Given the option, Stiles usually woke fairly slowly. It was one of the luxuries of weekends and holidays, and a habit to be savoured at every opportunity.
This was not one of those occasions. The throbbing of various parts of his body would have been concerning enough, but it was the restraints he felt that jerked him into full awareness in record time. He couldn’t move his arms or legs, and—more worryingly—his head, and there was some sort of tape over his mouth.
He opened his eyes. Most of his peripheral view was blocked, and what he could see pretty much consisted of a slightly distorted view of the Argent’s basement ceiling. One part of his brain noted that whoever did the cleaning had missed a number of cobwebs, while the rest went straight into freak-out mode.
“Ah, you’re awake,” Gerard Argent said from somewhere off to the right.
Stiles felt his heart start to pound faster as his breathing hitched. Shit. This was officially Not Good. He’d not had time to do more than try to release Erica and Boyd before he’d been interrupted by Allison’s grandfather, a man that seemed to do his best to epitomise as many ‘evil old man’ clichés as possible.
Old Man Argent had always made the hair on the back of Stiles’ neck stand up on end, and this occasion had been no exception. He’d done his best to disguise the terror that flooded his system at the situation, mouthed off in the hope of giving anyone who might be coming to his, Erica’s and Boyd’s, rescue a bit more time, but he had clearly been unsuccessful.
Now he was strapped down tight on a hard surface in the lair of a dude who had already shown no compunction about torturing teenagers. His head was held in place and his mouth was taped shut. No one would even be able to hear him scream.
Stiles’ heart thundered even faster. There was no good way out of this. He was mega-screwed this time. And not in the fun way that he’d been hoping to experience, either. His hitched breathing became more choppy. Oh god, why did he have to think of that? Gerard wouldn’t…would he?
The sound of someone coming down the basement steps caught Stiles’ attention, distracting him momentarily, making him wonder if it would be better or worse if he could move his head and see what was going on.
“Thank you, Markus,” Gerard said, smug pleasure dripping from each word.
“You’ve got no more than ten minutes before the ambient warmth will change the temperature enough to make the test results useless,” a deferential sounding voice advised.
“Then I’ll count on you to ensure that I don’t go into overtime.”
“Uh, Mr Argent sir,” another voice spoke up hesitantly, “why don’t you just do it now? Why wait?”
There was the sound of flesh meeting flesh and a muffled sound of pain.
“Leave him,” Gerard ordered. “Mr Jameson, it is never wise to take hasty action in any endeavour. The war that we’re fighting has many facets, the enemy that we fight has many advantages. But one thing that we should always remember is that every strength contains the seeds of its own weakness. A little delay now may prove most helpful in the future. We take every opportunity we can to gain an advantage. The longer Mr Stilinski’s fear pheromones are secreted, the more potent they will become.”
“You’re going to use them on the alpha,” Jameson realised. “I would have thought what you’re getting from the two wolves would be enough for that? Why would he even care about a human boy?”
“Mr Argent has reasons for everything he does,” an angry-sounding man said. “Now shut up and let him get on with it.”
“Yes, Markus,” Jameson said immediately.
Gerard Argent appeared in the corner of Stiles’ vision. “Now, Mr Stilinski, I hope the wait hasn’t bored you?”
Stiles may have started out terrified out of his mind, but realising that his fear was going to be used as a weapon against Scott and Derek was enough to flip some internal switch and, instead of a gibbering wreck, he became towering mad.
Unfortunately, his mouth was taped securely closed or he would have had a few things to say.
“It’s a pity that you chose to side with the monsters, Mr Stilinski,” Gerard said, bringing a small syringe into Stiles’ line of sight. “You’ve given several indications that you would have been worthy to be one of us, had you not chosen to be a traitor to your own kind. It’s really too bad.”
Stiles did his best to glare daggers at him, wishing that he could somehow manifest mind powers so that he could wipe the smug air of superiority off of Gerard Argent’s face.
Gerard chuckled. “Defiant to the end? Now, now, none of that. Luckily, even in your treachery, you will be of use to the cause. It’s not often that subjects of your age and mental acuity come our way, and I assure you that should you be in the 15 percent survival or even the 5 percent activation cluster, the data you provide will be invaluable.”
So, it was human experimentation, then. Stiles wasn’t even surprised any more. In fact, there wasn’t much evil that these wankstains could do that would be a surprise. The anger had cleared his mind enough that he’d realised that the distortion he’d noticed earlier was some kind of clear barrier, maybe plastic or glass.
“It’s a pity that this is the last of the current batch,” Gerard mused almost to himself as he fiddled with something that Stiles couldn’t see. “It would have been fascinating to see what differences and similarities there would be between you and your father. No matter, I’m sure in a few months we’ll be restocked, and by then it should be easy enough to pick him up.”
Stiles’ rage ramped up a notch, and he welcomed it. He knew the supernatural was real, he’d been living it since Scott was bitten. A 15 percent survival rate wasn’t good odds, but maybe he didn’t actually need to survive. Maybe if he got angry enough he’d be able to leave an imprint of himself behind as some sort of ghost, cause there was no way he was going to let this bastard go after his dad and strap him down and experiment on him.
“One minute left, Mr Argent.”
“Very well,” Gerard Argent replied. “Men, ready your weapons. I don’t need to remind anyone of what happened in Shreveport. On my mark. Three. Two. One. Release.”
There was the sting of a needle in his arm, then his veins erupted into fire, and all he knew was the pain. It mounted higher and higher until he felt like every molecule in his body was screaming, and then he passed out.
Stiles felt like he was floating in darkness, surrounded by stars. There were voices on the edge of his hearing.
“Nothing, as far as I can tell. No morphological indicators, no stresses on the equipment that aren’t consistent with a male of his age, height, and weight. Slight temperature increase, but nothing unusual, considering he’s just had a foreign substance introduced into his bloodstream.”
“Disappointing.” That was Gerard’s voice. “He fit the profile of the successes exactly. There must be something else that we’re missing.”
“It’ll make getting rid of his body easier. Fewer questions than if he suddenly gained fifteen pounds of muscle in several hours, like in Shreveport.”
“One of you break his neck, we’ll leave him at the bottom of a flight of stairs.” That was Gerard again. “Given the gullibility of the local law enforcement, it should pass as an accident.”
There was a brief moment when no one spoke. Stiles drifted, vague thoughts that he should be concerned rising up and then slipping away.
“Ah, we’d really rather not,” a sheepish voice muttered.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, do I have to do everything myself?” Gerard muttered.
There was a mechanical sound, and then Stiles felt the sensation of air moving over his skin. It felt real in a way the voices he’d been listening to hadn’t, and he began to take more notice of what was happening.
The feel of hands touching his skin shattered the illusion of peace that he’d been floating in. Images and sensations burst across his mind, and his skin crawled. He wanted to heave, but remained peripherally aware that there was tape across his mouth and vomiting would be a bad idea.
The disgust grew too much and he cried out, shoving the foul touch away from him with everything he had.
Silence followed, and somehow Stiles knew that he was no longer in immediate danger. He dropped into unconsciousness gratefully.
Erica had not been having a good time of it. She’d been so hopeful that she and Boyd would be able to find another pack to take them in, a pack that would keep them safe from the hunters that were after Derek, which seemed to be closing in more every day.
Derek’s warnings had sounded like a desperate bid to stop them leaving, and Erica had felt strong as she rejected his words, told him that nothing he could say would stop them from seeking out the other wolves that they’d been hearing. She’d been so sure, and to find herself herded into a trap like some sort of prey animal had been a nasty wake-up call.
The realisation that the person who orchestrated their capture was someone their own age horrified and sickened her. No wonder the hunters always seemed to have the upper hand. Where Allison Argent went, so did Scott McCall. And since everyone in school knew that Allison only had to snap her fingers to get Scott to come panting to heel, it wasn’t hard to figure out where she was getting her information.
She was initially surprised when they weren’t killed on the spot, but any hope of freedom was dashed again when she realised that she was helpless, strung up with electrical bonds that sapped her strength, unable to defend herself in any way. She did her best to stay strong as she was injected with some experimental substance that Gerard and his hunters were very excited about, but felt relief when nothing seemed to happen.
They were left alone for a while, and then Stiles arrived. At first, she thought he might have been in league with the hunters—he was McCall’s bestie, after all—but it quickly became apparent that he was as much a prisoner as they were. His attempt to free them gave her brief hope again, but that was soon dashed as Gerard started to beat him, knocking him unconsciousness.
Erica had watched with horror that she could feel was matched by Boyd’s when she realised that Gerard’s lackeys were stripping Stiles naked. Then they brought in something that looked like a plexiglass coffin, or like a large version of those incubators you sometimes saw very sick babies placed in. The hunters proceeded to strap Stiles into place with a thoroughness that baffled her.
The smell of Stiles’ fear when he awoke agitated her, lending her strength that she immediately put to work, trying to do something about her own restraints while no one was paying attention.
Stiles’ fear didn’t last long though, and Erica didn’t know if she found that impressive or worrying. Did he have no sense of self-preservation?
Gerard injected him with the same substance that he’d used on her and Boyd, and Erica felt herself wince as Stiles went into convulsions almost immediately. It was strange being on the other side of a seizure, being the one watching rather than the one experiencing it. The episode seemed to go on forever.
Finally, it was over, and the gathered hunters watched Stiles like they thought he was going to leap up and attack them any moment. Not that they didn’t deserve that, but nothing about Stiles’ body indicated any kind of muscular change that would affect his strength, not like she’d experienced after Derek gave her the bite.
Hearing Stiles’ fate decided so callously motivated Erica to start struggling again, not that it achieved anything. One of the hunters noticed though. He moved over to the machine that regulated the electricity running through them and twisted a dial, ramping the current up.
One moment Gerard Argent had his hands in place to snap Stiles’ neck, and the next, the hunters were flying backwards. Some sort of shock wave shoved at Erica hard enough to make her sway where she was hanging and, suddenly, the electricity that had kept her strength at bay stopped.
She ripped herself free, dropped to the ground, and reached for the tape that covered her mouth even as she registered Boyd dropping down beside her. A quick glance around showed her what had happened. The hunter that had been kicking up their pain levels was twitching as he lay draped over the regulator which was sparking in an ominous fashion.
All the hunters were lying where the shock wave had flung them.
“They’re dead,” Boyd said, sounding as stunned as Erica felt.
He was right, and the heartbeats in the room confirmed it. Aside from her and Boyd, Stiles was the only person in the room who was alive.
“What the hell?” she muttered, stepping over the bodies to reach Stiles’ side. She carefully reached out and pulled the tape off his mouth before considering the best way to get the straps holding him down undone.
“Be careful,” Boyd warned. “We don’t know if whatever happened could happen again. Maybe we should just go. We don’t know how long it will be before more hunters arrive.”
“We’re not leaving without Stiles,” Erica replied firmly. “He tried to save us! We can’t just leave him here! Who knows what else they’re going to do with him! Let’s get him to the hospital, and then we can decide what to do next.”
“Always knew you cared,” Stiles said softly and slowly, like every word was an effort. His eyes opened slightly, and the corner of his mouth quirked up. “Must be a dream,” he muttered, letting his eyes slip closed again. “Thought I heard Boyd talking.”
“Hey! Wake up! We’ve got to get out of here,” Erica said, picking a place to start and yanking on one of the straps. “Come on, Boyd, a little help here?”
Between the two of them, they made short work of the restraints. By the time they were done Stiles’ eyes were open again.
“No hospital,” he murmured as Erica lifted him into her arms.
Erica snorted. “If you could see what I see, you’d know exactly why I’m taking you to hospital. There’s so much bruising… You could have internal injuries, not to mention whatever was just injected into you.”
Stiles shifted in her grasp. “No hospital,” he repeated, beginning to sound anxious. “That stuff he gave me— We don’t know what it did, and since Gerard was acting like it’s a secret they probably won’t be able to help me. I don’t want to end up being prodded and poked by curious doctors for nothing. Take me home, please.”
Erica sighed before looking over to see what Boyd thought. He just shrugged, so she gave in. “Alright,” she agreed. “But I want it on record that I think it’s a bad idea.”
“No such thing as bad ideas,” Stiles mumbled even as he relaxed into her arms, “only bad execution.”
She shook her head. “Just hang in there until we make it out of here.” She looked up to where Boyd was waiting patiently. “Keep your eye out for a linen closet, we need a sheet or something to cover him up. No need to expose him more than we have to.” She took another look around at the room they’d been held in, bodies strewn all over the place, and shuddered. “Come on, it’s time to leave this lousy establishment. Let’s make sure we don’t get caught on the way out.”
With that in mind, they carefully made their way out of the basement and, after a brief stop to grab a sheet, out of the house. There didn’t seem to be anyone around to stop them, and Erica had no intention of looking a gift horse in the mouth and staying around to find out why.
Since there wasn’t going to be any fighting, she handed Stiles over to Boyd, and then they took off towards Stiles’ house as fast as they could.
Noah Stilinski was about to go out of his mind. Stiles’ disappearance immediately after winning the game for Beacon Hills had triggered all of his cop instincts, and he hated how helpless he was to get anything done.
He’d checked the school, gone by the hospital, driven past all his son’s preferred hangouts, and Scott had instructions to call him as soon as Stiles contacted him. If he’d run away – as one of his newer deputies had suggested – then he’d surely contact Scott, wouldn’t he?
Not that Noah was giving that theory any credence. He and his son may have been having some problems lately, but there was no way that the same Stiles, who’d given him a lecture only the morning before on the dangers of saturated fats for those with atherosclerotic history, would then decide to up and leave him to his own devices only a day later. It just didn’t fit, which meant that Stiles had been taken from the game by force, and that meant that he needed to be found as soon as possible. Stiles wasn’t the only one who knew the statistics on kidnappings. The sooner his son was found and returned to him, the better, and Noah wasn’t going to stop looking until he’d found him.
With that in mind, he decided to call in one of the many favours that were owed him. He just needed something that Stiles had worn recently to give to the tracking dogs, and then he was going to get this search started. Luckily his son was a teenager and not terribly in love with doing his own laundry, so there were ample exemplars to choose from. Noah picked up the shirt Stiles had been wearing the day before and headed back out to his cruiser.
He was about to open the car door when he heard the familiar sound of his son’s voice.
“—embarrassing, being toted around like a helpless maiden from one of those sexist and misogynistic fairy tales—”
Noah turned, anger at being made to worry warring with relief that Stiles was found. The anger died as soon as he laid eyes on him. Stiles was wrapped up like a burrito in what appeared to be a sheet, and was being carried bridal style by a kid that Noah recognised as being in Stiles’ year at school. Erica Reyes, another year mate walked beside them.
“—be different if I wanted Boyd to show off his manly strength and sweep me off my feet—”
Noah felt some of the nervous tension that had been driving him relax. “Is there something you want to tell me?” He tried to keep the overwhelming relief out of his voice since Stiles didn’t like to be fussed over in public.
“Dad!” Stiles’ happiness at his presence was palpable, and he immediately wormed his hand out of the sheet he was wrapped in and stretched it out towards him.
“Hey, kid.” Noah took the offered hand in his left and reached up with his right, intending to lay it on his forehead.
Stiles gave a pain-filled gasp and promptly passed out.
Noah recoiled in shock. “Stiles!” He raised a worried gaze to the two teenagers standing in front of him. “Did he just faint because I touched him? We need to get him to the hospital!”
Reyes shook her head. “Stiles said that they won’t be able to help him. He was very insistent.”
Noah was torn. On the one hand, his instincts were telling him to get his son to the hospital right away. On the other, before he passed out, Stiles had seemed fully coherent. This might be an opportunity to get some solid answers about a lot of the crazy stuff that had been going on in the last couple of months. Stiles had been popping up right in the middle of it again and again. It was always possible that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time—Noah couldn’t see any way for Stiles to be responsible for Jackson Whittemore’s strange death despite his presence at the scene—but it had been happening too often for the coincidence theory to really hold water.
He also had two new potential sources of information right here in front of him. Why not start there? “What happened to him?”
Reyes shuffled her feet. “It’s kind of a long story. Can we go inside?”
“Right, of course.” Noah gave himself a bit of a shake and unlocked the front door again.
Boyd gently placed Stiles on the long couch in the living room, and Noah carefully removed the sheet from his son’s upper body to get a better look at the damage. Aside from the marks on his face, there was further trauma to Stiles’ chest and ribs, but nothing that looked immediately life-threatening. There were also several distinct marks clearly visible, and it took him a moment to register what they meant.
“These are strap impressions,” he murmured, tracing the marks with gentle fingers. “And right here… That’s a puncture wound from a needle.” Someone had abducted his son from the school in his moment of triumph, had beaten and tied him down, and then forcibly injected him with something. Reyes and Boyd didn’t have the same injuries that Stiles did, but there were indications all over their clothes that they’d been having a bad time of it too.
“Come on, you two, sit down,” Noah said firmly, rising to feet. “You look like you could do with a rest. Whatever happened to you, whoever did these things, they can’t get to you here. You’re safe for the moment. Just let me make a few calls to let people know that Stiles is found, and then I’ll want you to tell me everything about it.”
Boyd looked to Reyes for a decision. Interesting, and something to remember. Reyes nodded hesitantly, and sank down on the smaller couch, Boyd sitting beside her only moments later.
Cancelling the tracker dog took moments, but Scott’s phone was going straight to voice mail. Shrugging, Noah called Melissa McCall, leaving a message for her too. He wanted her to come and have a look at Stiles, to see if he really should be checked over by a doctor.
Then he put a pot of coffee on to brew. Something was telling him he was going to be needing it.
Erica watched as Stiles’ eyelids fluttered open again. She momentarily wondered if she should call the sheriff, but it sounded like he was talking on the phone, and she didn’t want to interrupt him. For the first time in what seemed like ages, she was able to relax. Here in a house with an ordinary man that didn’t know anything of werewolves or hunters, and who would likely have no defence against them, she felt rather inexplicably safe.
Stiles groaned, lifting his hand to his face. “Why does it feel like someone’s trying to drill through my skull with a screwdriver?” he asked, voice slightly slurred. “God, and my brain feels like it’s going to squeeze itself out of my ears.” He rolled over, burying his face in the couch cushion, mumbling, “Need an impact drill to get through bone easily, anyway.”
Boyd was rolling his eyes, but Erica couldn’t help thinking the whole thing was adorable.
The sheriff walked back in, a smile lighting his face as he saw that Stiles was now on his front. “He’ll be alright,” he said, the relief written all over him. He leaned down and ran his hand over Stiles’ short hair with obvious affection. The relief turned to concern as Stiles shrank away from his father’s touch before fainting again.
The sheriff snatched his hand back like it had been burned. “That’s the second time he’s reacted to me touching him,” he said, turning to Erica and Boyd with his eyebrows raised in question. “Do you know what that was all about?”
“He said something about his brain leaking out his ears and someone trying to drill through his skull,” Erica offered.
The sheriff cocked his head to one side for a moment, his gaze going back to his son. “He’s showing some signs of touch hypersensitivity. If that’s the case, I can see why he might not want a lot of doctors and nurses examining him. Why don’t the two of you tell me this long story while we wait for Melissa to get here?”
Erica opened her mouth to begin, but the sheriff held up a hand to stop her.
“Come and join me in the dining room,” he said, the words partly invitation, partly an order they were clearly expected to obey. “If he does have a bad headache, then it might not be the best idea to aggravate it by having a discussion right next to him.”
Erica nodded and, with one last glance towards Stiles, she followed his father into the next room and took a seat at the dining room table. She could feel the moment of truth slowly approaching even as the sheriff got them both some coffee, fussing with the milk and sugar before getting one for himself.
“Now,” Sheriff Stilinski said, taking the seat opposite her and Boyd, “I’d like you to tell me all about it.”
“Oh.” Erica wondered just how much Stiles had told him. She was aware that the werewolf thing was a no go, but without werewolves, how was she supposed to explain hunters? She looked at Boyd to see if he had any ideas. Boyd shook his head.
“You can start with who took Stiles,” the sheriff suggested. “I’m not concerned that the two of you were responsible in any way, so don’t worry about having to convince me. Just – I need to know who took my son, who hurt him.”
“It was Gerard Argent,” Erica said reluctantly, feeling like he deserved to know that much at least. An idea came to her, and she straightened in her chair. “He was angry about Scott McCall dating his granddaughter, and so he wanted to send him a message.”
The sheriff nodded. “Right, okay. What was the message supposed to be?”
Erica shrugged. “I don’t know, ‘Stay away from my granddaughter, or this could happen to you’?”
“So, what were you doing there?”
“Oh!” Erica cast around for an explanation. “I had…gone to return a textbook that I had borrowed from Allison? And Boyd was with me, and we heard something weird in the basement, and so we went down there and found Stiles, so we untied him and brought him home.”
The sheriff was nodding again. “How do you know that it was Gerard Argent who kidnapped him? Gerard is an older man, after all. What makes you think it wasn’t Chris Argent?”
Erica looked at him blankly. “Uh… Cause Stiles told us?”
“Right. When you got to the Argent house to return the textbook, who let you in?”
“And Allison didn’t object to you taking a detour to visit her basement? How did she react to you finding Stiles being kept captive? Why didn’t she help you bring him home?”
Erica exchanged a panicked glance with Boyd. Lying to the sheriff was a lot harder than Stiles had made it sound.
If Stiles wasn’t lying injured in the other room, Noah might have found it in himself to enjoy this. Listening to lies, slowly picking them apart, gradually cornering the liar in a web of their own words…it was something he’d always enjoyed, and was one of the reasons he’d decided to go into law enforcement.
Stiles, naturally, had learned early that the best way to defeat such a system was to stubbornly stand his ground, regardless of gently pointed out logical inconsistencies. Young Reyes and Boyd, however, had none of Stiles’ hard-won skill, and Noah intended to exploit that for all it was worth.
He’d given them his best understanding eyes and fatherly voice. In combination, they’d worked on people that were considerably more hardened than the two youngsters sitting in front of him.
“I just want to know the truth about what happened to my son,” he said with complete sincerity.
He watched as Reyes decided to stop lying and might have given a very Stiles-like cheer if it wouldn’t have meant breaking character.
“We were already in the basement when Stiles was brought there.” She stared at her coffee like it held the answers she needed. “We were trying to run away, but Allison and Chris Argent and their muscle squad had caught us. We were tied up, hanging from the ceiling with our mouths taped closed when Stiles arrived.”
Noah had to work to keep himself calm. Aside from various body language indicators that he’d been trained to read, the adhesive residue on their skin bore out this new story, even if the lack of marks at the wrists did not. He nodded and did his best to look attentive.
“He tried to get us down,” Reyes said, tears starting to gather in her eyes, “but he wasn’t expecting the electricity, and then Gerard arrived.”
“What electricity?” Noah asked gently.
Reyes startled a bit, exchanged another glance with Boyd, and then took a deep breath. “We were tied up with electrical wire,” she revealed. “There was a current running through it to make it so that we couldn’t escape.”
Noah nodded encouragingly. He could tell they were approaching some big reveal, something that would help this whole thing make more sense. “That sounds pretty horrific,” he said sympathetically, before letting the barest frown gather his eyebrows together. “Why would they need electricity to stop you escaping?”
Reyes sighed. He could see the moment when she capitulated. “Because we’re werewolves,” she replied simply.
Noah blinked. Well, that certainly wasn’t an answer that he’d been expecting. He sent a swift glance towards Boyd, and noted no surprise whatsoever. Either this was a story that they had cooked up between them and had refined to such a degree that they had come to believe their own lies, or they were telling the truth.
As astonishing as the idea might be, Noah sat back and quickly ran the last few months through a ‘werewolves’ filter. There were still a lot of questions, but it answered considerably more than it left open. If Stiles was in on this and keeping it secret, it could only be because… “Scott,” Noah said, pinching the bridge of his nose in the hope that doing so would help ward off a headache. “Scott is a werewolf, yes? The new athleticism, the lack of asthma attacks…?”
Reyes was giving him an awed look. “Yes, that’s right.”
“So, it wasn’t Matthew Daehler who killed my deputies?” Noah realised, wondering if this was all a very realistic dream.
“Well, it kind of was,” Reyes explained. “It was a kanima that did the actual killing, but Matt was in control of it and giving it orders.”
“A kanima,” Noah repeated.
“It’s what Jackson Whittemore became when he got the bite,” Reyes offered as if that made sense. “A kind of lizard monster? But he doesn’t have any control over himself, it’s his ‘master’ that directs him.”
“I see. Who was, ah, ‘giving the bite’?” Noah asked mildly.
“Derek bit most of us,” Reyes said. “Not McCall, of course, he was already a werewolf when Derek became the alpha.”
Noah considered that information for a moment. “This is very interesting,” he said, slipping back into ‘kind cop’ mode, “but it doesn’t really answer my questions about what happened to Stiles.”
“Right. Well, the Argents are werewolf hunters,” Reyes replied. “Apparently there’s supposed to be some sort of code that they follow which means that they only hunt werewolves that go round killing humans, but if there is a code, I haven’t seen much evidence that they’ve been following it.”
“The Argents are werewolf hunters,” Noah repeated. He closed his eyes and fought the urge to curse aloud. “So the idea of Gerard Argent kidnapping Stiles to send a message to Scott suddenly makes a lot more sense. He’s unhappy that a werewolf is dating his granddaughter? Although it seems to me that he should take his issues directly to Scott rather than involve Stiles. But, wait, didn’t you say that it was Allison who caught you? Why did she do that? If she’s dating a werewolf she clearly doesn’t have too many prejudices against them.”
Reyes sighed. “She blames Derek for her mom killing herself,” she said, sounding weary. “I don’t know all the details, but I know that Victoria Argent tried to kill McCall with some sort of wolfsbane gas that left him disoriented and confused. Derek went to rescue him, and accidentally bit her in the process. She didn’t want to be a werewolf and killed herself so that it wouldn’t happen, and Allison decided that the whole thing was Derek’s fault and that it was open season on him and anyone connected with him. It’s why we decided to run away.”
“Just to be clear, this is Derek Hale that we’re talking about?” Noah asked. At their nods, he leaned forward again, resting his elbows on the table. “Now, is there anything about being a werewolf that makes you able to tell if Stiles needs to be in the hospital?”
Reyes gave a one-shoulder shrug. “Not really? We can tell that his breathing sounds fine and his heart is beating normally—well, normally for him, anyway—and he doesn’t smell sick, only injured. But I’m not sure if we’d be able to tell if he had internal injuries or not.” She hesitated. “Derek probably could.”
“His heartbeat spiked when you touched him,” Boyd offered. “A pain response, but you barely brushed his skin, so you might be right about the hypersensitivity.”
Noah nodded. “Thank you, Mr Boyd. That makes me feel better about not rushing him to the emergency room right away.”
Boyd ducked his head slightly in acknowledgement.
Noah tapped out an irregular beat with his fingers while he weighed the pros and cons of staying here with Stiles over going to the Argent house and arresting everyone inside. “Here’s what we’re going to do,” he said, having come to a decision. “Melissa McCall will be stopping by to check on Stiles and to make a determination over whether he will need to go to the emergency room or not. In the meantime, I would be grateful if the two of you could make arrangements to remain here and tell me if his condition worsens. I’ll need to make some calls and arrange for a warrant to search the Argent house premises.”
Reyes and Boyd both nodded. They appeared to be grateful to be given clear instructions, and relaxed back into their seats.
“You also need to seriously consider your plans for the future,” Noah told them firmly. “I know that you wouldn’t have run if you felt safe enough to stay, and I know that it must have been terrifying, a group of kids going up against an organised hunting party made up of heavily armed adults. But whether you’re a werewolf or a human or, hell, even a vampire, the law is here to protect you. However, they’ve been covering their tracks, I doubt it will stand up to proper scrutiny. I assure you that they’re going to find out that their days of running around my town terrorizing teenagers is over. Don’t run again. Stay, see how much better it can be when you’ve got the support you need.”
The two young werewolves seated at his dining room table exchanged another heavily laden glance, before Reyes spoke. “Okay.”
Chris Argent knew when his father had given him the task of setting up surveillance cameras in several of the streets surrounding the house that it was done to get him out of the way. Whatever was happening back at the house, it was obviously something that he wouldn’t approve of.
He stared at the screwdriver in his hand as he replayed the conversation he’d just had with his daughter. When had the girl who cried over dead cats and dogs become this cold-blooded woman who gloried in the pain of others? What was his family turning into? He’d already lost his sister and his wife in the last few months, could he bear to lose his daughter as well? Maybe he should just ride this situation out, wait till the dust settled, and then take Allison away somewhere for a while, see if he could help her get her head on straight.
In the meantime, the best thing to do was to make sure that she didn’t do anything permanent that she would regret later. The young male and female wolves that they’d brought home earlier needed to be set free. They had done nothing wrong, as far as he was aware, and he needed to make it clear to Allison that whatever else was going on, the Code must be followed, or they were nothing more than murderers. If she really wanted to take her place as Matriarch, she had to learn. Sooner rather than later.
With that thought in mind, he finished up and headed back to talk to his daughter. Maybe this time she would hear him.
The first indication that something was wrong was finding the front door ajar. Chris cautiously entered the house, gun in hand, and listened for any sound that might give him a few moments advantage if this was an ambush. The whole house was silent. The only sound he could hear was his own breathing.
Moving as quickly as he could while remaining silent, he made his way up to Allison’s room. She was slumped over her desk, face down on her folded arms but, even from the door, he could see the rise and fall of her breath. He sighed with relief, and lowered his weapon, going over to give her shoulders a comforting rub. She must have been exhausted if she fell asleep sitting up, and sleeping in that position wasn’t going to do anything good for her back.
“Come on, Ally,” he said tenderly, giving her a little jiggle. “Don’t be sleeping here. There’s a perfectly good bed just three steps away, you know.”
Allison didn’t wake, and Chris decided that he might as well move her himself. Picking her up was easy enough, for all her muscle tone she wasn’t exactly built on Amazonian standards.
It wasn’t until he’d gently laid her down again that he noticed anything was wrong.
“Ally?” he asked, feeling fear slide through him as he noticed that her eyes were open, but that she was staring right through him. “Ally, are you awake?”
Allison didn’t answer, and her expression didn’t change.
Chris reached out a trembling hand to check her pulse, and was only faintly relieved to find it normal. He couldn’t see any signs of injury, no reason as to why she was like this. Unless it was kanima venom? But wasn’t Gerard the kanima’s master? Why would Gerard want to paralyse Allison? She’d been working for him!
Unless she’d changed her mind? Come to her senses and told Gerard that he had to stop what he was doing? If she’d done that, he could well see his father dosing her with venom to ensure that she’d stay out of the way.
In which case it would be no good to go to him for help. Mind made up, Chris carefully picked his daughter back up again. His first priority had to be her health and safety. Once he was sure that she was well taken care of, he could look into whatever Gerard had planned that broke Allison out of her grief spiral.
Chris kicked the door shut behind him and started off towards the hospital. Even if Allison’s state was brought about by kanima venom, she would be safer under supervision at the hospital than at home while in this condition.
There was nothing much to do until Stiles woke up or Melissa arrived so, after a quick trip upstairs to get Stiles some sweatpants, Noah decided they might as well get something to eat. One look into the pantry and an even quicker glance into the fridge had him turning to his guests. “Pizza?” he suggested, reaching for the phone even before he got their enthusiastic agreement.
While he was placing the order, he noticed both teenagers turn at the same time towards the living room. Handy. Looked like Stiles was waking up.
“Come on, let’s try this again without the physical contact,” he said, gesturing for them to join him.
Sure enough, Stiles was awake and was in the process of putting on the sweatpants Noah had brought him. When he saw Noah he gave a weary smile. “Thanks, Dad. There’s something very undignified about wearing nothing but a sheet, you know.”
“Look who’s back with us?” Noah tried to sound upbeat. “I’d offer to help, but that might not be the best idea.”
Stiles snorted. “I’ve been getting dressed on my own since I was three, Dad.” Just getting his pants on appeared to exhaust him, and when he was done, he lay back down and closed his eyes with a huge sigh. His brow was furrowed, but Noah had no way of knowing if that was because of pain or maybe some other Stilesy reason. He’d caught his son having a one-sided argument with the heated towel rail only a week ago.
Seeing his usually energetic son drained and in pain made Noah really want to find Gerard Argent and replicate each one of the marks he’d left on Stiles back onto him. In triplicate. His fury had dimmed from the red hot anger it had been initially, and although the embers were smouldering away all nice and ready for when he needed them, he was completely in control of himself. Stiles had to come first. “How are you feeling, kid?”
“I’ve definitely been better,” Stiles said, the corner of his mouth quirking up faintly. “But then, I’m pretty sure I’ve been worse. Right now I feel like I could sleep for a year.”
“I’m not sure you should be sleeping,” Noah told him. “Could you have a concussion? Did you hit your head at any point?”
“I know what a concussion feels like,” Stiles replied without opening his eyes. “I don’t have one. If you don’t want to take my word for it, just wake me up every hour or so and give me a quiz.”
“Alright,” Noah agreed. “Name, age, and what was in the box that you found hidden in my office last week?”
Stiles opened his eyes and glared at him. “Stiles Stilinski, eighteen, and they were donuts, old man. Jelly-filled, deep-fried, heart attack-inducing donuts.”
“Well, you seem to have your wits about you,” Noah said. “Do you know why you passed out both times I touched you?”
Stiles screwed up his face. “When you touch me it feels as though someone’s squeezing my brain like an overripe tomato. It really hurts. But that first time you weren’t even touching my head, so while there’s a connection, I don’t think it’s something that a hospital will be able to solve. Maybe all I need is some rest.”
Noah sighed. “Alright then. If you want to, you can go back to sleep for a while. I don’t know how long it will take Melissa to get here, and I’d still like her to look you over.” He left unspoken that it had just occurred to him that with Stiles asleep he might manage to get more than the two slices of pizza he was generally allowed.
“Nice try, old man,” Stiles said, closing his eyes. “Catwoman, I depend on you to ensure that my dad doesn’t cheat on his pizza allowance. Two slices only, unless it’s vegetarian, in which case he can have four.”
Noah frowned. Had he said that out loud? He was more rattled than he thought he was.
“I’m sorry,” Reyes was saying sweetly, “do I look like the kind of person who’s going to take orders from you? What kind of monster are you, to limit someone’s pizza intake like that? And now you want to bring me to the dark side?”
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering,” Stiles responded somewhat randomly.
At least, at first Noah thought it was random. He recognised the quote—it was hard not to, given Stiles’ love of Star Wars—but judging from the expression on Reyes’ face it wasn’t random at all.
Stiles opened his eyes again. “Wait. I don’t want her to know that Gerard injected me with something.”
Noah frowned. “You mean Melissa? She’s a nurse, Stiles. Why don’t you want her to know?”
“I just don’t.” Stiles got that stubborn look about him that meant that he’d made up his mind.
Noah gave a reluctant nod. “Okay. I won’t tell her.”
Any further discussion on the subject was halted by a knock on the door. Expecting it to be the pizza he’d ordered, Noah opened it without checking to see who was on the other side.
Rather than the pizza, it was Lydia Martin, Stiles’ long term crush, and she was crying.
Noah stared at her blankly. “Stiles isn’t up for visitors right now,” he said, wondering if this choice was going to result in kale at every meal for the rest of his life. But Stiles was in no shape to be comforting anyone right now. He needed to be the focus of attention.
“Oh.” She frowned through her tears. “I wanted him to… I thought he could… Never mind.”
“Are you alright, Miss Martin?” Noah asked kindly. He supposed he could see what Stiles found so appealing, she was rather pretty in a very posed way. Even crying, she gave him the impression that she was doing her best to look as photogenic as possible.
“I’ll be fine,” she replied sharply, visibly drawing herself up. “I wanted Stiles to… But I know what I should do.” With that, she turned on her heel and made her way back to her car. Noah watched her get in, wondering what that had been about.
He was about to close the door when the pizza arrived.
Chris Argent stood looking at the inferno his house had become, wondering just what the hell was going on. What on earth was Gerard up to? What purpose would burning the house down achieve?
He’d come back to get the folder with the insurance details in it only to find the house wreathed in flame. If this was part of Gerard’s master plan, then it was going to be something big. Unless Gerard had set them free—which he very much doubted—there were two werewolves who had just died in his house. Was that what it was all about? Another taunt to the Hale Alpha? A message, perhaps?
Standing there and watching his house burn, Chris Argent realised it was time to decide where he stood, how far he was willing to go. He could hear the sound of the approaching fire trucks, and with one last glance at the house where his wife had died, he turned away. He needed to find Scott. Whatever Gerard had planned, it would undoubtedly involve him. There was nothing he could do here anyway.
As luck would have it, Noah had only managed his allotted two slices before there was another knock at the door.
This time it was Melissa McCall.
“Thank you for coming,” Noah said gratefully, ushering her inside.
“What has Stiles gotten himself into this time?” Melissa asked, sounding more bitter than concerned.
Noah paused for a moment. Had he just imagined that? He gave his head a quick shake. He was probably just tired.
“He was abducted immediately after the game and given a rather severe beating,” Noah told her. “He insisted that he not be taken to hospital, but I was hoping you could give him a quick examination and tell me whether you think he’ll be alright here, or if I should override him and take him in anyway.”
Melissa gave him a look. “I’m not a doctor, Noah.”
“No, but you are a medical professional,” Noah replied, smiling at her in a hopefully charming manner. “Pretty please? I can take him to the family doctor tomorrow, I just need to know if you think he’s in any immediate danger.”
“Okay,” Melissa said, giving him a slight smile. “But this is going to cost you.”
“Name your price.”
“Two—no, three—bottles of my favourite red, to be delivered by the end of next week.”
“Cross my heart,” Noah promised. “Come on, he’s in the lounge.”
Stiles was sleeping again. Reyes gave Noah a look laden with meaning that he didn’t know how to interpret.
“Do you need him to be awake?” Noah asked, curious and slightly worried about the alarmed expressions that briefly crossed Reyes’ and Boyd’s faces.
“I think my headache will do better without Stiles talking my ear off,” Melissa replied dryly. She lifted Stiles’ shirt and scrutinised his torso and abdomen. “The bruising doesn’t look too bad. How long ago were these injuries sustained?” she asked as she prodded Stiles’ abdomen with her fingers.
“At least an hour ago, probably more like two or three, I suppose?” Noah answered uncertainly as he watched Melissa manually take Stiles’ pulse. He checked to see if Reyes or Boyd disagreed. They were nodding, so he left it at that.
“And he’s not complained of chest issues, or dizziness?”
“No, and he was speaking coherently,” Noah said. He was still a little conflicted over whether or not to tell her the full story about what Gerard had done. He might have caved in despite Stiles’ wishes, but Reyes and Boyd’s presence made it easier to do as Stiles had asked. The last thing they needed to see right now was him breaking an assurance he’d made to his son.
“Hmm. As far as I can see there’s no evidence of internal bleeding,” she said eventually. “Keep an eye on him. If bruising or swelling shows up around here,” she gestured to an area of Stiles’ abdomen, “or if he complains of any chest pains or nausea, or has any blood in his urine, get him to the emergency room right away. Otherwise, he should be fine until you can see a doctor tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Melissa,” Noah said, feeling relieved. He gave her a hand up and followed as she went over to the door. “I really appreciate you stopping by even when you’re already done in. I know Stiles will appreciate it too.”
Melissa shook her head. “Well, Stiles wouldn’t be Stiles if he wasn’t involved in some chaos. Try and keep him out of trouble for a while, Noah. For all our sakes.” She left, shutting the door behind her.
Noah blinked. He returned to the living room. “Was she pissed off at Stiles? It sounded to me like she was very pissed off at Stiles. I wasn’t just imagining that, right?”
“He passed out as you opened the door to her. He said, ‘Oh my god, why is she so angry with me? It’s like knives!’ and then went limp,” Reyes reported, looking worried.
“It’s peoples’ minds,” Boyd said, drawing their attention. “Whatever Gerard did to him, I think he’s now got some kind of telepathy. He passed out after Gerard touched him, remember? And then twice when the sheriff touched him, and just now Ms McCall didn’t even have to be anywhere near him and he was out like a light.”
There was a brief moment of silence while they all pondered Boyd’s words.
“No wonder he doesn’t want to go to the hospital,” Reyes said with sudden understanding. “If single minds can do this to him, can you imagine what hundreds of minds in a fairly localised area would do? He might go catatonic and never wake up.”
“He didn’t seem to have a problem with you touching him, though,” Noah said, remembering that Boyd had been carrying him earlier, and that he’d been awake at the time.
Reyes shrugged. “Maybe it has something to do with us being werewolves,” she offered. She frowned. “He didn’t react to Lydia, either. But then she was bitten and didn’t turn, so I suppose whatever is going on with that had something to do with it. Also there was the pizza delivery guy, so maybe this theory needs some work.”
Noah covered his eyes with his hands and sank down to sit on the edge of his recliner chair, elbows propped up on his knees. “All the bits of that that I understood made sense,” he said after a few moments, raising his head and eyeing the two teenagers sitting on the couch together. “We should probably shelve this discussion until Stiles can tell us one way or the other. So. When you ran away, did you leave notes for your families? Do we need to call them and reassure them that you’ve changed your minds? Do you need me to speak with them?”
Reyes shrugged a shoulder. “No.” Her mouth turned down unhappily. “It’s not like they really care if we’re there or not. They probably wouldn’t have even noticed for a week or two.”
Noah looked steadily at her for a moment. There was a whole pile of issues there, but it was too late and the day had been too eventful to start unpacking them now. “I’ve got a shift in three hours,” he explained. “I can call in, of course, but if the two of you are happy to stay here with Stiles and promise to call me if anything at all changes, I just might go in after all. I want to start the ball rolling on my investigation into the Argents, and it will be easier to do that there. Would you do this for me? Stay and watch for signs that he’s deteriorating?”
Reyes nodded, looking pleased and a little shy. “Yeah, we can do that.”
Boyd rose to his feet and gathered together the empty pizza boxes. Noah had just noted wistfully to himself that he’d only managed two slices after all when one of the boxes was nudged gently at his midsection.
Sitting inside were two more slices. Face as solemn as ever, Boyd winked.
“We won’t tell if you don’t,” Reyes said, giving him a matching wink.
Chris had discovered Scott and the Lahey boy removing the evolving kanima from the morgue and had convinced them that they needed his help. The warehouse they arrived at seemed dark and ominous, and Derek Hale’s arrival sent prickles of unease down his spine, outweighing the anger as he tried to forget that this was the werewolf who had bitten his wife. Everything appeared to be gearing up for some kind of finale. He was worried that whatever they did, Gerard would have the upper hand, what with the hunters that he had taken command over.
When he saw how far the kanima’s evolution had progressed, he knew it was too late to save the boy. Hale and Scott got into an argument about what needed to be done, and he found himself in the unpleasant situation of agreeing with the wolf who’d all but murdered his wife, who’d set off the chain of events that led to his daughter’s spiral into grief and vengeance.
The argument might have gone on for longer, but they were interrupted by the arrival of Allison’s friend Lydia, who marched straight up to the kanima and started talking. She called it ‘Jackson’, told it to wake up, and presented it with something—a key? Telling it that it was breaking her heart to do it, but if it truly wanted it back then she would give it to him.
Chris watched in astonishment as the kanima form melted away, leaving a naked Jackson Whittemore, who was staring at his ex-girlfriend with something that looked like hope.
“Do you still…?” he asked, looking vulnerable.
“I do, I do still love you,” Lydia assured him, throwing herself at him and kissing him several times.
Derek was watching the two intently, but Scott seemed distracted, looking around with a frown.
“If this gets any more cloying I may vomit,” said someone in the shadows.
Chris drew his gun and pointed in the direction the voice had come from. “Reveal yourself!”
To his astonishment, a very alive looking Peter Hale sauntered into the light like he didn’t have a care in the world.
“My, what a charming reunion,” Peter said, looking like he wasn’t concerned at all about the gun being pointed in his direction. “There are a few substitutions, of course. Little Scott seems to have dumped the Stilinski boy in favour of pretty-boy over there, and you have a red-head rather than the brunette from last time. But other than that…yes, very familiar.”
Chris lowered his gun but didn’t holster it. “Why aren’t you dead?”
Peter tsked, shaking his head. “Come now, Christopher, surely your parents taught you better manners than that? Speaking of your parents, you seem to have mislaid your esteemed father. Will he be joining us? I do like to know these things in advance.”
“I actually expected him to already be here,” Chris admitted.
Peter raised his eyebrows. “Is it possible he got lost, do you think? I’m sure he’ll be devastated to discover he’s missed all the fun.”
Chris was distracted just then as Jackson Whittemore transformed into a beta werewolf, raising his face up and letting loose a bone chilling howl. Hale grabbed him by the shoulders, raising his voice in symphony, followed seconds later by the Lahey boy. Interestingly, neither Scott nor Peter participated.
Peter watched the whole thing with something approaching astonishment. “Well, I’ll be damned,” he said softly, “he actually did it.”
The group howl ended, and Hale began speaking quietly to his beta, including Lydia in whatever it was he was saying. They were both nodding, and Chris almost wished he had werewolf hearing so that he knew what was being said.
“I don’t get it,” Scott said, coming over to stand beside Chris. “Gerard said that he’d be here. I’m almost positive he was waiting for an opportunity to get Derek and Jackson into the same space so that he could force Derek to bite him. Why would he miss it?”
Chris recoiled, his mind flung back to Victoria’s death. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said roughly. “My father has hunted werewolves his entire adult life. Why on Earth would he want the bite?”
Scott stared at him with open surprise. “Because he’s got cancer?”
Chris stared back. “Gerard has cancer?”
Scott nodded. “Well, yeah. That’s what this was all about. He needed the bite to cure himself, and then he was going to kill Derek so that he could be the Alpha.”
The whole idea was preposterous. But, at the same time, it made an awful, terrible amount of sense.
“You knew about this?” Hale asked Scott, having finished his conversation and approached at some point. “You knew and didn’t think to tell me?”
“You might be an Alpha, but you’re not my Alpha,” Scott said raising his chin and setting his jaw.
“You’re right, I’m not,” Hale agreed after several moments. He exchanged a long look with his uncle, who nodded. “Scott McCall, from this moment you are banished from the Hale pack. No shelter or comfort that is ours is extended to you, no power in our lands is available for your use. Since you have not yet reached the age of majority, we’ll temporarily allow your presence in our territory. Be notified that upon your eighteenth birthday, your permission to remain here expires, and your life becomes forfeit if you’re found within Hale Pack territory without the correct overtures.”
Chris winced, wondering if Scott had any idea what had just happened.
“You can’t banish me from your pack, I was never a member!” Scott said, looking annoyed. “It was my decision, so don’t go trying to turn it around to say that it was yours!”
The Lahey boy made a sad sound in the back of his throat and moved away from Scott’s side and closer to where Hale was standing, several steps in front of Whittemore and Lydia.
Chris sighed, wondering why it was up to him to explain werewolf pack dynamics to his daughter’s werewolf boyfriend. “You were bitten by a Hale Alpha, therefore you had ties to the pack and to the territory,” he pointed out. “Even if there was no formal acceptance, you were still part of the family, were still an acknowledged ‘Hale wolf.’ That might have continued indefinitely, with you as a lone beta connected to the Hales.”
Scott frowned. “I was never a Hale wolf,” he disagreed. “I never allowed Peter control over me.”
Chris ignored the interruption. “Now you’re an omega, with no ties at all. You have until your eighteenth birthday to find unclaimed territory somewhere or another pack that will accept you. After that, your chances of survival are very slim.” A thought occurred to him. If he handled this right, Scott could become a valuable resource. Hunters didn’t often come across a werewolf willing to work wholeheartedly with them. Perhaps this infatuation of his daughter’s might prove beneficial after all.
“I live here!” Scott insisted. “Derek can’t make me leave, he has no right!”
“He has every right,” Peter interjected. “You have no idea what you revealed here tonight, do you? You sided with a hunter over your kin, over an Alpha who risked his own life to save yours. You’re very lucky that my nephew didn’t just kill you on the spot. No unbiased supernatural court would have considered him out of line.”
“I am not his kin! I am not your kin! I make my own choices!” Scott said, voice rising as he drew himself up.
“Choices have consequences, McCall,” Lydia said, reminding everyone that she was there. “Sometimes good, sometimes not so good.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “Why isn’t Stiles with you tonight? He’s normally not all that far away from you. Instead he’s at home and unable to see visitors. Why?”
Scott deflated, looking confused. “What does Stiles have to do with this? He ran off after the game, or something. The sheriff was looking for him, said he’d been abducted? But a couple of hours later he sent a message that he’d been found, so he’s obviously fine.”
Lydia rolled her eyes, turning back to Whittemore in a move so dismissive Chris felt like he should applaud. Whittemore had managed to find some clothes to wear, although they were ill-fitting and not up to his usual standard.
“Are we done here?” Hale asked, the growl on the edge of his voice palpable. “Peter, I’d appreciate it if you could take Isaac with you and check up on Stiles. I need to spend some time with Jackson, but I’ll come and find you later.”
“As you say,” Peter agreed with an incline of his head. He looked over at Isaac. “Come on then, puppy. Time to see what Little Red’s up to.”
Isaac glanced over towards Scott for a brief second before joining Peter Hale and fading into the darkness.
“I don’t want your pack anywhere near Stiles,” Scott said to Hale, narrowing his eyes. “Or Allison, for that matter.”
Hale ignored him, saying something in a low voice to Lydia that had her nodding her head.
Chris walked up and rested his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “Come on. There’s nothing more to be done here, and I need you to tell me if Gerard had any plans for Allison.”
“Why, what’s wrong with Allison?” Scott demanded, not appearing to notice when Hale, Whittemore, and Lydia all crammed themselves into her car and drove away.
“She’s in hospital,” Chris said, turning him towards his SUV. “Come with me and see if there’s anything you can tell me about her condition that the doctors won’t be able to test for. It’s my understanding that you’ll be able to tell, for instance, if kanima venom was used on her. I could also use your help to find out what happened with my house. With Whittemore out of play, we need to be ready for whatever Gerard has planned next.”
It was still dark when Noah arrived home after his shift. He was immensely surprised to find Peter Hale—very clearly alive and sans horrific burn scars—firmly ensconced in his living room. He was comfortably situated in the recliner with his feet up, working away on a laptop. Reyes and Boyd were nowhere to be seen and there were no signs of a fight, so presumably they felt that Stiles was safe with Peter. It would have been nice if they’d thought to send him a heads-up about it.
“Well, that’s one missing persons alert that I can remove from the database,” Noah said finally.
“Let’s not be hasty,” Peter replied, continuing to type without looking up. “First, I’ll need some time to consider the ramifications of being found. It may be best to manufacture a new identity, perhaps as Talia’s cousin? I’ll get back to you.” With a flourish he pressed a final key then closed the laptop decisively, rising to his feet in a graceful move that Noah couldn’t help but envy. “How have you been, Noah? I see that the years have been treating you well.” Peter gave him a very thorough once over, a sly smile on his lips.
Noah shook his head. “I can assume that you’re a werewolf too, then?” Turning on his heel, he made his way to the kitchen to see if any food had miraculously appeared in the fridge while he was at work. Given that Stiles was still recumbent on the couch, he didn’t hold out much hope.
He was pleasantly surprised to find what looked like a potato gratin topped with flaked salmon, or maybe tuna, taking up most of the top shelf. He turned to look at Peter, who had followed him. “Do you know anything about this?”
Peter shrugged. “What’s the use of having minions if you can’t put them to use?”
Noah served himself a decent sized portion and stuck it in the microwave before turning to lean against the counter. “Why are you here, Peter?”
“There are so many reasons to chose from,” Peter replied. “For one, the accommodations are certainly better than what my nephew is currently offering. The view is considerably better,” he gave Noah another slow perusal, “and then there’s the mystery. I can’t resist a good mystery, Noah. You know that.”
“Do you plan to get to the point? And where did Reyes and Boyd get to?”
“They’re upstairs with Isaac Lahey in a puppy pile,” Peter said. “There was a reunion earlier, with lots of crying and solemn promises etc. To be honest, I blanked out most of it. When they’d calmed down, they agreed to make a group trip to the late-night grocery store. When that was done, I sent them to bed.”
The microwave beeped, and Noah extracted his food and sat down at the dining room table. Peter sat opposite and watched with a look of smug satisfaction all over his handsome face.
“S’good,” Noah mumbled around a forkful of food. There was far more cream in this than there would be in anything Stiles made, and Noah forced himself to slow down so that he could savour the experience. Peter seemed content to sit in silence, waiting patiently for Noah to finish.
Finally, Noah pushed the plate away with a satisfied sigh. He sat back in his chair and just watched Peter for a few minutes, getting his thoughts in order. “I’ve been doing some checking on the Argents,” he said, deciding that there was no point in playing games. “Rather more in-depth than the usual background checks. A number of red flags popped up almost immediately.”
“You’ll want to be very careful, Noah,” Peter said, leaning forward intently. “The Argents are part of a wider community of hunters, and they have fingers in many pies. Some of the things my own digging has turned up suggests that they’re not above arranging ‘accidents’ for overly diligent law enforcement officers who become troublesome.”
Noah scowled. “I’m sure Reyes and Boyd told you what Gerard Argent did to my son,” he said flatly. “There’s no way I’m letting this go.”
“I’m not suggesting that you should,” Peter replied smoothly. “Only that you proceed with extreme caution. You’re doing this for your son, after all. He won’t thank you if you get yourself killed on a fruitless crusade.”
Noah broke the gaze first. “It’s not only about Stiles,” he said after a moment. “The things that the kids told me… It’s pretty obvious with hindsight that hunters killed your family. I have ethical and moral obligations to investigate when I get a credible report of a murderous hate group operating on a large scale in my county. Not to mention what you just said. I’d appreciate it if you could give me any data you have on suspicious law enforcement deaths you think may be connected to this shadowy hunting community. How widespread are they? How far is their reach?”
“Of course. Hunters can be found all around the world.” Peter relaxed back into his seat again. “They tend to thrive in areas where projectile weapons are easily accessible and legal to carry. As far as I’ve been able to discover, each country is fairly autonomous, although they all make periodic reports to headquarters, which I believe is located in France. Further than that, I haven’t been able to penetrate. For some reason, none of them wants to give away their organisational secrets to a werewolf.”
“You don’t say,” Noah replied sarcastically. He tilted his head as a thought occurred to him. “What about werewolves? Do you have some kind of governing body?”
Peter shook his head. “No, not as such. Not here, anyway, although most of the alphas of the more prominent packs in North America keep in touch with each other, or did when my sister was alive. South America is even less organised. Most of the European werewolves follow a fairly strict hierarchy based around pack history and locations. I’ve not really looked into what societal constructs werewolves have established in Asia or Africa. Of course, there are various other supernatural creatures living around us as well, but we generally only interact when we’re in dispute.”
“You haven’t considered allying together?”
“There are just too many differences,” Peter said. “Which is not to say that alliances between species don’t form, only that they tend to be fleeting and in response to specific threats. Once the crisis that brought them into being is resolved, they generally fall apart almost immediately.” He tilted his head to one side and appeared to be considering something. “There are exceptions, of course,” he allowed, “I have just never personally been involved in any of them, nor known anyone who has.”
“Huh,” Noah said. A huge yawn broke his train of thought, and his mind wandered back to his son. “Do you have any ideas about what’s going on with Stiles?”
“Perhaps,” Peter said thoughtfully. “Nothing that I would care to make any wagers on, more like the beginnings of ideas than fully fledged ones. From what the puppies told me, I would say mind powers of some description.”
“I’m open to anything and everything.” Noah was glad to be able to talk about what was going on with an adult. “So far as we can tell, he seems to have some sort of telepathy or empathy. And tomorrow, I’ll have to somehow get him seen by a doctor without setting him off again. I don’t suppose you would happen to know any werewolf doctors? Or at least someone who’s not going to want to get us measured for straight-jackets when we ask them to examine him without touching him?”
Peter cocked his head to one side. “Not off the top of my head,” he said after a few moments thought. “I can reach out to my network if you’d like. It may mean travelling some distance though.”
“If it can be reached within a few hours’ car ride, then I’ll take it.” Noah tried to stifle another yawn. “Just let me know so that I can arrange for someone to cover me at the station.”
Peter rose to his feet. “Get some sleep, Noah,” he said gently. “I’ll watch over Stiles, and I’ll be sure to tell you if anything changes for the worse.”
Noah was torn. It had been a long, exhausting day, but he felt that his place was beside his son. Also, Reyes and Boyd might have trusted Peter with Stiles’ safety, but Noah was less certain about the man’s intentions.
“If he does have telepathy or empathy, he will no doubt be more comfortable with you at a small distance,” Peter reminded him.
That was true, at least. Noah considered what he knew of the man. Peter Hale had crossed paths with law enforcement on numerous occasions, but never badly enough to lead to his arrest. He’d never been connected to violent crime, and had been considered more a nuisance than anyone they should worry about. Furthermore, Peter had already been given ample time to harm Stiles if that were his intention.
Noah decided to check on Stiles again before retiring, assure himself that he was safe. This time—perhaps because he was looking for it—he saw when his approach had Stiles’ sleeping face going from something mostly relaxed to frowning tension. He stopped and backed away, not wanting to be responsible for Stiles’ pain.
He turned to Peter. “I’ll see you in a couple of hours, then,” he said, and then headed for a quick shower and bed.
When Stiles awoke, his head felt much better than it had the night before. There was still some pain, but it no longer felt debilitating. It was no longer like his brain was going to burst out of his skull at any moment, and more like a dull throbbing.
He blinked a few times, a little disoriented to find himself in the lounge rather than his bedroom. The sound of fingers on a keyboard drew his gaze and, to his immense surprise, Peter Hale was sitting in his father’s chair. What the…? Maybe he really had gone around the bend?
“Good morning, Stiles.” Peter put his laptop to one side and got out of the chair to come and stand by Stiles. He offered him a glass of water.
Stiles took the water suspiciously, sniffing it carefully before tasting it. It smelled and tasted just like water, so he sipped at it while he carefully studied the man who’d given it to him. Peter looked much the same as he did before being killed, but there was something very different in the feel of his presence. The sense of burning rage was gone, and he wasn’t looking at Stiles with the cold deliberation that he’d seen in the past. Although, Stiles reminded himself, he had managed to charm Melissa McCall into going on a date with him, so either he had rather good acting skills or Melissa liked the ‘insane bad-boy’ vibe. Regardless, it wouldn’t hurt to be wary.
Peter’s expression changed to one of amusement. “That’s what I like about you, Stiles,” he said conversationally. “Out of everyone I’ve met in this town since I awoke six months ago, you are perhaps the only one who has a proper balance of open-mindedness and paranoia. Although your father does come close… Not quite enough paranoia, though.”
Stiles snorted. “Give him time, let him see some of the things I’ve seen and that would probably change. Also, an open-minded paranoiac? Isn’t that an oxymoron or something?”
“Not at all,” Peter countered. “Take the hunters, for instance. Their paranoia is very narrowly focused—on werewolves, for the most part, and those humans who have allied with them. They’re not nearly so vigilant about looking for killers in their own community.”
“They don’t need to be,” Stiles pointed out. “As far as I can tell, pretty much all hunters are mass murderers anyway. With those that aren’t, I feel like it’s probably more to do with lack of opportunity than anything else. If they were looking for sadistic killers, they wouldn’t have to look very hard.”
“Ah, but then they don’t see what they do as murder,” Peter said with a twisted smile. “We’re just dangerous animals, after all. It’s not like anyone has a problem with a vet performing the necessary work of occasionally euthanising cats and dogs, is it?”
Stiles glared. “If I discovered that vets made a habit of stringing cats and dogs up and running electricity through them for shits and giggles, and then experimenting on them while they’re fully conscious, then, yes, you can bet your furry ass I’d have a pretty big problem! And so would anyone else in any thinking society! Only psychopaths go around torturing people, and the only good psychopath is a dead one.” He considered that for a moment. “And I don’t mean dead like a vampire or like you seem to have turned out. I mean dead dead.”
Peter sighed. “You are a young man after my own heart.”
Stiles frowned. “I would like to state for the record that I have no interest in your heart, so long as you don’t use it to somehow screw with me and mine.”
“How are you feeling?” Peter asked with an unsubtle change of subject that Stiles took note of. It was never wise to discount anything Peter said.
“A lot better than last night,” Stiles admitted. He cautiously raised himself to a sitting position, feeling pleased that his body didn’t feel any worse than after the last time he got thrashed at school for being a smart-ass. He ran a hand over his head, but couldn’t feel any tenderness or swelling that might give a reason for his persistent headache.
Peter watched him. “Do you remember what happened?”
Stiles closed his eyes. Gerard’s face flashed before him, his smug tones as he listed Stiles’ chances of survival. He opened his eyes again. “Gerard injected me with some sort of experimental…stuff,” he said. “Fifteen percent survival, 5 percent activation. They strapped me down tight so that I couldn’t move, and then they—” he could feel his own heart pounding with remembered terror.
Peter laid a hand on his shoulder. “You’re fine, Stiles, just breathe. You’re here. You made it.”
Stiles concentrated on his breathing, doing his best to avert the fall into a panic attack that was hovering. As soon as it was under control, he became aware of something almost like a compartment in his head, a closed door. Without thinking he opened it. He was immediately drowned in a sea of thoughts tinged with dark yellow and tasting vaguely of tree bark. The most prominent thoughts, the ones Stiles noticed first, were about him. Concern for his health, interest about what telepathy could mean for him.
“I’ve got telepathy?” Stiles blurted.
Peter removed his hand instantly. The open door in Stiles’ mind shut and disappeared, and the yellow thoughts dissolved into nothing.
Stiles and Peter stared at each other for a few moments.
There was a tap at the window.
“That will be my nephew.” Peter quickly recovered his usual poise. “I’ll just go and let him in, shall I?”
“Sure,” Stiles muttered. Not that Peter had bothered to wait for his agreement, having already gone to open the front door.
“The Argent house burned down,” was the first thing Derek said.
“What, no greetings? No, ‘Hi Stiles, I hope you’re well’?” Stiles said, while he tried to process this new information. “Hang on, why did the Argent house burn down? When did it burn down? I was just there last night.”
Derek’s brows drew together. “What were you doing at the Argent place?” he asked, sounding suspicious.
“Oh, you know, hanging with my homeboys.” Stiles waved a hand in the air. “Being held against my will, beaten up, tied down, experimented on. Just the average evening for us teenagers in the twenty-first century.”
“Experimented on?” Naturally, Derek zeroed in on the part of Stiles’ ramble that he’d hoped to slip by him. “Are you alright? How did you get away? Chris Argent didn’t think to mention this when we were talking about you last night.”
“You were talking about me? That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But yes, I seem to be alright,” Stiles replied. “Bit of a headache, although it’s a lot better than last night. And, to be honest, I have no idea how we got away. I think Erica and Boyd managed to free themselves? I was pretty out of it at the time.”
“Erica and Boyd were there?” Derek demanded. “Is that why they’re upstairs? Were they hurt? Are they okay?”
“Calm yourself, nephew,” Peter interjected. “They’re fine as far as I can tell. A bit subdued, perhaps. They told me that the sheriff has convinced them that running isn’t going to solve their problems, and they were going to come see you to talk about it today. You can go up and check on them if you want.”
Derek shook his head. “No, they’re currently asleep. If they’re not hurt, there’s no need to wake them. But, Stiles, you said that they were there, at the Argents?”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah, Gerard had them hanging from the ceiling like sides of beef.” He felt a little bitter about his utter failure to help them in any way. “I tried to get them down, but I got zapped by electricity, and before I could figure out what to do, Gerard arrived.”
Derek looked away, jaw clenched.
“I’m sorry, okay?” Stiles said miserably. “Puny human here. Gerard put the beat down on me and, after that, I was no use to anyone anyway.”
Peter sighed. “You’ll have to forgive my nephew’s inability to express himself, Stiles. He’s not angry with you for failing to free them, he’s angry at Gerard and his hunters for hurting you in the first place. All of you.” He indicated the stairs with a tilt of his head.
“Oh,” Stiles said as Derek gave a short, sharp nod. That made him feel a little better. “That still doesn’t answer why the house burnt down, though.”
“Perhaps Erica and Boyd will have further information for us that I didn’t think to ask for,” Peter mused. “There’s also the matter of Stiles’ new telepathy to consider.”
Derek’s eyebrows lifted almost to his hairline. “You’re telepathic?”
Stiles shrugged. “Apparently?”
“According to Erica, Stiles has shown a marked increase in pain levels when approached by anyone who is fully human,” Peter revealed. He paused for a moment. “She said that Melissa McCall caused him to pass out before she even made it in the door. He was complaining that her anger was ‘like knives.’ Werewolves don’t seem to bother him, but when I put my hand on his shoulder he was able to access my thoughts to some degree.”
Stiles found himself under scrutiny by both werewolves.
“In what way do we have to consider it?” Derek asked finally.
Stiles blinked. “What?”
Derek made an impatient noise. “Peter. You said that we had to consider Stiles’ new telepathy. Did you have something specific in mind, or was that just your way of telling me about it?”
“Ah yes,” Peter replied. “I was thinking that it might be a good idea to move Stiles away from the general human population for a while, give him a chance to heal and strengthen his mind, and then re-introduce humans one at a time. That way he can work on crafting barriers so that he’s not overwhelmed.”
“Why can’t I just stay here?” Stiles grumbled.
“You could, I suppose,” Peter allowed. “I’m not sure how you’d go about attending school, however. And your instinct to avoid the hospital while you were at your most vulnerable probably saved your life. If a single mind could cause you to pass out, I shudder to think what harm an emergency room would have caused you.”
Stiles considered that. “You’re probably right.” He slumped in his seat.
Peter smiled smugly. “I get that a lot.”
“Alright then, I’m deputising you to help me convince my dad that this is a good idea!” Stiles said triumphantly.
Derek rolled his eyes. “How about I hire one of the cabins on the edge of the Preserve?” he interjected. “Peter, you and Stiles talk to the sheriff and work out some way to get Stiles off school for a couple of weeks. I’m going to make a call to a man I know in New York who has some experience with mind powers, see if he’s willing to give some pointers.”
Stiles frowned. “Wait a minute. If you’ve got the money to go hiring a cabin in the woods, why have you been living in a burnt out house and a train car?”
Peter snorted. “We all have ways to punish ourselves. My nephew’s just happen to be rather more overtly dramatic than most.”
“I don’t have to stay and listen to this,” Derek announced. “I’ll go get things rolling, you two—you have your instructions.”
“Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full, sir.” Stiles watched with some resentment as Derek let himself out the front door and then took off at a run into the pre-dawn light. Peter was right, Derek was a drama llama. Feeling better with that thought, Stiles turned back to Peter only to see that he was being eyed with increased thoughtfulness.
“Interesting,” Peter said cryptically. “And possibly problematical in a number of ways, but I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with a solution that everyone finds satisfying.”
“What are you talking about?” Stiles demanded, his earlier wariness returning.
“Just concentrate on getting better,” Peter replied with an insincere smile that raised Stiles’ hackles even more. “Now then, you must be beginning to feel a little peckish, yes? What do you say to a little breakfast? Is there anything that your father particularly enjoys?”
“He’s most fond of things that are bad for him,” Stiles stated. “But there was a blood pressure scare several years ago and his family has a history of atherosclerosis, so I’m doing my best to limit his bad choices and get as many vegetables into him as possible.”
“Hmm,” Peter said. “Well, we certainly want to keep the good sheriff around as long as possible, don’t we? I know a rather delicious egg-white and feta recipe that is delightful on English muffins. Full of flavour and doesn’t appear to the lay-person to be healthy at all. It will require a quick visit to the store though, if you can bear the loss of my presence for that long?”
“I think I’ll just about manage,” Stiles replied dryly.
Peter wasn’t gone long, and he’d been rattling around in the kitchen for about half an hour before sleepy teenagers started to appear on the stairs.
Isaac went over to see what Peter was doing and to offer his help, but Erica and Boyd came in to see Stiles. Erica, in particular, looked pleased to see him awake.
“So hey.” She settled into a chair like she belonged there. “Holy experimentation, Batman!”
Stiles cracked a grin. “I know, right? All he needed was a white cat and he would have been the cliché evil villain.” The smile fell off his face as he remembered being strapped down, and he shuddered. “By the way, thanks for the save,” he said, dragging his mind away from the images that kept popping up. “I owe you one, I guess.”
Boyd just stared at him.
“You kind of saved us first,” Erica pointed out.
Stiles frowned, thinking back. “Really? I thought the only thing that came from that was an electric shock.”
“Not then.” Erica gave Stiles a significant look that he was unable to decipher. “After. When you did the thing.”
“You know, the—” and she made a complicated gesture with her hands and made a whoosh noise.
Stiles sighed. “I really have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“When you threw everyone across the room with your mind!” Erica nearly shouted, flinging her hands up in exasperation.
Stiles blinked. Out in the kitchen, the sounds of breakfast being prepared halted, and on the stairs, Noah looked almost as surprised as Stiles felt.
Peter came in, wearing an apron Stiles had gotten his father for a father’s day gift several years ago and which had—up until now—never been worn. “You’re telekinetic as well as telepathic?” He sounded intrigued and excited. He turned an appraising gaze to Erica and Boyd. “And the two of you decided that the smart thing to do would be to keep it from us?” Approval flashed across his face. “Well done, puppies. I’m impressed.”
Noah gave him a look but didn’t say anything. He continued down the stairs to end up several feet away from Stiles, looking awkward. “How are you feeling, son?”
“I’m going to get really sick of people asking me that, aren’t I?” Stiles asked rhetorically. “I’m mostly fine. A few aches and pains, and I’ve had a steady headache since I woke up but, otherwise, not too bad, considering.”
“Is my presence making it worse?”
Stiles concentrated. Now that he thought about it, the pain was increasing. Well, this wasn’t going to work. He wasn’t going to stay away from his dad for that long, so he needed to figure out a way to muffle or block or something. He took a deep breath and thought about all the books he’d read where telepathy was a thing. Most of them spoke of barriers or shields, ways to keep the mind separate and untouched.
Stiles didn’t have much experience building physical walls, but he’d created a few firewalls in his time. Maybe that imagery would work. Holding that thought in his mind, he set about creating a set of ‘rules’ that his firewall would follow. He took his father’s mental signature—glowing like a beacon—of red, wet earth and set up a recognition tag. Almost immediately his headache receded.
“Wow,” Stiles breathed, a sense of achievement lifting his spirits. “I can totally do this. I’m a boss!”
“Do you know that you’re saying that out loud?” Noah looked amused.
“I’m amazing, I’ll have you know,” Stiles informed him. “I’ve set up a firewall that’s diverting your energy around my brain, so you and me should be a-okay, daddio.”
Noah gave a sigh of relief. “Can I hug you then?”
Stiles shrugged, unwilling to show everyone how nervous the question made him. It would be so very shitty if getting a hug from his dad hurt him. “Only one way to find out.” He rose to his feet and was almost immediately enfolded in a gentle embrace.
There was no return of the headache, but Stiles was very definitely picking up his dad’s thoughts. There was thankfulness that Stiles seemed okay and pride at how well he was dealing with things, a number of darker red threads that seemed to be about Gerard Argent and hunters in general, and a tightly woven knot of fear mixed with curiosity.
Stiles broke free and turned to glare at Erica. “You told him about werewolves?”
Even without telepathy, Stiles could tell by the look on his dad’s face that he’d learnt about a lot of things that had been going on in the last few months. He gulped.
“We are going to talk about this, Stiles,” Noah said. “But now is not the time. For now, I want to try whatever it is that Peter’s made that smells so good.”
Peter had made what looked like enough food to feed a small army. He was correct about it being delicious, and Stiles was pleased to see that his dad went back for thirds. Hopefully, Peter would be willing to give up the recipe, because finding healthy options that his father enjoyed was an ongoing battle and this? Was victory.
He raised his egg-white muffin filled hand to Peter in a parody of a toast. Peter had that smug look on his face, but Stiles couldn’t even bring himself to be annoyed about it.
He’d also made his peace with Erica. His father was the sheriff, after all. Getting information out of people was pretty much most of his job description.
The discussion turned to the Argent fire.
“The house wasn’t on fire when we left,” Erica swore. “Stiles’ mind whammy threw everyone across the room and, when we got ourselves free, we just picked him up and ran right here.”
“You’re saying that I managed to knock them all unconscious?” Stiles asked sceptically. “Cause it seems very unlikely that any of them would have just let us waltz out the front door.”
“They weren’t…unconscious, exactly,” Erica said with uncharacteristic hesitation.
“They were dead,” Boyd said with blunt honesty. “There were only three heartbeats in that room.”
Stiles’ mouth dropped open, and his stomach started churning.
“It was self-defence!” Erica insisted. “Gerard was about to snap your neck! He said he was going to do it, and then he put his hands on your head and then you blasted everyone in the room back! It wasn’t your fault, it was self-defence, and they deserved it!”
Stiles shook his head as he saw Gerard’s face flash before his eyes. “I don’t remember doing that.” He pushed his plate away.
Peter came over and, with obvious deliberation, put his hand on Stiles’ shoulder. His mind was immediately right there, his current thoughts and emotions sitting at the top and practically flowing into Stiles’ head. There was the satisfaction that Gerard was dead, of course, and gratitude for killing him. There was also anger over what had been done to Stiles and Erica and Boyd, and a sense of certainty that none of them were to blame for anything that had happened in that house. They were lucky that they all got out of there alive.
“Thanks,” Stiles whispered around the tightness in his throat.
Peter lifted his hand and broke the connection without saying a word then went over to the sink to begin rinsing his plate.
“Sit back down, Peter,” Noah said firmly. “You cooked, Erica and Boyd can do the honours of clearing up.”
“Sounds like a bargain to me.” Erica got to her feet. “That was the best breakfast I’ve had in ages. I’ll rinse and wash, Boyd, you stack and dry.”
“So, no clue about the fire, then.” Stiles pulled his plate back so that he could finish the last of his muffin.
“Well, there were no reports of multiple deaths while I was on my shift,” Noah said. “There might be something there when I go in today. If the fire service found signs of dead bodies, there will be a report waiting for me. Most of the evidence would have been sent off for processing, but it would be interesting to see their conclusions. And I might just take the opportunity to talk to Chris Argent, see what he’s got to say. The fire gives me a pretty convenient excuse.”
“That just leaves deciding what to do about Stiles,” Peter said, causing everyone to turn and look at him.
Stiles froze in the act of stuffing the last of his breakfast in his mouth. “Waf?” He showered the area directly in front of him with crumbs.
Peter raised his eyebrows. “No accounting for taste, I suppose,” he muttered before raising his voice to a more conversational volume and directing his words to Noah. “My nephew has no doubt procured the use of the distant-most holiday cabin for Stiles’ use. In the meantime, he will be expected at school. I strongly recommend that he not attempt to navigate such a crowded space until both he and the man that Derek will no doubt be coaxing from New York are confident that he won’t accidentally fry either his brain or the brains of everyone around him.”
“You think I’ll be able to fry people’s brains?” Stiles was distracted by the thought that his new mind powers might mean that he was now an awesome badass. Although, maybe testing it out on his classmates wasn’t the best way to stay under the radar. Not that he would actually do something like that, no matter how much of a dick Jackson was.
Noah shook his head. “Focus, Stiles. Hmm. Peter has a point. It might pay to talk to the school and have your assignments sent home for a while. If we can get some sort of medical recommendation saying that you should be kept out of school for a time…”
“We can bring it up with the doctor,” Peter promised.
“It will mean diligent study on your part,” Noah informed Stiles seriously. “We’ll help you with the learning side of things as much as we can, but it will be up to you to get your work done.”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “It will be fine. I’m all up to date and ahead with my reading. I’m even ahead with some of the set assignments that haven’t been given to us yet.”
“What do you mean, ‘assignments that we haven’t been given yet’?” Isaac spoke up for the first time since they sat down to eat.
“Some of the teachers set the same assignment every year.” Stiles picked up the salt shaker and twiddled with it. “It’s part of their lesson plan. So, they haven’t told us about it, but it’s a pretty fair bet that if all their students in the last five years have had to do it, then we will too.”
Isaac frowned. “But what if they change their mind and give you something else instead?”
Stiles shrugged. “I guess I’d have to do that one too.” He saw the expressions his three schoolmates were giving him. “What? Sometimes I’m bored, can’t sleep, and I don’t feel like gaming! I might as well get ahead on my schoolwork, since you never know when werewolf shenanigans are going to screw up the schedule.”
“You are such a nerd,” Erica said flatly.
“You wish you were as organised as I am,” Stiles responded.
“How can you be this prepared when you come across at school as an unfocused weirdo?” Isaac sounded stunned.
“Excuse you,” Stiles replied. “I know the strengths and weaknesses of my ADHD, okay? When I’m on, I get stuff done. That means that I don’t have to stress about it when I’m off. Also, I don’t do all that well in classroom situations, there are too many distractions.”
“So this stay in a cabin will probably be a piece of cake for you,” Erica said slowly.
“Meh,” Stiles said. “There is a trade-off, you know. Sometimes I need the stimulation of the classroom. It helps smooth me out, use up some energy.”
“I don’t want to know about your stimulation,” Boyd said from where he was stacking the dishwasher.
Stiles flapped his hand in that general direction. “So, I presume I won’t be alone in this cabin that happens to be located deep in the woods? Cause I’ve seen enough slasher films to know that that’s just asking for it.”
“I can stay with you, if you wish,” Peter offered.
Stiles observed him narrowly. “What is your game?” he asked bluntly. “Why are you trying to help us, help me? I took part in setting you on fire, remember? Am I supposed to believe you just happened to decide to forgive and forget?”
Peter sighed, flicking a glance at Noah. “I was not myself when I woke from the coma,” he said carefully. “I did a number of things that I would never have done if I were in my right mind, things that I feel a great deal of regret for. Against all odds, my nephew seems to be willing to accept me back with him, albeit on a provisional basis. I realised last night that I had a choice. I could either commit fully to the Hale Pack and do everything in my power to help them, or I could consider myself a lone wolf, an outsider, and work only for myself. A path that would very likely lead to either my death or the death of the only family I have left.”
Erica and Isaac were looking sympathetic, and even Boyd’s gaze on Peter was more friendly than it had been.
Stiles wasn’t convinced. “And you just happened to make this choice last night?”
“I became aware of the need to make a choice last night,” Peter corrected. “It is probably more accurate to say that I made the choice sometime this morning.”
Now Noah was looking at Peter with narrowed eyes as well.
“Just be aware that I’ll be on watch,” Stiles said finally. After all, Peter did have a fairly good excuse for going off the deep end before, and Stiles could understand his rage at the callous murder of almost his entire family, a murder that had been covered up by people who profited off his pain, off his family’s pain.
He certainly seemed a great deal saner now. Provided that all was as it appeared, he had no real problem with Peter. There was just that niggle of uncertainty.
Still, forewarned was forearmed, and now Stiles had these nifty new mind powers. He would remain vigilant.
It turned out that Derek could be frighteningly efficient when motivated. Stiles was firmly ensconced in the dwelling that had been hired for his use before lunchtime, with Derek’s friend due to arrive before dinner.
“This is a cabin?” Stiles asked when he got a view of the place.
“According to the brochure and all the paperwork it’s a cottage,” Derek corrected.
“Well, excuse me for expecting a cabin! When Peter said cabin, I was thinking more along the lines of log walls and open fires, outhouses, water pumps.” Stiles was still staring. “Mind you, if he’d said cottage, I would have been thinking of thatched roofs. Why on Earth are you forking out for something like this? How much is this costing you?”
“This was the most conveniently located place.” Derek evaded the question. “Magnus said the more secluded, the better. Come on. Let’s get you settled.”
The place came fully furnished, and Stiles hadn’t exactly brought a lot with him. Peter was due to arrive later, after picking up his own things and stopping off to get groceries.
Since it would be some time before everyone was there and they could get down to business, Stiles set his laptop up in the small bedroom he’d chosen, getting logged into the Wi-Fi. He immediately checked for his phone’s GPS signal, but it wasn’t showing up. Either his phone had somehow run out of battery, or—
“I don’t suppose you found my phone?” he asked Derek, who was lurking around the place like a giant creeper.
“No.” Derek shook his head. “I had a quick look around the field and the locker rooms, but there was no sign of it. It’s possible that Gerard destroyed it.”
Stiles groaned. “Ugh. Not another one. You know, aside from the life and death situations and the questionable moral choices and the, you know, human experimentation, probably the most inconvenient thing about this whole werewolf thing is how much it costs.”
Derek stared at him. “You think losing your phone is worse than being experimented on.”
“What? No! Not like that!” Stiles insisted. “It’s just that with all the other stuff, it goes— Crisis! Ahh! Peril! Safe. Done. But dealing with the need for new stuff, that drags things out and influences all the more normal times. Like when we can’t afford to take the summer trip that we normally take. Although, what with dad being fired and rehired as sheriff, it’s probably not the most ideal time for him to be taking breaks anyway—”
“Stiles,” Derek interrupted him. “I can get you a new phone, okay? I should have bought you one after you destroyed your other one saving my life. I just didn’t think about it.”
“Thanks,” Stiles said with some relief. “I should probably object or something but, to be honest, I’m just relieved that I don’t have to ask dad for another one. Although,” a new thought made him feel a bit more cheery, “now that he knows about all the craziness, all the collateral destruction won’t be nearly so hard to explain.”
Derek began to look amused. “Go on, then. Tell me how you’d explain to your father that you need a new phone because you nearly drowned while trying to save my life. Let’s see how much easier that would be.”
“Very funny.” Stiles scowled as he pictured the scenario. “Fine, you have a point. The lies were probably easier.”
“Your father loves you,” Derek said softly. “Don’t try and shut him out in some misguided effort to keep him safe. One day, you’ll wish you shared—” He broke off, taking a deep breath.
Stiles winced at the uncomfortable reminder that Derek’s parents were both dead. It was pretty obvious that he felt personally responsible. Stiles averted his eyes and nodded. He didn’t know what to say.
“I’m not sure I want to leave you alone here with Peter,” Derek said after a moment. “I’ll hang around at least until Magnus gets here, and then, tomorrow, I’ll bring your father by so that the three of you can discuss your situation.”
Stiles decided to ignore the part where his dad somehow needed a werewolf escort to visit his own son and focused on the part of that sentence that bothered him. “Right. Your friend Magnus. I thought you said he was in New York.”
Derek’s frown intensified. “He is.”
Stiles went to fling his hands in the air to express his confusion. He ended up knocking his mug off the table but somehow managed to catch it before the dregs spilt out over his laptop. “Come on, dude! I know how long it takes to get here from New York, okay? If you only called him this morning there’s no way he’ll be here by then. Not even if he was already at the airport and there was a flight available immediately!”
“He’s not going to be flying.”
Stiles waited expectantly for Derek to elaborate. When it became clear that that was all he was going to say, he heaved a great sigh of annoyance. “If he’s not flying, then how the hell is he going to get here?”
“He’s going to portal into San Francisco and then drive the rest of the way.”
Stiles raised his eyebrows. “Portal. He’s going to portal.”
Derek shifted uncomfortably. “He’s a warlock. They can portal between pre-prepared sites, and the nearest one to here is in San Francisco. If he needs to, he’ll be able to set a site up here, and then he’ll be able to commute.”
“He’s going to commute. From here to New York. Through portals.”
Derek’s frown was starting to look concerned. “Yes. Is this going to be a problem for you?”
“What? No! Never! Not at all!” Stiles gave Derek his best bullshit smile. “It’s fine! It’s good. It’s all…good.”
“I can tell him we don’t need him anymore if you would really rather not—”
Stiles slumped down. “I’m just a little intimidated, okay? It’s bad enough that I have werewolves popping in and out of my house without so much as a by-your-leave, now there’s going to be a warlock around to make me feel even more inadequate.”
Derek’s nostrils flared. Stiles wondered if his scent was giving something away, and went hot with embarrassment when he realised that Derek could probably tell that Stiles was slightly turned on. Great.
“You were never inadequate.” The certainty in Derek’s voice almost had Stiles believing him. “Even if you were—which you weren’t—then think of this. According to Erica, there were at least a dozen hunters in the Argents basement.” Derek stared at Stiles, eyes intense and with a faint tinge of red. “One blast of your new powers and they were all dead. It was an accident, it was self-defence, and no one blames you. But it means that whatever happened to you, you are now as dangerous, hell, probably more dangerous, than any of us. Magnus isn’t coming all this way in such a hurry just because I asked him for a favour. He’s coming because when I told him what had happened he recognised how essential it is that you get some training as soon as possible.”
Stiles sniffed. “I don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse.”
Derek rolled his eyes. “Well, I’ll just leave you to your pity party then, shall I? I’ll be outside getting familiar with the area.” With that, he turned and left.
Stiles watched him go resentfully. How dare Derek try to be adult and reasonable while Stiles was going through a crisis? Muttering rude comments under his breath, he went back to his laptop to check his email. When that was done, he went to YouTube to see if there were any new cat videos.
Magnus Bane arrived only two hours after Peter. He was a handsome man, not much taller than Stiles but with a sense of presence that made him seem bigger—although the heels might have had something to do with it.
Magnus had black hair that was dyed at the tips, his jewellery was abundant, and he wore enough eyeliner that Stiles suspected that he kept some lucky cosmetics seller very comfortably situated. Underneath his stylish and no doubt expensive clothes, Stiles was able to discern the lines of a dancer’s body, lithe, strong, deceptively muscled. Stiles wondered if the clothes, the hair, and the make-up were there to serve as a distraction. There must be a lot of people who would underestimate this man’s physicality, only to find out too late that it was unwise to mess with him.
The car he’d arrived in didn’t look like any taxi Stiles had ever seen, it was large and sleek, and the woman driving it was covered in tattoos. She got out and dropped two medium-sized bags on the ground before giving Magnus a quick embrace and hopping back into the car. Less than two minutes after pulling up, she was reversing back down the driveway at a speed that made Stiles hope that no unsuspecting surprise visitor was making their way up.
“How glorious.” Magnus gave the surroundings a quick once over that looked more apprehensive than appreciative. He turned a quick smile towards Derek. “Darling! You look—” he leaned forward to peer into Derek’s eyes. Interestingly, Derek let him. “You look dreadful, darling. What has this place done to you?” His shrewd gaze landed on Peter, and he blinked twice. “Derek, hotpot, are you aware that there’s a revenant standing behind you?”
“This is my uncle, Peter,” Derek said. “Peter, this is Magnus Bane.”
“Your reputation precedes you.” Peter’s eyes narrowed. “I wasn’t aware that my nephew ran in such exalted circles.” He stepped forward and extended his hand.
“Why would you?” Magnus smiled, accepting the handshake. “The grapevine in the land of the dead is atrocious, something really ought to be done. Delighted, of course. And this must be Stiles.” He dropped Peter’s hand and turned to give Stiles a thorough once over. “Well, it’s not a magical ability, I can tell you that much.” His head turned at an angle that looked uncomfortable. “What magic you did have was burnt out of you recently. You have my sympathies, it must have been extremely traumatic.”
Stiles’ heart sank. What the hell was he supposed to do now? Derek had sounded so sure that his friend would be able to help and, without intending to, Stiles had developed expectations.
“Don’t look so down.” Magnus cupped Stiles’ cheek with a be-ringed hand. “I’ll still be able to help you. What’s more, it will be excellent training for me in dealing with telepaths! A win for everyone!” He dropped his hand and turned towards the house. “Come, hotpot, show me to my room. I need to freshen up after my long and dreary journey. Bring my bags, would you?”
Stiles raised his hand to his face where Magnus had just been touching him. There had been no door in his mind, no invasion of his thoughts. Just a faint smell/taste of passion fruit with a bright yellow tint. Maybe this guy would be able to help him.
As soon as Derek put Magnus’ bags down in the bedroom, his elbow was taken in a gentle yet inexorable grip, and he was firmly guided over to sit on the bed.
Derek went without a fuss, knowing from past experience that resisting would do no good. Magnus always tended to get what he wanted in the end. It was a good thing that he was, in general, a benevolent force in the world.
“Would it be correct of me to assume that the revenant outside was the same uncle that Laura told me of? The one that suffered such severe burns as to make him unrecognisable, and who last I knew was in a coma in the burns unit of a hospital?” Magnus asked.
Derek nodded silently.
“And yet he’s here, fully healed from his injuries, and recently risen from the dead. You are now the alpha, and Laura—” Magnus paused and watched with sympathy as Derek ducked his head. “Yes. I thought so. My condolences for your loss.”
“Thank you,” Derek managed to get out, although it sounded strangled even to him.
“With those facts in hand I believe I can compile what must be a reasonable facsimile of events,” Magnus continued. “Your uncle killed your sister for her power, thereby healing himself. You then killed him, taking your mother’s power back into the main line. He has somehow regained life.” He eyed Derek for a moment. “So, what kind relationship exists between you right now?”
Derek tried to think how best to explain something he wasn’t certain he properly understood himself. “He was crazy when he killed Laura,” he said finally. “Still able to think and plan and…but crazy. I didn’t actually kill him out of revenge. I killed him because, one way or another, his life was going to end that night, and if it wasn’t me, it would either be a hunter or a newly bitten wolf that had yet to come to terms with his new circumstances. He was even less prepared to be an alpha than he was to be a wolf. Peter had achieved the purpose he’d killed Laura for, and he was going to die by someone’s hand. I just chose for it to be mine.”
Derek shook his head. “I’m not sure how he arranged to be brought back, how he knew it was even possible. But that hard edge of insanity isn’t in him anymore. I don’t know if he really regrets what he did, but—”
“But you want to give him the benefit of the doubt,” Magnus finished for him.
“He’s the only blood family I have left.”
“Very well, I will say no more on the subject for now,” Magnus proclaimed. “Now, I just need to know why it is that you waited to ask for my help.”
“You’re affiliated with the Garroway Pack,” Derek reminded him. “It’s the height of bad manners for one alpha to request the services of another pack’s emissary, and I didn’t have time to go through all the formalities. I’ve been the alpha for less than two months. I don’t have the kind of clout to get a request like that through.”
“Full marks for effort, but a ‘C’ for execution,” Magnus stated. “Come now, Derek, you should be perfectly aware that I am no pack’s Emissary. I am not affiliated with them, if anything, they are affiliated with me.”
Derek sat there silently, feeling miserable.
Magnus sighed. “Tell me everything that’s happened since you left New York.”
Stiles raised his eyebrows when he saw Derek obediently follow Magnus into the house with his bags.
“Magnus is rather more flamboyant than I had expected,” Stiles remarked. “There’s something about him, though…” He shook his head and turned his attention to Peter, who had also been watching Magnus and Derek. “Hey, I’ll need someone to tell Scott where I am so that he knows where to find me. I sent him an email, but he’s terrible at checking. I don’t want him to get all panicky at school tomorrow when I’m not there.”
“I’m pretty sure that neither Derek nor I are the right people to pass any kind of sensitive information on,” Peter replied. “Perhaps it might pay to have the good sheriff speak to him if you want someone to let him know what’s going on. Scott will also not be welcome here while the house and grounds remain even a temporary residence for the alpha.”
“What?” Stiles scoffed. “Look, I know that you guys and Scott don’t exactly get on, but he’s no threat to you, he’s pretty much a giant puppy. And, anyway, he’s my best friend, practically my brother.”
Peter gave Stiles an interested look. “You mean, you don’t know…”
“Know what?” Stiles asked warily.
“About the showdown last night?” Peter raised his eyebrows. “No? Jackson Whittemore managing to turn from an evolving kanima into a beta werewolf, Scott’s revelation that he was working with Gerard Argent and was both aware of and planned to be complicit in a scheme that would have involved Derek being forced to bite Gerard so that his cancer could be cured?”
Stiles gaped at Peter in shock. “What? No! Scott couldn’t have! He wouldn’t have!”
“Not even to save his mother’s life? He told us that Gerard had threatened her, and that Derek didn’t need to know any of this because, and I quote, ‘You might be an alpha but you’re not my alpha.’”
“No,” Stiles denied. “He would have told me. He would have let me know.”
Peter just shook his head pityingly. And, really, to lie about something that could be so easily disproved was not like him.
Stiles groaned as he accepted that Peter was telling the truth. “Oh my god. He did, didn’t he? What was he thinking? Derek put himself in the crosshairs, literally, to save his life only a few weeks ago!”
“The whole plan was foiled by Gerard being a no-show,” Peter remarked, looking highly amused. “It turns out that we have you to thank for that. In an indirect way that’s also very direct.”
“I have no idea what you meant by what you just said.”
“Well, Gerard wasn’t there because you’d already killed him,” Peter explained. “But since his death was inadvertent—an accident rather than something planned, and something that only happened due to his own actions—it’s not really something to thank you for.”
“Yeah, I don’t need to be thanked for my stint as a mass murderer.” Stiles dug his hands into his pockets and hunched his shoulders. Was it only this morning that he was blithely condemning the hunters for their kill counts? God, the difference a few hours could make.
“If you’re not careful, you’ll surpass my nephew as the most morose brooder in Beacon Hills.” Peter rolled his eyes in exasperation. “Come with me, padawan. Let me teach you the ways of heart-healthy cooking.”
Despite himself, Stiles found himself grinning as he followed Peter into the kitchen to get started on dinner.
“You poor boy,” Magnus said compassionately as Derek’s halting tale came to a stop with the twin discoveries of the experimentation on Stiles and the subsequent blaze that destroyed the Argent house. “You’ve had rather a dreadful time of it, haven’t you? Now, tell me again, why is it that you are only now reaching out for my help? Did you think I would refuse?”
“No, that’s… We don’t involve outsiders in werewolf business.”
“But you do bite teenagers and make them into werewolves.”
“They made their own choices,” Derek said defensively. “I told them that it would be dangerous; I warned them. They had their reasons for accepting, and once they did, they weren’t outsiders anymore.”
“And Stiles? You’ve accepted his help on a number of occasions.”
“I tried to keep him out of it.” Derek’s face twisted in frustration. “I did my best to make sure he was safe. But he just doesn’t listen! He just has to stick his nose into sensitive places, and then he gets into trouble, and even though he’s nearly died far too many times, he just won’t give up!”
Magnus listened, waiting until Derek had finished his emotion-fuelled rant. “Well, I can see I have my work cut out for me here,” he said, voice kinder than his words might suggest. “The first thing I need to do is set up some warding so that we’re not interrupted all the time. After that… I think I should prepare a private portal site. There’s also a rather unsavoury emanation pervading this whole area, and if it is what I think it is, then I need to make a trip. I’ll be having some strong words with the current Morrigan.”
“Alright,” Derek said cautiously.
“When that’s taken care of, I’ll return to take up the instruction of the rather delightful young man outside. Right now, it’s not in anyone’s best interest to have him running around without training. Good work on calling me in so early, by the way. It will be refreshing to teach a mind that has yet to pick up the innumerable bad habits that most of my students have developed by the time they come to my door.”
Derek nodded, waiting for the axe to fall. It was an almost tangible thing hovering in the air between them.
“As for you,” Magnus tapped his forefinger against his bottom lip in contemplation, “I think it might be advantageous for you to spend some time with my Alexander.”
Derek gave him a sharp look. That wasn’t what he’d been expecting. “You’re talking about Alec Lightwood? The Alec Lightwood that leads a band of hunters? That Alexander? That’s who you think would be a good person to bring into this clusterfuck we’ve got going on here?”
“Alexander is a demon hunter, not a werewolf hunter,” Magnus said soothingly. “I can assure you that there is no ambiguity whatsoever when it comes to the necessity of dispatching demons, and Alec was raised to lead a team of front line fighters from the cradle. He would be an invaluable resource to you.”
Derek eyed him with suspicion. “And the fact that you’d enjoy having him here has nothing to do with it, I suppose.”
Magnus waved his hands airily. “The best plans achieve multiple goals, my dear. It is true that Alec’s presence would gratify me, but it is also true that he could help you. Also true—but of less importance to you—is that he could do with a break, and a change is as good as a rest, as they say.”
“Whatever,” Derek sighed. “You’re going to do whatever you want anyway, aren’t you?”
“How well you know me.” Magnus threw a smirk over his shoulder as he got to his feet and made his way over to inspect the empty wardrobe. “Hmm, I suppose this will have to do…”
Dinner that night was a mix of highly entertaining banter and fraught tension. Peter was as wary of Magnus as Stiles was of Peter, and Derek spent the majority of the time brooding.
Magnus, however, seemed to care nothing for any tension. He kept a light conversation going with Peter and Stiles, telling them amusing stories of people he’d known and places he’d seen. Stiles found him fascinating and was soon hanging off his every word. He ended dinner positively delighted that Magnus was going to be his teacher for the near future.
When dinner was over, Magnus excused himself, informing them that he had several errands to run but he would be back in the morning. Stiles accompanied him to the portal site that had been set up by the back door and watched with interest as Magnus was enveloped in a blue mist before disappearing.
“He’s in a committed relationship,” Derek said from the darkness, nearly giving Stiles a heart attack.
“What?” he asked when he’d gotten his breath back.
“Magnus. He’s in a long-term, committed relationship with a demon hunter,” Derek repeated.
“Oh. Well, good then.” Stiles wondered where that had come from. Had he been daydreaming about portals so hard that he’d missed the first part of the conversation?
Derek nodded and then retreated, blending back into the shadows until Stiles was left standing there alone.
“Whatever dude,” Stiles muttered, going up to the portal site and poking at it carefully with a finger. It had been set while he and Peter were in the kitchen, so he hadn’t had a chance to witness the process, which was a bummer.
He looked up at the waxing moon and wondered what Scott was doing right then. Had he spent any part of the day concerned about him, or was his concern only for his mother and for Allison? It was still hard to believe that Scott had done what Peter had said, gone behind his back like that. He’d thought they were a team, just them against the world. But maybe Scott hadn’t thought of it the same way.
Stiles sat on a creaky old swing-seat that was situated so that it got a good view of the wooded Preserve that the property ran right up next to. Maybe once he got these new powers under proper control, he and Scott would be able to fix things between them. Now that Stiles wasn’t going to be a weak liability, now that he could hold his own—
—we can lure him to the station,” Scott said. “I’ll make sure the sheriff is there, you make sure your guys are prepared for what you need to do. Remember that if my mom gets hurt, the whole deal’s off—
Pain exploded through Stiles’ head and he lurched to his feet. He managed several steps back towards the house before he fell forward, vomiting up the contents of his stomach. Even as he did it, he lamented the waste of a really nice dinner.
“Stiles!” Derek said from close by. “Are you alright?”
A tentative hand was patting gently at his back, making him feel immeasurably better. His headache receded slightly, and he started to feel in control of himself again.
“Yeah, I’m doing great,” Stiles gasped when he was able to. “This is what I always do on a Sunday night, you know. The fun never ends when you hang out with a Stilinski.” The hand on his back stopped. “No, keep doing what you were doing” Stiles felt a thread of panic as the throbbing in his head increased.
Derek resumed his patting, and Stiles breathed a sigh of relief.
“Let’s get you inside,” Derek said after a few moments, helping Stiles to his feet. “Do you know what brought this on?”
“Not really,” Stiles said, thinking that perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to go around telling everyone that he was having visions on top of everything else.
Derek just gave him the eyebrows. Stiles remembered abruptly that werewolves could hear when you lied.
“Oh right,” Stiles said sheepishly. “It wasn’t really a lie,” he defended himself, “I don’t know where the vision came from. I just had…it felt a little bit like a flashback? Of part of a conversation that I never saw. I don’t know if my mind was making it up, or I picked it up long distance style. But now my head is back to feeling like it might crack open at any time.”
“Why long distance?” Peter asked, appearing at his side with a glass of water.
Stiles took the glass and drank thirstily. It didn’t do much for his headache, but his stomach and throat felt a lot better. “I was thinking about Scott,” he explained, handing the glass back. “The next second I was watching Scott talk. It was weird as hell.” All of a sudden he wanted to lie down. Weariness weighed down his arms and legs, and it was an effort to keep his head up. “Whoa,” Stiles said as the room swam around him. “What was in that water?” He had intended it to be accusing, but it came out like he was drunk.
“Nothing I haven’t seen you take for pain before,” Peter replied. “In fact, this prescription has your name on it.”
Stiles giggled. “Oxycodone. It always makes me loopy. Not normally quite this quick though.”
“Come on,” Derek said, lifting Stiles into his arms effortlessly. “Let’s get you to bed.”
“Good idea,” Stiles agreed, forgetting what he’d been about to say. “We should go to bed, Derek, that’s a great idea.” There was the vague sound of chortling behind him, but it didn’t mean anything so Stiles dismissed it. “Hey Derek,” he said as they went up the stairs. “Did you know that really close up, your neck is actually red? Is that because you’re an alpha? Is it like, the red from your eyes bleeding into your skin? Are you red all over under your clothes?”
Derek didn’t answer, but the red grew more pronounced.
“It’s probably because you’re so hot,” Stiles announced with some satisfaction once he figured it out. “You’re hotter than anyone else I’ve ever seen, you know. Hot to trot. Magnus calls you hotpot. Do you smoke pot? Pot is bad, okay, if you smoke it dad will find out and you’ll be grounded until you go away to college.”
“I don’t smoke pot, Stiles.”
“Good,” Stiles said as he was deposited on his bed. “Cause dad will ground you.”
“You already said that,” Derek pointed out, bending down to untie Stiles’ shoelaces.
Stiles watched amazed as his feet appeared. It was like magic. “I must be magic,” he said, feeling awed. “Look, Derek, I made magic happen!” He wiggled his toes. “Toes are really weird, you know? They’re like stumpy tiny fingers. Imagine what aliens would think if they met us, with our freaky looking feet. We’d look so weird to them.”
“Go to sleep, Stiles.” Derek guided him down into a prone position and then pulled a fluffy duvet up to cover him.
“Okay.” Stiles let his eyes droop shut. He opened them wide again when he heard the bedroom door open. Derek was silhouetted there. “You’re not going, are you? I don’t want you to go, Derek. I don’t want to wake up strapped to a table.”
Derek hesitated. “I’m just going to get a chair to sit in,” he said eventually.
“Oh.” Stiles yawned, closing his eyes again. “That’s alright then.” As he drifted off he mumbled, “I know you’ll keep me safe…”
Derek stood in the doorway, hand clenched around the doorknob.
“You are whipped, nephew.” Peter was watching from the top of the stairs.
Derek glared at him.
“Don’t give me that, you know it’s true. You do have a type, don’t you? Although I have to say that this one seems much stronger than Paige was.”
“Don’t talk about Paige,” Derek growled, stalking past Peter and back down the stairs. He chose one of the more comfortable chairs from the lounge to bring up to Stiles’ room.
“You’re actually going to do it,” Peter marvelled. “You’re going to sit beside his bed all night keeping the monsters away?”
“I told him I would.” Derek stopped for a moment and turned back to his uncle. “Stiles has trust issues. And he has reason to fear sleeping, considering what happened to him. If I want him to trust me going into the future, I have to prove myself worthy of that trust. Promising him something so simple and then going back on it isn’t going to help at all.”
“He is going to be an invaluable ally, that much is true.” Peter watched as Derek began to carry his chosen armchair towards the staircase. “Here, let me help you with that.”
“I can manage on my own,” Derek replied.
“Of course you can,” Peter agreed. “But why should you have to?”
Derek watched his uncle over the back of the chair for a few moments. “Alright.”
Peter stepped forward and took the weight of the chair’s back. “Go on. You go up first, I’ll follow.”
“Alright,” Derek said again. Together they carried the chair up the stairs.
Stiles awoke in a strange room in a strange house. He was on a bed, rather than in it, although there was a duvet wrapped snugly around him. He was fully dressed except for his socks and shoes. There was an armchair tucked between the end of his bed and the window.
Stiles blinked as the events of the day before came back to him. Right, cottage in the woods, lessons in how to use mind powers.
The smell of frying bacon drifted to his nostrils, spurring him to get up although he’d actually been quite comfortable.
Downstairs Peter was cooking again. Bacon was frying in one pan while French toast was sizzling in another. Stiles’ stomach rumbled with anticipation.
Peter looked over at him with a faint grimace. “Please, don’t feel you need to change your clothes or wash up on our account.”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “Fine, yes, I’ll have a shower and get changed. Just make sure there’s still bacon when I get back or you won’t like the consequences.” He ignored Peter’s smirk and went back up the stairs.
Breakfast was great, just like everything else Peter had prepared.
“How are you so good at this?” Stiles looked at the carefully stacked deliciousness on his fork with approval.
Peter shrugged. “I did three years at the Institute of Culinary Education in Los Angeles,” he said. “For a time I was planning to open a restaurant here in Beacon Hills, but then events overtook me.”
Right. The Hale fire. Stiles started to feel nauseous again.
—know exactly how I’m going to do it,” Kate assured him, eyes gleaming with the thrill of the hunt. “Although several of the ‘ingredients’ won’t be ready for a few months, so I’ve decided to have a little fun first—
This time Stiles managed to make it to the bathroom before his stomach completely overturned itself.
“That’s the second meal in a row that he’s lost,” Peter said lightly when Stiles finally emerged from the bathroom only to lie down on the couch and drop into unconsciousness. “I’m beginning to develop a complex.”
“Shut up, Peter,” Derek said, watching Stiles with concern. “Where the hell is Magnus? He said he’d be back this morning.”
“Speak my name, and I appear!” came Magnus’ voice from behind them.
Before he’d finished the first word, Derek had whirled around, claws extended and ready to strike.
“My, my,” Magnus said, eyebrows lifting. “Things are a little tense this morning, aren’t they?”
“Sorry.” Derek retracted his claws. “It’s probably not a good idea to go sneaking around here at the moment.”
“Evidently,” Magnus remarked. He looked at Stiles laid out on the couch. “Ah, our young acolyte is in some distress I see. Here, let me—” He walked over and placed a hand over Stiles’ forehead. “Hmm, interesting. Maybe if I…there, that should do it.” Blue smoke drifted from his fingers and was absorbed into Stiles’ skin.
A moment later, Stiles’ eyes opened. They cleared quickly, and by the time he was sitting up, he was frowning. “Okay, that’s going to get old very quickly. How the hell am I supposed to function when visions keep ambushing me and wiping me out?”
“You won’t need to worry about those for a little while,” Magnus assured him. “I’ve blocked them from your mind for the moment.”
Stiles heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank you.”
“The block is only temporary,” Magnus warned. “As soon as your mind has developed enough to be able to cope without shutting you down, I’ll be removing it. The mind is a place full of traps and twists, and if you ignore an issue for too long, you only increase the damage that it can cause.”
“Yeah, I suppose that makes sense,” Stiles said reluctantly.
“Now, why don’t you two go off and do whatever it is that werewolves do during the day,” Magnus said to Peter and Derek, making a shooing motion with his fingers. “I would like to be left quite alone with my apprentice for at least the next two hours, if you please.”
Peter gave a short bow. “As you command. Come on Derek, why don’t we stop by and see the sheriff, see what he’s discovered.”
Derek gave Stiles a serious look. “Are you okay with this?”
“Yeah, go on.” Stiles rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “I need to start my Jedi training.”
“We’ll be back at eleven thirty,” Derek assured him. “We’ll bring lunch, so you don’t need to go mucking around in the kitchen unless you want to. Just a warning, Peter has a thing about people in his kitchens. Prepare for a meltdown if anything’s out of place when he gets back.”
“I heard that!” came from the front door where Peter was waiting.
“I’ll see you then.” Stiles turned to Magnus. “Alright then, Yoda. Help me work out how to use the force.”
Magnus nodded craftily. “Help you I can. Yes, mmmm.”
Stiles laughed. This was going to be great.