It wasn’t the first time that Stiles had experienced an epiphany during a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon. After all it was the shirtless glory of David Boreanez that had enlightened him to the fact that he was both a Buffy and an Angel sex groupie. It was, however, the first time that there was someone other than Scott there to share in his Buffy-induced epiphany. In fact there were six others to share in the experience. It would have been seven if Boyd wasn’t working the night shift at the ice rink again. This was quite an accomplishment for someone like Stiles who had only ever had two or three people in his life at a time.
“Derek is totally our Giles,” Stiles muttered from his spot on Derek’s living room floor. He wasn’t sure if it was being nestled in so many blankets that gave him the confidence to say it. Or maybe Stiles hadn’t meant to say it out loud at all. Maybe if the reconstructed living room wasn’t full of werewolves than no one would have heard it at all. All Stiles can say in his defense is that it was an innocent thought, a humorous comparison meant to entertain.
It was not meant to start a chain reaction that would change Stiles’ entire life.
Of course it would be Lydia who picked up the little comment and turned it into a whole conversation. “He totally is.”
“Why? Because he’s the oldest?” Erica asked, sending a teasing grin in her alpha’s direction.
Derek growled. “I’m not old.”
Lydia scoffed loudly. “It’s not just because he’s old enough to babysit us. He’s the one with all the training and knowledge. That makes him Giles.”
“And he’s the one that’s always telling us what to do,” Scott added in cheerful agreement. “Giles is always giving them instructions and running Slayer training just like Derek does for us.”
“Since when are you such a nerd, Lydia?” Jackson sniped from his spot next to Danny on the big couch, completely ignoring Scott’s comment. “You’ve been spending too much time with Stilinski.”
“Says the Faith of the group,” Isaac muttered throwing a piece of popcorn at him.
Jackson’s eyes flashed to reflect his anger at the suggestion. He snatched the bucket out of his pack mate’s hand and dropped in onto the seat cushion separating him and Danny. “What did you call me?”
Isaac pressed his back further into the front of the couch and therefore against Derek’s legs, subconsciously seeking security from his Alpha. “I said that you’re Faith.”
“He so is,” Allison agreed with a grin.
“Stop saying that! If I’m anybody I’m one of the vampires. A dude vampire.”
Lydia smirked. “I don’t know, Whittemore, Faith was always the one who had to be the best. She was never happy just being a Slayer. She had to be the Slayer.” Her smirk grew to show off her pointiest teeth. Even in human form the look was intimidating. “No matter how many moral codes she broke or dick moves she made. All because Faith was just an insecure child.”
Danny put a comforting hand on his best friend’s arm. “Relax, Jackson. Lydia’s just pissed because she’s obviously Cordelia.”
“Says you,” Lydia replied her smirk quickly turning to a scowl. “Cordelia is stupid. I am not.”
“But you do like to pretend you’re stupid,” Jackson shot back, picking up where Danny had left off. “And vapid. Though I still don’t know if you’re faking that part.”
“And you’re both Queen Bitches,” Erica added, never one to miss out on a session of Lydia bashing.
Stiles decided to intervene before the claws came out – literally. “You realize this makes Scott our Buffy right?”
Isaac laughed. “That means Allison’s his Angel.”
“I don’t want to be a girl,” Scott said, the pout clear in his voice.
Allison snuggled closer to him, which was quite a feat since they were sharing the miniscule love seat to the side of the TV. “It’s a good thing. It means you’re the main character, baby.” She leaned up to plant a chaste kiss on him. “And we’re still a couple too. Star-crossed lovers as always.”
“Oh,” Scott replied a blush and a pleased smile quickly dominating his handsome features. “That’s alright then.”
“This is so stupid,” Jackson interrupted. “I am not jealous of Scott. If anyone’s gonna be Buffy it’s me.”
Danny rolled his eyes. “You should just let that one go, Jacks. Trust me.”
“What about the runts?” Jackson asked pointing to the two newest wolves.
This time it was Allison who spoke with venom. Stiles kept forgetting she was a hunter’s daughter and had the temper to match. He made a mental note to keep staying on her good side. “I think Erica and Spike share some history.”
“It can’t be just because we’re both hot blondes,” Erica added, flirtatiously running a well-manicured hand through her hair. “Though that is true.”
“No I was thinking more along the lines of Spike always trying to steal Buffy away from Angel,” Allison answered, the anger practically dripping off her words.
Even Derek shifted uncomfortably. Everyone knew that one of the main reasons he’d had for giving Erica the Bite was to tempt Scott away from Allison. Just because Derek had finally told Erica to stop trying didn’t mean the girl had given up. Clearly Allison left the majority of the blame on the blonde werewolf’s shoulders.
Sensing the need to switch gears Isaac held up a tentative hand. “I think I’m supposed to be Oz, right?” He smiled hesitantly at the group. “You know cause I’m quiet like him and we are both werewolves.”
“We’re all werewolves, idiot,” Jackson replied hotly, still peeved about being named the Faith in the Pack.
Stiles ignored the caustic jock and smiled reassuringly at Isaac. “I think you make an excellent Oz.” His gaze flickered to Danny. “Even if you’re destined to fall for a witch that turns out to be a lesbian.”
Danny’s eyes widened. “Are you seriously making me Willow because she’s the only gay character? Not cool, dude.”
“You’re the level headed one,” Derek said, backing Stiles up and actually joining in for the first time that night. “Of all the Beta’s you’re the one I have to worry about the least. Willow was always there for the others.”
“I thought that Stiles would be Willow,” Isaac said. “You know since Scott is Buffy and all.”
Jackson scoffed. “Stiles is the useless human.”
“Hey!” Stiles shouted, stung.
“Xander,” Scott supplied the name.
Stiles turned to stare at his supposed best friend, hoping that the betrayal in his eyes would burn a hole through Scott’s head. He was disappointed to see a distinct lack of burning flesh or gaping head wound. “Dude! Way to back me up.”
“Relax, Stiles,” Scott replied soothingly. “Xander’s an awesome character. Remember that one episode where he totally saved the day and no one knew about it?”
“And the million other episodes where he fucks everything up,” Erica added, grinning.
“Traitors,” Stiles announced, pointing around the room at everyone but Isaac. “That’s it. All of you are on my list.”
Lydia chuckled. “Well if Xander’s threatening me than I’m definitely intimidated.”
“Xander is loyal and eccentric, too,” Isaac agreed as if that made it all better.
“Et tu, Isaac?” Stiles asked, pulling a non-existent knife from his back.
“Everyone shut up and watch the show. Now.”
Derek’s low growl paired with his glowing red eyes effectively silenced the room in an instant. The wolves in the room turned towards the TV coincidentally baring their throats in the direction of their Alpha. Even without the supernatural connection Stiles felt the urge to go absolutely still. Though Stiles being Stiles couldn’t let the silence reign for too long.
“I just love these little Pack bonding nights,” he whispered tentatively into the darkness. “So relaxing. Not threatening at all.”
“Shutting up now,” Stiles squeaked, letting his body drop back onto the hard floor with a loud thump. Playing dead was supposed to work with bears so Stiles was banking on it working against irritated Alpha werewolves as well. The fact that it got a smile from more than one of his pack mates made it all the more worth it.
Even if Jackson did have to go and ruin the moment with a snarky, “He is so the useless human.”
“Xander,” Danny corrected him quietly.
Derek growled and flashed crimson eyes at them.
Stiles decided to wrap up in the blankets mummy-style and allow Joss Whedon’s small screen masterpiece lull him to sleep. Only he couldn’t seem to focus on anything that was happening on the TV. This wasn’t exactly a new experience for Stiles but it didn’t feel like the kind of distraction that his ADHD medications could fix.
No, this was the kind of mental discomfort that came from inner turmoil. Which Stiles so did not appreciate. His patented blend of self-delusion and ignoring problems until they went away was failing him. They were a tried and true method of coping that Stiles wasn’t used to being abandoned by.
Instead of marveling about Buffy’s awesome fighting skills or how hot Spike looked while being tortured, Stiles kept coming back to Jackson’s comment. Even before they were pack mates Stiles had developed a thick skin thanks to the scathing insults that Jackson tossed around as if they weren’t emotionally destructive hand grenades. After becoming pack mates Stiles had come to accept that Jackson didn’t always say these things to be hurtful. More often than not Jackson just wanted to deflect attention from his own insecurities.
And it wasn’t like Stiles was ashamed to be the ‘Xander’ of the group. Everyone loves Xander. He’s the good guy; the one whose moral compass always points true. He was the guy that everyone went to when they were in trouble or needed a shoulder to cry on. Stiles could do worse than to be the Xander. So what if he would never be known for being the strongest… or the fastest… or the most handsome… right?
Okay, so maybe Stiles wasn’t as okay with being Xander as he thought.
Stiles’ gaze drifted to the petite love seat where Scott and Allison had fallen asleep, their bodies melded together as if they were meant to. Maybe Stiles wasn’t content to just be happy that his best friend had found someone to spoon with anymore. Maybe seeing the star-crossed lover show that was Scott and Allison every day of his life had started to open a wound Stiles would have preferred not to pick at. Maybe Stiles wanted someone to cuddle with. Hell he’d settle for someone who would publicly admit they found him attractive.
Even Derek didn’t need him anymore. Isaac was practically living with him while the renovations were finishing up. Stiles knew that Derek had even spent a few nights at Erica’s house – not that her parents knew that – if he did need somewhere else to sleep. Looking at the three of them dominating the big sofa just reminded Stiles that – even if he wasn’t the only one on the floor – there wasn’t anyone else snuggling in with him. Had Boyd been in attendance he’d have been snuggled right up against the big couch just like Isaac. Everyone just assumed that Stiles didn’t mind being the odd man out.
Even Stiles apparently.
He shifted slightly to eye Jackson and Danny, watching stealthily from beneath his blankets as the two tried to see who could fit the most amount of popcorn in their mouths without choking. Stiles was reminded that he and Scott used to do stupid things like that. His gut twisted painfully as Stiles realized how long it had been since they’d done anything on their own, without sweet-but-constantly-there Allison making him a third wheel in his own broship.
Stiles knew that even if he did manage to return to his rightful place as Scott’s most important person that it wouldn’t fill the hole he’d felt growing larger with every day that graduation loomed closer. He didn’t want to be the Robin to Scott’s Batman forever – or Xander to Scott’s Buffy as the characters bickering on the screen reminded him. It wasn’t enough to just belong to the Pack anymore.
Just a few months ago Stiles would have gladly accepted his spot as the low man on the totem pole in exchange for having more than Scott and his Dad in his life. After all, it was family he’d been craving ever since his Mother had died. Looking around the room at the half-asleep werewolves Stiles knew that he’d gotten his wish. From insecure Jackson to bitchy Erica, from dopey Scott to sourwolf Derek it was this unexpected combination of people who were his family now. For better or worse Stiles had chosen them and they had chosen him right back.
But for the first time in his life Stiles felt like it wasn’t enough to simply belong. He wanted more out of his life. He needed to find his place in the world the same way that being in the Pack had helped the others find theirs. Because for Stiles being in the Pack had only reinforced those self-doubts, that nagging low self-esteem that maybe all he was good for was helping other people. That maybe the most important role he played in the pack was sacrificing his own happiness and ambitions for the good of the others. Deep down in the dark dungeon of his psyche where Stiles kept all of his troublesome thoughts and feelings buried, he couldn’t help but think that his place might not be as the Xander to his pack. That maybe there was something more out there for him.
As it turned out that feeling didn’t terrify him nearly as much as he thought it would.
Which was just a whole different kind of nightmare.
There are days that Chris Argent hates being a hunter. He’s proud to say that those bad days don’t amount to a big number. His calling has required him to perform some pretty immoral tasks but nothing that any good soldier wouldn’t do for their cause. Chris has never doubted that any of the lives he’s taken were in violation of the code. More nights than most he goes to bed satisfied that he helped make the world a safer place.
Having a member of the Hunter’s Council visit Beacon Hills to deliver a Proclamation in person definitely counts as a bad day. That said member of the Hunter’s Council is an old friend of Chris’ provides little comfort. Hunters only call them Proclamations because they don’t like to think of said messages as what they really are – threats.
“You have to understand, Chris,” Oliver pleads, using his first name to remind him of their previous camaraderie. The worry sounds sincere at least. “Your father wasn’t pleased with how things ended here last year. That you sided with the Hale Pack to evict him from Beacon Hills was a huge blow to him personally and politically.”
Chris’ lips thinned, the corners of his lips twisting to demonstrate his bitterness. “He broke the code. He murdered innocent people – humans.” His glare hardened. “He tried to manipulate my wife and my daughter into helping him.”
Oliver nodded in agreement. “Which is why the Council supported his removal from Beacon Hills.”
“Didn’t stop him from rejoining the Council, though, did it?”
“Your family has always had a seat on the Council,” Oliver reminded him. “Perhaps if your sister were still alive or your daughter of age…”
Chris flexed his fingers in an attempt to keep them from strangling his old friend. “My sister is dead because of the mindless hatred that my father taught her. She would have been just as destructive on the Council as my father is now.”
Oliver removed his glasses and rubbed tiredly at his eyes. “This is the kind of talk that has the Council so concerned, Chris. No one has ever had reason to doubt your commitment to the cause and certainly not the Code.” He paused as he weighed how to phrase his next words. “But your father is using your more strict adherence to the code to plant mistrust among the others. That your daughter so openly flaunts her relationship with one of the Hale Pack Beta’s is only adding weight to his arguments.”
“My father is free to say what he likes.”
“Even when it gives him enough support to send me here with a Proclamation?”
Chris snorted dryly. “More like a punishment.”
Oliver nodded. “Exactly. You should have seen the original Proclamation he submitted to the Council.” The man tugged at the sleeves of his suit. “For all the hatred Gerard holds for the Hale Pack I’m afraid he’s begun to equally blame you for Kate’s death. He means you harm, Chris.”
“What was the original Proclamation?” Chris asked, curious.
“To bring you back for trial,” Oliver answered bluntly. “He wanted several families to arrest the entire Hale Pack as well. He claimed it was to get their statements over what happened the night of Kate’s death but we both know none of them would have left alive.” He paused. “Gerard wanted Allison taken as well, Chris. He wants to be named her permanent guardian – to train her as one of his apprentices.”
Chris couldn’t help the slew of curses that flung from his lips. He knocked over his chair as he stormed out of the dining room. “Over my dead body!”
Oliver followed him into the living room and waited for the man to finish knocking back a shot of amber liquid straight from an unmarked bottle of liquor. “He played his cards too soon. Once I knew what he wanted I was able to negotiate him down to the current Proclamation.”
“As if that’s any better,” Chris muttered angrily.
“Considering the alternative I thought you’d be pleased with my efforts.”
Chris glared. “You want a thank you for doing your job?”
Oliver rolled his eyes, for the first time looking less like a stiff Council member and more like the friend that Chris remembered. “I’m trying to save your ass here, Chris, and all you want is to be pissed off? Fine. I can deal with that. Lord knows I’m used to your temper but don’t you dare confuse who your enemy here is.”
“He’s still my father,” Chris said grudgingly, nursing another sip.
“And a member of the Council,” Oliver added with a grimace.
Chris nodded solemnly. “At least he didn’t have enough juice to pass it.”
“But he was still able to force the Council’s hand on this,” Oliver reminded him, waving the written form of the Proclamation in front of him like a banner. “If you don’t follow through on this than the others might start to believe you’ve gone soft. I know you’re angry with us but don’t give Gerard anymore ammunition to discredit you.”
“So as long as I dance to the Council’s tune they won’t let my father arrest me and try – for the second time, mind you – to slaughter the Hale Pack and any humans who stood against him?” Chris asked, his sing-song voice only emphasizing his distinct lack of enthusiasm. “How generous of you officials elected to protect the rest of us from the rogue members of our community.”
Oliver crumpled up the Proclamation and chucked it at Chris’ head. “All you have to do is take on an Apprentice. Which – let me remind you – was a responsibility you would have had to take on in a few years anyway.” His frustration at his friend’s stubborn streak began to darken his tone. “You have Allison, Chris, who would have been trained in our ways anyway. Just choose her if you won’t look through the files on the other potentials I brought. It’s an easy out.”
Chris chuckled humorlessly. “I’m sure my father would just love that.”
“It is one of the reasons he agreed to the compromise,” Oliver admitted. “Try not to forget the message it sends to the other Council members though. Taking on an Apprentice is meant to remind aging Hunters of how important our role in the world is. It says that your commitment to the cause is so strong that you’re sharing it with another who will one day pass it on.” The gleam in Oliver’s eye held a frightening amount of reverence. “Our Apprentices become our children, remember? Not all of us are so lucky as to have actual children to teach our ways to.”
“You’re right,” Chris said quietly into the silence that just kept stretching. “I just never wanted Allison to have to make that choice. Not after the way Gerard trained Kate and I.”
“So don’t do it the way that he did,” Oliver pleaded. “If you’re so concerned about Allison – if you really want her to be free of our ways – than at least look through the files I brought and pick someone worthy.” He pointed to the thick pile of manila envelopes that were stacked neatly on the dining room table. “You’re an Argent, Chris. There are trained hunters who would gladly give a limb to be your Apprentice – to carry the Argent sigil and name.”
Chris did his best not to snap at his friend. As the oldest family of hunters, the Argents were the most revered. He’d forgotten the level of hero worship that followed his last name. There were actual legends passed down from Hunter to Apprentice about their family exploits through history. Chris couldn’t blame his friend for being swept up in the glory talk any more than he could have avoided it during his own apprenticeship.
“I’ll look over the files,” Chris agreed, purposefully keeping his tone even. “But I’ll not make any promises. Like you said, I have to find someone worthy of becoming a member of this family.”
Oliver sighed but found himself nodding along anyway. “Just try hard, Chris. You’ve only got until the next full moon to announce your choice to the Council. If you refuse this mandate than the Council will have no choice but to side with your father. Gerard will use that kind of political leverage to destroy you, the Hale Pack and possibly The Code as well.”
Chris wished he could call his friend overly dramatic. The problem was he knew his father would do just that. Gerard would single handedly destroy centuries of tradition and peacekeeping in the name of vengeance. It wasn’t like Chris held a soft spot for the werewolf community but he didn’t want to be responsible for genocide either. Chris had already been taken in by Gerard once. It had very nearly cost him his marriage, his daughter and his soul.
If taking on an Apprentice could stay his father for even a day longer than it was a sacrifice he was willing to make. Chris just had to find the right person to select. That and make sure that whoever he chose managed to live long enough to become a full-fledged Hunter.
It was always such a tragedy when an Apprentice was killed before they’d even made it out of training.
There were many undesirable aspects of being Alpha to a pack of teenage werewolves and their human compatriots that Derek had gradually gotten used to. Derek had accepted that pizza would become the food most often waiting for him at pack dinners. He had grudgingly become accustomed to his pack’s ridiculous habit of sharing their petty teenage angst with him. Though he had almost skinned Lydia alive for getting mascara on his leather jacket while she wept over her latest break up with Jackson. Derek had even taken on the role of financier when Stiles had needed his car repaired, or last summer when Scott had complained about a lack of scholarship money to go to a lacrosse camp with Jackson and Danny, or when Erica and Isaac had needed that SAT tutor.
Attending the high school’s annual College & Career Fair was something Derek would never get used to. The brightly colored nylon balloons with graduation caps and inspirational messages were just begging to be popped by a well-placed claw or two. Too many of the parents (single and otherwise) were eyeing Derek as if he were up for auction as a sex slave. The other parents kept steering their children clear of Derek as if he might give them the same treatment he was dying to give to those damned cheerful balloons.
Derek tried not to make his relief too evident when he finally spotted one of his pack mates loitering by the food table. “Boyd!”
The dark-skinned teen jumped at the strength of his Alpha’s call. He worked quickly to get the sugar cookie he’d jammed into his mouth down. “Derek? What are you doing here?” He cast a quick glance around before leaning over the table to whisper conspiratorially. “You do know that Allison’s parents are going to be here right?”
“They’re not going to start anything with all of these witnesses,” Derek grunted dismissively. “What you should be asking is where the hell the rest of your pack is.”
Body shrugged. “Probably looking around like everyone else.”
Derek resisted the instinct to start slamming his Beta into the nearest wall. “I told everyone to go around together. I told you all on movie night that I would be attending as well. How else are we going to figure out what to do after you all graduate if we don’t know what catches their interests?”
“Oh?” Derek asked, not amused at the short response. “That’s all you have to say?”
Boyd shrugged again. “Oh.”
Not for the first time Derek wondered why he’d bothered to turn someone who spoke less often than he did. Which was an impressive accomplishment indeed. Maybe another time Derek would have appreciated the brief responses – lord knows they made up for all of Stiles’ blathering monologues – but being out in public was making the Alpha edgy. He wanted his pack together. He wanted them to figure out a game plan together.
Derek wished he could be the type of Alpha who just demanded his pack mates to give up any sort of life outside of the pack. It would make things so much easier. He’d learned the hard way that being Alpha didn’t mean his Betas would just fall in line at every command. Resentment and rebellion were seeds easily planted in a Pack with a tyrant for an Alpha. Derek knew that they depended on him for survival, for guidance and for leadership. They only ever challenged him when it came to their ridiculous personal lives.
Boyd snorted in amusement as if he could see Derek’s thoughts before snatching another cookie. “I’ll go see if I can find them.”
“Do that,” Derek replied moodily already stalking away from the table. He made his way to the bleachers for a better vantage point. The Alpha had to climb all the way to the top row in order to see over the top of all of the banners and tent covers that decorated each of the booths. His werewolf eyesight came in handy since he was too far away to track his wayward pack by smell in such a large crowd.
He caught sight of Lydia first. She was sitting on the far left side of the auditorium at a small desk with a man Derek doesn’t recognize. There was a red folder sitting unopened between them with the letters “MIT” printed on the front in a dark shade of grey. Derek knew now why the man didn’t have his own booth. There really wasn’t a point in setting one up when there was only one student smart enough in Beacon Hills to be recruited. Derek was overcome with pride that the man had made a countrywide trip just for one of his Betas. The feeling was quickly replaced by a stab of fear. MIT was all the way across the country and Derek hadn’t planned on any of his pack going quite so far. The tortured expression on Lydia’s normally composed features reminded Derek that he’s not the only one facing that dilemma.
Not wanting to worry too much about it Derek scanned the crowd for the rest of them. Scott was predictably trailing behind Allison as the girl went from booth to booth, chatting politely with the representatives and taking information from them all. Her parents keep up with the pair but look torn between smiling supportively at their daughter and scowling in Scott’s direction whenever Allison’s back was turned. It’s not until Scott spotted Dr. Deaton that he broke away from the group and the Argent elders breathed a little easier.
Derek spotted Boyd by the back door trying to get Jackson’s attention. The Alpha let out a low growl when he saw the reason why Jackson was ignoring the other wolf. Congregated at Jackson’s feet like he were some sort of God are a dozen of underclassmen all looking up with rapt attention as Jackson tells some sort of story. Derek concedes that to them Jackson probably is a God. Derek eavesdropped just long enough to hear Jackson brag about all of the lacrosse scouts that had already called his parents and offered him everything under the sun to come play for them. Derek listened a little closer and heared the steady, rhythmic pumping of Jackson’s heart that meant the teen was actually telling the truth… for once.
Danny was at the only booth with computer monitors and televisions that looked as if they’d been made within the last five years. Derek watched the digital posters rotate across the screens. Derek wasn’t exactly surprised that Danny would want to pursue some sort of career in computers. It’s just that he isn’t entirely sure if the government will let Danny near one after his younger hacking days. Not that such a restriction had stopped the tan teen from helping out his pack mates when they needed a tech man. He breathed a little easier when one of the posters lists the college as being in California as one of the “benefits” of attending. Jackson might be ambitious but if Danny was to stay in the state than he’ll choose to as well. Derek just hoped that one of those recruiters Jackson had been bragging about was from a California school.
Derek caught Isaac’s scent and studied the booth’s closest to him. The curly haired boy had moved so close that Derek didn’t even need the help of his supernatural hearing to listen in. Isaac shifted shyly from foot to foot as he quietly asked about scholarships. Judging by the number of community college packets in his muscled arms Derek guessed that the boy was making the rounds and only taking ones close to home that offered heavy amount of financial aid. Derek hadn’t been worried about Isaac going too far. They’d become quite close since he’d turned the boy and knew how attached Isaac was to him in return. The envious glare Isaac shot in Jackson’s direction after the gaggle of underclassman laughed loudly at something the blonde said didn’t go unnoticed by their Alpha. Once again Jackson was being handed a life that Isaac deserved and not appreciating it in the slightest. Derek made a mental note to have them spar at the next training session and break up some of that tension before it turned into something worse.
He didn’t bother looking for Erica. She’d already made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t planning on wasting four years of her life studying. Erica wanted to make up for the fun times that she’d lost out on when plagued with her seizures. Derek didn’t necessarily approve but wasn’t going to push her on it. He only hoped that when Erica went to “party college style” with her pack mates that the education bug would grab her. Maybe in a few years she’d feel up to joining Isaac at community college.
Derek let out a derisive snort when he finally spots Stiles chatting with the officers running the booth set up by the Beacon Hills Police Department. It was just like the snarky teen to blow off doing any serious college or job-hunting in order to hang out with his father.
Derek’s eyes narrowed as he leaned forward to watch the booth more closely. The Sheriff wasn’t at the booth and his stuff is gone. Normally Derek would have been able to make out the words being exchanged but the booth was at the far end of the fair and there were simply too many other voices drowning out the noise. Derek could see perfectly though. He watched Stiles take down notes and ask questions. He spotted the nervous pulsing of the deputy’s jugular vein as the woman answered Stiles’ questions. There was only one reason Derek could think of for the woman to be nervous and it made the Alpha seethe in rage and panic. It was the same reason Stiles would have waited for his father’s shift at the table to be over before going over to speak with the deputies.
“No,” Derek growled, springing to his feet.
He didn’t bother walking over to the cement aisle of the bleachers. He gracefully pounded his way down the bleachers themselves – ignoring the impressed faces of the people close enough to witness the departure – before pouncing onto the gymnasium floor. The crowd parted before him and the angry expression on his face. Even the female deputy speaking with Stiles fell silent as he came into view.
Derek grabbed Stiles by the shoulder and spun him around with enough force that the teen nearly fell over. He pushed until Stiles’ back smacked painfully against the front of the booth. The deputy opened her mouth to intervene but shut it with a snap after the warning glare Derek sent her way.
“Derek?” Stiles asked, confusion and pain dominating his scent. His focus drifted over Derek’s shoulder to the watching crowd beyond. “Dude, people are looking.”
“You’re not joining the police force,” Derek said, ignoring the other’s warning. His tone offered no room for argument or negotiation. “Not ever.”
Stiles’ expression slipped into one of pure stubbornness. He’d seen many of Stiles’ expressions over the years – several of them of the stubborn variety – but this was the one Derek dreaded most. It was the one that promised a fight of epic proportions. It was the face that spoke of Stiles digging his feet in and actually standing his ground. It usually meant that the Alpha had to resort to beating some sense back into the kid. Derek was more than up for the challenge when it came to this.
“My dad’s the Sheriff, Derek. I don’t know whether to be more insulted that you didn’t think I might follow in his footsteps or that you think you have a say!”
Derek’s grip on the boney shoulders tightened. “I’m your Alpha. You’ll listen to me.”
“Watch what you say!” Stiles hissed. “Someone could hear you! Which is all the more likely since you’re being a big girl and making a scene in front of the whole town!”
“You think this is a scene?” Derek asked. “I’ll show you a scene.”
Stiles’ eyes widened at the threat. His arms began to windmill as Derek caught him off balance and moved his hands down to grab the teen at the waist. The Alpha hefted him up over his shoulder and began to carry him out. The reaction in the gymnasium seemed split between laughing at the sight or frightened on Stiles’ behalf.
“Put me down!” Stiles demanded as he was carried through the crowd. “This is so not acceptable behavior unless you’re a caveman.” Seeing the lack of response from his captor Stiles tried his hand with the crowd. “Help! This man is not my friend! Bad touch! Bad touch!”
Stiles’ mouth may have obeyed but his limbs did not. His arms and legs began to fly out wildly. Derek grunted as limbs fell heavily against his chest and back. To his credit, Derek refused to give an inch until they were out of the gymnasium and down a vacant hallway lined with lockers. Stiles landed one last kick before Derek tossed him onto the floor. The teen grunted at the impact before glaring up at the older man.
“What the hell, Derek?”
The Alpha leaned down to grab and lift Stiles back up by the throat. Stiles’ eyes widened in fear as he was lifted higher and higher. Derek didn’t stop until the tips of Stiles’ skater sneakers were barely touching the tiled floor. His eyes were a glowing crimson promising only death and destruction. “You will never be a cop. Do you understand?”
Stiles nodded frantically, eyes wide in panic.
Derek lowered him just enough that the front half of the shoe could rest against the floor. “If I so much as catch you with a pamphlet for the academy I will end you.”
Stiles nodded again, sighing in relief as his feet hit the ground fully. He rubbed at his throat where Derek’s tight grip had left a bright red palm print. “Jesus, Derek. You didn’t have to do all of that. Are you going to be like this with everyone?”
“None of them are that stupid,” Derek answered angrily. “They’re thinking about college not getting themselves killed.”
“You’re worried,” Stiles pointed out, shocked at the realization. “You’re worried about me.” All signs of intimidation vanished, quickly replaced by a teasing grin. “That’s so sweet, Derek. I didn’t know you cared.”
Derek let out a low growl of warning. “Everyone should be afraid if someone as clumsy and clueless like you is given a badge and gun.”
Stiles pulled away, stung. “So you’re not worried about me?”
“Of course not,” Derek lied easily, not wanting his embarrassment to show. “I’m concerned for the humans of this town that you’ll probably end up shooting by accident. For all I know some hunters will still blame us for your foolishness.”
“He’s right, Stiles,” Scott said, interrupting whatever nasty retort Stiles had locked and loaded. “Not about the hunters thing but about the whole police thing. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
The pair turned to see that the rest of the pack had joined them. Everyone looked shaken but by Derek’s display or Stiles’ near career choice was a mystery. All except for Scott who was watching his best friend with such a fearful expression that it was impossible not to see his thoughts on the matter.
Stiles glared at his friend. “I just thought that since one of us is always in trouble with the law that we could use someone on the inside. I don’t know what everyone’s getting so upset about.” His eyes roamed over the rest of the pack. “Although it’s so nice that everyone seems to agree I’d be a terrible cop.”
“You don’t have to stay here,” Scott replies quietly. “You haven’t taken the bite. You could go anywhere. I know you have the grades, Stiles. You’re almost as high in the class ranking as Lydia and Danny.”
Derek understood Scott’s feelings on the matter. Every hope Scott had of being normal, of living a standard human existence disappeared the minute his Uncle had bitten him. Besides Allison and Stiles, it was that future that the boy coveted the most. If he couldn’t have it for himself than he wanted it for his best friend. Scott didn’t want his lycanthropy to hold Stiles back like it was holding him back.
The stench of Stiles’ hurt filled the hallway. All of the self-doubt, the crisis of confidence and the low self-esteem that had been building up had finally reached a boiling point. “Because only Pack has to stick around, right? And I’m just the token human. If I was gone you’d all just keeping working like clockwork.” His laughter was hollow and pained Derek to hear. “Maybe even better without me there to mess things up.”
Allison stepped forward and linked hands with her boyfriend in silent support. “That’s not what Scott meant.”
“It’s still true, though, right?” Stiles asked bitterly. “Everyone else is useful in some way. Allison has her hunting skills and even if Danny were still another weak human he could still crack anything with a keypad.”
Derek scowled. “Don’t be stupid.”
“You know what’s the saddest part of all?” Stiles asked, lost in his pain. “Peter actually offered me the Bite.” He took a moment to enjoy the shock on their faces. “Apparently he must have seen something in me that none of you can.”
The red had returned to Derek’s eyes. “He offered it to you? Freely?”
Stiles nodded, mouth crinkling in a small, broken smile. “I turned him down obviously. I didn’t want him as my Alpha. I didn’t want someone who would manhandle me and tell me what I could and couldn’t do with my life. I didn’t want to be in a pack that didn’t support me. I didn’t want a pack that liked to keep me down.” He snapped his fingers to emphasize his sarcasm. “Oh wait. I guess I ended up in one of those anyway.”
“I am not my Uncle,” Derek said lowly, the underlying threat clear in his tone.
“Maybe not,” Stiles conceded. “But I’m also not one of your precious wolves, Derek. Which means you don’t get a say. I’m not pack – not really.”
“You don’t mean that,” Scott rushed to say, his voice pleading. He turned to his Alpha. “He didn’t mean that.”
Stiles held Derek’s gaze. “Yes, I did.”
Derek felt the rage boiling within, hurt and spite fueling it further. “As if we ever needed more proof that my uncle was out of his mind. He was insane if he thought that turning you would be a good idea. I would never make that mistake.”
“That’s what I thought.” Stiles nodded along as if Derek had just confirmed a suspicion of his. “So we’re all good, right? All on the same page?”
The Alpha nodded right back. “If you don’t like your place in the Pack than don’t bother showing up to pack meetings anymore. We’ll get along just fine without you.”
“Fine by me.”
A mix of outraged protests sounded from the watching wolf pack. Derek silenced them all with a crimson glower and a deep, warning growl. Stiles ignored the desperate looks from his former pack mates. Instead he headed for the bright red exit sign without so much as a look over his shoulder. Derek waited until he was sure Stiles was gone before reassuring the others that Stiles was just upset and needed a reminder of how important Pack was.
“He’ll be back,” he said, not entirely sure if he was really trying to comfort his pack mates or himself. Just because no one mentioned the flicker in Derek’s heartbeat didn’t mean they all hadn’t heard it.
They were all so lost in their own thoughts that they failed to spot Chris Argent slipping back into the gymnasium.