I’ve been working non-stop since you’ve been home. I need to have you like this all the time, and I’ve missed it this week.”
Stiles’ cock was hardening quickly, and the feeling of Derek’s stubble rubbing along his thighs was driving him crazy. Derek pulled back and licked a stripe along the length of Stiles’ cock, from root to tip, before sucking the head into his mouth. Stiles almost sat full upright with the shock of it.
“Derek!” Stiles was panting from pleasure. Derek sucked and licked, loving the feel of the hot flesh in his mouth. Derek would never get enough of the taste of his Mate. He reached between Stiles’ legs and began to gently finger at Stiles’ hole, adding gentle pressure to the suction until Stiles was writhing on the bed and moaning incoherently.
Derek lifted away from Stiles’ body and moved to the nightstand, where he pulled a bottle of lube from the drawer. He looked as his dazed lover. “Do you want to open yourself, or should I do it?”
Just from the question, Stiles could tell that Derek was on the edge of shifting and didn’t want to accidentally pop claws on him. Stiles reached for the lube wordlessly, and began to quickly but carefully open his hole, making himself ready to take his Mate inside. Derek growled at the sight.
“You are so amazing. I love watching you do that to yourself!” Derek’s eyes flashed yellow-orange as he scented Stiles’ arousal. Derek turned and lay in the middle of the bed and held out a condom to Stiles. “I want you to ride me, Stiles. I won’t be able to control myself if I’m on top.”
Stiles withdrew his fingers and moved to roll the offered condom over Derek’s thick shaft. “I love how you lose control with me. I know you would never hurt me.”
Stiles positioned himself over Derek’s erection and lowered slowly and gently until he was fully seated. He could feel Derek deep inside of him, pressing against his prostate, and he began to roll his hips, building up delicious pressure slowly.
Stiles loved the feeling of Derek inside him. From the way Derek was beginning to Wolf-out, he loved it as well. Stiles remembered the first time Derek bottomed for him; how Derek felt the joy of prostate stimulation as Stiles pounded inside of him over and over. Derek howled loudly with pleasure as he came, and the sound of it startled Stiles into orgasm right after.
Still, as much fun as it was to fuck into Derek, Stiles loved when Derek was inside of him. He loved the full feeling, the slide of Derek’s cock against the rim of his hole, and the press of Derek’s hardness against his pleasure center.
But most of all, he loved watching Derek go into a partial Shift as he gave in to the pleasure. His brow ridge thickened and his eyebrows disappeared, his eyes glowed with the Wolf inside him, his claws sprung out as he clutched Stiles’ hips or shoulders. Stiles definitely had a kink for Derek’s Beta form.
And those claws were, right now, digging into the meat of his hips as he rolled them in time to Derek’s upward thrusts. Derek pulled Stiles down hard onto his erection and Stiles’ hands scrabbled at Derek’s shoulders, wanting purchase and support as his orgasm built. Stiles began to roll harder and faster, his throat arched back and his breathing became erratic. Stiles’ moans were growing louder and Derek began to growl along with him. And finally the pressure released and Stiles came, hard, shuddering against Derek, who snarled in release right after him.
Stiles collapsed on top of Derek, who folded his arms around his sated Mate.
“I love you so much. I love this sex so much. We need to not wait so long, next time.”
Derek chuckled as he slowly pulled out of Stiles, securing the condom for disposal. “As much as I love the cuddling, we’re kinda gross, so I need to clean us off. Then we can cuddle all night long.”
Stiles huffed, but moved to the side and allowed Derek to get out of bed to retrieve a wet cloth to clean them up. “What time do we have to be at your parents’ house tomorrow?”
“Not until around eleven, I think. Your dad and my dad will be heavily into the football game by then.”
Stiles yawned. “Good. We can sleep in for a bit. Now, come to bed.”
Thanksgiving was a loud, chaotic family affair—populated by more than just one family.
The Hales hosted the event in their main house, but John and Melissa Stilinski, Scott McCall, and Stiles and Derek were in attendance. It wasn’t as large a Thanksgiving as the one held at the family restaurant, but there were people everywhere. Stiles was conscripted into kitchen duty, as was expected. Since he wasn’t a huge football fan, he didn’t really mind. Scott, who had been really paying attention to the cooking lessons that Stiles had been giving him, actually volunteered to help there as well. Robert was happy to have the extra hands, and Scott was inadvertently showing that he could ‘provide’ for Cora by assisting with the meal, so everyone was happy with the end results.
Since the day’s weather proved to be warm and mild, long tables were set up in the front yard for the actual meal. Before and after the meal service, televisions were set up in the living room, den, and library so that football games and children’s movies could be watched without crowding the house too badly. In between televised games, John was happy to referee the werewolf pick-up game in the rear yard. It was a violent game, but nobody was permanently hurt, so it was all good.
Stiles was having a grand time mashing potatoes and roasting corn, all while laughing with his chosen family. When the meal was served, Stiles led the blessing by standing and stating what he was thankful for that year.
As he raised his wine glass in a toast, the afternoon sunlight glinted off the new engagement ring on his left hand.
Stiles happily stood in the forest, facing the Nemeton. It was a chilly day, but the sky was clear, and the forest was filled with the murmur of life.
Stiles reached down to the Ley Lines and felt the power that ran there. He added his own power and felt the hum of the world around him. He closed his eyes and pulled his power close, and then he raised his hands and pressed into the Nemeton, giving more healthy healing energy.
The ancient tree was growing well, after so much attention from the Mage. It now closely resembled the ancient tree that once originally stood on the site, before corruption and rot caused it to be cut down. It wasn’t as large yet, but with time it would grow. Stiles felt the Nemeton press back—a silent ‘thank you’ for the love, attention, and energy that Stiles poured into it over the years. Stepping back, Stiles closed his magical circle and grounded the energy around him.
He then turned and faced the gathered crowd—his family and friends, who came to witness his union to Derek.
His soul was finally complete.