Sheriff Tom Stilinski has seen some shit.
It’s not exactly news that Beacon Hills is a weird place to live. The murder rate is only slightly higher than the national average, but the rate of disappearances is three times higher. In terms of demographics, it seems like your typical northern California town, but the population fluctuates wildly. In some years, people move out in droves. Then unsuspecting people move in and the population gradually builds up again until there’s another exodus.
So when Tom gets a call about a jogger who found half a body out on the preserve, it doesn’t exactly shock him. It’s been quiet for almost two years now, and the longer it’s quiet, the more he feels like he’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sometimes he wishes that he had moved out Beacon Hills during the last evacuation, the year of the Hale House fire. But the idea of moving Stiles away from his best friend had stopped him. His son had such a hard time making friends.
Of course, if he had realized said son and said best friend were going to wander around the forest looking for a dead body, he might have rethought his decision. And he doesn’t believe his son for an instant when Stiles protests that he’s out here alone. “Scott, you out there? Scott?”
There’s no answer, but a quiet coughing fit gives Scott away. Tom rolls his eyes to the heavens and then collars the little miscreants. “You two are going home. Right now. Tara will take you. I swear to God, if I see either of you out here again, you will both be grounded until prom.”
Scott doesn’t protest the threat even though he’s not Tom’s son. To be honest, what Melissa will do to him if she hears about this will probably be much worse, so it’s a better idea not to rock the boat. They slump off into the distance with the deputy, and the sheriff goes back to work.
He’s seen some shit, sure. Looking for a dead body isn’t new to him. Looking for half of a dead body, well, that’s a little less ordinary. Even so, everything seems to be relatively routine until the deer herd practically tramples him. Morley, the police dog, is practically hysterical as Tom gets to his feet. “I’m all right, girl,” he says, but she’s yanking at her leash, trying to get away. Tom tests his weight on his new twisted ankle and winces. “Hey, settle down, settle down, Morley – hey!”
The dog has jerked free of him and taken off into the woods. From an untrained dog, such behavior wouldn’t be too surprising, but from a police dog? Tom slowly withdraws his gun from its holster, scanning the dark woods for any sign of movement. Then he hears it. Just a low growl. There’s a dim gleam of red eyes and then a figure easily three times as big as the biggest dog he’s ever seen comes rocketing out of the trees.
Tom lands on his back hard, and lets out a sharp cry of pain despite himself as the creature’s jaws sink into his side. He jams his gun into the monster and pulls the trigger twice. It snarls but lets go, turns, and runs off into the forest.
“Jesus Christ,” Tom says, trying to aim his flashlight so he can see the damage. He doesn’t think it’s fatal, but there’s a lot of blood. “Shit.”
It’s serious enough that he suspects he needs stitches. He tests his weight on the twisted ankle again, and it twinges but holds. He finds a stick to lean on and limps his way back to the car. Morley is standing there, head down. She whines when she sees him, a clear apology for abandoning her post. He scratches behind her ears and gets on the radio. “Guys, I took a nasty fall and got bitten by this loose dog, so I’m going to head over to the hospital to see if I need any stitches. Keep doing the sweep, call me if you get any hits.”
The hospital is quiet, which is lucky. The doctor takes a quick look at the wound and proclaims that he does indeed need stitches. “You said it was a dog that bit you?”
“Not sure, to be honest. It was dark, and the thing moved fast. Could’ve been a cougar or even a bear, I guess.”
“Gonna need some shots,” the doctor says.
Tom sighs. “Isn’t rabies the one you need to get nine shots in the stomach for?”
“Not any more. It’s just four that you get over the course of the next two weeks.” The doctor picks up his clipboard and heads out.
Melissa comes in a few minutes later with a suture kit and a syringe. “Tom, ouch!” she exclaims, when she sees the wound. “That’s no dog bite, or if it was, it was the biggest dog I’ve ever seen!”
“Yeah, I know. Now that I’m thinking about it, I guess it must’ve been a mountain lion.” Tom sighs and lies down so she can start cleaning the wound out. It stings, and he winces. “I hope it wasn’t someone’s dog, since I shot it.”
“I think you had pretty good reason to!” Melissa shakes her head. “I’m going to give you a local anesthetic for these stitches. The puncture is pretty deep. It’s gonna sting.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Tom grits his teeth as Melissa gets to work.
It’s about an hour later before he gets out of the hospital and heads home. It’s nearly midnight, but he’s not surprised to see that Stiles is still up. His son has had trouble with anxiety since Claudia’s death, and any time he thinks that his father is out on a dangerous job, he won’t even try to sleep.
“Dad! You got attacked by a dog?!” Stiles is immediately on his feet, demanding answers.
Tom rubs both hands over his face. “Seriously? We just talked about your invasion of privacy, and you’re still listening in on the police radio?”
“Well, I have to, if you’re going to do things like wander around the forest and get attacked by rabid animals!”
“It’s my job to – you know what, I’m not having this argument with you. I’m fine, and you need to stop listening in on my phone calls, my radio calls, and any other sort of calls. We don’t know that it was rabid, and even if it was, I’m getting the shots. So I’m going to be fine.”
Stiles huffs out a sigh of relief. “Okay, can I see it?”
Tom rolls his eyes. He wants to say no on general principle, but Stiles will just badger him incessantly until he allows it. So he lifts up his shirt and peels a little bit of the tape off so Stiles can see the wound.
“Wow, gross,” Stiles says, in a tone that’s more admiring than anything else.
“Yes, son. It is very gross. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve had a very long night, and what I really want right now is to get some sleep.”
“No, yeah, definitely,” Stiles says. “I probably should sleep too. You know. Practice tomorrow. Scott has this weird idea that he’s going to make first line, so I need to get my beauty sleep so I can comfort him after his inevitable failure. Night!”
~ ~ ~ ~
Tom starts the next day with a headache. Every little noise seems to be a drill to his ears. He can’t even run his coffee grinder, and winds up drinking the station coffee, which is as terrible as always. He’s looking over the report on the half of the body they found. There are bite marks on her lower body. He looks down at his side, and sighs, then gets on the phone to Fish and Game.
“No, I don’t know what it was. Big. I think it was more likely to be a bear than a cougar.” Tom sighs as they demand more details. “Look. It was dark. It happened fast. All I know is that it was big, and angry, and it bit me. I’m going to have the hospital send the pictures of my bite down to the medical examiner’s office so they can determine if it was the same animal. In the meantime, if it’s randomly attacking people, maybe it won’t be that hard to find.”
He hangs up feeling grumpy. Restless, even. The scent of the burnt coffee, the lemon furniture polish the janitor uses, the perfume of the mugging victim who was there the day before – it’s suddenly all too strong, and making his throbbing head feel worse.
Men are still out in the field searching for the other half of the body, so he decides to join them. He has a brief word with his administrative assistant and heads out into the woods.
Immediately, he feels better. The air is clean and crisp, and he’s able to move without feeling restricted. The wound on his side twinges a bit, but it’s really not too bad, given what it had looked like. He knows how lucky he is. He heads back for the last place he had been, hoping that he can see some sort of trail that the animal had left.
Instead, what he sees is a man in a leather jacket, who greets him with, “This is private property.”
Tom gives him an incredulous look and then points to his badge. “So is this.”
The look on the man’s face is more of a sulk than anything else. “Yeah. Sorry.”
“I take it that this is your property?” Tom asks, keeping his hand close to his gun. People returning to the scene of their crime is a cliché, but it has its roots in truth. He doesn’t know this man, which is unusual, although there’s a strange familiarity to him. He knows almost everyone in Beacon Hills. And although he might have wandered off the Preserve, nobody lives near this section of it.
“How is that your business?”
Tom points to the badge again. “Son, a body was found in this area last night,” he says, and the young man stiffens. “Now you’re wandering around close by. So I’m going to have to ask you some questions like who you are and what you’re doing here.”
After a long silence, the young man shoves his hands down into his pockets. “My name’s Derek Hale, and yes, this property belongs to my family.”
That makes Tom blink. “Derek Hale? I didn’t even recognize you. Last time I saw you, you were just a scrawny – anyway,” he amends, as Derek starts to scowl. “What are you doing back in town?”
There’s a beat of hesitance, which Tom recognizes instantly as a man deciding what lie to tell. “I came to visit my uncle. He’s still in the long-term care ward over at Beacon Hills Memorial.”
“Mm hm.” Tom nods. “How long have you been in town?”
“Just since yesterday.”
“And where are you staying?”
“That Howard Johnson on the north edge of town.”
“Where were you yesterday evening between the hours of seven and ten PM?”
“At the hotel. By myself.”
“Okay. Got a phone number I can reach you at, in case I have any more questions?” Tom asks, and Derek supplies it. “Good. Don’t leave town.”
Derek turns and walks away without another word. Tom watches him go, considering his options carefully. Derek turning up in town right now is too coincidental to ignore, but if whatever killed the girl was a rabid animal, it probably doesn’t have anything to do with him. He files it away and gets back to his sweep.
That evening, the sensitivity to sound has decreased a little, although the smells are just as strong. That’s not as bad in his own house, or at least it wouldn’t be if his son wasn’t trying to feed him brussels sprouts. He cuts them into small pieces with the edge of his fork and wonders how his life has come to this.
Stiles is chattering away about this new girl in school that Scott is crushing on hard, and about the abysmal failures they had at lacrosse. Tom is glad, as he always is, that his son won’t be endangering his life on the lacrosse field. He loves his son, and he knows Stiles wants to play, but he’s just such a klutz. He’d manage to break something before an hour was out.
He’s proven right less than an hour later, when Stiles is trying to put the dishes away, balancing a pot and the roasting pan that go on the top shelf and managing to drop everything. Without even thinking about it, Tom hops over the table and grabs them before they can hit the ground with a clatter.
“What?” he asks, when he sees Stiles’ jaw hanging open.
“Did – did you just vault over the table?” Stiles asks.
Tom looks back across the kitchen at where he had started. “Didn’t have time to go around.” He puts the dishes away and tousles his son’s hair. “You know, you might think I’m a stodgy old man, but I am a police officer. I do have physical training.”
“Yeah, I guess, I just – I’ve never seen you do anything like that before.”
“Then you don’t pay enough attention.” Tom finishes with the dishes and says, “Now go do your homework. Don’t skype with Scott all night.”
“Uh – yeah, okay, sure.”
Tom shakes his head as his son jogs away. He goes upstairs himself not long after. He needs to change the bandages and take a shower.
But when he peels away the bandages, the wound is gone.
~ ~ ~ ~
“Dad? Dad!” Stiles’ mouth is full of cereal as Tom turns to see what’s upset his son this time. “You shouldn’t be reaching over your head like that! Putting the dishes away was bad enough, how can you even – ”
“Kid, I’m fine,” Tom says firmly.
“I know! That’s what worries me. You shouldn’t be fine, you shouldn’t be able to move like you did last night, not while you’re injured! Come on, let me see how it’s healing. Just give me a peek.”
“It’s healing fine. It’s basically gone already.”
“Okay, now you’re just lying to get me not to worry,” Stiles says, and starts grabbing at his father’s shirt. Tom sighs and tries to shove him off, but his son is like an octopus, with flailing limbs everywhere. Somehow, he gets Tom’s shirt pulled up to see that the bandages, and the wound they had covered, were gone. “What.”
“I told you it was basically gone,” Tom says. “I’m fine.”
“But . . . it shouldn’t be.” Stiles’ tone is worried and uncertain. “I mean, that was a really nasty bite, you had to have stitches and everything, it should have taken weeks to heal – ”
“Look, kid,” Tom says, taking Stiles by the shoulders and steering him back into his chair, “if you want to get worried because something isn’t healing well, that’s fine, but there’s no sense in worrying when an injury heals faster than you expect. Now eat your breakfast and go to school. I might be working late today, so don’t you dare stay out past curfew. Don’t forget that you’re grounded.”
Stiles whines, but Tom is long inured to that, so he finishes his breakfast and goes to work. To be frank, he is a little weirded out by the fact that the wound is already gone. He thinks about calling Melissa but decides against it. At least the noise sensitivity seems to be settling down, though he finds he can hear things from further away if he focuses on them.
The report from the medical examiner is in, and she’s confirmed that the bite Tom got matches the bites on the victim’s legs. That means that her upper half, whoever she is, probably got dragged back to the lair. But there’s a long series of conflicting correspondence between the ME and Fish and Game. The latter says that the only animal with the strength needed to bisect a human being is a bear, but the ME is insistent that the jaw size isn’t big enough for a bear. Plus, the hair analysis came back showing that it was a wolf. Fish and Game is even more contrary about that, saying that there haven’t been wolves in California in decades.
With no better ideas, he goes down to see Alan Deaton, who’s technically a veterinarian but smarter than most of the other people Tom knows. “Wolves are highly migratory,” he says, “so it’s possible. But I don’t think those are wolf bites.”
“Why not?” Tom has included a photo of his own wound in amongst the ones on the body, but hasn’t told Deaton why it’s different.
“To start with, the jaw size is too large. Also, these aren’t the kind of wounds a wolf would make. They would go for the ankles to hobble their prey, and their throat to finish them off. This wound here,” he says, tapping the picture of Tom’s, “looks like it’s on the side. It’s an odd place for a wolf to bite down if he wasn’t in the middle of an actual meal.”
Tom glances down at his healed side and says, “What if it was rabid?”
“Well, rabies can make an animal unpredictable, that’s true, but it wouldn’t make an animal forget its basic hunting instincts.” Deaton shrugs. “But you never know.”
“Thanks,” Tom says, brooding over all of this as he heads back to his car. None of it makes sense, and he doesn’t like it. Strange things happen in Beacon Hills, but this is strange even for their town.
On a hunch, he calls the Howard Johnson. They have no registered guests under any Hale name. He calls the hospital, who tells him that yes, Peter is in the long-term care unit, but Derek has not been by to see him. So he was lying about that, too. Tom thinks about going out to look for him, but it’s getting late.
He’s about to go home when he gets a phone call saying that one of the deputies has found, not a body, but where they think a body was. There was some crushed foliage and some blood. They’ve taken samples to send to the lab and should have results in the morning. They’ll have the dogs follow the blood trail in the morning, too, to see if that leads them back to the animal’s lair.
It’s not a lot, but it’s progress, so Tom packs up and heads home. He finds Stiles pacing a track in their living room floor.
“Okay, so,” his son greets him, and Tom groans. “Come here, you gotta see this – I’ve been doing all this reading – ”
“Son, how much Adderall have you had today?” Tom asks, because he knows his son’s propensity for abusing his medication when he feels like there’s important research to be done.
“What? A lot. Doesn’t matter. I was thinking about what’s been happening, with your bite wound disappearing and that strange animal attacking people in the woods, and then Scott said today that he thought he heard a wolf howling that night. Which there shouldn’t be, because there are no wolves in California anymore – ”
“Stiles . . .”
“ – plus there’s what happened in the kitchen last night, and don’t even front with me, Dad, I love you, but you’re not Bruce Lee, you don’t just vault over tables to keep me from dropping pans. I know this because I’ve been dropping stuff since infancy – ”
“Well, that’s true enough.”
“ – and never before have you gone over a table to catch it before it hit the ground. Something really weird is happening, and yesterday you were complaining of a headache, of everything being loud – ”
“Not to you!”
“Come on, Dad, everyone at the station talks to me, don’t try to sidetrack me, you’re clearly having enhanced senses, and we have to talk because the full moon is tonight.”
Tom folds his arms over his chest. “Stiles. The point.”
“The point is that you got bitten by a werewolf!”
There’s a moment of silence while Tom chews on that. He thinks of all the fun make-believe games he used to play with Stiles. The kid has always had an active imagination. He’s about to say something when his phone rings. He holds up a finger for Stiles to wait and then picks it up. “Stilinski.”
“Hey, boss,” Tara’s voice says. “Got a disturbance down at the YMCA, Higgins is already on a call. Can you respond?”
“Ten-four, I’m on my way,” Tom says, and hangs up.
“Dad! No!” Stiles moves between his father and the door. “You absolutely cannot go anywhere tonight! From what I read, it’s not just that the moon will cause physical change. It’s when your bloodlust will be at its peak!”
“Okay, kid, I know you did not just use the phrase ‘your bloodlust’ to describe me, your father and the sheriff of this county.” Tom grabs his jacket. Then he sighs, turns and faces Stiles, and grips his shoulders. “There’s no such thing as werewolves. I’m going to be fine. You’re going to stay home. Yes, I know Scott’s going to that party, you told me. I don’t care. You’re staying here. If I catch you putting one toe outside this house, I will take away your laptop, your video games, and your phone. For two weeks. Am I making myself clear?”
“Yes,” Stiles groans, but then can’t help continue with, “But Dad!” as Tom shuts the door over his protests.
“That kid of mine, I swear to God,” Tom says with a sigh, as he heads for his car.
~ ~ ~ ~
Despite all efforts to put them out of his mind, Stiles’ words nag at him. It doesn’t help that he’s starting to feel – odd. There’s no better word for it. He’s restless and edgy. It’s not bloodlust, he tells himself firmly, and he certainly has no trouble arresting the kid who’s vandalizing the walls over at the YMCA.
He’s fine, everything’s fine, and then he gets home and finds an empty house.
“God damn it, Stiles – ” He slams the door on the way back out to the Cruiser. He wonders if sixteen is too old to receive a spanking. The last one was when he was four and tried to run out into the road without looking. Still, if anything deserves one, it’s this. “How can he feed me all those carrots and talk about my cholesterol and then spend every free minute trying to give me a heart attack!”
He’s back in the car but he can’t stop that feeling creeping over him, the sense of danger pounding at him from every direction. Something’s wrong. Something’s very wrong. He can’t think straight. He can hear everything, from the thud of his own heartbeat to the neighbors two doors down having an argument. The assault on his senses is going to drive him mad. He needs to get away.
Without stopping to think, he gets out of the car, breathing hard, and takes off at a dead run. He doesn’t even think. Can’t think.
He’s deep in the forest by the time he regains some sense of self. His hands don’t look right. It takes him a minute to process that there are claws coming out of the tips of his fingers. Somehow, the thought that goes through his head is, Stiles is never going to let me forget I told him that werewolves don’t exist.
Then there’s a gunshot.
He whirls around with his hand on his own gun, and then sees at least four shadowy figures emerging from the trees. He hesitates, and then hears someone behind him. “This way! Run!”
Derek Hale grabs him by the wrist and pulls him along. Tom can feel how much faster he is, can sense the new strength as he leaps over a fallen log. He’s surprised he doesn’t fall. He follows Derek for several minutes, until everything is quiet, and then stops to catch his breath. He’s nowhere near as winded as he thinks he should be. “Who were they?”
“Hunters. The kind that have after us for centuries.”
“After us? You’d sure as hell better not be including me in that ‘us’!” Tom’s temper gets the better of him. “You know, two days ago I was just a normal county sheriff and my biggest concern was making sure my son didn’t trip and break his neck before he was finished with his growth spurt. Now all of a sudden I have bodies torn in half, claws and fangs I didn’t ask for, and people shooting at me with guns!”
“It’s not that bad,” Derek says. “You can hear better, move faster than any human could hope. The bite is a gift.”
“Well, I need to return it to the store, asap,” Tom retorts. “And it sounds an awful lot like you’re the one with the gift receipt.”
Derek shakes his head. “I’m not the one who bit you. I don’t know who is.”
“Why the hell should I believe you?”
“I can help you. You’re going to need me if you want to learn how to control it. We’re brothers now.”
Tom stares at him in disbelief. “Kid, I think that sounded a lot better in your head than it did in real life.”
Derek blinks at him. It’s clear that he doesn’t know how to react to Tom’s attitude. “I don’t – ”
Distantly, they hear the sound of a wolf howling. Both of them look up, and Tom starts to feel every hair on the back of his neck stand up. The feeling makes his skin crawl and itch. He has an undeniable urge to run towards the noise, to find whoever’s calling him.
Derek grabs him by the arm. “That’s the alpha,” he says. “He’s trying to call you out.”
“What does that even mean?” Tom asks, frustrated.
“Come with me,” Derek says, and Tom reluctantly follows. He finds himself inside the ruins of the old Hale house. Derek lets them inside through the half burned out front door. “You need to find an anchor. Something you can focus on, to help you keep your humanity.”
Tom nods. He rubs his fingers over his wedding ring. “My family,” he says, without thinking. Derek looks away. But there isn’t really time to worry about his hurt feelings. Tom takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, concentrates on Stiles and the worry in his eyes and his silly rants about cholesterol. The crawling under his skin abates a little.
It takes more effort than he would have expected. There are times when he feels his new claws digging into the skin of his palms. Every breath needs to be carefully measured. But gradually, the feeling stops. There’s no more howling. He’s left drained and exhausted, and eventually falls into a restless sleep.
When he wakes up, it’s because light is shining in his eyes. Derek is nowhere to be seen. Tom picks himself up off the ground, groaning as he eases the kinks out of his shoulders, and walks back towards the road.
He’s barely been walking for five minutes when a Jeep pulls up alongside him. “Oh, thank God!” Stiles is out of the car before his father can say anything, latching onto him for a hug. “Don’t freakin’ worry me like that, Dad, I’ve been out here looking for you all night – ”
Tom opens his mouth to say he wouldn’t be out here if Stiles had stayed home like he was supposed to, but then just sighs and hugs him back. “Yeah,” he says. “I guess we have to talk.”
~ ~ ~ ~