When Stiles came down on Saturday morning, Noah was already there, sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee, three files stacked in front of him. He looked tired and worn, and it was clear even before he opened his mouth that he had bad news. Peter was at the kitchen counter, pummelling away at something that looked like bread dough. He didn’t look terribly happy either.
“Renee came through,” Noah said solemnly when the household had gathered. He spread the contents of one of the files he’d brought out for everyone to see. “Oh, incidentally kid, we’re going to need more printer ink. I’m pretty sure we’re nearly out.”
“I’ll order more.” Stiles stared at a list of ‘observed mutations’ that had been included in the file. “Is this… Is this all real? Do they really have an evil lab where they’re doing all of this?”
Noah nodded grimly. “It’s located about two hours drive from here.” He sighed. “And there’s something you need to see.” He opened another, much slimmer file, and put three photos on the table. Three small, bald-headed children, dressed in nothing but thin lab gowns, huddled in separate cells.
“Oh my god.” Stiles was horrified. Beside him, Derek started up a subvocal rumbling growl.
The room around them darkened abruptly, and the air started to crackle. Stiles looked up to see that Magnus’ eyes were glowing with power. He was furious.
“I assume that Renee was able to tell us precisely where this is?” Magnus’ tone was mild, but Stiles wasn’t fooled.
Noah nodded. “She called me two hours ago. There’s more, of course, this isn’t the only lab that the hunters have. But it is the primary production facility, and it’s close to us. It’s also the only place she found that’s currently holding children.”
“We’ve got to get them out of there!” Stiles said urgently.
“We will be getting them out of there.” Magnus turned to Alec, who had drawn himself up to his full height and looked like he was holding himself under strict control. “Go. Talk to your clan, talk to my people. Talk to all of them. I want everyone in the city who you know will follow us to be read in on the situation. Call in any favours you need to. If we want to do this properly, we’re going to need everyone we can get.”
“Renee is monitoring the other installations,” Noah said as Alec left to use the portal back to New York. “She revealed that she belongs to a larger group of supernaturals, and they’re all up in arms about what she’s found out. She told me that there are other groups that will take responsibility for the other sites, so we don’t have to worry about them. This one needs to be taken out first, and we’re closer than anyone else. Renee has a team ready to track all communications in and out when we make our move. She’s confident that in the commotion she’ll be able to ferret out anything that she’s missed so far. She recommends that we go in, hit hard and fast, and get out again.” He squared his shoulders. “Renee showed me some of the data she managed to pick up from some of the scientists who’ve been taking things home to work on—we’re going for scorched earth here. We take their victims, we kill everyone else. If you can’t agree to that, you can’t come.”
Stiles would have been concerned at hearing his dad demand that a group of people be killed without a lawful trial, but the shock of this whole situation had thinned his shields and he managed to pick up some seriously disturbing things from his father. Noah was horrified and disgusted and determined, and broadcasting all of it. There was no doubt in him that this was the best choice, and Stiles trusted that his father was a good man who wouldn’t call for such drastic measures unless he was absolutely sure.
Neither Peter, Cora, nor Derek seemed to have any problem with the thought of killing large numbers of people.
Magnus looked positively approving. “I need to send a message to Catarina.” The feel of his magic faded enough that the static charge left the air. “We’ll probably need a healer or three.”
“Should I call my pack?” Derek asked. “They’re young, but the wolf part of us finds it very satisfying to destroy enemies of the pack. It would be a good bonding activity.”
Noah looked uncomfortable. “I can’t tell you one way or another,” he said. “They’re underage and I would normally say certainly not but, then, they’re not ordinary teenagers anymore. You would know better than me.”
“Maybe ask them what they want to do,” Stiles suggested. “Warn them that it’s going to be dangerous, and that we’ll be going up against a lot of hunters who will likely have protections in place against werewolves. Then let them decide. Maybe call a meeting? If you want, you can use our house, since we’re not exactly there at the moment.” He hesitated. “Make sure they know not to discuss it where Scott might overhear them. We don’t need him involving himself.”
“We know that Chris is in contact with the new arrivals,” Peter reminded them, voice neutral. “Last night, Renee positively identified them as hunters from the same group that Gerard Argent was working with.”
“So we might be running into him, too,” Stiles said thoughtfully.
“What do you mean ‘we’?” Noah said. “Stiles, you don’t need to be there for this.”
“Yes, I do,” Stiles said adamantly. He took a deep breath. “So, some of you might have already figured this out. Somehow, I’ve got a whole pile of Gerard Argent’s memories in my head. It’s all still a bit jumbled, and so far things have been popping up randomly, but I think that with Magnus’ help, I should be able to get more. This could be our ace.” He looked his father in the eye. “Also, these people that need killing? They’re the ones that green-lighted Gerard to experiment on me. I want to be there.”
“Are you sure you want to delve that deep?” Magnus looked concerned. “This man, Gerard Argent, he wasn’t a nice man. He’s no doubt done many despicable things. I’m worried that you might find yourself feeling like you’re living those memories, that it will be like it’s you doing those things. Are you sure you’re prepared for that?”
Stiles gaze snagged on the photos of the three children again. That firmed his resolve. “I’m sure.”
“Stiles,” Noah said urgently, “you don’t have to—”
“Yes, I do.” Stiles stared unflinchingly at his father. “I’m eighteen now, Dad. I have all these new powers. Magnus says that because they’re not magic, they probably can’t be warded against. Not yet, anyway.” He dropped his gaze. “I would prefer not to fight with you about this, but I am going.”
“Sometimes you’re so like your mother,” Noah said. “Okay, then. But I want you to stay with Magnus or Derek the entire time, okay? I know they’ll take care of you.”
“I can agree to that.” Stiles looked at Magnus. “I’m ready as I’ll ever be. Will you help me sort through Gerard’s memories now?”
“Of course.” Magnus laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. “And when this has been done, I’ll see about helping you create something like a mental safety box to keep them in so that they can’t keep popping up and disconcerting you.”
“So far they’ve all been at a bit of a distance,” Stiles said. “Do you think that will change?”
“Well, that’s good news,” Magnus said brightly. “Possibly something to do with the main thrust of your gift, which is telepathic rather than empathic. In this case, that is certainly a relief. Come, let us get to work right away. Alec will be back soon, and I’m confident that we can leave the tactical planning to our loved ones while we take care of our business.”
Stiles nodded and gave his father a quick hug before following after Magnus.
Bringing up Gerard’s memories and wrestling some sort of sense into them was every bit as harrowing as Magnus had warned it might be. Stiles often felt physically sick by some of the things he witnessed, but he kept going because, in amongst the horror, there was some extremely useful information.
“They’re keeping their mutation juice in a carefully controlled environment,” Stiles reported to Alec who had rejoined them, promising that his sister Izzy was assembling a small army and would be ready to bring them through as soon as Magnus gave the okay. “Its functionality window is very narrow. The serum dies if its temperature drops below fifty-five, and if it reaches sixty-six or above, it starts behaving in an unpredictable manner that the scientists haven’t been able to get a handle on. The entire base has emergency systems in place to make sure that if anything goes wrong, all available samples of the serum are chilled instantly. One of our priorities is going to have to be making sure that nothing we do gets in the way of that.”
“Agreed,” Alec said. “A couple of my analysts have gone over the floor plan and picked out what looks like the three best entry points.” He slid a copy over to Stiles with three areas ringed in red. “Is there anything you can tell us that would suggest otherwise?”
Stiles studied the plans in front of him. Something didn’t look quite right, but he was unable to pinpoint exactly what it was. “There’s something missing.” He turned the paper to see if a different angle would help identify the issue.
Alec just nodded. “These plans are several years old.” He pointed at the date in the corner. “We’ll be using them more like guidelines than a proper map, but if anything comes to you, let me know and we’ll work it in.”
Stiles nodded and began his breathing exercises again.
In the late afternoon, they changed locations since Magnus was still leery about too many people having access to the heavily warded cottage.
They went all the way across town to one of the more derelict industrial areas. Magnus had already created a portal site in one of the buildings; the abandoned warehouse that the Alpha Pack had been using was repurposed as their staging area.
“Well, it made sense!” Magnus explained when Stiles gave him the side eye. “We can use the portal to get people here, and the wards that the Alpha Pack’s missing emissary constructed only needed a little tweaking and some boosting. Much less effort involved than starting from scratch. This way, I can conserve my energy.” He paused, shaking out his sleeve and flicking some imaginary lint off it. “Naturally, I made sure that I plugged the various gaps she left. I was already pretty familiar with them, since we ourselves exploited them.”
Once everyone was there, Alec stood front and centre to give everyone a rundown on what was going on. Stiles gave him his full attention.
“Magnus has assured me that with Stiles’ help, he’ll be able to set up a portal here,” Alec said, gesturing to a nicely placed area that was surrounded by trees but couldn’t be reached without either dropping out of the sky or walking directly past the well-patrolled and well-guarded main entrance. “We will allow unrestricted travel from here to there, but in order to come back through, you will need to personally be checked over by Magnus. This is so that even if the worst were to happen, hostile forces can be kept away from this staging area.”
He looked around to make sure everyone understood before continuing. “From there, we should be able to make it to within three metres of our chosen entrances before the security can spot us. I want everyone to be completely silent until the breach. After that, we’ll use coded clicks only; if you don’t know the code, then stay off the channel. I’ve assigned several groups specific tasks. No one is to deviate from the plan until their assigned task is complete. Once your primary task is complete, send the correct notification along your assigned channel. At that point, you may be assigned a secondary task, or given any number of instructions.” He glared around. “Providing everyone completes their missions, all the critical systems will be taken care of within fifteen minutes. Remember, if they’re not a prisoner, they die. Any questions?”
His tone really didn’t invite questions, but Stiles raised his hand anyway. Alec rolled his eyes and nodded at him to speak.
“What if we can’t tell if someone’s a prisoner or not?” Stiles asked. “I mean, in a lot of cases, I imagine it will be pretty obvious, but what if it isn’t?”
“Every team leader has been issued a dart gun equipped with ten blue-tipped darts,” Alec said. “These are only to be used on prisoners, and only if it looks like you’re going to have trouble with them. Each dart has been enchanted and tipped with a sedative. Do not waste them on unfriendlies. They’re very expensive so we would prefer that you only use them if required.”
There were serious nods all around. Stiles wanted desperately to know what the sedative was made of and how exactly the darts were enchanted. Were they engraved? Or did someone do some mystical chanting over them? Was this something that Magnus did on top of all the other things he was good at?
Alec continued. “Because we’re dealing with a group that is used to hunting werewolves in particular and will likely be armed with them in mind, I’m splitting that group up.” A glare in their direction stopped the objections that Stiles could already see forming on Erica’s lips. “All seven main teams will have a werewolf member. They’ll act as advanced eyes and ears. In particular, their enhanced hearing and smell will be extremely useful when we’re inside.
“Here—” Alec handed out squares of cloth coated in a light but sharp scent that Stiles couldn’t identify. “Every member of our force is to wipe one of these on their pulse points. I mean everyone. You will not be allowed through the portal until you have. These are for identification purposes. Team leaders, if the werewolf with you points out someone who smells wrong, they’re to be taken down immediately regardless of who or what they look like. Although, if they look like someone you know, non-lethal measures might be a good idea. Just tag them with one of these,” he held up a disc that had a small blinking blue light on it, “and someone will be along shortly to check more thoroughly.”
Stiles obediently wiped the square of fabric he had been given over his pulse points. The cloth itself smelled very strong, but when he’d done his wiping and given it back he found he didn’t notice any difference.
“Magnus and Stiles will move out at 2:00 a.m.,” Alec continued. “Everything should be in place for the portal at 3:30 a.m., which is when I want to start sending groups through. We’re planning for the assault to begin at 4:00 a.m., but no one is to make a move until I give the command.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, glaring at them all. “There is a very small possibility that the mission will have to be aborted. If that happens, everyone is to make their way back to the portal. Magnus will give you a single-use bracelet that will allow you back through. If the mission is aborted, I don’t want to hear of any cowboys. Anyone who goes off half-cocked and deviates from the plan, and survives, will spend the rest of their days wishing the hunters had killed them.”
“I will also be very cross.” Magnus gave a little wave and a smile that showed his teeth. Stiles noticed that no-one took the threat lightly.
“Right. That’s it for now. I’ll be giving each group their instructions individually, and I want to meet with the team leaders here in an hour,” Alec said. “For now, make sure that your equipment is in order and you’re ready to move out. Anyone who can is welcome to get some sleep.”
Derek and Cora looked engrossed in conversation with a blonde demonhunter that had been introduced as Alec’s brother Jace. Peter was talking quietly and seriously with Noah, who had reluctantly agreed to remain in Beacon Hills in case something happened requiring his clout.
Stiles decided to check up on Derek’s puppies. They were standing together, looking impressed.
“You guys all ready?” His eyes lingered on Jackson, who he’d spent the least amount of time with, despite their long history.
“Yeah, we’re good,” Erica answered for all of them.
“You don’t have a problem knowing that we’re going in there with the intention to kill?” Stiles pressed, mental shields gossamer thin in the hope that if any of them had doubts they didn’t feel comfortable verbalising that he’d be able to pick them up and maybe make sure no one was doing anything they really didn’t want to do.
He was surprised to realise that Derek had been right; they were all projecting their eagerness and excitement at being able to take part in the active protection of the pack and territory.
Only Isaac wasn’t completely raring to go, and his objection was less about what they would be doing rather than who was missing from the team. “Is Scott not coming?”
Jackson gave a derisive snort. “Are you an idiot, Lahey? Even while I was distracted by changing from a kanima to a werewolf, I noticed Derek giving McCall clear notice to leave the territory or risk death. Where in any of that do you think the kind of trust needed for an operation like this comes in?”
Isaac looked at the ground. “I don’t know. I just thought he might have thought things over and come around since then.” He snuck a glance up at Stiles.
Stiles sighed, the whole thought of Scott making him feel weary. “Scott’s still pretty convinced that Derek is completely evil.” He tried not to sound bitter. “Also, he flat out told me less than a week ago that killing is never the answer, that there was always another way. I don’t think he’d agree to join us for this even if he was part of Derek’s pack.”
“Oh.” Isaac looked unhappy. “I suppose I just thought that since you were here, Scott would, you know…”
“Yeah, well, Scott’s got other things on his mind than worrying about me.” Stiles didn’t want to get into the whole thing right then.
Jackson nodded, rolling his eyes. “Allison, right? Lydia’s been spending most of her free time at the hospital. Which I suppose is a good thing right now, or she’d want to be involved in what’s happening here.” He frowned. “I haven’t found a way to tell her how involved Peter is in all of this.”
Stiles cocked his head to one side, considering that. Lydia was the micromanager type, and it had never occurred to him that Jackson would be here without her knowledge. “Where does she think you are right now?”
“Just doing wolfy things in the Preserve,” Jackson said. “Hang on.” He fished his buzzing phone out of his pocket. “Speak of the devil…”
“I’m telling Lydia you called her a devil,” Erica sang teasingly.
Jackson raised an eyebrow. “Go ahead, she’d probably think it was a compliment. Hey, Lyds. What’s up?”
Lydia’s voice could be heard clearly even with Stiles’ ordinary human hearing. “What’s up with me? What’s up with you? Why the sudden exodus of wolves? And why did my mother just ask what you were doing on the west side of town? That’s not the Preserve.”
“Oh,” Jackson faltered, looking over at Stiles. “Um hang on.” He held the phone against his chest. “What shall I tell her?” he hissed.
Stiles just rolled his eyes. Lydia was relentless when she wanted to know something, and the last thing they needed was for her to get suspicious and then alert Chris Argent to what was happening. “You can tell her the basic plan. Very basic, mind you. No details, and make sure she knows not to tell anyone. Maybe point out that your life depends on secrecy.”
Jackson rolled his eyes and took his phone outside to have his conversation.
Stiles turned back to Isaac. “I don’t really like it either. But Scott is making his own decisions, and he’s had the same opportunities that the rest of you have had. More, even. My dad is going to make sure his mom knows the full implications of his banishment before it becomes an issue and, hopefully, the shock of having to find a new place to live will knock some sense into his brain.”
“Yeah,” Isaac said with a sigh.
“In the meantime, Isaac, you should get to know Cora better.” Erica waggled her eyebrows.
Isaac blinked. “Excuse me? She’d chew me up and spit me out!”
“She’s pretty tough.” Stiles nodded in agreement. “She had to be, to survive on her own long enough to get to an allied pack. Also, you really want to be putting the moves on Derek’s baby sister right where he can see you?”
“Or hear you?” Derek said from immediately behind Stiles, making him jump nearly out of his skin.
“Oh my god, creeper wolf, would you please stop doing that!”
“Sorry,” Derek said insincerely. His gaze swept over his gathered pack, and they all straightened their posture slightly at the nod he gave them. “Get some sleep,” he suggested. “We move out in five hours or so, and I want us all to be at our best. Stiles, Magnus wants to have a word with you.”
“See you on the other side, dudes.” Stiles rolled his shoulders to release the tension that had started to build up and turned to see where Magnus had got to.
Magnus wanted to talk about the plan to get into the compound and past the first layer of security. “This is where your new skills are going to come in handy.” He brought up several images on an iPad. “We need to get through these gates—or over the fence—and around the side of the main building without being seen. Renee has assured us that she can manage the digital security, so we’ll only really have to worry about the actual eyes on the scene stuff.”
“What do you want me to do?” Stiles frowned.
“We’ve prepared a couple of possible distractions,” Magnus informed him. “Which one we use will depend on the tableau we’re presented with. That should take care of most of the patrolling guards, leaving only the stationary ones to worry about. We know that the fence is electrified and alarmed. If the electricity turns off for any reason we’re going to lose any element of surprise, and our people will still be too far away to be any help. There’s also a magic detector barrier that runs along the top of the fence. If I use magic to get over it, they’ll know.
“So what we need you to do is use your telekinesis to lift us both over the fence while the patrolling guards are distracted. Once we’re in, I’ll be able to use my magic again without triggering the wards.”
“Alright.” Stiles nodded his head. “I think I can do that.”
“You need to be sure,” Magnus said seriously. “Tell me right now if you think that you can’t. There are other ideas we can try, this is just the easiest and the quietest.”
“No,” Stiles said firmly. “I can do this.”
Magnus looked steadily at him for a little longer, before nodding. “I agree. Once we’re in, we’ll be moving over to this area here.” He pointed out a different image. “As soon as we get there, I’ll start setting up the portal. What I’ll need from you is an alert mind. Thin your shields out and make sure that we know if anyone is coming. There are two critical points in the creation of a portal that I won’t be able to be distracted from, and I’ll make sure you know when they are, but otherwise just tap me on the shoulder to let me know that someone’s coming, and I’ll take care of it.”
Stiles nodded again.
“Once that’s taken care of, I’ll activate the portal and the teams will start coming through.” Magnus hesitated. “This is the point where your father would prefer you to withdraw. You could come back here and join the support team; assisting Catarina or passing info through to Renee.”
“I’m a part of the plan,” Stiles reminded him. “I’m supposed to make sure the satellite phone can connect to the internal server.”
“There’s still time to get someone else up to speed with that.”
“No.” Stiles projected as much certainty as he could muster. “I’ve already told him that I’m going in.”
“Very well.” Magnus didn’t press any further. “We’ll be moving together. While inside, you do what I say, when I say. If you see something that you think I’ve somehow missed, you can make me aware of it through telepathy. Are you comfortable enough with that?”
“Easy,” Stiles agreed. Communicating with Magnus was probably one of the easiest ways to use his new powers. He’d had a lot of practice recently.
“Alright,” Magnus said. “I’ll be using a nifty little spell of my own creation to link our ‘public’ minds together for the duration of the operation. That way you won’t need to split your concentration. I’ll wait to cast it until we approach the base. Before we leave, I want you fed, watered, toileted, and as relaxed and calm as you can possibly be under the circumstances.”
“Got it,” Stiles agreed, thinking that meditation might be a good idea since his nerves were already starting to ramp up. He hesitated, a question on the tip of his tongue that he wasn’t sure was a good idea to ask. Magnus looked at him expectantly, and Stiles blurted it out.
“Look, I know why we’re here.” He indicated Derek’s pack with a sweeping hand gesture. “We’ve got a vested stake in all of this, after all. I just don’t get why you and Alec are risking not only your lives, but those of your allies as well. By your own admission, you haven’t really known Derek all that long. So why?”
Magnus drew him away from the others slightly and fixed him with an intense stare, his usual air of faint amusement nowhere in sight. “It is good to see you asking such questions, flaugnarde, although perhaps the timing and venue might have been better chosen. Without going into a lot of detail that we quite frankly do not have time for right now, I can only say that the plight of the Hale pack is not the only impetus to drive Alec and me forward on this path.”
Stiles raised his eyebrows.
Magnus hesitated for a moment and sighed. “There has been a lot of movement behind the scenes that you are as yet unaware of,” he admitted. “Partly due to your youth and relative inexperience with the Shadow World, and partly due to the circumstances that drove Derek to contact me for help in the first place. For now, I ask that you trust in us. We are not taking action without due consideration, and while our goals may not be identical, they are aligned.”
Stiles frowned. “Do you promise to tell me afterwards? And Derek and my dad too?”
“You have my oath,” Magnus said solemnly. A tendril of blue flame emerged from Magnus’ fingertips, forming a thin blue loop that encircled both of their wrists before sinking into their skin. “There. That binds me to you until such a time as I have fulfilled the oath I just made. Will you accept that for now?”
For a brief moment, Stiles was almost standing outside his own body, watching as he teetered on the edge of a precipice. Whichever way he tipped would cause unforeseen changes, and there was no one who could help him or tell him which way he should fall. He dimly wondered if Scott had faced a moment like this with Gerard before dismissing it as irrelevant. He could only do his best with information at hand.
“I trust you.” Stiles made his choice. “Regardless of your reasons, you have done nothing but help me and mine since we met. So, yes, I accept your offer of an explanation when this has been taken care of.”
A brilliant smile broke out on Magnus’ face. Reaching out, he cupped Stiles’ jaw the way he had on the day they met. “I’m not a seer.” His voice was soft. “Nevertheless, I’m pretty confident when I predict that you will one day be the greatest of my students. Rest now. I’ll come and find you when it’s time.” Magnus gave him a last quick smile and then moved off to join the conversation that Alec was having with his sister.
Then Derek was there again. “I know I won’t be able to convince you to go back through the portal.” Derek was standing so close that Stiles could see the different coloured flecks in his eyes. “Just promise me you’ll be careful.”
“I’ll be with Magnus,” Stiles reminded him. “Also, I’m not the one who has a history of throwing himself into mortal danger in order to protect others. I think maybe you should be promising me to be careful.”
Derek shook his head. “This isn’t— Please don’t be flippant about this. I need to you be careful. I need you to be okay. I don’t think I could stand it if—” He broke off, shaking his head again before heaving a deep breath. Then, moving slowly enough that there was no misinterpreting what he was doing, and giving Stiles plenty of time to step back, Derek leaned in and kissed him.
Stiles had trouble believing this was really happening. Derek’s mouth was on his. It wasn’t a quasi-innocent brushing of lips, either. It was a full on lip lock that rapidly progressed to duelling tongues and clashing teeth Stiles reached up to grip Derek’s hair in order to hold him in place, not that it seemed like Derek was trying to get away.
On top of the physical sensations, Stiles was picking up a lot from Derek’s mind that Derek might not be okay with him getting. He pulled back for a second. “My shields are thin right now,” he gasped out, wondering vaguely why he was so out of breath. “When I’m touching you, I can’t help but read you.”
“I don’t care.” Derek pulled him into another kiss.
Stiles could feel how much Derek didn’t care. No longer concerned, he pressed himself up against Derek as much as possible and threw himself into kissing him back with everything he had.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, they broke apart. Stiles rested his forehead against Derek’s and wondered if this was when he was going to wake up.
“Wow, you’re really going for all the rom-com clichés, aren’t you?” Cora sounded unimpressed.
Stiles abruptly remembered that they were in an open area filled with people getting ready for the impending attack, and felt himself go hot with embarrassment.
“He did warn me that he was going be exposing me to this.” Noah sighed, standing beside her. “I confess, I didn’t expect it to happen quite this quickly.”
“You didn’t?” Peter asked curiously. “I’m only surprised it took this long.”
“Wow, that’s pretty hot.” Erica fanned herself with one hand.
“Yeah, it really is.” Isaac sounded a little dazed.
“Danny is going to completely freak out,” Jackson said gleefully.
Stiles turned his head just in time to see him putting his phone away. “Hey dude, you can’t go taking your phone with you tonight. Those things have GPS tracking built in, you know. Why do you even have it with you? Give it to my dad. He can hold onto it.”
“Fine.” Jackson grudgingly handed his phone over with a put-upon sigh.
“Also, if I see that you’ve posted my private business to YouTube, the whole world is getting treated to the Beacon Hills lacrosse first string having a literal dick measuring contest in the showers.”
Jackson smirked. “You wouldn’t.” His smirk slowly faded as Stiles just stared at him until it became a faintly worried frown. “Okay, you would. Fine. But can I at least show Danny?”
“Providing it’s Danny and only Danny,” Stiles clarified, “I can agree to that.”
“Don’t I get any say in this?” Derek sounded more entertained than angry, so Stiles just patted him gently on the chest.
“Hush, sweetcheeks. Just stand there and look pretty.”
Stiles knew enough about planning to know that no matter how thoroughly you went over a strategy, there were always points where the unexpected might happen and cause failure. No plan survives first engagement with the enemy, after all. He was expecting things to go wrong somewhere. Just maybe not right from the start.
They arrived at the base to find the place a hive of activity. At Magnus’ instructions, Stiles sent his mind out to see if he could find out what was going on. It didn’t take long to find an answer.
“They’re expecting us,” he sent to Magnus. “They know that an attack is imminent.” He probed a bit deeper, skimmed over several minds until he connected with one that held more information. “They think we’re coming tomorrow,” he added with some relief. “Or later today. This afternoon. Whatever. But they’re working on beefing up their defences in the meantime, and they’re expecting an influx of reinforcements in the next five hours or so.”
“What a shame that we’ll be gone by then,” Magnus sent back. “Right. This means we’re going to have to change things up a bit. Are you able to contact our driver?”
Stiles reached for the mind of Simon, the man who’d driven with them out to the drop-off point. They’d tested this a few times, but never over such long distance. Simon was still where they’d left him. He was literally twiddling his thumbs, one part nervous excitement, one part resentment at being given the shit job, and two parts bored.
“Got him,” he sent to Magnus.
“Right. Have him contact Alec,” Magnus instructed. “Let him know the situation—including the ETA for the reinforcements—and pass on that we’ll be activating Plan Skunk.”
“Done,” Stiles sent, pleased that their practice paid off and that Simon got in touch with Alec right away. “What’s Plan Skunk?”
Magnus grinned, his white teeth glinting in what little light was there. “Exactly what it sounds like,” he sent. “Sometimes the old ones are the best ones.” He narrowed his eyes, and Stiles felt the familiar tingle of magic being cast close by.
Moments later, there was a commotion on the far side of the compound. Stiles and Magnus watched as various men and women went off to see what the problem was. Unfortunately, not everyone seemed interested.
Taking a chance, Stiles reached out and shoved at the shoes of the two who had remained behind, before rattling one of the windows nearer the skunk commotion. The two guards looked startled, but showed no signs that they were going to investigate.
“Stop that!” Magnus sent, causing Stiles to wince and withdraw back. “Don’t deviate from the plan without discussion unless we’re in mortal peril! That sort of behaviour gets people killed!”
“Sorry,” Stiles sent back, feeling a little sheepish.
“We’ll have to think of something else,” Magnus sent, his whole mental tone irritated.
“Right,” Stiles sent back. “How can we get rid of them?”
“Well, I suppose we could—” Magnus began, only to stop as the two remaining guards trotted off together towards the ruckus that was still taking place on the other side of the compound. Stiles and Magnus watched them go.
“What did you do?” Stiles sent. “I never even noticed you use your magic!”
“That’s because I didn’t,” Magnus sent back. He gave himself a little shake. “Never mind, the plan is a go. Are you ready? On the count of three. One, two, three.”
Stiles gathered his mental muscles and pulled. Making the motion as smooth as possible, he lifted and moved them both over the fence at the same time, depositing them in largest piece of shadow he could find.
“Oh,” Magnus sent, his mental voice sounding a bit breathless. “I thought you were going to take us over one at a time.”
“But that would take twice as long,” Stiles pointed out.
“Never mind,” Magnus sent back. “Follow me.”
Luckily, they made it to their objective without any further problems. The portal was raised without any drama; Stiles only had to alert Magnus twice of an approaching patrol, and the two critical moments passed with nothing to worry about.
Then the portal was up, and the teams started coming through. Soon, they were ready to move inside.
As instructed, Stiles went with Magnus. Once the building was breached and the alarms started blaring, Magnus clapped his hands once, flaring his magic and sending it off in all different directions. The sound of the alarms instantly went from ear-splitting to merely mildly annoying.
Stiles’ primary objective immediately after the breach was to find the server room and attach the complicated looking device from Renee to the main computer system that ran the facility. The device was designed to broadcast an extremely strong signal that could then be picked up on the outside of the building where another group was setting up the satellite phone on the roof outside. Renee Hepler was in place—wherever she was—waiting for satellite access to the hunters’ system.
They had also accounted for the unlikely possibility of some kind of shielding preventing the signal from reaching the phone, in which case, Stiles was going to have to run a cable along the shortest path to the outside. Magnus had explained that finding a magic user with the knowledge and raw ability to work that kind of interlocking shielding was hard enough without factoring in the need for it to be someone who would be willing to work with xenophobic human assholes. He didn’t think the backup plan would be needed. Happily, Magnus was right.
Stiles got the device correctly placed and working, and Izzy—who was running with them—sent a quick notification by coded click to the group on the roof. The resulting wait seemed interminable, but it was probably less than half a minute before Stiles saw the device activate, little green lights flickering and then holding steady to indicate a clear connection.
With that done, they headed out. Magnus and Izzy drew a strange sign on the door, and then they were off to their next objective, which for Stiles and Magnus was the security centre where Alec and Derek were. Izzy headed off to join the group on the roof.
“Remind me to ask you what that symbol was all about,” Stiles sent to Magnus on the way.
“I could tell you, but then I’d have to mind wipe you,” Magnus sent back playfully, making Stiles grin.
The pathway to Derek and Alec was littered with dead bodies. Stiles was a bit surprised at how little the sight of them was affecting him.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Magnus sent, and Stiles realised that he’d been inadvertently broadcasting his thoughts. “You’ve been in what amounts to battle mode for the last several months. The human brain is very good at repressing in the moment, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find that you get nightmares about this later. Be sure to talk it over in your therapy sessions, and I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
Alec and Derek were using the base’s security systems to direct the teams where they needed to be. Alec looked as tidy as ever—messy hair notwithstanding—but Derek had blood liberally splashed all over him, like he was some kind of impressionist canvas. It should have made him look like a serial killer, but he was just incredibly hot. Stiles really needed to get talking to a therapist ASAP.
“Alexander!” Magnus sounded delighted and like it had been days rather than less than an hour since he’d last seen his lover. Stiles had noticed that he did that a lot. He had also noticed that Alec liked it. “What are the two of you up to that makes you look so serious?”
“We found a secret corridor.” Alec didn’t bother with a preamble. “I’ve sent teams three and six to see what the situation is. Otherwise, everything seems to be going well.”
“What’s the plan for when we’re done?” Stiles asked. There were a lot of dead bodies that would need to be dealt with.
“As soon as we’re sure we’ve poked into every nook and cranny, we’re going to flood the entire area,” Alec replied, which was interesting but didn’t really answer what Stiles wanted to know. “Then Magnus and a few of his fellow warlocks are going to freeze the water solid. As soon as that’s done, we’ll dismantle the portal and vacate the area.”
Stiles blinked. “Won’t water destroy the servers that Renee is trying to access?”
Alec waved that away. “She’ll be done long before then. It’s at least another hour away, maybe two. We’d normally destroy the place with fire, but with the serum it’s too risky. This way, even if we don’t get it all, what’s left should be rendered inert.”
Stiles leaned into Derek, feeling gratified when Derek leaned back. “I thought there would be a lot more drama.” On the screen, teams three and six cleared another room before continuing down towards the end of the corridor. He was mostly watching Isaac and Jackson interact with the teams they’d been assigned to, marvelling at how far they’d come in such a short time when something caught his eye.
“Wait a minute.” He squinted as Gerard’s stolen knowledge bloomed in his brain. “That corridor they’re in… I’m pretty sure that there’s another secret door. Behind that big painting at the end. But they’ll want to be careful; I think it leads to another lab. One of the special ones.”
Alec straightened up and sent a series of clicks through to the team six leaders. Team six broke away from team three and headed over to the painting. Several moments later they were through and out of sight.
“There isn’t any surveillance for that area,” Derek said to Alec. He scowled as he flicked through the screen options on the bank of monitors. “It might be a good idea to send one of the other teams in with them.”
Stiles stepped back as Alec came to stand beside Derek.
“Where do you need us, Alec?” Magnus asked, playfulness gone.
Alec glanced up at them. “I want you and Stiles to take over for the team guarding the portal. We should be ready to send the prisoners we’ve freed through within the next half hour.”
Magnus nodded and quirked his eyebrows at Stiles.
Derek was fully engrossed in his task, and so Stiles wordlessly followed Magnus back out into the hallway. “Aren’t you a bit annoyed to be sent to the safe zone while the others are all running around, possibly in mortal danger?” he sent telepathically.
The response he got back had a distinctly amused flavour. “Alec knows what he’s doing. My safety—and yours too, of course—might have had some bearing on his decision, but it wouldn’t have been the only concern. Alec’s too good a leader, too accomplished a commander, to cripple a battle by resorting to purely emotional decisions.”
Stiles supposed he’d have to be satisfied with that.
Any concerns about missing out on the action fled his mind upon seeing what was waiting outside in the area in front of the portal.
There were seven terrified looking kids with a combined age that probably totalled up to less that Stiles’ dad, all huddled together in a group. Standing separate, with his hands tied behind him and with Raj—one of Alec’s clan—holding an unsheathed blade in readiness in front of him, was Chris Argent.
Chris looked less surprised to see him. “I don’t know what you thought you were going to achieve, Stiles, but this? Is the wrong way to go about it. The men and women in this facility may have made some mistakes, may have wandered from the Code, but they’re only doing what they think is right. They’re not the enemy here, and they’re only a small representation of our numbers. This attack might feel like a success, but all you’re really achieving is a certainty of escalation. What you’ve done today has put the lives of everyone you know on the line.”
Stiles was so furious his hands were shaking. He badly wanted to walk up and hit Chris Argent in the face, release some of the anger inside him, but he had enough control over himself to know that getting within arms reach and blocking Raj’s ability to strike would be a mistake.
“That you can stand there and spout that bullshit shouldn’t really surprise me,” Stiles sneered. “Except that—silly me—I actually thought that you were above this sort of thing. I guess it goes to show that even people you already think are scum can turn out to be more monstrous than you expected.”
“We found him in one of the cells,” Raj volunteered. “The werewolf in our group, Erica, I think her name is, recommended that he not be released until you could assess him.” He lowered his voice slightly. “She was really pissed. She wanted to stay here and watch over the little ones, but Hodge convinced her that she’d feel better if she could take her frustrations out on some of the guys inside.”
Stiles nodded. “Sounds like Hodge knows what he’s talking about.” He squared his shoulders and turned back to Chris. “So your hunter buddies were keeping you prisoner. They also seemed to be in a state of expectation, almost like they knew we were coming. I wonder how that came to be.”
Chris Argent just rolled his eyes and kept his mouth closed, but Stiles had already pushed his mind forward to see if he could get the answers he wanted that way. Sure enough, he had front row seat to a memory of something that had happened only a few hours earlier.
“Scott must have warned you,” Stiles said out loud after seeing Scott talking to Chris, relating the conversation he overheard between Jackson and Lydia. “Of course he did.”
“Scott has his heart in the right place.” Chris’ eyes were hard and angry. “He knows that things aren’t as black and white as you’re trying to paint them.”
“That’s funny,” Stiles said flatly. “No really, it is. I’d love to hear more about Scott’s nuanced view of reality and his ability to see shades of grey. Oh wait, I was lying. And so were you. Scott only sees one shade, and it’s Argent silver. That still doesn’t explain what you were doing in a cell though.” He raised his eyebrows as he was treated to a memory of Chris taking Scott to tell the nearby hunters what he’d overheard, whereupon both Chris and Scott were immediately subdued and knocked out.
“No doubt he’s under suspicion for consorting with the enemy.” Magnus approached in an unhurried fashion that Stiles—who was still mentally connected—could tell irritated Chris a great deal.
“We should warn the others that Scott might be somewhere on the premises as well,” Stiles said to Raj, ignoring the intensity of Chris’ cold blue eyes focused on him. He hesitated and then hardened his heart. “Tell them that he should be tranquillised immediately. There’s no telling what he’ll do if he’s running around free.”
Raj winced. “Ah, that might be a little late.” He sounded apologetic. “I just received notification that he was released and is now unaccounted for.” He flicked a glance towards Stiles before focusing on Chris Argent again. “Apparently he was distressed about finding a companion, or something.”
Stiles sighed. “Just— Tell everyone to drop him as soon as they see him.” He was fed up with Scott and the way he seemed to need to infuse every single situation he found himself in with unnecessary drama. “Come on, Magnus.”
Stiles was about to turn away when a memory that he’d picked up from Gerard resurfaced. “Or wait. Tell me something, Chris. It was pretty good luck for your family that an opening for principal cropped up at the local high school just when your father was looking for a way into the community.” As he expected, he was treated to a front-row view of what probably counted as Argent date night; a husband and wife torturing a man whose only crime was being the current holder of a job that Gerard wanted. Stiles glanced at Raj. “The moment he so much as twitches wrong, kill him.”
Raj nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Stiles thought about reminding him that he wasn’t actually part of any command structure but decided not to bother. Besides, it was worth it just to see the look on Chris Argent’s face. Which, in retrospect, might have been why Raj did it.
With that, Stiles did his best to put Chris out of his mind and instead turned to see what he could do to help the traumatised kids.
It took all his skill at playing pretend not to recoil from them as he approached. They were all projecting their misery so strongly that he needed to set his shields at full strength. This was not the time to fall apart, and the edges of some of the memories that he caught inadvertently were horrific.
“Hey there,” he said gently. “I know that things have been pretty shitty recently, and I know that you don’t have much reason to believe me, but I promise that my friends and I are going to do the best we possibly can for you, okay?”
Six of the kids just stared back at him with wide, terrified eyes, but the oldest—going by height—was a little braver.
“Erica said that her pack would help us. You’re human, but you smell like pack.” She lifted her chin as if daring him to punish her. A werewolf then.
Stiles smiled. “That’s because I am. Erica and I are pack mates. My alpha and our allies are inside right now.” He wanted to promise her that her nightmare was over, that she’d be reunited with her pack and that no one would ever hurt her again, her or the others. But she would be able to hear the lie in his voice, and so he gave her the only comfort he could. “Whatever happens next, the people from this place will never be a threat to you ever again.”
She eyed him for a long moment before nodding once.
Stiles looked up at Magnus. “I want to get them away from here. Surely they don’t need to be here for this?”
“I’ve checked them over, and none of them are carrying anything unexpected,” Magnus said quietly. “If you’re willing to escort them, I can send you all over right now.”
Stiles hesitated, looking towards the hunter stronghold where the rest of his pack—aside from his dad—were currently doing their best to secure the future safety of them all. Where Scott was running around getting into god knew what mischief. Then he squared his shoulders. He wasn’t much use to them in there. He could be of use with these traumatised kids. “Of course I will,” he said firmly, if not gladly.
Magnus smiled approvingly and led Stiles and his small troop over to the portal, picking thin bracelets out of what seemed like nowhere and making sure they were all wearing them.
Noah was delighted to see Stiles back so soon but less delighted to see that there were seven children rather than the three they had been expecting.
“We’re going to need a bigger space,” he said as he helped Stiles gather up and turn in their portal bracelets. With that done, he crouched down in front of the kids who were now clustered around Stiles like large ducklings. “Hi there. I’m Stiles’ dad, and I’m the sheriff of this town. If you need me for anything, you just come and ask, okay?”
Two of the smaller kids were reassured enough to loosen their tight grip on Stiles’ trousers, but none of them made a move in Noah’s direction.
Noah nodded and smiled before standing up again. “I take it things are going well?”
“Alec runs a smooth ship,” Stiles said. “Any news from the other ops?”
“Nothing bad.” Noah flicked his eyes towards the kids meaningfully.
Stiles got the message. Not in front of the kids. “Did you hear about Chris and Scott?”
Noah sighed. “Yeah,” he said wearily. “We’re going to have to figure out how to deal with that sooner rather than later, it seems. Now, how about we bring these fine young people over to Catarina and see if she can do anything for them?”
“Good plan,” Stiles agreed. “Come on, my dudes, time to see the doctor lady.”
“Is she a mean doctor, like in the lab?” the eldest girl piped up.
Stiles made a crossing motion over his chest. “Not even close, cross my heart. This lady is my doctor, and she’s really nice.”
“You have to see a doctor?” one of the younger kids asked tremulously. “My mommy used to take me to see the doctor all the time cause of my tummy. The bad people didn’t let me have my medicine, and my tummy hurts a lot now.”
“Well, we need to make sure to tell Catarina all about that.” Stiles tried to hide his dismay. “Come on, she’s over here. Now, I already told you my name is Stiles, will you tell me your names now?”
“The bad people said we don’t deserve names,” the hurting tummy boy told him, sounding more confident. “They said we have numbers now.”
“Well, the bad people are idiots,” Stiles countered. “I think we should all ignore what mean, bad people say, and I would really like to know your names.”
“My name is Joseph.” The hurting tummy kid said. “And this here is my sister Ruth, but she doesn’t talk much anymore. Which is really weird, cause she used to talk a lot, you know?”
“Thank you, Joseph. Hello, Ruth,” Stiles said. “Hello, Catarina. I’ve got some new friends here that need a check-up. This is Joseph, and he told me has an issue with his tummy that he normally has medication for, so maybe start with him. Me and the others are going to sit over here while we wait.”
“Here.” Catarina grabbed a clipboard and a number of forms from one of her assistants. “Get as much personal information from them as you can.”
That proved to be harder than it sounded. The older kids, led by Susan, the young werewolf who had spoken up before, were able to give a lot more information than Diego, the youngest, who gave his age as three. He found himself hoping that Renee would be able to find more detailed histories for all of them.
Catarina worked through them in no time at all, at which point, Stiles found himself at something of a loss. Then Noah arrived with a variety of clothing options, letting each child pick something to wear. That took some time but it helped to liven them up as they argued together about who got to keep the purple cardigan. Owen—four years old, no known last name—even made a spirited bid for the dragon t-shirt.
Noah stood back and let Stiles deal with it. “I’ll have to see if I can find some shoes.” He winked.
The clothing situation just been sorted out when the portal reactivated, and the teams began to return. First through was Peter’s group. Somewhere along the way, he’d picked up Izzy.
Peter approached with Izzy at his heels. “Ah, Little Red. Found your calling in life, I see?”
Stiles rolled his eyes, not interested in engaging in banter right now. “Where’s Derek? And Magnus and Alec?”
“They’ll be staying to take down the portal.” Izzy smiled warmly at the kids but kept her distance. “When everyone’s through, of course. Magnus is going to wipe out any tracks, and Simon will pick them up at the same point he dropped you off. They’ll be back a couple of hours after that.”
“Good.” Stiles felt relieved. Of course Magnus would need to dismantle the entirety of the portal from that end, and Alec and Derek staying back as extra protection just made sense. He almost wanted to see what would happen if someone tried to ambush them. That was some serious badassery in that small group. Also, given that, of the three, Derek was arguably the least proficient fighter, he was unlikely to feel the need to throw himself in harm’s way to protect his companions. Which was good, because that was a bad habit that Derek had fallen into that Stiles intended to train him out of if possible.
Peter’s attention had focused on Susan, who was looking back at him with something like hope.
Stiles smiled. “Susan Holloway, this is Peter Hale, a member of my pack. Peter, this is Susan Holloway, lately of the Holloway pack near Prineville, Oregon.” Holloway was a name he’d recognised. It had come up when he’d been researching the Argents’ movements, a pack that had died in a fire very similar to the Hale fire nearly a year ago.
Peter stepped forward. “I offer the sanctuary of my pack for you and those with you.” The language and the manner were both very formal.
Susan relaxed and, for the first time since Stiles had met her, she smiled. “I accept,” she said clearly. She indicated the other kids who were watching with wide eyes. “These are my pack.” Her chin lifted high, and her eyes lit up blue.
Peter flashed his blue eyes back. “Then they are also my pack, for as long as they wish to be.”
“You can’t decide that,” Susan pointed out. “You’re not the alpha.”
“It isn’t a matter of me deciding.” Peter showed a gentleness than Stiles had never seen in him before. “Alpha Derek Hale is my nephew. I know what his decision will be.” His gaze turned to Stiles. “Do you disagree, Stiles?”
“What?” Stiles was startled at being brought into what seemed like a very werewolfy matter. “No, of course not.” The thought of Derek dealing with a group of youngsters was charming. Maybe even something to look forward to.
The portal activated again. This time, Erica was with the team that came through. She barely stopped on the other side long enough to hand over her bracelet before heading straight for Stiles and his group, a lean and ferocious-looking man trailing only a step behind her. The aforementioned Hodge, no doubt.
The effect on the kids was unmistakable. Within seconds, Erica and her companion were swarmed by excited children, all talking at once. Neither of them seemed to mind all that much.
Peter raised his eyebrows. “Well, it looks like they’ve chosen their preferred caretakers. I wonder how this is going to work out?”
Stiles shrugged, feeling a little abandoned but grateful that the assault on his shields had dropped. Partly due to reduced proximity, but also because all seven children were excited to see their rescuers. “I’m more curious about how Boyd is going to deal with the fact that Erica seems to have entered into a parenting arrangement with another guy.”
Two more teams came through the portal, this time carrying two limp bodies. Stiles wasn’t surprised to see Scott out for the count and being carried by Isaac, nor that Chris Argent had been knocked out at some point.
Boyd and Cora’s teams came not long after, followed by a group of eclectic-looking individuals that Peter identified as the warlocks that had come to help Magnus. After that, the portal winked out a final time, the runic interface at the base of the site dulling as it lost the glow that showed it was being actively maintained.
“That’s that.” A smile curled Izzy’s lips. “Right. I’m going to begin organising the debrief so that Alec doesn’t have to wait around too long after he gets back.” She gave both Stiles and Peter an appraising look. “Your reports should ideally be completed as soon as possible.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Stiles agreed. His father came back in and scanned the crowd, locating him without much trouble and heading in their direction.
Izzy’s smile turned sly and suggestive. “The sooner you get done tonight, the sooner you and a certain tall, dark, alpha werewolf can go home and get cleaned up enough to go get dirty all over again. I hear their stamina is impressive.” She eyed Stiles up and down before turning on her heel and walking over to where Jace was talking with a group of demonhunters by the door.
Noah groaned. “Is there some conspiracy to rub my face in this?” he asked the air before leaning in and giving Peter a kiss that Stiles would have been delighted to witness if it had involved anyone other than his dad. Or Derek, for that matter, he had no wish to see Derek kissing anyone else ever.
“If there wasn’t, I’m thinking of starting one.” Stiles turned away to give them a measure of privacy.
His gaze fell on Erica, who was still surrounded by kids, and he found himself smiling. Regardless of all the death and destruction, and despite the knowledge that what they had started in the last few hours wouldn’t end until the hunter organisation was completely annihilated, he felt good. Maybe future battles wouldn’t be so cut and dried, wouldn’t feel quite so right. But, right now, just the sight of those children, freed from the monsters who had taken them, was enough.
“Come on,” he said over his shoulder to Noah and Peter. “These reports aren’t going to write themselves, you know.”
Stiles woke from a rather nice dream—involving him, Derek, and the kitchen table—to the sensation of being carried. Even if his telepathy hadn’t informed him immediately, he would have known that it was Derek just by the familiar scent. “I wonder if werewolf smell is catching,” he mumbled sleepily, turning his face slightly so he could rub his slightly itchy nose against Derek’s firm chest.
Derek sighed. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand how your mind works.”
“Good.” Stiles let out a huge yawn. “Where we going?”
“I’m taking you up to bed. Where else would I be taking you?”
“You can take me wherever you want,” Stiles said agreeably. “Although bed is a good idea. A great idea, even. Softer than a table.” He felt his feet being used to shove open a door. “We going to your bed, or mine?”
Derek sighed again. “You’re going to your bed, and I’m going to mine.”
Stiles frowned. That didn’t seem like a good idea at all. “No,” he said slowly. “You should stay here, with me.” He dragged his eyes open as he felt himself being lowered onto a mattress. Derek’s face was above him, eyes impossibly soft in the dim light.
“Another time, perhaps.” Derek slid his arms out from under Stiles and straightened up.
“No!” Alarm brought Stiles to wakefulness. “Stay with me, please? Just to sleep?”
“I don’t want to be alone,” Stiles whispered, closing his eyes so that he didn’t have to see Derek’s expression. The last thing he wanted was Derek’s pity, but the thought of sleeping alone felt terrifying.
“Just to sleep,” Derek capitulated. “Come on, I need to at least take your shoes and jacket off.”
Stiles smiled muzzily as he let sleep pull him under again.
They woke in the early afternoon. Derek kept his eyes shut as he haltingly told Stiles that he didn’t feel ready to engage fully in a sexual relationship just yet.
The teenage virgin part of Stiles’ brain was packing a sad, but the rest of him, the part that had been worried about Derek’s mental health ever since he’d figured out how things had gone down with Kate Argent, was glad that Derek was looking out for himself.
“I can wait,” Stiles said confidently.
“But what if I’m never ready?” Derek asked, eyes still closed, although Stiles’ response did get him to relax quite a bit.
“Then I’ll be waiting a long time,” Stiles replied simply. “Look, I’m not going to pretend that I don’t want to have sex with you. It’s not like you wouldn’t know I was lying anyway, what with the super sniffer. But it’s not what’s most important. I can cope with the sex urges. I mean, hello, teenager here, I’ve been taking care of myself sexually for years, it’s really not a problem.”
Derek laughed a little shakily.
Stiles wondered if worry over his reaction had been keeping Derek from overtly showing his interest. The mixed signals made a lot more sense.
“Peter’s going to be giving me shit about this for so long.” Derek finally opened his eyes.
Stiles shrugged. “At least Erica is going to be too busy to make too many comments. Although, on the plus side, my dad is going to be thrilled when Peter tells him.”
Derek groaned, and buried his face in Stiles’ neck. “Can we just stay here for the next year or two?”
“It’s a nice thought,” Stiles allowed. “But I can tell you right now that I’m going to be needing the toilet sooner rather than later.”
“That’s me,” Stiles agreed. “Come on, Derek, I’m hungry and I want to hear what’s been happening.” As if cued, his stomach gave an audible rumble.
Derek rolled away. “That sounds more like gas than hunger. Fine then.”
Downstairs, Peter and Cora had just finished eating. Stiles was disappointed but waved Peter away when he looked about to get up and start cooking again.
“Sit down and relax, dude.” Stiles headed over to the fridge and poked his head inside to see if there was anything he wanted. “I’m not going to faint if I have to go through the effort of getting my own food once in a while.”
There was plenty of nice cheese available, so Stiles decided on grilled cheese. Derek helped, and before too long they were scarfing down cheesy deliciousness while Peter watched. Cora largely ignored them in favour of her phone.
“According to your father, you haven’t let him have that much cheese in a single sitting in years,” Peter pointed out. “You have the same heart disease in the family as he does, you know.”
“That’s true, but I haven’t had a physical that expressly states that my cholesterol is borderline and that my blood pressure is on the high side,” Stiles retorted. “Until he starts taking care of himself, I’m going to be doing it for him.”
“I think that keeping him in good health is a motivation that we can both get behind.” Peter gave a sly insinuating smile that made Stiles want to gag.
A thought occurred to him. “Where is he, anyway? I kind of expected him to be here.”
“He’s gone into the station.” Peter frowned. “He wanted to keep an eye on any fallout from the attack. I tried to convince him that everything would be fine, but it didn’t take.”
Stiles sent him a commiserating smile. “So, any news about last night?”
“Isaac told me what happened with Scott.” Peter shook his head. “That boy never disappoints. This time, disaster was avoided by only the narrowest of narrow margins.”
Stiles groaned. “Okay, hit me with it.”
“They found Scott strapped down but wide awake and shifted to his beta form,” Peter said. “Jace was about to sedate him, but Isaac vetoed that idea, said Scott was known to both of you and could be helpful going forward.” Peter shook his head. “So they freed him.”
Stiles swallowed hard as the memory of waking up strapped down in the Argent basement threatened to overwhelm him. “I’ve been wondering for a while if Isaac has a crush on Scott,” he said when he felt calmer. “There have been a number of times when I’ve thought he was overly hopeful that Scott would get his head out of his ass.”
“Yes, well, Scott managed to appear rational right up until he was completely free,” Peter replied. “Then he shouted, ‘They’ve got Allison!’ and ran ahead into the part of the lab that had yet to be secured. Jace gave Isaac the sedative gun, along with orders to bring Scott down before he could screw up the whole operation, and continued clearing the area.”
“He thought they had Allison?” Stiles asked. “Why?”
Peter shrugged. “I think the hunters in the lab might have been aware of his feelings and were deliberately trying to rile him up, since Allison was, in fact, still hospitalised in Beacon Hills.”
“Well, it worked,” Stiles said dryly. “So, what happened next?”
“Isaac found Scott at the far end of the corridor being flambéed by a rather enterprising fellow who had cobbled together a flame-thrower out of what was basically a Bunsen-burner and an oxygen tank,” Peter said. “Isaac ripped a fire extinguisher off the wall and threw it, killing the hunter, and then sedated Scott, who was looking rather crispy. Isaac then discovered that there were several samples of the serum in that room. Since Scott didn’t know enough to be careful with it, it was a close call.”
“How is Scott now?” Stiles asked. “Have his burns healed okay?”
“Burns take a little longer for the average werewolf to deal with.” Peter’s sardonic manner reminded Stiles that he was talking to the guy who’d spent six years recovering from serious burns. “He’s not being dosed with wolfsbane regularly, though, so his recuperation shouldn’t be too long and painful.”
Stiles blinked. “Dosed with… You were being dosed with wolfsbane? While you were in the hospital?”
Derek was frowning at his uncle. “You’ve never mentioned this to me before.”
Peter raised his eyebrows. “It took me some time to confirm my suspicions. By the time I knew for sure, it didn’t seem terribly relevant. It still isn’t. Scott is under the care of his mother, and I’m sure she will take exemplary care of him.”
Stiles swallowed down the questions he wanted to ask in the light of this new knowledge. The hardness in Peter’s eyes and the wideness of his smile were pretty much like waving a banner with the words “I don’t want to talk about it!” emblazoned in glittery writing.
“Did Renee Hepler get what she needed?” Stiles diverted the conversation back to safer channels.
Peter’s smile softened back to something more natural. “She got more than enough. Six bases scattered around the United States were invaded and dismantled last night. Fifteen other operations are underway as we speak. That’s where Alec and Magnus are, incidentally. They went straight from here to London to meet with Renee herself, and then they returned to New York and have been helping coordinate the various groups involved.”
“Wow,” Stiles said. “That’s huge. I can’t believe it’s all happening so fast.”
“Well, it appears that it’s not just werewolves they’ve been targeting with their eradication attempts,” Peter explained. “The wider supernatural community was not impressed. Getting rid of the organised radicals such as the group Gerard belonged to is only the start, of course.”
“How is this not spilling over to the mundane side of things?” Stiles asked.
Peter shook his head. “That’s what I said. But it seems that one of the ways that these groups have been able to avoid detection for so long is by using magical shielding to hide themselves. Don’t ask me how that works. I don’t know.”
“Notice-me-not charms,” Cora said helpfully, not looking up from her phone.
Stiles sat back in his chair, thinking everything over. “I wonder if Alec is going to use this as a starting point for his integration plans.”
“I imagine so,” Peter agreed. “There’s not much that will unite a disparate group faster than a mutual threat. The trick will be building the alliances carefully enough that they hold together once the threat is taken care of.”
“We probably won’t be involved much with that,” Stiles said. “I doubt the werewolves are going to be nominating us to speak for them, after all.”
“There are much larger packs with highly respected alphas that will most likely be tapped for that role,” Peter nodded. “But I wouldn’t discount the possibility of making a contribution just yet. Magnus has made it clear that he intends to mentor you for some time yet, and he’s going to be right in the thick of things if current events are any indication.”
That thought made Stiles brighten. “That’s true.”
“Also, the kids we rescued have gone to New York, since we can’t be sure that there aren’t vengeance seekers headed in our direction. Since Derek has agreed to be their alpha, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of them in time.”
Stiles glanced at Cora. “Will you be enrolling in Beacon Hills High?”
Cora shrugged. “I guess. I’ll need to notify the pack I’ve been staying with that I won’t be coming back.”
“Will that cause problems?”
“I was never part of their pack.” Cora looked up. “They never offered, and I never asked. I would have been moving on when I turned eighteen anyway.”
Stiles didn’t really know what to say.
“Will you be going back to school as well?” Derek asked him.
Stiles blinked. He’d forgotten that the reason they were living in this house was so that he could train up his telepathy in an isolated environment. His shields were pretty solid now and, with the hunters taken care of, it was probably no longer necessary to hole up under the wards. He looked around at the place that had started to feel like home. Had it really only been two weeks?
“I probably should,” he answered Derek. “I think I’ll miss it here, though.”
“No need to get maudlin about it,” Peter said briskly. “I imagine my nephew is already in negotiations to buy it.”
Stiles looked over to Derek, whose ears had turned pink.
“It makes sense,” Derek said. “When you consider the wards that Magnus has put up, along with the portal site and its proximity to the Preserve, it’s an attractive prospect.”
“Right. Nothing to do with sentiment at all.” Peter rolled his eyes.
“Well, I don’t care why, I’m just grateful.” Stiles wasn’t in the mood to witness a Hale snark-a-thon. “It’s going to make lessons with Magnus much easier.”
Derek’s lips quirked in a tiny smile. “I know.”
Stiles beamed at him. He had a feeling that the future was going to be amazing.