Actions

Work Header

Anthracite

Chapter Text

So here I am it's in my hands
And I'll savor every moment of this
So here I am alive at last
And I'll savor every moment of this
The Used

♠♠♠♠♠

The first text Stiles got came about a month after the Berserker-shitshow in Mexico. There were no words in the message, just a single uncaptioned image. It was a photo of a spectacular sunset: oranges and blues and glowing golds against a mountainous backdrop that could have been just about anywhere in the world. Stiles had no idea who the unknown-number sender was. He’d considered messaging something back to indicate that, but then a random monster-of-the-week tried to kill one of the Pack, he can’t remember what or where exactly, and he didn’t end up hitting send.

He forgot about it until another month later when he received the second text. This time it was a picture of a huge basket of curly-fries set on a table in a retro-styled diner. There was a big, neon-pink Route 66 sign hanging on the wall. Stiles had spent most of that night—the Sunday of his actual birthday—with his dad, and they’d made a pact to leave their phones behind, which meant Stiles had not seen the message until after midnight, an hour or two after it was sent.

The photo had two words as its caption: Happy Birthday.

Stiles probably should have freaked out, then and there, at the fact that it was a not-so-random somebody sending him texts. A somebody who knew his date of birth. He didn’t, though. He made an in-Stiles’-brain-executive-decision and chose to remain composed. He also decided to keep it to himself.

He loaded the sunset image as the background on his phone. He saved that pic, and the big-basket-of-awesome-fries one, to a folder synced with his laptop and two different services in the cloud. It wasn’t until after he’d done those few things, finished his chemistry homework, jerked off, and had a post-midnight snack, that he allowed himself to admit that he knew exactly who it was who’d sent him the messages.

Five or six pictures and a Happy Fourth of July later, Stiles saved the number into his contacts list as M.W . Everyone in the Pack had their noses in everyone else's business, so it was nice to have something just for himself. No one but Stiles needed to know about his newly nicknamed Mystery Wolf.

A few days after making the contact-list commitment, Stiles sent his first reply. He managed a fairly decently angled image of the bandage covering the small tattoo he’d travelled a couple of towns over to get.

He was worried at what M.W.’s response might be. He didn’t send a shot of the actual ink.

There was no comment, but the texts kept coming.

♠♠♠♠♠

Derek stepped back and shook himself off. It felt as if there’d been a bucket of blood thrown over him. There were rivulets of it carving tracks through his fur and it was dripping off his muzzle and down to his paws. He did a quick half circle one way then the other, all the while keeping an eye on the guy on the ground. Derek growled when the man groaned. The stranger was still bleeding from his neck and his breaths were making a sucking sound that wrenched through the still night air.

Derek took a few steps back and sniffed properly for the first time. He hadn’t smelled any sign of other shifters in the area around the side-of-the-road campsite he’d stopped at for the night, but given the werewolf’s clothes and shoes, and the big backpack the man had dropped before he’d attacked, the guy had been a traveler too. Despite his red eyes the stranger had the unmistakable sour scent of Omega.

The Alpha wasn’t young, and likely not inexperienced, but he’d picked the wrong werewolf to attack. He’d been no match for a full-shift Hale wolf. Derek wouldn’t have sought out red eyes again, but the Omega had left him little choice.

The sigh Derek let out sounded more like a huff in this form. The change in power and status would make his life far more difficult. The Alpha on the ground dragged in one last horrific breath and his eyes faded into nothing.

Derek felt his body change with the influx of energy: the ache of his jaws eased and his wounds closed, his chest and back and haunches broadened, and the slight chill in the air seemed to disappear as the Alpha power coursed through his body. It felt foreign, but comfortable all the same.

Derek had been on the road for almost six years without any issue between him and local Packs. They’d all known his last name, they’d all somehow known why he had blue eyes, and they’d mostly let him stay without protest. Some had even tried to tempt him into settling down with them.

He’d done labor and construction in small towns, picking up a variety of practical skills along the way. He’d opted for working club doors in bigger places, blending into the background with the rest of the nightlife. He always took cash in hand for payment, and one-star motels and cheap rooming houses had been happy to relieve him of it. He sent texts to his family on birthdays and holidays. Every few weeks he used a credit card to buy fuel and minutes for his phone, making sure to leave a trail for them and the lawyers in case they needed to find him.

Now he needed to find them. Travelling as a lone Alpha could be seen as a challenge by others if he didn’t have obvious Pack ties.

Derek walked past the disgusting-smelling toilet and shower block and ducked into the forest off to the side of the otherwise empty campsite. He shifted back to two legs and scrubbed himself with muddy sand from the base of the river he’d heard when he’d made camp, then found wood to start a fire just big enough to do what he needed. He burned his ruined sleeping bag and the few pieces of his clothing that had ended up splattered with blood. The fire took an hour to go out, which left only a few before dawn.

Derek dressed and moved himself and his truck upwind, then got back out with the small bag of mixed mountain ash and wolfs bane he’d hoped he’d never have to use. He held his breath and tossed the contents in an arc over the camping area, erasing his scent and that of the other werewolf’s. It was probably an unnecessary precaution. There were no Packs who laid claim to land for miles and miles in every direction. Humans would more than likely blame the itinerant man’s death on a feral dog.

With the clean-up done, Derek drove.

It was good that he was in Texas. He wasn’t that far from the border with Mexico, and the big, gas-guzzling pickup truck he was driving wouldn’t be difficult to trade for something else. He’d grown fond of it and its idiosyncrasies, but only two seats might not do for much longer.

He hadn’t had enough sleep, so he had to concentrate hard on driving. If he got back on the interstate and kept to it he could make it to El Paso without garnering too much negative attention from any established Packs.

It took an hour or two, but as soon as he had a decent phone signal he parked at a big truckers’ road-stop to get fuel, grab a shower, and eat. He called the family solicitors once he’d ordered his burger and asked them to contact the Romero Pack that lived just outside the El Paso city line. He needed permission for the Hale Alpha to stay in the area for a week or two while he waited for one of his Betas to return from Guatemala.

Derek ate while he listened to one of the legal partners go over what had been planned for this kind of scenario. They would contact the other Hales, find the new Alpha a place to stay while Derek waited for at least one Beta to get to him, and then start a full report on what did and didn’t need to be done with investments and properties and everything else.

With his nicest jeans on, his belly full of grease and most of his belongings left in bags next to the side of the roadhouse so they’d be found by someone who might need them, Derek drove again. He stopped once more on his way to El Paso, acknowledging the text the lawyers had sent confirming the Romero Pack’s permission and a reservation for a suite with two bedrooms at the city’s Marriott Hotel.

Derek sent See you soon messages to the other Hales. He stopped himself from hitting send when he snapped a shot of a random guy’s very fancy, very red, snakeskin ankle-boots. He could show the picture off in person soon enough.

Truth be told, Derek had been thinking about it for months. It was difficult to believe it was actually happening. Despite their physical distance from each other, their pseudo-Pack ties had kept the Hales stable and sane. None of them had planned on becoming an Alpha, but now there was a solid center to their bond that wouldn’t be denied. The four of them would be together again soon, and then the Pack would be heading back to where they belonged.

It was time to go home.

♠♠♠

Stiles sat back onto the sofa and brought his foot up to rest across his knee. He listened as Alena made sure everyone had a drink and their favorite snacks. He resisted looking at his phone just-in-case; he hadn’t gone without a text from his M.W. for more than a couple of weeks since the Hunt in senior year, and that was years ago. Not that he was counting, but it had now been twenty-seven days. The last picture he’d received, a wide desert landscape with a clear, candy-blue sky, had been like something from a fancy coffee table book. It had been captioned with a simple declaration of location: Chihuahuan Desert, Texas.

Stiles wouldn’t look at the picture again here, he didn’t need someone noticing him fumbling with his phone and inevitably asking about it. He would look at it again later, though. And then again.

Right now, he needed to keep his hands busy. He leaned forward and picked a bit of a fall-leaf out from underneath the lace of his county-approved boots. He should polish them soon or his dad would be on his case.

Stiles looked up when he heard the door to Scott and Alena’s big, new apartment open and shut again.

“I told you he wouldn’t be much longer.” Liam looked far too smug. It wasn’t like they didn’t all know Mason was always at least fifteen, but no more than twenty-five, minutes late to any given meeting. Luckily not even Liam had told the guy in question that these things officially started at half-past the hour now, just for him.

It was moments like this that Stiles missed Malia. She’d hated the petty shit that went on in human life, and constantly called them out on it. She’d said no to meetings and no to makeup and dresses and eventually no to shoes. She’d reverted to her coyote form a year or two ago and disappeared deep into the preserve. Stiles sometimes wondered if she ever missed them. He doubted it.

“Yeah, yeah,” Aldin said, waving around the beer he’d just snagged from the fridge. He put it on the coffee table as he sat himself on the floor and used a yellow elastic from around his wrist to pull back his dark, wavy hair. “Can we get this show on the road, now? I’ve got wards I need to cast on this place. If I can get them done tonight I’ll have the weekend to myself.”

Lydia sat down next to Stiles on the loveseat and handed him the Diet Sprite he’d been trying to avoid. He knew he’d end up spilling it, and he had to make it through the late shift. He’d be off the night rotation starting Monday, technically, but he didn’t need to go into the station looking as if he’d not taken any care with his uniform. There was no need to goad his dad into extending the swing-shift hell he was currently in.

“It won’t stain, Stiles.” Lydia sipped the straw she’d put in the bottle of overpriced mineral water she’d brought with her. Stiles still wondered, sometimes, despite being there to help when she’d made each and every decision, what she could have done if she’d left Beacon Hills. She hadn’t been able to stay away in the same way that he hadn’t, though. They’d felt the same preternatural pull to return from far across the country. They would have felt it from across an ocean. It had been too painful, in every way, to not come back.

Lydia motioned at his bottle, and watched him take a drink. She then looked back at the Pack at large. “And I’ve got lesson plans and marking to do. Even those of us with mundane jobs have places to be.” She smoothed her skirt over her knees and crossed her legs.

Alena shooed a few stragglers out of her kitchen. She followed them as she picked up one last bowl of snacks and put herself, and it, into Scott’s lap. A few moments later the whole Pack— at least all the actual adults that weren’t looking after kids at Mitchell and Anna’s place—was ready.

Scott looked around the crowded room, flashing his eyes at all the wolves, and muttering hellos to everyone else. “So, it’s that time of the month again. Last week’s Full Moon gathering was good, and the next one’s actually on a weekend, so we’ll all have time for the fun stuff then. I know this is a chunk of time you’d mostly rather spend anywhere else, but let’s get this over with as fast as we can and we can all get back to our own Thursday nights.”

There were general noises of agreement, and then Scott looked at Mitchell and grinned as he said, “It’s up to you to start, my man. Tell us about the money.”

Stiles suppressed a groan and knew Lydia was doing the same. Every month Scott used the same corny line. His sense of humor had been charming as a teenager, but now he just sounded like he was getting lame dad-joke practice.

Mitchell, a definite lame-dad himself, swiped across his iPad and looked up from under his too-long, ginger bangs and said, “Much the same, so going well. The pseudo-tithing thing is working. We’ve got enough now for a good deposit on a meeting house of some sort, and given our combined contributions, more than enough per month to make payments at current standard loan rates.” He kept his pale eyes down and pulled his chin in a little. He rolled his lips together and looked up. “The biggest problem we have at this point is finding a place that meets our requirements and is available.”

Stiles flicked his eyes at Scott and saw the expected pull of his eyebrows, then made sure to concentrate on Mitchell again.

Stiles imagined the pained look on Lydia’s face as Scott put his beer into the cup holder in the side of his armchair. The Alpha was blissfully oblivious of the judgement on his decorating choices, thankfully. “What about the places we talked about last meeting?”

Jessica cleared her throat. “Two of them have only changed hands in the last month or so, so it’s understandable that the new owners aren’t willing to let them go.” Her long, dark hair was pulled back so severely that Stiles wondered how she didn’t have a headache. It was unlikely that it was what was putting the uncomfortable expression on her face at this point, however. “The other four, well—”

“Well what?” Alena lifted an over-plucked eyebrow as she spoke. It wasn’t the kind of eyebrow lift that expressed much, though. Stiles had always hoped that eyebrow-speak was a werewolf-wide ability. It wasn’t. Not even in the born ones. Stiles missed conversations held entirely in eyebrow. Uncommunicative facial muscles or not, Alena didn’t look happy. “Are they all condemned or something?”

Mitchell jumped in again. “No. But they are all owned by the same company, Tee Ess Enterprises. Their legal representatives sounded firm in the ‘absolutely not for sale’ answer they gave for each of the four buildings.”

“Tee Ess?” Lydia uncrossed her legs.

“Yes. It sounds like the initials but it’s written differently. This is all I could find on them,” Mitchell said as he tapped the screen on his iPad a couple of times again and handed it over, “which is not very much.” Lydia scanned the info and passed it back over the table. She just nodded at Mitchell when he added, “I’ll send it to you.”

Stiles held back the yawn that was growing deep in his chest. Twenty minutes more, that’s all he needed. He’d grab a double beef and veggie burger and curly-fries on the way to the station, get his iron levels up to the same level as his blood sugar so he wouldn’t crash.

Scott didn’t scowl at Mitchell and Lydia, but he did at Jessica. It was uncalled for. The poor woman couldn’t help it if a property wasn’t for sale. She didn’t automatically get to buy and sell any place she liked just because she was in real estate.

Scott looked at Aldin instead. “Do you have anything to say about this? Or, you know,” Scott’s goofy face was still his most affable, “any way of making someone want to get rid of a building? Anti-keep-me spells you could secretly do? I really like the look of the place on Maple Drive, for the record.”

The Emissary raised his eyebrow, a mirror image of his twin-sister a few moments before. He didn’t pull off the look, either. “I don’t think that’s something the Elders’ Council would exactly sanction. There’s nothing else to report either, really. All the Pack members’ house and apartment wards are fully functional, as are the ones around the schools and town center. And, nothing’s tripped any of our extended perimeter alarms for more than a month, now.”

There were some happy mutterings in response to that. With an established, and well-known, werewolf Pack in residence, not much nasty supernatural stuff happened in Beacon Hills anymore. There hadn’t been any objectionable visitors or incidents for close to a full year.

“So, the wolves I saw at The Apollo last night are cool?” Gwen asked. “They, well, two of them had faces you’d not want to argue with. Though, one of them was pretty handso—” She swallowed half the word with a squeak and her big brown eyes opened wide.

Scott growled out loud. All the wolves, even Scott’s fiancé, bared their necks and a couple of them, Gwen included, whimpered.

Lydia squeezed Stiles’ hand to stop him from calling Scott a dick. Their mighty-pissed Alpha curled his lip and just managed to keep the wolf out of his words as he said, “What wolves?” He glared daggers at Aldin. “How did they get through your wards without them alerting you? You just finished telling us that the outer perimeter was strong. The Apollo is at least five miles inside the southern border.”

Aldin looked a lot smaller now that he wasn’t spouting off good news. It was times like this that Stiles found it easier to not resent being passed over for Emissary. Most of the time it pissed him off—his Spark wasn’t vulnerable or tainted, no matter what anyone thought, thank you very much—but right now not having the responsibility was a good thing.

Aldin swallowed hard, but apparently found a little strength in the look of support his twin-sister was giving him from the Alpha’s lap. “I have no idea.” He turned to Gwen. “You saw wolves at the diner last night? What time?”

Gwen flared her nostrils. She’d not opted to take the bite until recently, and wasn’t able to read a room with her nose yet, but her newly-improved senses were trying their hardest anyway. “It was pretty late. Well, early this morning, really? I had a paper due today and decided to get coffee and a slice of pie to finish it off with. They were there when I sat down, but left before me. So, from about one to two? I left about an hour after them.”

Scott’s eyes glowed red and his eyebrows had done their shrink-but-not-quite-disappear-thing. He wasn’t taking this well. Stiles decided he should step in and try to get a few more facts before anyone, Alpha especially, completely lost their cool.

“Gwen,” Stiles started, and she turned to look at him, relief on her face, “I think it’s perfectly understandable that you didn’t think to tell anyone about this. None of us would expect to see unknown wolves in the middle of town if no ward-breech-warning-texts were sent out.” She relaxed, and a couple of other sets of shoulders around the room rounded, too. “So, the strangers were there when you got to the diner, and then left about an hour later, yes? Are you certain they were wolves? Could they have been some other kind of shifter?” A group of sneaky werefoxes made more sense to be honest. If anyone could get through a perimeter without setting off a ward it was them. It wasn’t as if it hadn’t happened before.

Gwen looked earnest when she said, “No. They were wolves. They didn’t smell sharp like foxes, or spicy like cats.” It sounded as if she’d at least been practicing her sniffing, then.

Lydia leaned forward and Stiles shifted sideways to give her a direct line of sight to Gwen as she asked, “How many of them were there? And do you think they were all Betas?”

“Four.” Gwen screwed up her nose and tried to hide under her hair. “I don’t know if they were all Betas or not. They weren’t Omegas. They didn’t smell sour. But,” She put her eyes down and the volume of her voice went with it. “They maybe smelled a little stronger than Betas? My wolf has never met an Alpha other than Scott, and he just smells like strong-Pack to me. Maybe they only smelled strong because I don’t know them?”

Evidently Scott made an unhappy noise again. It was too quiet for Stiles to hear, but all the wolves cringed and a couple tilted their heads a bit. Stiles chose to outwardly ignore it.

“Well, that sounds like what most wolves say about their Alphas and other Packs. Scott smells like Pack and safety and home, and strangers smell weird.” Gwen glanced up at him, but dropped her eyes again. “Well, how about what they looked like? Did you see all of their faces?”

Gwen spoke up a little again, apparently feeling a little more confident about this bit. “Three men, one woman. They were all well dressed and looked and smelled almost freshly showered. The woman had dark hair and tanned, but not olive skin. She was sitting next to Guy-one. They looked like they were related? But he had darker hair than her and wasn’t really as tanned. He had three or four days’ worth of scruff, but it looked like it was planned that way, not ‘cause he couldn’t get to a razor. They both had leather jackets on the backs of their chairs.” She paused for a breath, and turned her head a touch as if focusing on different parts of the memory she was describing. “Guy-two was almost as wide across the shoulders as Guy-one. He was less tough looking, though? He was clean cut and shaven, had dirty blond hair, and light eyes that might have been blue. It was hard to tell in the diner’s light. Guy-three wasn’t as muscly as the others, but wiry. His hair was straight and black, with a big, bright-orange streak dyed in the front. He looked like a manga-character, which might be why I want to call him Japanese?”

Stiles summarized all that for himself: two dark haired, leather jacket owning, possibly brother and sister non-Hispanic whites, a light-eyed, clean-cut Caucasian, and someone who looked like they were out of an Anime. Okay. He couldn’t lie to himself; the descriptions of the first two, and even the third, had the hair on his arms standing on end. The reaction was lessened by the fact that he had absolutely no idea about the last guy. He’d felt Lydia move herself a little closer to him, push into his side just a bit more as Gwen as talked about the woman, Guy-one, and Guy-two. She’d wilted a little on Guy-three too, though.

They’d probably been thinking, and hoping, the same thing up until then.

Stiles made himself smile as he said, “That’s good detail, Gwen. I’m impressed. Now, I’ve got one last question for you, okay?”

She smiled back even as Scott barked, “Only one?”

Stiles gave him a terse look and all but snapped out, “Yes, only one.” He tacked on a, “for now, at least,” after a moment to placate the not-so-proverbial beast. He angled himself back fully to Gwen, who looked far more relaxed now she had an apparent end in sight for the questioning. “What were they doing while you were there?”

She nodded once, as if acknowledging that this was a question she could answer. “They finished dinner. The waitress cleared their table and asked them if they wanted anything else. They all got dessert and coffee and seemed to enjoy it.” She paused a moment and looked to her right. “The waitress was happy with the tip they left her.”

Stiles sat back and the whole room started into talking. The apartment sounded like a lunch-busy school cafeteria. Hopefully the noise, and the fact that Alena chose that moment to twist around and plant a kiss on her live-in fiancé’s scowling face, distracted Scott enough that he didn’t hear it when Lydia leaned forward and said, “So, Gwen. Bad-girl, Bad-boy, McDreamy and Manga-cutie, yes?”

Gwen giggled into the soda she was holding, her wide smile telling them that Lydia had the descriptions dead to rights. Stiles’ heart skipped a beat or three, but hopefully no one took any notice.

The meeting only lasted another ten minutes. All business other than the interloping wolves was put on hold. Liam and Robert chose wolf-only pairs and assigned each of them a section of the territory to search, with a stern warning not to approach the strangers or engage with them in any way. They should alert them, or Scott, the moment they caught sight or got a whiff of the outsiders.

Everyone left with strict instructions to not travel anywhere alone, and Stiles dutifully offered to walk Lydia to her car and then tail her home. They kept their mouths closed until he followed her inside their house, ostensibly so he could make sure everything was secure, but actually so they could be inside their special wards and wouldn’t be heard.

They stood just inside the doorway looking at each other for a few moments.

Lydia broke the silence. “So. We’re thinking what, Hale, Hale, Whittemore, and… Associate?”

Stiles snorted. “You make them sound like a pretentious law firm that forgot to hire more than one minion.”

Lydia laughed, then slipped out of her absurd heels and grabbed the scrunchie she’d never be caught dead in outside of the house and pulled her long hair up into a loose bun. She lost her smile. “I haven’t figured out how they got through Aldin’s wards without tripping the alarm, but it has to be them.”

Stiles followed her to the kitchen and took the bowl of leftovers she handed him from the fridge. Microwaved turkey meatballs might not be a lovely, greasy burger and fries, but they’d more than do for his pre-shift dinner. Lydia held out a bowl of plain pasta in one hand and cheesy mashed-potato in the other. Stiles chose the potato, and put it next to the meatballs on the bench.

Then it hit him. “Let me see the spaghetti a sec?”

Lydia turned, managing a raised eyebrow better than either of the Allard twins ever could despite her distinct lack of werewolf DNA, and passed him the bowl without further question.

Stiles lifted off the lid and stared into the pasta swirls while Lydia stared at him.

“Most of the Pack don’t have the full history. And, despite hearing the legends of the Hale Pack and the McCall True Alpha, Aldin has no way to actually know everything that went down. Deaton wouldn’t likely tell him even if he got the question perfect from the get-go, and Scott’s cocky enough that he wouldn’t even think to consider the tangled story important, let alone think to inform his poor Emissary.” Stiles pulled the lid back on the bowl and put it back in the fridge. Lydia waited. Stiles took in a deep breath, and counted to eight on the out. “That’s not spaghetti, it’s linguine. I do remember what you taught me in your hour-long lesson on importance of different pasta types.” Lydia smiled, happy that Stiles did know the difference. “But, Lyds, you still handed it over when I asked.”

“Even I don’t demand precision with every word, Stiles. Not anymore.” Her smile was softer now.

“Not for day-old left-overs, no. But for hexes or runes and wards around us you definitely would. I’d bet whatever Spark I have that Aldin used a general notice-anything-that’s-not-meant-to-be-here type of ward when he marked out the perimeters, rather than something that focused on the Pack in specific, or on the intent of the who or what it detected.” Stiles rubbed a hand through his hair, tugging a little and letting his hands drag through the long half-curls on the top. He’d have to comb it again before he headed off to the station. “I can see why he wouldn’t. Tailoring to intent means that he’d miss beings that didn’t mean harm but might cause it anyway. And with his kind of magic, a spell that was Pack member specific would have to be actively recast, or at least tweaked, every time someone even changed rank in the Pack. That’s not to mention people joining or leaving. Imagine the nightmare he’d have gone through while Scott was actively recruiting. Even now that everything’s settled down he’d be constantly exhausted.”

Stiles could see Lydia connecting the dots as he spoke.

“And the land that Scott considers to be Pack territory, the land that Aldin’s wards are tied to, would consider the Hales and their Pack to be meant to be here.” She looked over his shoulder at their little office-cum-library. “I’m glad Deaton looked the other way when we didn’t give back all his books. It’s been a while, but I get the feeling we might need to do some brushing up on theory, at least.”

Stiles hummed in agreement at his best friend and leaned back against their kitchen counter so he didn’t have to rely on his jello-legs to keep him upright as the situation sank home. “The Hales are part of the land here, figuratively and literally. There are generations of them buried in the preserve. They spilt their blood over and over in service to the area, sacrificed themselves to provide protection to other beings here. Not to mention they probably still own at least some property here.”

“It makes sense. And therein also likely lies the reason our Gwen wouldn’t have flipped out completely when she saw them.” Lydia put the meatballs in the microwave and hit Start as she spoke. “They probably smelled a bit strange, but not terrible. Scott might not like to advertise it, but he was made by a Hale.” She shivered, but shook away the feeling. “Peter’s dead, but that link can’t ever die. The unknown wolves probably just seemed like the long-lost cousins they are to Gwen, rather than true intruders.”

“They’d be strange, but also familiar enough to make her okay about them being there even easier than if she’d just accepted them for the-magic-intruder-alarm-didn’t-go-off reasons.”

Lydia leaned back against the cupboards with him, and for a minute or two all there was was the hum of the microwave and the sounds of an overly long-lived cricket in the garden beyond the big glass windows.

Stiles couldn't help imagining that the bing bing bing of the microwave finishing sounded like the bell at the beginning of a round of boxing.

“Well,” Lydia said as she swapped the meatballs for the potato and hit go again, “at least we had a pleasant summer?”

Stiles sighed and reached into his pocket to pull out his phone. He ran his thumb over the darkened screen, looking at the smudge he left as he did.

“I know you already figured out my little secret, and I thank you for not pushing or teasing me about my messaging-buddy.” He swiped his phone open and hit the contacts button, then scrolled down to M.W. “I suppose it’s time to make your knowledge of him official though, seeing as there’s no way in hell that Hale, Hale, Whittemore, and Associate didn’t notice our Gwen sitting in the corner doing her homework, cousins or not.”

Lydia looked serious again. “The Hales made the first move, sitting in the middle of a busy diner to let the McCalls know they are here, and doing nothing out of the ordinary except tipping well. It might not seem like a loud statement, but it did what it needed to do. They wouldn't have exposed themselves that way if they were without an Alpha, but we'll have to see which one of them it is.” She tugged at a tendril of hair. “I doubt there’s an Alpha who stayed at home and sent out their Betas as show-and-tell.” She pushed off the cupboards. “And, despite Scott and the rest of the Pack deciding they need to be on high-alert, we both know that the Hales aren't here to attack. No one would have seen them coming if that had been their intention.” She reached into the cupboard to her left and pulled out a couple of plates. “We should make use of your messaging-buddy status to return their friendly overture.”

“Peacefully eating pie is a friendly overture, right.” Stiles grinned at how surreal that was, and how perfect. “I think that might be a little too subtle for some.” He felt his smile morph into a smirk. “Martin and Stilinski, though, we can do subtle, right?” He tapped open the messaging app on his Android. “What kind of photo says, We’ve missed your faces, About damn time you came home, and Why the fuck haven’t you come said hi?

♠♠♠

Chapter Text

♠♠♠

Derek was on his second coffee of the morning. It wouldn’t wake him up the way decent exercise would, but they’d all agreed that it might be prudent to wait until they’d officially met the McCall Pack to indulge in running in the preserve. He itched to go, though. The scent of forest was calling to him. It was torture not to go to visit the house site. It was torture to not go visit—

His thought was halted as Kohaku stumbled through the kitchen door. Derek got up and grabbed another mug to pour the guy a coffee.

“You look like shit, Ko.”

“Good morning to you, too, Derek,” Kohaku mumbled as he sat and ran his hand back through his shoulder-length hair, looking up and watching the strands fall when he pulled them forward. He always seemed to be worried that the orange might have disappeared since the last time he checked it. He looked forward again as Derek sat and pushed the coffee towards him. “Oh, Alpha! My bad. I’ll never be grumpy with you again!” He picked up the coffee and inhaled deeply before taking a sip and making a sex-worthy moan.

They’d only physically met each other a few weeks before, but Derek was glad Jackson had brought his friend into the fray. He thought Kohaku fitted their little Pack really well. The guy played the not-so-innocent younger brother role perfectly, was uncannily perceptive, and had some unusual talents that seemed like they’d be pretty useful.

Derek snorted at Kohaku’s continuing wanton noises and picked up his phone off the table as it buzzed with an incoming text. He sipped his own fresh coffee as he swiped open the phone and then the message. “Huh.” The picture wasn’t exactly what he’d been expecting after their burger and pie-eating display at the diner, but it was a start, at least. He felt a little bit guilty about the way they’d basically taunted the McCall Pack, to be honest. He tilted his head up as he called out, “Guys, can you join us down here. We’ve got at least an unofficial response to our presence.”

They both appeared a few minutes later. Jackson looked as if he’d already shaved and done his hair; Cora was in her yoga gear. Derek probably hadn’t woken either of them up. The semi-soundproofing they’d invested in for the house gave them all the semblance of privacy, but it was a little unnerving to not be able to clearly hear everyone’s heartbeats all the time. Derek felt uneasy given that they were still unsure about their status as a Pack in Beacon Hills.

Cora and Jackson both grabbed coffee and joined him and Kohaku at the table, and Derek held out his phone to show them the picture.

Cora frowned at the photo. “That’s a bit rude, don’t you think, a garden full of wolfs bane plants? They might as well have just texted Fuck you.”

Kohaku squinted at the image. “Is that actually wolfs bane? I thought that its flowers were a really dark purple.”

Derek waved the screen of the phone at Jackson, but he apparently wasn’t ready to comment.

Derek looked back up at Cora and Kohaku. “It’s wolfs bane, but it’s a strain that’s usually used to make medicines or protective charms.”

Cora’s whole face relaxed. “So, it’s not a threat then. Is there a caption or a time stamp, or a link or something?” She topped her coffee up. Then looked up and started at him hard. “And how does one of them know your phone number?”

“It was taken this morning at about six forty-five, so not long after sunrise. There’s no caption.” He ignored the second question, for the moment.

Jackson chugged down the last of his coffee, put the mug on the table and pushed it away, then put both of his hands out, flat in front of him. “That’s the garden on the back fence of Lydia’s backyard, behind the pool. That gate leads out into the preserve.”

Kohaku’s face grew serious, not an expression he wore often. “The Lydia’s garden?” Derek and Jackson both nodded. “Well then. I think the important things to notice are that it was taken at dawn, which is a beginning, not an end. The wolfs bane, despite what it looks like at first glance, is actually a good thing, not bad. And, the gate is ajar, not locked.” He looked back at the photo and then at them all again. “I’m not wrong in assuming that she would be actively choosing to express those things, right? We’re not talking about someone who’d just snap a random pretty picture.”

Cora held open her hand and Derek let her take his phone. She looked at it a few more moments and said, “It is actually kind of pretty.”

Jackson smiled. “Lydia wouldn’t have even the most useful plant around if she couldn’t make it at least vaguely aesthetically pleasing.”

Derek also smiled. “That woman could make anything aesthetically pleasing.” He considered the coffee pot, but decided against more until they’d at least had breakfast.

Jackson stretched his fingers apart on the smooth surface of the table, and then brought them back, pulling them under so he looked like he had giant, hairless paws. “That’s not an official Pack communication. So yes, how does Lydia have your phone number? Didn’t you dump your original phone when you dumped the bounty hunter?”

Derek tried not to glower too hard, but probably did anyway. Kohaku didn’t call him out on it, choosing to tackle it in a light-hearted manner instead. “Oh! It’s my turn to try to extract information? Okay, who, or what, is an S.H.?” He asked, looking over Cora’s shoulder at the picture and the contact name.

“They're a Banshee, or were in a Banshee’s backyard at the crack of dawn," Cora said.

Derek held out his hand and took his phone back. He closed all the apps and locked the screen. He tried for his best, I’m the Alpha and I’m serious voice as he said, “S.H. stands for sarcastic human, or squishy human, or stupid human, depending on what mood I’m in.” There were other possibilities for the S, but he’d not admit them unless under extreme duress.

Jackson snorted and made a face like he’d smelled something spicy. “Stiles Stilinski? Stiles Stilinski and Lydia Martin are our secret contacts.” He looked almost disconcerted. “Stilinski is making a move without McCall? That just about convinces me that they aren’t still joined at the hip.” He lifted his hands and knocked his knuckles together. “I mean, of course I believe what you told us before, Derek, so logically I know it’s true. It’s just...”

Kohaku laughed and elbowed Jackson. “Jax, I only know about the McCall Pack through all the True Alpha gossip and the bits and pieces you’ve told me, and even I have difficulties believing that the notorious Scott’n’Stiles are no longer really a thing. This is a day to remember, though. I might finally get to meet Stiles Stilinski and Lydia Martin, two of the legends of the Beacon Hills Pack.”

Derek looked at his hands, then back up at his Pack-mates and let himself smile. “I hope neither of them hear you call them that. I’m pretty sure we’d never hear the end of it.” The grin fell off his face as he said, “If I’m brutally honest, I can’t be one hundred percent sure that Stiles would be acting without Scott, but…” He rubbed one thumb along the pads of his fingers. “Stiles was one of the first people I sent my new number, and we’re in pretty frequent contact, but only like that.” He pointed at his phone. “In the years we’ve been texting we’ve never had a conversation with words that went much past picture captions or holiday greetings. He still managed to let me know what was going on in his life, though. I know his Dad’s heart scare wasn’t the only reason he came back to Beacon Hills to be a deputy. I know that he and Lydia were a couple for a while then decided they were better as just friends and ended up living in the same house anyway. I know Stiles still visits Scott’s mom every couple of weeks for lunch, without her son.” Derek looked up at each of them in turn. “I suppose Stiles and Scott just drifted apart. It’s been a few years. It’s not that hard to believe.”

Cora stood and grabbed her cup and Derek’s, and Kohaku copied with his and Jackson’s.

Kohaku looked thoughtful when he turned back to the table. “It’s pretty obvious that you and your Squishy Human created a vocabulary of your own with your texts and photos. We’ve no need to doubt you, Derek, and I for one can see that you don’t really doubt Stiles or Lydia. That picture said everything they needed to get across.”

Derek breathed in the scent of pack. It wasn’t strong yet, but the house was starting to smell like home rather than paint and dust and other people. “An entrance that’s not seen by just anyone. A welcoming open gate. A symbol of protection and care. The dawning of a new day.” Derek realized, with a start, that he’d said all that out loud. His and everyone else's hearts sped up, just a little. They all dutifully ignored it.

Cora leaned on the door of the fridge after she opened it. “Well, I for one don’t want to wait for the formal McCall Pack communiqué on an empty stomach. I’m thinking bacon, waffles, and scrambled eggs while we go over what we’re going to say to them when they officially find us. Any objections?”

“I’ll make a fresh pot of coffee if you’ll show me how you make it taste so good, Derek.” Kohaku looked inordinately hopeful.

♠♠♠

Stiles was asleep when the alert-text came. He was forced from his dreams as his phone shrieked alive with the emergency siren-sound everyone in the Pack had as the Alpha’s personal ringtone and text-alert. The high-pitched whooping noise was as obnoxious now as when Scott had first discovered it. And, now that being woken in the middle of the night meant having a bad day at work instead of just bombing an economics or calculus quiz, it was even less amusing.

His phone sounded again.

Stiles reached over, grabbed it, swiped the screen alive and tapped open the first text. He screwed his eyes shut tight, opened them wide, and pushed his thumb and ring finger apart against the screen to make the writing bigger so he didn’t need to attempt to focus fully. The message was obviously from Scott’s phone, but given the fact that it used capital letters and full words, it was actually written by Alena.

It was a general Pack announcement:

          Visitors located.
          Avoid sector 11 unless absolutely necessary.
          Stay in pairs or groups at all times. Try not to travel without a wolf if possible.

The second message was only for Scott's inner circle:

          Liam & Robert will contact visitors today to arrange meeting. Should be tomorrow.
          Attendance will be required. Details to follow.

Stiles grunted as he rolled himself into a sitting position on his bed. He could use an hour or two more sleep, but at this point he probably wouldn’t be able to doze off again. Knowing that Liam and Robert were going to knock on the Hales’ door didn’t exactly leave him feeling calm. Liam, despite his now usually sunny disposition, was still brash in the face of danger and enjoyed confrontation far too much to be healthy. Robert was older and wiser, but had always reminded Stiles and Lydia of Peter Hale. The wolf had dark olive skin, a round face, and was particularly hirsute, so he looked nothing like Peter, yet there was something about his presence that set off warning bells for both of them. The fact that he’d moved himself as far away as possible from the Pack he was born into didn’t help. Scott didn’t appear to see the resemblance to Peter, or worry about Robert’s choice to separate himself from his family by thousands of miles. Scott thought the guy was the best thing since potato chips in a can. It was clear that if the Alpha wasn’t so stuck on the idea of capital-letter Loyalty to his first bite, then Robert would be his second in command instead of Liam.

Stiles rubbed his eyes with the tips of his fingers and tried to make out the tiny numbers at the top of his phone’s screen. It was twelve minutes before the hour. He forced himself to stand up. He had a piss and splashed his face with water before heading downstairs to stare at the coffee machine. He leaned back against the kitchen counter and waited.

At exactly eleven o’clock he called Lydia.

She didn’t say hello. “You really need to learn to set your phone to only vibrate for his texts when you’re sleeping, Stiles, especially when you’re on night shifts. You’re going to be grumpy all day now. You know I’d call you if it was an actual emergency.”

Stiles sat on one of the kitchen stools and watched the coffee start to fill the pot and wondered if he should try eating yet. “I know, Lyds. You keep telling me to change the settings and I keep forgetting to do it. I can’t go back to sleep now, though. If I knew what time this meeting was happening today I’d be tempted to go watch how it goes down.”

“We’ll know soon enough, Stiles.” There was a stretch in her voice as she spoke, and he could picture her reaching up to clean the blackboard behind her desk. “Do not even think about heading over to their place.”

Stiles suppressed a chuckle. “Oh, you’ve figured out where they live, have you? Sector eleven isn’t exactly small, and it’s all houses.”

He could hear the smirk in Lydia’s voice as she answered, “It’s not all houses, though, is it? It’s mostly chic little duplexes and a couple of gated complexes. No self-respecting, large bank account toting werewolf would live in one of those when there were actual houses available. I can only think of three streets in that part of town that have big, free standing-houses. And only one of those butts up to the preserve. You’re not going to question my premise that they have a big, free-standing house and garden that opens onto the forest, are you? I have it narrowed down to one of three buildings on the same street.”

“Of course you do.” Lydia was brilliant, and he was going to blame his momentary forgetfulness of that on the fact that he’d only had a couple of hours of sleep. That and his lack of caffeine, of course. “But I haven’t had any coffee yet, oh strawberry-maned wonder.”

“You need to trust in my brilliance, Stilinski.” He heard her sit down and pour from the flask of coffee she took with her for the morning break. She took a sip, and then said quietly, “Now, promise me you’ll stay at home until you need to go to work. I don’t have the itch to scream, but there is a tickle in my throat that tells me this has the potential to get ugly. We’ve no reason to doubt that our old friends can handle anything that gets thrown at them.”

It was hard to say, but he did. “I promise.”

♠♠♠

Derek heard the unfamiliar wolves’ heartbeats a few moments before Cora. She looked up from the book she was reading, and then Jackson put his paper down at the moment Kohaku did the same with his magazine. They all looked at the clock on the wall near the kitchen. It was just about midday on the dot. A high-noon showdown would be tacky in Derek’s opinion, but as there were only two wolves approaching the door, they were probably only messengers.

Derek was on his feet in a flash, and the others made like they were all reading again. He opened the door before either of their visitors could knock.

“Can I help you, gentlemen?” He tried not to sound as annoyed as he was that he wasn’t being approached by their Alpha. It was likely a deliberate snub on Scott’s part, and stated the tone of the visit perfectly.

The younger of the two, with a face Derek knew he should recognize, took half a step forward and set his shoulders square.

“I’m Liam Dunbar, second to Alpha Scott McCall of the McCall Pack.” He paused, as if waiting for a replying introduction. When he didn’t get one, he said, “The four of you are to meet with our Alpha.” The man behind him, older by at least fifteen years, pulled back his shoulders and puffed his chest. It emphasized the tufts of hair sticking out of his top-button-undone shirt.

Derek didn’t raise his eyebrow at the attempted display of dominance, and he didn’t laugh or even let his lip curl into a smirk no matter how much he wanted to. He held his voice steady as he said, “Fine. The Apollo diner, tonight at 8. We’ll see you there.”

Derek shut the door without slamming it, and he managed to keep his face impassive all the while, despite the looks of disbelief on the two McCall Betas. He was impressed with himself, frankly, and it must have shown when he turned to face the others.

They were all desperately trying not to laugh. Cora held up her hand in the universal ‘stop’ sign for a few moments as they impatiently waited to hear their guests turn and leave. She didn’t drop it until their car started. Then they all lost it.

“We really should be taking our first official contact with the McCall Pack more seriously, I think,” Derek said, even though he was grinning as wide as the others.

“But!” Cora put on her best robot voice, “You are to meet with our Alpha!”

“He’s certainly an unusual choice for a second.” Kohaku grinned. “But rather cute. If it wasn’t for the hairy, older guy standing behind him, I might think McCall was going for innocent-and-bitten as some kind of planned Pack aesthetic.”

Derek sat back at the table and took a couple of breaths to clear his head. “Liam was Scott’s first bite. I don’t think he remembered me, and I didn’t recognize him until he said his name.” He looked down at his hands and resisted worrying at his cuticles. Then he registered what Kohaku had actually just said. He looked up as he asked, “You could tell by looking at him that the kid was bitten, not born? Is this one of your kitsune-for-a-grandparent things?”

Kohaku nodded. “My mother has several talents, but my sister and I only got one each. Did I tell you about Midori’s thing?” Derek and Cora shook their heads. “She’s a year younger than me. She can tell you if you’ve got electrical issues in your house or car or anything else. She’s awesome at picking the good batteries out of the kitchen drawer. And, strangely enough, she’s an electrician.” He smiled, then let it drop. “My version of the inheritance is a little less everyday-useful.” He rubbed one thumb across his other knuckles. “I can see magic. And because it’s a kind of magic that makes us wolves, I can tell if someone is born or bitten, and if they’re an Alpha, Beta or Omega. I can pick a supernatural anyone in a room, and can tell you what they are if I’ve met their kind before. Well, unless they’re masked somehow. But then I can at least see the magic of the masking.”

Jackson sighed and rolled his eyes as he drawled, “Oh, no, that’s not useful at all. When would you ever use something like that? I mean, maybe if you’re in the middle of Pack negotiations… Oh, wait.” He grinned as Kohaku’s cheeks reddened.

Derek liked that the two of them were so close. Kohaku brought Jackson down to earth. Their mutual ribbing could seem childish, but he’d realized it was Jackson’s way of showing affection, and Kohaku regularly dished it back in kind.

“So, the younger one was bitten, and the other guy?” Cora asked.

“Born.” Kokaku pulled his forehead into a frown. “And quite a lot stronger in his wolf than the other. It looked a bit weird for him to be standing behind the kid, to be honest.”

Cora leaned forward and picked up her glass of water from the table. “Well, Scott never struck me as a brilliant strategist, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait until tonight to see. Maybe it’s all a cunning plan. Anyway, well done on the instant shut down, big-bro.”

“I have my moments.” Derek sighed. “Any ideas for what we can do, stuck here for the rest of the day?”

An hour or so later they were all in the living room, Cora leading them through a few extra stretches after a slow and ultimately relaxing hour of yoga, when Derek’s phone chimed again. They were almost done with the routine, but he still looked for his sister’s okay to get off the floor, and she used her head to indicate that he should just check. He stood and scooped up the phone from the table and sat himself on the sofa they’d moved to the side of the room.

He swiped open the message. It was an image of Stiles’ bed. Derek recognized the comforter from previous photos of shopping hauls, but for the first time he could see past it to a mirrored closet and its contents. There were plain and plaid shirts hanging from racks, and below them was a wire basket holding colorful, folded-up things, probably t-shirts. The basket next to it was full of folded, knitted looking things, and the one next to that had thicker, folded colorful-somethings. Three of the latter were red. Derek shouldn’t assume that they were hoodies, but he was going to. He felt himself smile.

He dragged his eyes away from the little extra glimpse into Stiles’ life. On the bed, in the main part of the photograph and the presumably the point of the message, was Stiles’ deputy uniform. The long-sleeved shirt and sturdy looking pants were all sharp lines and crisp edges. Next to the uniform was a flat-rolled pair of red socks, no toes sticking out, and what seemed to be a pair of short, red boxer-briefs next to them. Derek’s eyebrows rose and nostrils flared. He breathed in deeply in an effort to stop his stupid blood pumping faster.

The caption read: Thought I was old enough to be allowed to dress myself, but apparently not. Red is still my favorite color, but I don’t know if it really matches my uniform.

Derek was about to close his phone when it sounded for another text, this time it was a shot of a pile of CDs. The album on the top was Move Along by The American Rejects. Derek opened a browser on his phone and Googled for a track listing. He wasn’t certain, but he was fairly sure… Yes, he was right. The first track on it was Dirty Little Secret. He’d thought they should approach the meeting that way anyway, but it was nice to know he and Stiles were on the same wavelength. He smiled again, and without thinking too hard sent a text back that was just the stupid animated winking icon that Cora overused.

Derek used his thumb to close the pictures and put the phone on the seat next to him. The others all had of-course-we’re-all-ignoring-you looks on their faces. After a few beats Jackson tilted his head and raised his eyebrows, question evidently on the tip of his tongue.

Derek shut him down with a quick, “Nothing to worry about.” He ran his hand over the phone a moment, then ignored their grins as he stood up and volunteered to make lunch. An Alpha had to be able to keep some secrets, even if the rest of his Pack had smelled exactly what his reaction had been.

♠♠♠

The Apollo’s parking lot was emptier than Stiles had ever seen it on a Friday night. There was a home-printer made sign on the door announcing that it had been booked out for a private party. There were little balloons drawn in colored marker in the top left-hand corner of the page.

He couldn’t help but feel a bit pretentious as he walked into the diner as one of the McCall Pack’s official representatives. They were making a show of their numbers: standing eight against four, as a part against what they were assuming was the whole.

It was a warm evening. Stiles had really wanted to leave his very not-Sheriff-approved jacket in the car. Scott had given him the stink eye when he’d tried, though. Supposedly, each of them wearing a bright splash of Alpha-red was going to make them look more powerful. Lydia strongly suspected that it was armchair-psychologist Alena’s idea.

Stiles didn’t know if their other Pack members saw or felt it, but Scott’s spine stiffened oh-so-subtly the moment he recognized just who the supposed interloper wolves were. He wouldn't want to show any kind of weakness, especially not in front of the Hales. Stiles watched as Scott began to reach out to take Alena’s hand, but pulled back before she apparently registered the movement.

It wasn’t surprising to Stiles that Scott didn’t turn around to see how his two longest-serving Pack members, one of them his oldest friend, reacted to the revelation of who the interloping wolves were. Despite the Pack all deferring relatively easily to Stiles and Lydia, these days Scott included them in his inner circle more out of habit than anything. It was a fact that moments like this made abundantly clear. Although it was beneficial for Stiles and Lydia to have that distance at their disposal, to have some space away from scrutiny, it still felt wrong. Even if most of that wrong was the fact that Stiles was, despite a slightly bitter and lingering sense of loss, basically used to the exclusion.

Stiles took a long breath and looked straight at the four Hale wolves around the table in the center of the diner. He and Lydia could, and would, play along with what everyone else in the McCall Pack was doing.

It was hard to not simply turn and focus on Derek. The guy looked... well, he looked like Derek, just a few years older, and several levels more relaxed. He looked like he fit his bones, which was something he never quite did when he’d been there before. He was a little rounder all over, and yet his cheekbones and jawline still looked sharp enough to slice open an unsuspecting heart. Tonight he was clean shaven. His hair was a little longer than Stiles remembered it being, and was styled back but didn’t look slick or stiff.

Stiles couldn’t help but want to trace all of the things he was noticing with his hands. He wanted to run his skin along each part of Derek, just to make sure it was really real. He rubbed his fingertips together by his sides. He swallowed hard, hoping that the wolves he was standing so close to were too stressed to hear, and that Lydia wouldn’t tease him too much about it later, and forced himself to widen his gaze and take in the whole situation.

Hale, Hale, Whittemore, and Associate had chosen their table well. They were sitting two to a side, Derek and Cora opposite Jackson and his shock-of-orange friend. Stiles could see why Gwen had wanted to call the new guy a manga character. He looked Japanese or Korean. His skin was a little darker than the others’, but not overly tanned. His eyes were huge, but other than that his features seemed quite fine. His most memorable feature was his hair. It was sleek and straight, and the inch-wide orange strip in the front was bordering on neon. It was hard to tell his height while he was sitting, but his shoulders were level with Jackson’s. And though he wasn’t as built as his male Packmates, he still gave out an air of strength.

They all radiated power, in fact, despite the fact that they were sitting in the middle of a small-town diner, calm and apparently satiated after their supper. They weren’t dressed to impress, unless looking relaxed and casual in soft sweaters and comfortable jeans was something that impressed. Their position in the room, away from the protection of corners or walls, made them look like they weren’t feeling the least bit threatened. They were almost imposing in their repose.

There wasn’t a leather jacket in sight.

Stiles wanted to break from formation—Liam and Robert in front, Scott flanked by Alena and Aldin, with Lydia, him, and Mitchell bringing up the rear—and hug the shit out of Derek. Hell, he wanted to do the same to Cora and Jackson, too. He’d not hesitate to give the new guy one if it seemed like he’d be amenable. Stiles mostly wanted to wrap his arms around Derek and keep him close, let the wolf hold him and scent him. He was fairly certain Lydia was feeling something similar.

Stiles couldn’t help but linger on Derek. He was sure he’d seen that dark-green thumb-hole-sweater in a photo a few months ago on a rack in a store. He wanted to scroll back through their texts to see, then reach out to feel if it was as soft as it looked, and possibly arrange so that he could fall asleep snuggled into it. He pinched his leg to chase that image away smartly; even if Aldin was using the scent-blocking charm on them, Stiles didn’t want anyone noticing his heartbeat going haywire.

If he was feeling this overwhelmed, he wondered what was going through Scott’s brain. Unlike the Alpha, Stiles and Lydia had time to prepare for this. Unlike what was probably mostly anger on Scott’s part, they were fighting a wildly different range of emotions. It still wasn’t easy.

Even if he wasn’t looking straight at him, Stiles would have picked Derek’s voice out of a crowd. It was strange, and good, to hear it again after so many years denied the experience.

“Take a seat, Scott. I’m sure Lindsay—” the waitress appeared with a smile “—can set-up a table or two extra for us all.”

Scott did, but motioned for the McCall Pack’s two pushed-together tables to be kept separate from the Hales’. They arranged themselves so they created a semi-circle around the furniture, using it as a barrier between them and the others.

Scott waited until the waitress had gone to react to, or even really acknowledge, anything else about the fact that there were four not-so-unknown wolves in the room. He flashed his Alpha eyes, but none of the Hales responded in kind. He waited a few moments, likely beginning to fume with annoyance at not having his wolfy show responded to, and finally came out with, “Why are you in McCall Territory, Hale?”

Liam’s eyes went wide and he winced. He should have recognized Derek when he’d delivered the message to the Hales. He’d likely get chewed out later for not realizing and warning Scott.

Cora didn’t outwardly react to Scott’s harsh tone or Liam’s freaked-out face, and she barely waited a beat before she answered the question. “We’ve come home, Scott.”

“And it’s good to be back where we belong,” Derek added quietly.

Scott obviously wasn’t pleased by that idea. Stiles could see him flexing his thigh muscles under the table. He likely wanted to shift and posture and possibly even snarl. He hadn’t been happy that the strangers had managed to force his second in charge into agreeing to such a public place for this conversation, and he was seemingly already feeling stress at the lack of privacy. Stiles was quite glad, though. They might be at the fur-and-feathers-flying stage already if they were out near the preserve or someplace similar.

The guy with the orange hair-streak waved at the waitress and motioned to his and Cora’s coffee cups. The Hales were seriously good at looking relaxed. Stiles, not for the first time, wished he could sniff out whether they were actually as at ease as they seemed. They hadn’t even seemed to respond to the fact that they couldn’t smell the McCall Pack at all.

Scott had an edge of wolf in his throat when he spoke again. “I’d have thought born wolves would know better than to come into another’s territory unannounced.”

Jackson looked straight into Scott’s eyes, just as the other two had done. “If etiquette is important to you, McCall, why didn’t you hurry to greet us when we arrived last weekend?”

This time the shock was too difficult for any of the McCall Pack to hide their responses to. Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles saw Lydia’s widen slightly at the same time as his own, saw Aldin’s mouth open and shut quickly, and he couldn’t help but notice all the wolves’ shoulders draw back and stiffen. There had been another Pack in the midst of their territory not for one or two, but for five or six days, and that really, really pissed the wolves off. Stiles just wanted to know why he hadn’t had a text before the emoticon-response today. If they all lived through this he was, at some point, going to demand apology-curly-fries, or a hug that involved that green sweater. Preferably both.

And yet, it basically confirmed what Lydia and Stiles had been thinking: the diner-sighting Gwen had made the other night had almost certainly been arranged. If no one takes notice of you, you have to announce your presence, and the Hale Pack had done it with a certain understated flair.

Stiles couldn’t hear Scott’s growl, but he felt it vibrate through the table. The Alpha’s lip curled as he said, “You waltzed uninvited and unannounced into another Pack’s territory. You do dishonor to me, as Alpha, and my Pack, as wolves.”

Jackson’s voice was clear and calm. “And you do dishonor to all of our kind by not knowing that your Pack isn’t the only one with rights to this area. The Hales have claim here, and always have had, though blood and magic and property. All things that civilized Pack law recognizes.”

Scott’s jaw clenched. Alena’s hand on his thigh, Stiles reckoned, was the only thing that was stopping the Alpha from fully dropping his fangs.

Derek’s words weren't as sharp as Jackson’s. “We’ve done nothing to hide our ourselves or our intentions from you, Scott. Cora and Jackson have been shopping for food. Kohaku joined the public library. I mowed our front lawn.” He gestured at each of them as he spoke and looked quite proud of his gardening achievement. “We know of no reason that we should be unwelcome in our own home.”

The waitress appeared, seemingly oblivious, to top up all the Hales’ coffees, and then accepted being waived off by Jackson as if the newcomers were just not ready to order yet, despite the fact none of them had even glanced at a menu.

Scott was barely containing his wolf now. “This is McCall Pack territory, no one else’s. You gave up any claim when you abandoned it years ago.”

The guy with the hair, Kohaku, leaned forward and smiled warmly. “And yet your Emissary used perimeter wards that allow for those with rights to the land to pass freely. Thus, here we are.” He looked at Aldin and then back at Scott, but there was no judgement in his face. “Your Witch’s magic recognizes the legitimacy of the Hale Pack’s claim to this area. You probably should, too.”

Aldin went pale. Stiles wondered if Kohaku’s use of the title Witch was a general description, or a clue that the Hales had done their research on the McCall Pack’s structure. Scott didn’t turn to look at his Emissary, but the muscles in his neck jumped as he forced himself to keep looking straight ahead. He then stood up abruptly, barely managing to not knock over the chair behind him or table in front. Stiles and Lydia joined him and the rest of the Pack, even if they didn’t want to.

“You have no claim here, and you are very much not welcome. If you approached me properly I might have accepted the four of you as Betas in my Pack. You didn't, and so you’ve lost that chance permanently. You have until this time next week to leave my territory.”

Scott stepped back and was about to turn when Cora spoke again.

“The Hale Pack has an Alpha and we have a wide territory that’s been tied to our blood for hundreds of years. We’re grateful to you for having acted as guardians to it for as long as you have, and are more than happy to continue sharing it with the McCall Pack. However, we’ve done nothing to warrant your aggression, and we will not be leaving.”

This was apparently too much for any of the McCall wolves to take. The growls had to be audible to anyone in the building, now. Luckily the wait staff seemed to have adjourned to the kitchen. Stiles wasn’t aware of any particular supernatural activity or affiliations here at The Apollo diner, but it wasn’t a place he frequented, and perhaps he’d simply not looked hard enough.

One of the McCall wolves growled louder. Lydia reached out and curled her fingers around Stiles’ wrist.

The Hales still looked relaxed.

Jackson smiled again and sat back further in his seat, stretching his legs out a little more and crossing his ankles under the table. “Honestly, if you consider that you’re standing inside a building that the Hale Pack built, owns, and had warded for us by a previous Pack Emissary to respond to Hale blood in perpetuity, then you’re the one being invasive and disrespectful, Scott.”

Supernatural affiliations in the diner or not, Scott was thankfully facing away from the kitchen and wait staff as his fangs dropped. He flashed his eyes again and then turned and stormed out, dragging Alena by the hand as he went. Stiles felt an absurd urge to turn to the Hales and wink cartoonishly. He didn’t. He waited a step for Lydia to fall in beside him, and knew that she was watching with as much interest when Aldin laid his hand on the brick of the building next to the door and shock came over his face.

As Stiles stepped through the doorway with one hand in his pocket and the other on the small of Lydia’s back, he reached into his core and opened something he’d forced himself to all but ignore for the last few years. His Spark hummed as it touched the Hale Pack’s bond to this place. The spellwork in the walls was warm and inviting.

Chapter Text

Scott didn’t wait until they were more than a few steps out of the diner to start barking out orders, regardless of the fact that those inside could hear every word he said. He kept his back to the building as if not looking at the problem was going to make it less real.

“Find out exactly when they got here. Find out if they were telling the truth about owning this building. Find out if they own the one they’re staying in, too, or any others. I want to know who the guy with the hair is.” Scott took a breath, finally, and his brain slowed down long enough for him to recognize that the only other vehicles in the customer parking lot would belong to the Hales. One was a black Mustang convertible from the sixties, and the other a silver Mercedes that looked so new that Stiles imagined he could smell the new-car-stink from where he was standing. Scott half-turned on his heel to stare at the cars harder, then looked back over his shoulder. “And I want to know whose names those cars are registered in, Stiles.”

And that, well, that kind of order was not going to fly. Though Scott wasn’t an incompetent leader, at some point in the last few years his way of seeing the world had begun to morph from True Alphas always do the honorable thing to the far less appealing It’s an honorable thing because it’s a True Alpha doing it. It was a gross perversion of the whole concept of what good was as far as Stiles was concerned. He wasn’t going to facilitate it now by bending his neck like a good little minion.

Scott flexed the claws on one of his hands.

“Both of the cars could belong to the guy with the fancy hair, Scott, but, while I've got nothing but my gut to go on, I’m pretty sure we’ll find that the Mustang is Derek’s, or maybe Cora’s. I’d lay down good money to bet that the Merc belongs to Jackson.” He huffed it out and felt all of the other wolves’ and Aldin’s eyes on him. “I’m not going to use the station computers to find out something that’s obvious to anyone with a proper background in this situation. Though, if one of the Hale Pack breaks a human law, I’ll be more than happy to deal with it.” Scott was probably sneering, but Stiles really didn’t care. “And, before you order us all back to your place for another meeting, I can’t. I’m sorry. I’m on shift in twenty minutes. You and Lydia can fill in everyone on who at least three of those four wolves in there are, and then she can update me on all the important decisions you make about what’s going to happen now, okay?”

Scott had turned around a little more and Stiles could see his eyes and jaw squeezed tight. Alena stepped sideways and leaned on her fiancé, then answered for him. “Just make sure you have your phone at all times, Stiles. Just in case.”

Stiles dipped his chin at her. “Of course.”

He had the grace not to tell her he’d be doing that anyway, for other reasons.

♠♠♠

They ordered pie. Well, three whole pies, to be exact.

“What? I always liked The Apollo’s pie. I had no idea how much I’d missed it till we had it the other night.” Jackson dug into the slice of Key-lime he had in front of him and then looked up expectantly at everyone. “You know I’ll eat them all by myself if you guys don’t want any. I just thought pie might make dissecting the weirdness we just experienced a little more pleasant.”

Kohaku reached out and served himself a slice of apple. “Jax, the next time I tell you I miss the taste of HobNobs, you have to get me at least three packets, okay?” He added a dollop of cream from the bowl the waitress had supplied and tucked into the dessert.

Cora and Derek took apple too, and three or four spoonfuls into his own slice, Derek decided they’d all had enough time to think about what they’d seen.

Derek leaned back in his chair. “Do we have any thoughts other than that it was really rude of them to meet another Pack with their scents blocked?” He was mostly annoyed that he’d not been able to get a hint of Stiles, or even Lydia, in the air, but still.

Kohaku didn’t hold back. “That, yes. And, why did nobody tell me Stiles was hot? That uniform looked damn fine. Nobody told me he was a deep Spark, either though, so... I probably shouldn’t be surprised. The Witch-Emissary’s tattoos looked wicked, but he isn’t my type, too scrawny.” He was waving his spoon about for emphasis. “I wouldn’t exactly call Scott unattractive, even with that jaw. It looked like he's properly pre-bonded to his diamond-ring-wearing fiancé, though.”

Cora laughed. “You are the gayest straight-guy I’ve ever known, Ko.”

Kohaku turned his head and looked up from under his lashes in a bad imitation of being coy. “Are you going to argue with my assessment? Also, I was about to say that Lydia was gorgeous, too, for the record. Far more so than the Alpha’s fiancée, I have to admit. Oh, and I’d take bets that the wife-to-be and the Emissary are brother and sister. She’s a born wolf, if that makes any difference to anyone.” Kohaku sucked the cream off his spoon in an overly exaggerated and completely unattractive manner.

Cora rolled her eyes at him.

Jackson sat back and eyed his empty plate, then looked between the two pies he’d not yet tasted. “So,” he listed off people on his fingers, “we had Scott and his fiancée. Liam, the Alpha’s second. The guy from earlier that I’ll call Scott’s third. The Pack’s Emissary. And then Lydia, Stiles, and a red-headed guy who looked as if he was going to shit himself for the whole of the seven minutes they were here.”

“I’d agree with that run down. Only the three obvious ones weren’t wolves, yes?” Cora looked at Kohaku to answer.

“Yep. I’ve never been in a room with a Banshee before, but now I can say I’m privileged to know what one’s energy looks like.” He pushed his plate toward Jackson, hinting at another slice of something. “It’s usually tricky to tell if they’re not actively casting, but I’m going to stick with calling the Emissary a Witch, rather than a Druid or a Spark—his tats back that up, as does the way he physically touched the wall to sense the wards, and his shock at me calling him one. The biggest question I’d have would be why he’s the Pack’s Emissary instead of Stiles.”

Derek swallowed hard on the pie in his mouth as all three sets of eyes landed on him. He coughed. “What? Why would I know?”

Cora made an incredulous sound. “You’re the one who’s been in contact with him for the last five years. You know about his dating and career choices, so why wouldn’t we think you’d know about his Pack position, too?”

Derek gripped his coffee cup. He had no idea. It was the one thing they’d really not touched on in all the hundreds of messages they’d sent each other. He knew Stiles’ favorite coffee and pizza orders, and most of the details of how he’d realized he was a four and a half on the Kinsey scale. Derek knew both Stiles’ and the Sheriff’s shoe sizes, the extent of Stiles’ love-hate relationship with crime-novels, and was thoroughly versed on the misplaced guilt Stiles felt over the deaths he’d caused in self-defense.

Derek knew that he’d been so worried by Stiles’ senior-year radio-silence that he’d almost come back to Beacon Hills, and then again when he discovered that Stiles had gotten away from the Hunt.

But, while they’d obviously not always avoided the supernatural in their pseudo-correspondence, actual McCall Pack business had just never come up. “He,” Derek swallowed the confession. He looked up at Kohaku. “What did you mean when you called him a deep Spark?”

When in doubt, shift the attention. The looks the others gave him said they knew that was what he was aiming for, but they seemed to be okay with ignoring it for the moment.

Kohaku took a swig of coffee before he said, “Exactly that. A deep Spark is more powerful than a pale Spark.” He put his cup down and sat back. “The potential to be a Druid or Witch is innate, but if they’re not trained nothing will come of that potential. A Spark though, as soon as they become aware of their magic, just is,” he emphasized the last word with a push in his voice and a flick of his hand. “When I asked Grandma why some magic users looked more powerful than others, she said that for Druids and Witches it was about how much they’d trained their natural abilities—”

Cora cut him off. “So a little potential might become a big potential if the person trains harder?”

Kohaku tilted his head and said, “To a point, anyway. They can’t go beyond what their latent talent can stretch to.” He put his hands together as if he was going to try to carry water. “A Spark, though, they’re different. They’re basically a vessel ready to use as much magical energy as they can fit inside themselves at one time. And, unlike Witches and Druids, they don’t need to try to gather the energy, it just comes to them, fills them up. They can’t really train to be more than they are, just to believe and focus what they have access to.”

Jackson leaned forward. “And just how much magic to you think Stiles can access, then?”

Kohaku grinned at him. “Well, if you’re looking for a specific measurement in liquid ounces, I can’t help.” He turned and looked straight into Derek’s eyes, “but I’d say a Pack with an even partially magically-active Stiles Stilinski as their Emissary would have three or four times more magical mojo behind them than the McCall’s Witch could provide on a good day. Add to that the magical amplification that he and Lydia probably lend to each other and, well, I wouldn’t want to be arguing with either of them over the last slice of pie, if you know what I mean.”

“We should visit Deaton, then,” Cora said.

Jackson choked out the pecan pie he had in his mouth, and Derek couldn’t help the snarl in his throat when he said, “Deaton?”

Cora smacked Derek’s arm and kicked Jackson. “Yes, Deaton. I know you two don’t particularly like him, but he’s the only other magic-caster we know personally within a hundred-mile radius. Besides, he might know the reason Stiles is,” she glanced at Kohaku for clarification, “an untapped Spark.”

“Good phrase,” Kohaku replied smoothly.

“If Stiles wanted me,” Derek faltered, “us to know about his magic or his reasons for not using it, he’d have said already.”

Derek knew exactly where his little sister was going with this line of thinking, but he didn’t know if he was ready to say it. While they still had a handful of bloodline protections around Beacon Hills, none of their properties acknowledged Derek properly as the new Alpha. None of their newer properties, including the one they were living in, had wards at all. A stable Pack without an Emissary wasn’t normal, and it wasn’t a good way to be. Derek couldn’t let himself think the thought in its entirety, though, let alone admit it out loud.

Jackson decided to basically do it for him anyway. “If Stiles wanted to stay in his current Pack he wouldn’t have spoken to their Alpha the way he did in the parking lot,” Jackson said. “We all heard the others’ hearts. We could all practically smell their nerves from here even with the damn magic block in the way. Spark Stilinski and Alpha McCall disagreeing now is apparently not like tweedledee-Stiles and tweedledum-Scott bickering at school. The only one of them out there who wasn’t freaking out was Lydia.”

Cora shoulder checked Derek. “I didn’t know any of them that well back then, Der, but I do know that if there’s going to be an actual blow out between those two, for whatever reason,” she put her hand on his, “True Alpha or not, with or without magic, I’d want to be on Stiles’ side of the line. Knowing that he’s some kind of super-Spark also kind of makes me want to hide behind something made out of reinforced-concrete, but still on his side of the line.”

Derek twisted his hand and squeezed Cora’s. She was right.

“Again, I only know those two from all of your stories, but”—Kohaku shrugged his shoulders up slowly and dropped them twice as fast as he let out a deep breath—“I have to agree with Cora on that.”

“And I’m with them,” said Jackson.

Derek sighed. It was half with the contentment he felt at have such a cohesive Pack, and half in a show of resignation over the decision they’d all made. “Fine. Tomorrow we’ll go see what we can get out of Deaton, if anything.” He wasn’t hopeful, but it wasn’t as if there was much else for them to do at this point.

Jackson pulled the apple pie over to in front of him, then turned and waved at the kitchen. “Let’s order more coffee, and ice cream for the rest of this lot.”

Cora snorted. “And we need to figure out how far into the preserve the McCall Witch’s wards go. I know none of us actually need to run on the Full Moon, but if we keep eating like this we’ll have to so we don’t waddle when we can.” She took more pie, too.

♠♠♠

After they’d figured out where the Hale Pack was that morning, Robert and Liam had declared it was more important to watch the wolves themselves than the house they were staying in. Scott had, unsurprisingly, approved of the plan. Since the surveillance had started the four Hales had stuck together, and apparently, they were doing it still.

As Stiles drove out of the diner’s parking lot to go to work, Robert was on the phone ordering two junior members of the Pack to meet them so that they could keep an eye on the Hales when the inner circle left to go have a hastily planned but still very-important after-confrontation debriefing-cum-war council at Scott’s place.

The change-in-guard was predictable, and it gave Stiles a short, but adequate, window of opportunity. No one had mentioned the Hales’ exact address, but a quick look into the city records Stiles had access to that afternoon had confirmed their street and house number. Now, as Stiles headed out to sector eleven to drop off the basket that he and Lydia had put together, he tried to focus on driving carefully and not on remembering what Derek looked like in that ridiculously snuggle-worthy sweater.

Stiles snapped a photo of the basket on the Hales’ front porch for Lydia and sent it off to show her he’d gotten the job done. He ran his hands over the front gate as he left so the Pack would know that it was a gift, not a threat, on their doorstep.

♠♠♠

“Wine, bread and salt?” Cora asked.

“That’s what it looks like.” Kohaku sounded as confused as she did. He’d unpacked the basket and now it, and its contents, were sitting on the kitchen table.

Derek decided he didn’t really mind what it meant. It smelled of Stiles and Lydia—their scents quickly remembered and appreciated—and so it was a good thing. Another good thing was knowing that Lydia wouldn’t have given them anything but a really good wine. He picked up the bottle off the table and tilted it slightly to read the label properly. It was a 2008 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon. Derek had grown to like wine quite a lot, but he’d not had the chance to learn much about it in his travels. He had no real idea what the label or vintage meant.

Jackson did though. He looked over Derek’s shoulder and Derek smelled his Beta’s interest level rise.

“I take it none of you were subjected to watching It’s a Wonderful Life again and again when you were kids?” Jackson said as he walked over and grabbed wide-bottomed wine glasses out of the cupboard. He herded them all out to the living room as he explained, “Bread, wine and salt are traditional housewarming gifts. If I remember right, it’s bread so no one in the house goes hungry, salt so life will always have flavor, and wine,” he looked expectantly at Kohaku, who handed over a bottle opener Derek didn’t realize he’d found, “means happiness, or something.”

Derek handed over the bottle and they all watched as Jackson opened it and sat it down on the table. As well as the smell of the fermented grapes, there was an undertone of blackberries, vanilla, and old forest. Jackson wouldn’t let them drink it yet, saying it needed to breathe. They split up and got ready for bed, then headed back to the table with the glasses on it.

“Can we have some now, Jackson, or are you going to make us pray to the bottle or something?” Cora teased, sliding her hand along the top of the table as if to grab it.

Jackson slapped her away playfully. “Fine. It probably sat long enough, but it’s not as if you lot will appreciate it anyway.”

He poured, then raised his glass, “Here’s to home, Pack, and good friends.”

“Home, Pack and good friends,” Derek repeated with the other two. The wine was smooth and rich.

“I was joking about worshiping the thing, Jackson,” Cora laughed, “and yet you look like you’re having a religious experience.” She took another sip, and swished it a little in her mouth. “I mean, it’s nice, but, it’s just wine, right?”

Jackson chuckled. Kohaku side eyed him and then put his glass down carefully on the table, away from the edge. “How much is it worth, Jax?”

Jackson took another sip, swallowed and then said, “Lydia’s dad probably laid it down a few years ago, but at today’s prices it’d be getting close to five hundred.”

Cora almost spat out the mouthful she had, but thankfully managed to swallow. “Five hundred dollars a bottle?”

Jackson shook his head, then reached out and wrapped his arm around her middle. He fake-whispered, “You misunderstand me, my dear. I meant five hundred a glass. Welcome home, indeed.”

He was frighteningly like his biological father sometimes.

Derek took a long time to finish his glass and a half. He took a photo of the four dirty goblets to send to Stiles. He used another smiley face icon.

♠♠♠

When Stiles got home from his shift, Lydia had breakfast ready for him. She’d apparently gone down to the little bakery on the other side of town and picked up croissants and beignets. The espresso machine her dad had bought her was on and hot. She had lattes for them both by the time he’d stripped out of his uniform and tossed on a pair of sweats and an old plaid shirt.

He sat himself at the kitchen counter and sniffed happily. “What’s the special occasion? I mean, the croissants I can deal with, but fancy-pants donuts, too?” He reached out and wrapped his hand around the mug of coffee she passed him.

She wrinkled her nose at his description of the beignets, but apparently decided not to rise to the teasing. “You’re officially off the swing shift until next year, Stilinski. That’s as good a reason to celebrate as any.”

“And I’ve got the rest of today and all of tomorrow off before I start into working days.” Lydia smiled at him as he pulled a bit of croissant off and popped it into his mouth, moaning around the butter and perfection of it. “These always taste better when you buy them, Lyds. Do Banshees have some kind of secret pastry magic that you’ve neglected to tell me about?”

Lydia smacked him on the arm and sat down next to him. They spent a few minutes just enjoying the silence and their food. She washed a bite down with some coffee and said, “You missed absolutely nothing important at Scott and Alena’s place last night. Basically, they just decided to do what Scott had started rambling about while we were still at the diner. He didn’t even have a go at Liam for not warning him about Derek.”

Stiles turned and looked at her. “Well color me capital-S Shocked. Did he rip Aldin a new one over the wards?”

“He started to.” She stood up and got a bottle of water from the fridge, and two glasses. “But Aldin basically said what you guessed:. The type of ward he used was the best for detecting threats if the Pack wasn’t static.” She poured them both a glass. “Scott went quiet, and I used that lull to jump in and start telling the others about the Hales. I reiterated the basics of the rogue Alpha situation that started everything when we were in high school, and a bit of the old-pack-destroyed-by-evil-hunters from before then. Scott snarled a bit at the mention, even if it wasn’t by name, of Peter. He growled when I mentioned the full shift.”

Stiles jabbed at his second croissant with his finger. “Scotty never could get it into his head that the four paws thing was mostly about genetics. I’m pretty sure he still hasn’t over the fact that a Beta could do it when he’s never managed it.”

Lydia breathed in hard and when Stiles turned to look at her she appeared, for the first time since the Hales had made themselves known, actually concerned. Stiles leaned closer and put his head on her shoulder, and waited.

“Did Scott, last night,” she was almost whispering, “did he seem like something wasn’t right to you?”

A single grunt of laughter escaped Stiles’ chest. “You mean other than the fact that his whole posturing, possessive, douche-nozzle Alpha routine went into overdrive as soon as he realized who the other wolves were?”

Lydia lifted one half of her mouth into a smile. “That goes without saying, I think. No, I was talking about after, in the parking lot. He was angry, but there was something else.” She dabbed at the little bits of pastry on her plate with a pointed finger. “We both saw him freak when we first walked into the building, but when you were talking to him afterwards I think you were too focused on him to see the way the others reacted.”

“I was trying not to slap him, to be honest.” Stiles sat back so he could see her face.

“Yes, and the others could see it.”

Stiles shrugged. “It’s not the first time I’ve openly disagreed with him.”

Lydia tipped her head to one side, and her long braid shifted along her shoulder. “No, but,” she sighed. “I thought about it for a long time last night, playing it over in my head. You told Scott what you thought about the cars, and that you wouldn’t do what he’d asked. Even with everyone on edge after the confrontation inside, that wasn’t particularly unexpected. None of the wolves seemed overly surprised by your reaction. But then you took it further. You didn’t just tell Scott what you were and weren’t going to do, you told him what he was going to do.” She looked out the window at nothing, and then down at her plate again. “None of the wolves in the Pack like it when you speak back to him, they never have. You and I have both seen their hackles rise when you’ve challenged him, but last night you gave him what amounted to a direct order. I think, when you announced that he and I should tell them about the Hales, I think maybe something in the Pack bond,” her eyes darted back and forth as she searched for the right word, “slipped.”

Stiles blinked and sat up to look at her properly. Lydia looked gorgeous like this, old pajamas, no makeup, tiny lines starting at the sides of her eyes from the way she squinted when laughed or thought hard about something. She was doing the latter now.

All he could do was try to help her put into words what she was trying to say. “Slipped?”

“All you and I really know about the Pack bond is from watching the way it affects the other wolves when it takes hold of newcomers or snaps when someone dies or leaves, yes? We have a light link, but we’ve never actually bent our necks, so despite our not-quite-humanness we don’t have the same kind of binding connection.” She waited for him to nod. “I can’t be certain, but last night, for a few moments after you told Scott what to do, when you gave the Alpha an order, I’d swear the other wolves were all floating for a second, not tethered to anything.”

They both swiveled on their stools and looked at their little office. “So, we’ve got research to do, huh.” Stiles glanced back at the food Lydia had bought. “Now I know why you actually got us beignets.”

She grinned. “You can have one now as an incentive. I’ve got a few more put away, and there are cupcakes and eclairs, too. You get one treat for every book you get through.”

They took photos of the indulgences she’d bought and sent them to Derek, one from Stiles’ phone and one from Lydia’s. His picture was captioned Research Rewards, hers said Persuasion Pastries. It was, after all, about time the Hales had her phone number too.

♠♠♠

A quick call to the animal clinic that morning had revealed that it closed at two on a Saturday afternoon. They split up after a late lunch. Jackson and Cora stayed behind to watch the clumsily staked-out McCall wolves from the front window. Derek and Kohaku headed off to meet Deaton. They gave their McCall Pack babysitters the slip easily, ducking off out the back of their place and along the inside of the Preserve. It felt good to feel the thrum of the forest around them, to smell the scent of the wild unhindered, even if it was only for a fifteen-minute jog.

Derek and Kohaku arrived at the vet’s home at about ten after two, and waited. Derek got the same four-word text from Cora every ten minutes letting them know nothing had changed: Stalker wolves still oblivious.

Alan Deaton lived in a tiny cottage that Derek vaguely remembered checking on from time to time when he’d been Alpha before. It had a huge garden without any apparent supernatural barriers on its gate or fences. The walls of the building itself were a different matter, though, painted bright with wards and inlaid with mountain ash according to Kohaku. Yet, they sat comfortably on the back steps while they waited for the vet to get home.

Eventually they heard Deaton’s car drive into the little garage off to the side of the cottage. The Druid didn’t even bother going inside before he came around to greet them.

Derek and Kohaku stood up, side by side.

Deaton looked calm, as always, but his heart was rabbiting in his chest as he spoke. Derek wondered if there was some kind of magic at the clinic that suppressed wolves’ senses while they were there. Deaton looked at him accusingly, as if he could see Derek figuring that out, and said, “Good afternoon, gentlemen. To what do I owe this visit to my home?” He stressed the last word.

“Dr Deaton, it is a pleasure to meet you. I’m Kohaku Aoyama, a Beta of the Hale Pack. You know my Alpha, Derek Hale, of course.” He bowed his head a little to Deaton, and showed his neck to Derek as he said his title. They planned to play this as formally as possible. Though they thought that Deaton was likely neutral in this whole situation, they’d decided the niceties should be observed just in case. They didn’t really want to reveal who the Hale Alpha was to Scott, but at least if he found out this way it would be indirectly. It would infuriate him. They hadn’t gone to the diner with the intent to hide that Derek’s eyes were red, but after Scott’s assumption that they were all Betas, and his general idiocy, they’d decided to take any advantage they could. If he wasn’t going to play nicely, they wouldn’t either.

Deaton nodded back and said, “A pleasure, I’m sure. Welcome back to Beacon Hills, Alpha Hale.” Then he just looked at them, waiting.

Derek said, “I apologize for coming to your home, Deaton, but we were eager to not encroach on an area that might be considered specifically Scott McCall’s territory.” It wasn’t a lie, and hopefully it was a statement that would let them know if Deaton was truly unaligned in all this.

“Mr McCall is my assistant, and studying to be my replacement as veterinarian when I retire, however our professional relationship does not extend beyond that, in any capacity.” Deaton’s words were monotone.

Derek felt a slight weight lift at hearing what the man said, no matter how bland the delivery. It meant that there was less magical talent at Scott’s disposal, and, quite honestly, Derek really didn’t like Deaton. If he wasn’t Pack affiliated then that meant less chance of the Hales having to interact with him in the future.

Derek watched the Druid carefully, now, though, keen to observe his reactions to what was about to be asked. He was far easier to read out here, in the open, than Derek remembered him being inside his magic-ladened clinic. Derek hadn’t had to try to figure out the man in years, though, so perhaps it wasn’t just the lack of some mysterious dampening magic, perhaps Derek had just gotten better at reading people.

Kohaku looked painfully cheerful when he said, “It would have been quite amazing to find a Pack with a not only a Witch as their Emissary, but also a non-practicing Druid and deep Spark in their ranks. It would hardly be what someone would call a common arrangement. I’ll admit I’d have loved to see what such combined spell work looked like, though.” He looked carefully at Deaton, and then added, “The wards you reinforced for Alpha Talia Hale still remain on most of our buildings in the town. Despite their age they are stronger than some of those created by the McCall Pack’s Witch.” It was a compliment, but also a question.

Deaton’s heartbeat had faltered at the mention of the three specific types of magic casters and their levels of power, and sped up with every extra piece of information Kohaku shared. “You have Kitsune in your lineage, Mr Aoyama,” he said. The vet’s gaze was a little narrower than when he’d first greeted them.

Kohaku flashed his eyes, showing that they were far more orange than usual for a Beta wolf. “Indeed, I do, Dr. Deaton. And I find myself in a town where I would expect to be able to see three kinds of magical signatures in all sorts of places, but have only seen signs of two.”

Derek could see Deaton calm a little at that, not just hear it in his heart rate. The vet was beginning to understand that they weren’t really interested in him, specifically. “You’ll likely find evidence of Mr Stilinski’s casting on his and his father’s houses, and possibly around the Sheriff’s station.” He paused, splitting that from what he then said. “Alpha McCall didn’t share with me why he made his choice of Emissary. However, I can tell you that Aldin Allard is a Pack born and trained Witch.”

And his sister was Scott’s fiancée. They’d wondered late last night if the Witch’s Emissary position had been earned with his magic or gained through simple nepotism. Once upon a time Scott would have bent over backwards to get the girl he wanted, and Derek had witnessed his responsibilities, and Stiles’ friendship, pushed aside in exactly that kind of situation when the two were younger. Maybe that was the reason such a powerful Spark had been passed over for Emissary.

Kohaku spoke the question aloud, “And Aldin Allard’s sister is the McCall Alpha’s mate?”

Deaton raised his chin almost imperceptibly. “His twin, yes. That bond is strong, so it was no shock to their family when Alena followed her brother and joined the McCall Pack.”

Deaton apparently knew exactly what Derek and Kohaku had been thinking. It would have been the most obvious reason for why Scott would trust an outsider over Stiles to create his magical protection. Now they had to find another explanation.

Derek’s phone buzzed and he glanced at the text Cora had sent him: Stalker wolves still in position but making a lot of phone calls. The surveillance team was getting suspicious. It was time to stop dancing around the thing they actually wanted to know. “You don’t know why he chose Mr Allard, Deaton, but you do know why he didn’t choose Mr Stilinski,” Derek stated, hoping that he was right.

“A potentially far, far more powerful everything,” Kohaku added. At least Deaton could only keep so much from someone who could literally see magic.

Deaton looked back and forth between them, then drew in a deep breath. Several moments passed before he finally said, “You will not bring this to my doorstep again?”

Derek couldn’t speak for anyone else, but he could pledge for his own Pack, at least as far as they had control over their own circumstances. “The Hale Pack has no wish to see any unwilling participants in this situation.”

Deaton seemed to understand that Derek couldn’t promise much else, and he didn’t press for a more encompassing guarantee. The Druid closed his eyes a second and when he opened them again said, “Magic is neither righteous nor wicked. It can be turned to good or shaped to evil. It’s like water drawn from a well; the contents of a single bucket can be used both as a weapon to burn skin, and a way to clean and treat the wound that it would create.” He paused and looked past them both, as if searching for something, but then brought his attention back again. “The difference between a water source and a magical one is that a water-well can be poisoned so it may not be safely used again for decades. That is never possible with the energies we call magic.”

Derek nodded at the Druid. He then looked at Kohaku, who appeared to be waiting for more of an answer from the man. He’d been told about Deaton’s obfuscating tendencies, but apparently needed to experience them himself before he believed it. After a few more beats he rumbled quietly in his chest, low enough that Deaton wouldn’t hear. He finally copied Derek and nodded his thanks.

They turned to head back into the trees and Deaton walked up the back steps of his cottage.

They made it back to their house in about twenty minutes. They moved out to sit on the front porch for an afternoon beer, stretching themselves out in an exaggerated effort, and muttered about morning-breath to make it look as if they’d both just woken up from long naps.

The wolves in the stake-out car stopped making phone calls. Jackson asked everyone if they wanted to order dinner later or go to the supermarket so he could cook.

“I learnt two things this afternoon,” Kohaku said over home-made pizza. “Firstly, Alan Deaton is as abstruse with information as I was lead to believe. Secondly, Scott McCall thinks his oldest friend’s magic is somehow contaminated or evil.”

Jackson picked at a piece of olive on his slice. He looked straight into Derek’s eyes and said, “Stilinski got through all that Nogitsune shit because he is who he is. You don’t survive getting possessed by a fucking chaos demon if you’re not pure-hearted. It would have left a mark on him, but not,” he swallowed, “not its mark.” He accentuated the its with a grimace. “The way it changed him would have made him stronger, not tainted him.”

Cora nodded. “So, either there’s another reason he imported a Witch for his Emissary, or Scott’s still an idiot.”

Scott hadn’t tossed Stiles aside for his current love-of-his-life this time. He’d instead likely done it with what he’d considered pure and righteous reasoning. Derek wasn’t sure which he’d call worse.

♠♠♠

 

Chapter Text

♠♠♠

Stiles groaned as he reached over and whacked his hand against his phone in a vague effort to hit snooze on his alarm. His body, not so surprisingly, didn’t appreciate the change of schedule he’d finally earned at work. He’d hardly slept on Saturday night, and last night hadn’t been much better. It was Monday now, and he had just under an hour to get ready and get to the station. He’d hopefully sleep better tonight after a full ten hours on the job.

They hadn’t managed a particularly relaxing weekend. Lydia had alternated between supernatural research and marking for her classes. Stiles had broken up his half of the research with washing their clothes, ironing his uniforms, and even managing to emulate Derek by mowing the lawn. They’d both appreciated the break when it had come time to meet the Sheriff for Sunday brunch. They’d avoided talking about the Pack with him a little too well though, and he’d cottoned on to there being something amiss, but had accepted their excuses for not explaining for the time being.

Just because his dad knew about the supernatural didn’t meant that Stiles wanted him exposed to it more than necessary. And right now? Right now, it seemed necessary to keep it from him, in fact. Stiles truly had no idea where all this was headed, and he had even less of an idea of how long it was going to last.

Back from the afternoon with his dad, they’d done several more hours reading. But neither Stiles or Lydia had found any reference to werewolf Pack bonds fluctuating or cracking or… They were out of practice, and searching for information on something that may or may not have happened didn't make things easier.

Stiles’ alarm went off again, he must have only hit the snooze button. He shrugged off yesterday’s worries and forced himself out of bed. For the next eleven or so hours, or until someone wolfy sent out a Pack notice saying otherwise, his mind could be a supernatural-free zone. He wondered if there were any croissants left over for breakfast.

In the last few months there had been a spate of break-ins amongst the fancier housing estates in Beacon Hills and those of the surrounding towns. The thieves were quick, quiet, and very specific about what they were taking: laptops, phones, e-readers, mp3 players, jewelry, and cash. They never hit the same street two nights in a row, and rarely hit even the same town more than three or four times before moving back to one of the others to work. Last week there had been three break-ins on different streets in the so-called Flower District of Beacon Hills. The fact that the thieves had been in the same general area for more than one day had everyone in the station on edge.

Stiles climbed into the cruiser before Willcocks—the twelve-year veteran deputy who’d replaced Parrish when the Hellhound had finally left Beacon Hills eighteen months ago—and got himself ready for a shift full of what was likely to be useless door knocking. They’d been assigned Heliotrope, Honeysuckle, Hyacinth, and Hyssop to canvas. It wasn’t until he was driving towards that end of town that it clicked where they were heading. The Flower District was basically what the Pack called Sector Eleven, and the Hales lived on Heliotrope Crescent.

Scott really, really wasn’t going to like this.

Stiles gripped the wheel a little harder as he turned down Arborvitae Road. He breathed in hard, and loud.

“You okay, Stilinski? Maybe we should have stopped for that extra coffee before we started. Changing between shifts sucks.” Willcocks was a boring guy, but a good one. He’d never had a problem with Stiles being the boss’s kid. He wasn’t a stickler for the rules, but still managed to do things by the book. He was, all in all, a good cop.

“Nah, I’ll be fine,” Stiles answered. “How about we start at Hyssop and work our way back? We can stop at that place at the end of Honeysuckle and get a coffee and brownie before we do the last street on the list.”

Willcocks nodded and smiled as he said, “Sounds like a plan, kid.”

♠♠♠

It could’ve surprised Derek that he recognized one of the two heartbeats approaching the door, but it didn’t. He’d not been able to focus on it at the diner the other night with eight loud McCall Pack hearts pounding out excruciatingly harsh tattoos—the fact that he’d be able see Stiles then, for the first time in years, in front of him but just past arm’s reach had just made it more difficult—but now, without that interference, it was obvious.

Once Derek could have, and would have if he’d had to, picked that beat out of a stadium full of humans and shifters and anything else. Now that he’d heard it again, it would take eons to forget it.

The other heartbeat on the porch now was obviously human, so Derek did the human thing and waited for the doorbell to ring before answering it. Jackson sat himself down on the sofa as Derek reached for the door handle. Derek breathed in deeply, and took in a scent far more mature than he remembered, but still all Stiles.

Derek gripped the door handle hard to stop himself from leaning forward to inhale even more, and opened the door.

Stiles was standing in front of the other deputy, but it was the older man who spoke. “Good morning, I’m Deputy Willcocks. We’re wondering if you have some time to answer a few questions for us, sir? We’re investigating a local break-in. Deputy Stilinski will only take a few moments of your time.” The man nodded when Derek agreed, then said to Stiles, “The next few places look like they’re empty. I’ll do the card drops.” Then he turned and went down the path back to the street.

Derek kept his eyes on Stiles, and Stiles didn’t watch the other deputy go; his gaze was focused entirely on Derek, his heart rate speeding up and his body looking eager to spring forward. The man standing before Derek, all grown-up and filling out his uniform in a way that Derek really shouldn’t be focusing on, smelled like the Stiles he knew before, but it was a sharper scent than Derek remembered: more magical, less chemical. There was something in the scent that made Derek think of a child excited for a birthday party or a trip to the ice cream store. Derek tried not to notice just how good Stiles looked dressed as a deputy, just how wide his shoulders had become, how much more defined his cheekbones were without the baby-fat that had lingered on them before. He had the tiniest hint of stubble under his nose. His eyes and lips and everything were even more appealing now that his body had grown to match their sensuality. Stiles’ hair was long on top and Derek wanted to run his fingers through it. He wanted to reach out and swipe his hand across Stiles’ skin, press his face into his neck and hair and take him in, wrap his palm around his nape and press; he wanted to lay his own scent, and happily steal some of Stiles’ in return. Derek wanted to hold him.

Stiles caught Derek glancing at the top of his collar and the slip of his skin that it rested on and it didn’t smell at all like he’d have a problem with any of what Derek had been thinking, or the fact that Derek also wanted to —

Jackson laughed from the sofa behind them.

Stiles smiled as the moment broke, and put on a ridiculous official face and voice. “Good morning, Mr Hale, Mr Whittemore. Is it just the two of you here this morning?” He gripped his pen hard. He was holding a little spiral notepad at a strange angle, flipped around so that Derek could easily see what was written on it: Being watched extra carefully by the Betas in the car outside.

Derek nodded at the message at the same time as he said, “Yes, it’s just us at the moment. Please come in and take a seat.” He waved Stiles towards the lounge Jackson was sitting on. The deputy’s uniform pulled tight across Stiles’ shoulders as he stepped through the door, as if he was flexing those muscles as he walked. Derek hesitated before following him inside, deciding to leave the door wide open so that their ever-present McCall wolf-surveillance detail could hear every word that was said. “My younger sister Cora, and our housemate, Kohaku, have gone out for the day.”

Cora and Ko leaving in the morning had been a hilarious spectacle to behold: the wolves in the car out front had scrambled to decide who should stay to watch the two Hales in the house and who should tail the two that had the audacity to not stay put inside the building. Eventually one McCall Beta had jumped out of the car and sat on the side of the road while the other sped off. The left-behind kid had been joined by a third wolf about fifteen minutes after, and then spent another fifteen looking as if he was being read the riot act over the phone. Derek had no idea how they’d coped when Cora and Kohaku had split up for their job interviews.

Jackson peered at the paper in Stiles’ hand and nodded, too. “Can we get you a coffee or something, Deputy?”

Stiles apparently found that quite amusing. His nostrils flared and his lips pressed together hard trying to fight off laughter. “No, thank you,” he managed to cough out. “Although a glass of water would be good?”

Jackson rolled his eyes and went to get the water.

“So, Deputy, there’s been a break-in? Should we be worried?” Derek tried to sound vaguely uninterested in what the response might be, despite desperately watching Stiles’ pen move across the next page in his notebook.

“We’re just making standard enquiries at the moment. Is there usually someone at home here?” Stiles flipped the notebook up again: No wards on this house?!

Derek tried not to react openly to the written query, and answered both spoken questions as well as he could. “Usually, yes. We’ve only recently moved in and have all been here for most of the week. Cora and Ko are off looking for jobs as we speak. Jackson and I both work from home at the moment. Though, we have been thinking about installing a security system.” He nodded at Stiles’ writing. “Is that something the Sheriff’s Department would suggest?”

Stiles looked up as Jackson walked back into the room. He had a glass of water in one hand, and a something small folded up in a piece of paper in the other. He put them both in front of Stiles and then went to sit back down on the other side of the coffee table. He was watching the McCall wolves watch them from across the street.

Stiles nodded at Jackson and murmured, “Thank you,” then turned back towards Derek and continued. “Alarm systems, good security doors and windows and the like are ideas we fully support. We have a list of providers for the services that we can suggest and hardware brands we can recommend.” He scrawled something again, then took a sip of water as he flipped the book up: McCall Pack is Alpha, 33 adult wolves, a few humans, teens, kids and a Witch. You need to protect yourselves. “If you’ve not already made other enquiries, of course?”

Derek tried not to focus on the fact that Stiles hadn’t included himself or Lydia in the McCall Pack roster. If he could just reach out and mark Stiles, claim him as belonging to the Hale Pack, then his wolf might stop whining. They’d have a Pack war on their hands of course, but the Alpha deep in Derek’s chest would be satisfied, and no matter how many people they had to fight, his wolf seemed to think they’d have a chance. Derek barely resisted the urge to laugh at the idiocy of some of his baser instincts. It would be so damn easy to give in to them, though. Stiles’ scent was growing more enticing by the minute.

Stiles raised his eyebrows at the lack of answer in a manner so familiar that Derek felt a grin tugging harder at his lip, then he remembered himself and just what they were discussing. He was glad the McCall Betas were too far to smell what he, Stiles, and Jackson were feeling. “We’ve only been back in town for a few days. We’d be happy to take any suggestions you had in that area.” Derek reached out and dragged the morning paper across the coffee table, glad that the pen he’d been using to do the crossword puzzle was still there.

He scribbled in the margin: We’ll be okay without wards for a while, someone’s always here. Are you and Lydia okay?

Stiles read it, smiled, and nodded. “You said you both work from home? You’ve obviously not been here long enough to have seen anything out of the ordinary, but we’d be grateful if you’d let us know if anything does seem strange or unusual.” He leaned forward and wrapped his fingers around the water glass, lifted it to drink, then palmed what Jackson had given him and held onto it when he put the glass down. “Well, gentlemen, I’m sure my partner will be back shortly. Again, if you see anything you think we should know about, no matter how mundane it might seem, please don’t hesitate to contact us.”

He scribbled something else quickly, then stood up, tearing it and the other bits of paper he’d been writing their conversation on out of the notepad, and showing the final message to Derek as he did. Derek couldn’t help but grin when he read: It’s so fucking good to see you, but I have to go. If I don’t do it now I’ll give in and hug you. Or maybe Jackson. And I’m pretty sure I’d never live that down. Derek took that piece of paper and passed it to Jackson and watched his Beta pink up a little in the cheeks.

Stiles put the other bits of writing on the table, leaving behind the evidence of their silent dialogue, then slid the notepad and his pen into his top pocket. He looked at Jackson, smiled and nodded, then back at Derek. He smelled happy and frustrated and Derek really wanted to make that second scent go away. He half-pulled his phone out of his pocket and pointed at it, and Stiles smiled again, and then walked out to the street.

Jackson raised his eyebrow when Derek finally shut the door and then sat where Stiles had been, trying and failing to look as if he wasn’t attempting to drag the man’s scent out of the cushions. Derek returned the raised eyebrow, but Jackson didn’t push it any further. He didn’t even take the chance to tease the hell out of Derek when Kohaku and Cora came home and questioned why Derek had a new favorite seat in the family room.

♠♠♠

“Did you see those two sitting in the car across the street and down from the cruiser?” Willcocks said as he looked up from the notes he’d written while they were on Heliotrope Crescent. “They looked a bit young to be the masterminds, but if the theft-ring is as big as it seems to be, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to think that they’d have look-outs or getaway guys. Especially young guys out to prove themselves.”

Stiles groaned internally. He did not need this. His dad knew something was up, but Stiles didn’t need him to get wind of what might turn into a petty Pack standoff. His dad had long before forgiven Stiles for keeping wolfy-secrets, and was never shy about asking if a crime might be something supernatural, but he still didn’t like that his son was near the front lines of something he couldn’t deal with by regular means. Stiles had been hoping to get the twin overhead Alpha situation under control before he had to come clean about all of it to his old man.

Scott’s minions had been spotted by a non-supernaturally-informed-person now, though. Stiles would have to try to head off the inquisition actively, and all with only a few definite statements—neither hard-nosed Sheriff Stilinski nor the supposedly softer Papa Stilinski would let a vague or overly loquacious description suffice.

Stiles bit the inside of his lip and said, “Did you see the kids in the car up close or just get their plate?” Willcocks could have done anything while Stiles was inside with Derek and Jackson.

“Just their plate. I was going to confront them, but they looked familiar from a few cars away. I didn’t want to tip them off if possible.” Willcocks grinned. “It’d be great if we could break this thing by finding out that their base is in Beacon Hills instead of Cairnsville or Pyredale.”

“Yeah, or they could just be kids with familiar faces.” Stiles hated that phrase, but he’d learned long ago that even cops didn’t make perfect witnesses.

“Either way, we’ve got their plate, car make etcetera.” Willcocks flipped his notebook shut. “Hell, maybe they were just two kids waiting to for a friend to get home, or something.”

Or something, indeed, Stiles thought. Damn Robert and his ability to talk Scott into ridiculous efforts at security.

Stiles waited until Willcocks needed a bathroom break and took the chance to look at what Jackson had given him. He pulled the little paper wrapped package out of his pocket and unfolded it carefully, trying desperately to keep a blank look on his face. He felt stupid worrying that he was being watched, but he doubted it was pure paranoia. He was sitting in a marked police cruiser in the middle of town. There could be werewolves in a dozen different places around him, and all of them would be interested in what he was doing given the hotbed of gossip the Pack was and the way he’d spoken to Scott the other night.

The little wrapped thing was a house key. The paper it had been in had three phone numbers written on it, each with a letter at the end—C, J & K. He copied each one into a text for Lydia, added, We need to do something nice for my Dad, he’s probably about to find out aaaaall the things, and sent it off straight away. He’d save the numbers in his own phone later. He rubbed both sides of the key against his wrist so it hopefully smelled less like Jackson, then slipped it onto his own keyring between his two most used keys. He dropped the square of paper into the takeout cup he had stuffed next to the seat. It should have enough liquid in it still to do the job of destroying the ink. Hopefully the smell of him on the key, and strong coffee on the paper, would override that of other-wolf if any of the Pack came sniffing.

He’d honestly thought he was done with all the secret hiding crap he’d had to do in high school but… Stiles felt more alive than he had in far too long. Derek had looked, well, he’d looked as good as he had the other night. So much better than he had before he’d left Beacon Hills. Not that teenage Stiles hadn’t absolutely appreciated the view, just, now the guy also looked relaxed and healthy, something that adult Stiles was attracted to, in so, so many ways.

Stiles slid his phone back into his top pocket just as Willcocks got back into the cruiser. He was saved from day-dreaming about Derek, or having to make any more conversation, by a call for them to attend a domestic dispute.

Stiles got home a little later than originally planned. He barely had time to get out of his uniform and explain the day to Lydia—the meeting with Jackson and Derek and their lack of wards and gifted keys and need-to-hug-impulses thwarted by surveillance-wolves—when they got another inner-circle Pack summons text.

Fifteen minutes later they were the last to arrive at Scott and Alena’s place. Mitchell and Liam greeted them but the others didn’t really look up from their conversations. Everyone was around the coffee table as usual, but no one had drinks or snacks. This was starting with a decidedly less-agreeable atmosphere than the full Pack meeting had. Stiles and Lydia fitted themselves into their regular seats.

Despite the fact that it was only a handful of people, Scott did his eye-flash and nod routine. He barely managed to look Stiles in the eye. Stiles resolutely didn’t appear put out by that, which wasn’t hard, as he wasn’t. The stutter of his heart at that realization probably made Scott think he felt bad, though. He wondered if that was a kind of deception on his part, or if it was a werewolf’s fault if they made assumptions.

Scott took a swig of hopefully non-wolfsbane-spiked Corona and then started in on the questions.

“So, Mitchell, did you and Jessica finally manage to get the property records today?” The tone was accusatory. Scott was perhaps disappointed that they’d had to wait until Monday for the County Records Office’s official working hours to get the information. Mitchell looked at the three-inch stack of documents he had in his hand. There was guilt in his eyes. He looked back up at Scott. Scott followed his movements and his face hardened when he looked at how much paper Mitchell was holding. “That doesn’t look promising.”

Mitchell looked up again, but it was plain that he was avoiding his Alpha’s gaze. “We pulled records on all the different types of properties we could think of. We looked at private homes, apartment buildings, shop space, industrial sites, even vacant land.” He reached forward and put the paperwork on the table in front of him. Stiles could see the slight tremor in the accountant’s hand, and he hated knowing that Scott, adorable, loveable, puppy-eyed Scott who Stiles had built sandcastles with in second grade, had become the kind of Alpha that had his Betas shaking in fear when they were presenting unpleasant facts about things beyond their control. Stiles hadn’t seen this kind of reaction often, but even rarely was too much. He’d been ignoring things for too long.

“And?” Alena prompted. Her impatience didn’t really do this situation, or any situation, many favors to be honest. It certainly brought out the worst in her fiancé. Scott’s inability to wait for things was usually driven by earnestness, though, where hers was more akin to petulance. Stiles sometimes wondered if she’d always been like this, or if it was something that had come about after she’d become the Alpha’s mate. Either way, the two impatient personalities did not make an easygoing combination.

Mitchell sat back as if trying to distance himself from what he was about to say, putting as much space between him and the hard-copy evidence as possible. “The Hale Pack own forty-three separate pieces of property in this area. Mostly in Beacon Hills, but also Cairnsville and Pyredale. Tee Ess Enterprises also have representatives in eight other states.”

“The Hales are Tee Ess Enterprises?” Lydia asked before Scott could retract his fangs enough to speak properly instead of just growling.

It didn’t stop him from barking out, “How the fuck did a foreign Pack manage to buy that much of this town?” once he had his teeth under control. His eyes were pulsing red and his fingers had gone stiff, just about to sprout claws. His fangs dropped again as soon as he got the question out.

Lydia, ever level headed and always keen to avoid blood in upholstery, pressed on, angling for a little sense to be brought into the conversation. “Did you find out how old Tee Ess is, Mitchell?”

Mitchell left the paperwork where he’d put it and grabbed his iPad instead. “It was originally known the Triple Spiral Company. It’s been around in one form or another since 1903.” He risked a glance at Scott and said, “They’ve only bought one property here in the last ten years, and that’s the house they’re living in now. They’ve had it for about eighteen months. They used an intermediary agent from San Francisco to buy it and apparently imported a contractor from Oregon to do the renovations. We could have a look at their dealings to see if it’s all legal in the human way, but I doubt we’ll find that they’ve broken any laws.”

“It’s still not right,” Robert drawled, his eyes flashing. Lydia pressed her leg into Stiles’. Robert didn’t usually say much, but when he did, it just made his Peter Hale vibe stronger. There was something in his tone and the way he held his head, and Lydia and Stiles had discussed the fact that it made both of them want to reach for something capable of cutting off said head.

“So, they own half the town.” Alena looked angry, then her face morphed into something closer to vague irritation. She waved a dismissive hand and said, “I know you supposedly filled us in on all the history, Lydia, but I still don’t see how all of that means that they get to cross our boundaries and set up camp uninvited in McCall territory.” She said McCall in a way that definitively expressed ownership, and that was probably over both the land and the Alpha. She swiped her hand over Scott’s arm, then shifted to one side in her seat as she spoke. The stiff, embroidered logo of the daycare center where she worked lifted her polo shirt into a fold as she turned. Alena wasn’t a stupid woman, at all, but sometimes Stiles wondered if all the finger painting and dress-up-box time she had during the day infected her reasoning on occasion.

Lydia kept the huff out of her voice as she answered, thankfully. “The properties only solidify their link to the land. Their bloodline has been here for over a century, and we could probably find records of them owning land here for more than twice that long. Hales have lived, bled, and died throughout Beacon Hills, the preserve, and the towns around us for a significant amount of time. A handful of years away will not have changed that. Even the strongest magics we have access to would likely fail to create something that would prevent them from being here.” She pushed her leg into Stiles’ again as she said the M-word. It wasn’t the right time to talk about his or her abilities, but he could feel that they would be having an in-depth conversation about both soon. It was another reason they were going to end up speaking to Deaton, despite the fact that it was still something he’d like to avoid.

“What do you have to say about their ties to the land, Aldin?” Scott’s Alpha eyes hadn’t faded, and his inability to accept anything Lydia said about the realities of magic as truth hadn’t either.

Aldin sat forward in his seat, and made to tie his hair back but faltered when he realized it already was. “I, well.” He actually looked flustered. Stiles had seen him uncomfortable under Scott’s eye before, but this was quite different. Right now, he looked like a teenager about to confess something outrageous to his parents. It was more than a kid who had to admit he’d failed a test. The expression on his face made Stiles imagine a teenager who’d crashed the family sedan into four cars, a hot dog stand and the town-square’s prize-winning rosebushes. It was a very unnatural countenance on a grown man.

Aldin swallowed and said, “I’ll need someone to help me make a proper map of the town and the preserve, but I think I’ve found at least some of their old Pack boundaries and places that were important to them.” He breathed in long and kept going, apparently finding it easier now that he’d started talking. “I’ve interacted with a few more of their wards, but I’d like to get my hands on the walls or fences of more of the buildings they own. Their previous Emissary's magical signature is barely present in the wards, but their Pack energy is strong. It’s,” he paused and looked at his sister, apparently hoping for some kind of support, but plowed on despite her unaltered and unimpressed expression, “it’s not only in the buildings, though feeling it in them made it easier for me to identify in other places.” He shuffled slightly sideways, possibly unconsciously trying to remove himself from Scott’s ire. “I found, and was able to partially trace, boundary lines they’ve got going through the center of town, and a strong one around the Memorial garden.”

“But we start our Full Moon run from the Hale Memorial every single month. How do we not feel it? How did you not know it was there?” Liam didn’t sound accusatory, just inquisitive. Mitchell seemed to share his curiosity. Scott, Robert, and Alena looked ready to string him up by his curlies. Lydia remained impassive and attentive, and Stiles tried to emulate her.

Aldin’s cheeks went pink. “I. Honestly, I thought it was just part of the land.”

Lydia said, “One doesn’t usually have boundaries going through the center of something. Are you sure you aren’t confusing Hale Pack energies with the Telluric currents?” Her tone was soft and coaxing, but it had an undeniable, underlying tang that hinted at an accusation. She knew the answer to the questions, but was apparently going to taunt the Witch with the question anyway. Aldin wasn’t an insignificant power, but he’d never had call to do anything overtly dramatic. His strongest talents lay in building alarms and shields, and generally stationary magic. He was not particularly skilled in the dynamic detection of others or offensive actions—anything nasty that had come through Beacon Hills in the last few years had been dealt with just fangs and claws. Lydia had always found the Emissary lacking, but she had rarely voiced her opinion so blatantly.

Aldin looked at her hard for a moment, as if he was about to call her out on the insult, but seemed to decide against it. He pushed imaginary hair behind one ear. “I can sense the distinct, pronounced pull of the currents, and then the Hale Pack’s particular energy lying alongside it. Their presence in the center of town isn’t really a boundary, it’s more like...” he struggled, and stopped, apparently unable to find a way to describe it.

Scott looked fit to burst, and Robert didn’t look far off popping, either.

Stiles didn’t want to help Aldin, particularly, but he couldn’t help the desire he had to explain what the Emissary was trying to convey. He tried to keep his voice low and unemotional as he said, “The Hale Pack energies around Beacon Hills are like the lines of color in marble, or a chocolate ribbon in fancy ice cream.” For as long as he’d been aware of what his Spark could show him, he’d felt their presence, too. He understood what Aldin was saying, and empathized with exactly why he’d thought it was part of the land. “You probably don’t feel it, Liam, because it’s always been there. But if it was ripped away, or reinforced, you’d notice.”

There was a growl out of Scott. He’d probably been holding it in all afternoon, waiting for Stiles to get here and say something that would allow him to poke. “And did you feel it today, Stiles? When you went into their house?” If Stiles hadn’t see the others tilting their heads at the undertone in Scott’s voice, he might have thought the Alpha had managed to keep his voice calm. He felt Lydia sit forward a little, ready to bounce out of her seat as if she sensed they’d need to attempt a hasty retreat. He could also feel his own heart starting to beat harder, and the flame that would light his temper starting to build.

It was hard to keep his voice even, but Stiles managed a fairly polite, “Excuse me, Scott?”

And, ten points to Stilinski. The Alpha sideburns had joined the conversation. “You went into their den! When were you going to admit it?” Scott was near to spitting.

“Admit it? Admit what Scott? That I did my job?” Stiles would not stand for being told he couldn’t do that. He’d worked hard to not just be the Sheriff’s kid. He’d worked hard to be a deputy in his own right. Once upon a time Scott would have understood just how much that meant to Stiles. “You want me to admit that I followed the orders I’d been given by a senior officer? You had Mikey and Jett watching from a car outside. They heard every damn thing that was spoken in the whole five minutes I did my job.” He forced out each word, finding it harder and harder to stay objective with each sound he made. “Do you want me to confess that I accepted a glass of water from the Hales when I started coughing? Or do you want me to, what? Seek forgiveness for the sin of being polite while I was doing the what county pays me to do?” He could feel his nostrils flaring, and the burn inside him growing. Stiles could also see Scott’s features morphing—teeth dropping further, claws reaching their full length—but Stiles really didn’t care; if Scott wanted to rip his precious cup holder-armchair to shreds he could. “Are you going to tell Harmony she can’t make them a macchiato at Peet’s, or Ben not to Pack their groceries at Safeway ? Or is it only those of us with full time jobs that will have to risk losing them to do as our almighty Alpha sees fit?”

Then Scott was on his feet to look him in the eye, and Stiles realized he must have already stood at some point during his rant. Lydia was against his back. He breathed in slowly to try to calm himself and lowered his arms from where he’d apparently been using them to help emphasize his statements.

Next to them, the four Beta wolves had their heads turned, eyes down and necks bared, and Aldin was doing a damn fine job of mimicking them.

Scott’s current state made it difficult for him to speak, but Stiles had heard too many fanged-out statements to not understand every single syllable. “You went into the enemy Pack’s territory without asking my permission.”

Stiles tasted more than felt or heard his own laughter. “Enemy Pack territory? What enemies, Scott? You’re a Hale bite! Their family made you what you are. They’re your wolfy kin.” He shook his head and tried to douse the flicker of anger still trying to rise in his core. “They’ve been our friends for years, even if we haven’t been doing weekly phone calls or Christmas cards.” He breathed in and thought of a sunset he’d never seen, blue and oranges and tempting golds, then of a smile he’d seen only hours ago, and his heart rate slowed. Lydia pressed closer. “Other than this bizarre need you seem to have to engage in a pissing contest with an Alpha you haven’t even managed to identify yet, why are we all doing this? What could possibly be worth the state of fight or flight you’ve had the whole Pack in since this all started?”

Scott was pretty much as wolf as he could get now: ears pointed, claws curved, shirt close to ripping across the extra bulk that came from nowhere to expand his chest, and the material of his jeans doing the same thing for the same reason across his thighs. He was half-crouched, taut, and tensed, ready to tear into something or roar it into submission.

Stiles hadn’t asked all those questions rhetorically, though. He needed an answer. He wanted a coherent statement, structured and supported by fact. He didn’t want a vicious platitude or an unobstructed view of werewolf tonsils.

Scott opened his mouth, and then, suddenly, Stiles didn’t want to hear whatever half-assed, idiotic version of the Because I’m the Alpha excuse Scott was going to use. It had been bad enough when it was the grief-stricken, woefully underprepared junior-Alpha Derek Hale who’d used it. If it came out of the mouth of Scott McCall, True Alpha, happily settled and surrounded by a substantial Pack and family, Stiles was likely to do something that they’d all regret in the morning.

“Actually, no, Scott. I know what you’re going to say, or roar, or however it is you were about to express it.” The Betas were whimpering now, and Aldin was clutching something he had around his neck. “You don’t get to explain this idiocy away with your position in the Pack. An Alpha negotiates first, attacks second. An Alpha nurtures and protects first, punishes and controls second. This, right now?” He waved at the five people on the floor, “This is the behavior of the leader of an unstable Pack or a desperate despot. Or, you know, a giant douche who is douche-like.” He added that last bit because he couldn’t believe he had to say all this, and if he had to, he wanted to at least remember the situation being vaguely amusing. But, he breathed in hard and sighed harder, none of this was funny, not anymore. “What you’re doing right now? This is not the act of a real Alpha, man.”

Scott opened his mouth again, but this time instead of Stiles’ monologue interrupting him, something far less usual came into play. Later, Stiles would be glad that Lydia had basically been peeking out from underneath one of his wide spread arms to witness it too. He wouldn’t have believed it if he’d only seen it himself: Scott’s eyes seemed to glow hot, then melted from red to gold.

Stiles felt light-headed and unfettered. One of Lydia’s fingernails broke his skin.

Half a second later, or maybe half a lifetime later, Scott’s eyes bled back to Alpha again.

The Betas’ whining turned to the kind of hopeless noise that usually only happened when a wolf was downright scared, and then went back to something closer to a cry than a whimper. They were already on their knees, but didn’t look like they could stay even that upright for long without getting some kind of outside assistance. Aldin was still clutching the thing around his neck—probably a hex-bag full of I’m not actually prey, you know herbs and charms, Stiles figured—and staring at his sister and as he reached out to help her balance.

Lydia’s short, but well-manicured and absurdly sharp, fingernails dug into the flesh of Stiles’ upper arm again. It was going to bruise. It would probably bleed.

Stiles heard the strain in her voice, but hoped the wolves were still too freaked out about what had just happened to smell any kind of fear on her breath when she said, “I don’t think there’s much else that we can go over tonight, Alpha. We know what properties the Hales own. It looks as if there are only four of them in their Pack. We know their Pack energy and magics are woven through the fabric of the town. We haven’t actually found evidence of any outright aggression or planning from them. We’ll all keep observing in case there is.” She swallowed, and stepped to Stiles’ side, keeping ahold of his arm as she did. “Is there anything else, Scott?”

Scott blinked down at her and his wolf sank back into his skin, the Alpha red in his eyes lingering a few moments longer than everything else. He pulled his gaze away from her and focused on Stiles, and he looked more confused than Stiles had seen him since it was just the two of them, a heart monitor, and a pile of lacrosse balls. It seemed like it was two lifetimes ago, not just a handful of years.

“I, yes. I,” Scott didn’t seem to have anything he could say, even if he wanted to.

Then the phones started, text alerts and calls  blasted out of every pocket in the room, one after the other, then again and again. Whatever had just happened, whatever it was that Stiles and Lydia had just witnessed, the entire Pack seemed to have felt it across their bonds.

“We’ll be heading out, then.” Lydia grabbed Stiles’ hand and pulled, talking over the continuing cacophony of electronic noises as she walked. “Stiles needs to talk to his father about not arresting the two suspicious young men that deputies saw loitering outside the Hale house today. Mitchell needs to see if he and one of his helpers can figure out who the mysterious Kohaku is, and maybe Robert can help Aldin when he goes on his map making walks. It won’t do to have your Emissary exposed without protection while he’s moving around town.”

Scott just nodded. Stiles couldn’t do much else himself. He had absolutely no idea what they’d just seen, but he was certain he and Lydia weren’t going home, or even to his dad’s place. That they’d be visiting Deaton a lot sooner than they’d planned, and for a growing number of reasons, went without saying.

♠♠♠

Derek shook his head and picked his book up from where he’d dropped it in his lap. He leaned back and tried to see if he could detect Stiles’ scent on the surface of the lounge still. He listened as Jackson opened his bedroom door and started walking towards the stairs to come down to everyone else. Kohaku and Cora had already taken their headphones out and pressed pause on the video they were watching on his laptop.

Jackson reached the bottom of the stairs, took a few more steps, and then dropped himself into his favorite chair.

Derek said, “We all felt that, then? I wasn’t imagining it.”

“You weren’t imagining it,” Kohaku answered. “Whatever it was. I didn’t see anything, but...”

“Don’t hate me for this,” Jackson preemptively side-eyed them all, “but I’m pretty sure I should be making a Star Wars reference.”

Derek was dying to share this part of Jackson with Stiles. He’d had no idea that the formerly scaly one had such a thing for nerdy movies until he saw the eight boxes of DVDs the guy unpacked when they got to the house. Derek foresaw bonding of a type that couldn’t have been imagined by the teenage frenemies. He wouldn’t really be able to take part in said bonding, but he would thoroughly enjoy witnessing Jackson and Stiles geeking out together.

Cora cocked her head, smiled and said, “I can see the connection. I don’t know that we’ll ever actually feel a great disturbance in the Force, but if we did, it would probably feel like whatever the hell that just was.”

Derek looked at his phone sitting in the center of the table. He couldn’t imagine that Stiles and Lydia, deep Spark and Banshee, wouldn’t have felt it too. Whatever the hell it had been, it was gone now, and Stiles either wasn’t in a hurry to acknowledge it or couldn’t. Derek hoped it was the former.

Jackson turned on the television and loaded the first disc of the Original Unaltered Trilogy into their Blu-ray player, then went to make popcorn.

They watched, ate, and waited for one of their phones, any of their phones, to buzz alive with a little message icon.

♠♠♠

 

Chapter Text

♠♠♠

Lydia was fine as they walked out of Scott and Alena’s apartment building. She was strong in the corridor and elevator, and didn’t even break stride as they walked across the small first floor foyer.

She started shaking as soon as they stepped onto the pavement and actually stopped a moment to slow her breathing, starting to walk again only once she had it under control.

“Do you think anyone, or anything, other than the Pack felt what just happened, Stiles?” She was clutching her handbag tight, like a life-preserver. “We should probably hope that nothing else noticed.”

They only had to make it half a block to her car.

Stiles reached out and pressed his hand into her lower back. To the average person on the street it would look like the act of a caring friend or boyfriend, to Lydia it was simply the act of a Packmate offering a steady anchor. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d played the part of hers, and he had the feeling that in a few minutes, once he’d slid off the adrenaline wave he was currently riding, he’d be needing her to return the favor.

“I think we should try to figure out what it was before we can start making statements about its scope,” he decided as he spoke. He reached down and steadied her hand by wrapping his fingers around her wrist as she scrambled in her handbag for keys. He glanced back over his shoulder. No one had followed them out of the apartment block. “Let me drive. You need to get your breath back and focus on how you are going to describe whatever you just felt. I promise I won’t fall in a flailing heap until we’ve at least had time to catch our breath properly.”

Deaton was waiting for them. He opened his front door as they stepped up onto his porch. His dark eyes were alive with interest, and for once he looked as if he might have more questions than Stiles. He probably didn’t, but he was doing a good job of seeming otherwise.

“Miss Martin, Mr Stilinski.” He nodded at them as he opened his door wider and stepped back to invite them in. “I’m going to assume that this evening’s visit is about the magical tremor I just felt, and not the fact that you’ve both been recently handling the books I loaned you after all but ignoring them for such a long time.” He glanced back and forth between them. “Or perhaps, and I’m quite keen for an explanation of how this might be, perhaps the two things are related.”

“You felt it here?” Stiles blinked hard and then stepped back quickly. Only Lydia’s quick reflexes stopped him from falling down the couple of steps they’d just walked up. Stiles shoved his hand in his pocket and pulled out his phone. It had been at least fifteen minutes since the whatever-the-hell-it-was had happened. He breathed in deeply, jaw locked as he breathed out, trying to calm himself so he could type without auto-correct intervening in some stupid way: We’re okay. Don’t know how to explain yet. Stay safe. Please. It was far too much like a normal text for him to feel right in sending it to Derek. He wanted to add some kind of image to explain instead of the words, or at least an icon. But despite the fact that he and Derek had been communicating like this for five years, they’d not gone through any kind of emergency or even immediately-stressful situation together while doing it, so he had no idea of what he should choose. Either way would be strange.

He hit send.

It felt like an age, but was truly not more than twenty or thirty seconds after, when he got back an image of four sets of legs out stretched in front of the sofas he’d seen at the Hale place. Their television was playing something that looked suspiciously like the fourth episode of Star Wars. They were safe, and they were waiting for news. Derek had sent a normal—for him and Stiles—reply to Stiles’ awkward and probably slightly alarmist text.

All four Hales were okay. Stiles shoulders dropped a little and his lungs moved again.

Lydia held his arm a little tighter. He looked up at her, then showed her the image quickly. She loosened her grip infinitesimally. He put the phone back in his pocket and let himself sigh.

Deaton coughed and raised his brow when they looked at him. “I’m going to assume that anyone and anything supernatural in at least a hundred-mile radius felt that strong of a shock wave. I did not call it a tremor without reason.” He stepped aside and opened his palm to invite them inside, again, then closed the door behind them when they finally did. The front room was as bland as Stiles remembered it from the few times he’d previously visited. He and Lydia sat on a sofa that matched the armchair Deaton sank into. “That you questioned if I was able feel it leads me to believe that you were close to the tremor’s epicenter, Mr Stilinski.”

Lydia answered for him. “I have no doubt we were at the epicenter of the effect, Deaton, but we’ve no real idea of what the cause might have been.” Her fingers were cold as she took Stiles’ hand. “It’s not the first time I’ve felt something similar. Although obviously the first instance was far less extreme than the one we just went through.”

“I felt it too, this time.” Stiles stated, trying to keep his voice calm. He realized, as he spoke, that he’d not sensed magic without trying to for years. He’d learned to keep his Spark tight and unmoving. Perhaps he felt the thing this time because he’d reached out with his Spark at the diner to check the wards? No, that couldn’t be right. The first time Lydia had felt whatever it had been after that, too. Stiles had also checked for wards at the Hale place today, though. Maybe he was just becoming more sensitive because he was more actively stirring up something he’d had stowed away, hidden well, for so long.

Deaton’s nostrils flared and he stared hard at Stiles. “I would be concerned if a Banshee was able to feel more of a non-death related magic than a Spark with depth such as your own, Mr Stilinski. It would suggest a drastic dereliction of care and caution on the part of the person with that Spark.” Whether the best news, or the most biting of accusations, Deaton’s toned never changed. He shifted his attention back to Lydia. “I expect you will agree that what we just experienced cannot have been a death omen as it wasn’t only you who was able to feel it, Miss Martin.” He looked back and forth between them. “Can either of you describe what it felt like to you?”

Lydia had tensed at Deaton’s chastising Stiles, and now Stiles sat back further in the seat and let her take the lead. Annoyed or not, she was less likely to say obviously offensive things.

“It was floaty.” Oh, short and sweet. It wasn’t insulting, but she was obviously seriously unimpressed with Deaton’s attitude.

Deaton glared harder.

Stiles didn’t want to, but he knew if he didn’t speak, the other two would just stare at each other. “Lydia’s description of the first incident was that it felt as if the Pack was untethered for a few moments. Given that an Alpha is a Pack’s main anchor, no matter what each wolf’s personal one is, and the fact that we just watched Scott’s eyes go from red to gold and then back again, I’d say that’s probably also what happened tonight, and that untethered is a good word for it.”

Deaton actually blinked. Hard. Several times. He repeated, slowly, “Mr McCall’s wolf-shifted eyes went from red to gold to red.”

“And everything, or rather everyone, felt floaty, yes,” Lydia repeated.

“The everyone that you felt as floaty, how did they outwardly react to what was going on?” Deaton didn’t actually wince as he used Lydia’s chosen descriptor, but it was close.

“The first time I felt it, they didn’t. Tonight was different. Other than Scott, Stiles, and myself, there were five others in the room when it happened. The four Beta wolves ended up on their knees, whimpering with their necks exposed. Aldin was right there, next to his sister, doing the same thing. The wolves started swaying when Scott’s eyes went back to red, as if the bond snapping back had been a change in tension, like a rubber band contracting after it had been stretched too far.” Lydia swallowed hard.

Even though Stiles had been there when it happened, it made it all that more real to hear Lydia describe it like that.

Deaton pushed his palms into the arms of the chair he was sitting in, as if he was about to lever himself up to standing, but then his shoulders slumped. His eyes felt invasive when he looked at Stiles. “And you, Mr Stilinski? What did it feel like for you in particular? Did you also experience the tremor as floaty?” Deaton managed to say last word almost without judgement this time.

Stiles ignored the tone, and took a moment, trying to find the right words. “I felt light-headed, and, um,” he hadn’t felt untethered himself, just more powerful, “I was open. I didn’t feel as if I was unanchored, but more like I’d been unburdened, stronger.” He’d felt better.

Deaton blinking a second time in one conversation did not bode well. “I made myself clear to Mr McCall when he took on Aldin Allard as his Witch-Emissary, and I made myself clear to Mr Hale and his young friend just a day or two ago—I am no longer Pack aligned, and I do not wish to be included or involved in Pack business again if it can be avoided.”

Stiles tried not to react to the fact that Derek and one of his Betas had visited here. He felt Lydia tense, apparently attempting to do the same.

Deaton stood, but didn’t move away from the armchair. “However, I am a Druid. I cannot, even if I have stopped actively practicing, go back to not being a Druid. It is a part of me as much as being a Banshee is a part of you, Miss Martin, or being a wolf is part of Mr Hale. I cannot be unaware of the magical and supernatural occurrences around me.” He motioned for Lydia and Stiles to stand and follow him, and led them towards the door Stiles knew led to a small, but impressive, library. Deaton put his hand on the doorknob, then let it go, and turned back to look at them again. “You are a Spark, Mr Stilinski, in the same way. You have obstinately neglected a huge and vital part of yourself, and I cannot permit you to continue to expose all of us to the danger that such heedless behavior invites.”

Stiles felt his head snap back, and his cheeks heat. “You cannot seriously be trying to blame me for a magical earthquake just because I’m not being all super wizardy.” He let himself flail a little with that description. “My Spark is calm and stable. You’re the one who told me my ADHD and big mouth were outwards signs of it not being happy. Well, guess what? I’ve never been kicked out of a car by another deputy for talking too much, I don’t go on three-day all-research-no-food-or-sleep benders anymore, and I haven’t needed medication for years.” He curled his lip into a snarl. He’d possibly picked up a few too many wolfy traits over the years. “Lydia and I may not have been using our magics, but we’ve been watching for signs of trouble. We’ve been aware of each other. I didn’t make anyone floaty. My Spark is stable. I am stable.”

Deaton’s eyes actually softened a little and he breathed out a soft sigh. “I am not saying you aren’t, Mr Stilinski, and I’m not blaming anyone for anything. Though it’s not been said aloud, I believe I know why you haven’t pursued your magic.” He sighed again. “However, I now feel I must insist that you start actively calling on your Spark again. Being stable is good, but being in control is different, and far better.” His eyes flicked to Lydia, and Stiles wanted to look at her to see what the man was seeing, but didn’t. He didn’t want to take his attention off Deaton for more than a second. Deaton looked back at him, moving his head slowly, pointing his chin out before he spoke again. “I have a hypothesis concerning the cause of the tremor, but I cannot be the one to test or confirm it. You both have knowledge, connections, and understandings that I do not. You both also have abilities that have been left mostly dormant for far too long. That is the thing I can help you to remedy, even if it is only by providing you with information. Wait here a moment.”

Lydia chanced a look at Stiles, and he just shrugged back at her. Talia Hale must have been a saint of an Alpha to have put up with Deaton-the-Emissary's obtuse bullshit for as long as she had.

Deaton flicked the light switch as he stepped inside his book collection. He left the door open, and they watched him move from one side of the room to the other. It wasn’t a large space. In another person’s house it might have made a generous guestroom. As it was, however, the walls, including the one that Stiles knew had a window, were covered in shelving. The shelving was covered in books. The center of the room had a small desk and a few short, freestanding bookcases that stood back to back with each other. There were books in stacks on the carpet, too. Deaton moved like he knew where everything he wanted was to be found. It only took a minute or two for him to switch off the light and close the door behind him.

Deaton brought them three volumes each. He passed them over carefully, watching the way they were handled the way a new mother watches a stranger take her child to hold. It was maddening. “You should find what you need to know in these.” He pulled the door shut behind him. “You will need to be cognizant of keeping the basics in mind as you study.”

Stiles wanted to sneeze. The books weren’t dusty or obviously dirty, but something about them was irritating his face.

Lydia glanced at him trying to contort his nose to scratch it from the inside, then looked back at the druid and asked, “The basics, Deaton?”

“Please don’t sneeze on that three-hundred-year-old binding, Mr Stilinski. Hold your breath. Your Spark is reacting to the magic in one of the books are you holding, it should settle momentarily. Test for it again later, it will probably be that book that has an important answer.” He had a faint trace of amusement in his voice, but it disappeared easily when he returned to teacher-mode. “Yes, Miss Martin, the basics. Tell me, what is it, at the core, that makes a Banshee a Banshee? What are your specific kind of magic’s strengths and weaknesses? What control can you exert over it?”

Stiles thought Lydia might sound annoyed at being thrust back into the role of student, but perhaps tonight had shaken them both badly enough that handing over the reins for a few moments wasn’t an issue. She answered concisely. “I sense the soul. I scream when the soul is about to be ripped from the vessel it does not wish to leave. I cannot stop it, but I can sometimes delay it.” She shivered and Stiles wanted to hug her and take away the cold he knew she was remembering. “I can soothe souls not yet torn but tormented, I can guide ones that are lost, I can influence some others.”

Deaton just nodded. “And you, Mr Stilinski, the basics. What is it, at the core, that makes a Spark a Spark? What are your specific kind of magic’s strengths and weaknesses? How can you exert control over it?”

“A Spark naturally collects...” Stiles knew he’d spent so long ignoring it, denying it in himself, and he knew he really should just accept it. “ I naturally collect and can direct the magic that exists around us all. I can’t control how much or little flows through me, and attempting to expand or block it in anyway could be dangerous. Purpose and belief are key, so lack of focus or change of intent can alter everything.” He was shaking now, tired from holding up three books that felt like they were lead lined, tired from work, tired from dealing with Scott and Pack and drama and Deaton.

Deaton smiled, which was a strange and particularly unsettling sight. Then his face went back to something closer to normal, and he waved a hand towards his front yard. “I shouldn’t keep you any longer. You both need to sleep before you start reading.” He walked them to his front door and followed them out. He didn’t step off his front porch, he wasn’t going to cross the line where Stiles could feel wards thrumming a big, fat keep-out-vibe. Stiles resisted the urge to poke at the spell to see how it might react.

“Thank you, Dr Deaton.” Lydia was measured in her tone, but she meant it.

“You are very welcome, Lydia, and you too, Stiles.” He watched them walk to their car and carefully put the books he’d given them in the back. Lydia slid into the driver’s side this time and fussed as she readjusted the seat. Stiles was about to get in when he heard Deaton say, “Stiles, you have a book in your possession already that will help you find an easy focus for your Spark. Start with Cantus ad Praesidium et Continentiam. It may seem tedious, but it’s a practical skill you’ll find a use for fairly easily. Renew the wards you have on your house, and only then start researching everything else.” He paused, looking over Stiles’ shoulder as he seemingly decided whether or not he should say one last thing, and then spoke again, “I think you’ll discover you already know the answer to the mystery you are wishing to solve, the thing that’s so unsettled that it caused tonight’s tremor. It’s likely been a part of your everyday life for so long that you’ve simply never stopped to consider it.”

Stiles let that last piece of information slip past him. He nodded and got in and did up his seat belt. Deaton didn’t wave or say anything else. Stiles watched the Druid turn and walk inside before they’d even driven off of his property.

♠♠♠

It was obvious that they all wanted to wait for news, but they didn’t even make it to the end of the trilogy before they crashed. Jackson stood and stretched, and Cora copied him. They’d ended up practically in each other’s laps by the end of The Empire Strikes Back. The two of them had been in touch with each other for almost as long as Derek and Stiles had been texting, and it was good to see the rapport they’d developed over Skype and the such had made a smooth transition to real-life.

Derek poked Kohaku in the side as he stood, startling the softly snoring man into a pile of flailing limbs. Derek had an urge to Alpha-growl to see if Ko would jump to attention or simply flap about some more. He leaned forward and grabbed his phone off the coffee table instead.

Derek sat back before he stood, trying to take another breath full of Stiles’ scent off the sofa. He was fooling himself, of course. Stiles had been there for only a few minutes, and Derek had sat there for so much time since, and there was nothing left for Derek to smell but himself and the vague idea of Pack that was finally settling into everything in the new house. He got to his feet and checked that the front and all the other doors and windows were locked, again, before he followed the others upstairs.

He walked past Cora’s, Jackson’s, and Kohaku’s rooms in turn, clicking each door open and leaving them just undone so that he could clearly hear each of their heartbeats. None of them complained. Whether that was because they liked knowing their Alpha was watching out for them, or just because they were indulging his inclinations, he didn’t know. He didn’t mind either way.

The thing they’d felt tonight, whatever it might have been, had left him rattled.

Derek went into his own room and got ready for bed, stripping down to just shorts and pulling on his favorite old t-shirt. He breathed in slowly, and out, and tried to use one of the Yoga-type techniques Cora had taught him to calm his mind. It wasn’t working. Despite being able to hear three hearts beating strongly, his Alpha instincts weren’t satisfied that his Pack was safe.

He looked at his phone sitting in the charger he had on his bedside table. It shouldn’t be a surprise, and his sister and cousin and blood-unrelated Packmate were each going to groan out loud I told you so when he was forced to admit it to them, but the moment Stiles had stepped inside the Hale house this morning Derek had admitted to himself that he’d been thinking of Stiles as Pack rather than just a friend. Derek had a suspicion that as he got a proper lungful of Lydia he’d feel the same way about her, too. There was obviously more there with Stiles, but Derek had neither the right at a time when things were in such upheaval, nor the cojones, frankly, to deal with that thing that was more.

Derek gave in to the general urge to check up on the pair of them, though, grabbing his phone and the book he’d been reading. He snapped a quick picture, sending it off with an embarrassing but hopefully endearing caption: Heading to bed with Mr Darcy. It was late, but given the night’s supernatural shenanigans—Derek really had no way to deny that Stiles had become infused in his life if he was naturally using phrases like that—going on, he doubted that either the Spark or Banshee were asleep yet.

The response was quick, and settled Derek’s mind and wolf faster than he’d thought possible. The image he’d been sent was of a pile of ancient looking books and two half-drunk cups of black coffee. The caption read: Seriously jealous of Mr Darcy. Derek’s heartbeat fluttered enough that Cora called out to find out if he was okay. Derek mumbled out that he was, and added that Stiles and Lydia were, too. He slipped further under his covers and told himself that Stiles was jealous of the lighter reading material, nothing else.

♠♠♠

The books Deaton had given them, they soon discovered, had absolutely nothing to do with Alphas with changing eye colors, or normal Alphas, or really even werewolves in general. Two of the six volumes were in ancient Latin, one in ancient Greek that thankfully had an in-line English translation, one in something akin to middle English, and the last two, shockingly, in something pretty close to modern English, so that if you got around all the lower-case Ss looking like fs, they were surprisingly easy to understand. All six books were about Magic, with the capital M, thank you, and it’s uses, limits and, well, they didn’t get any further into them than that.

Lydia put her dainty foot down hard at about one in the morning, heading them both off to bed without too much ado. She had, of course, quoted all kinds of sensible reasons that neither she nor Stiles should be attempting an all-nighter. For her it was the well-known fact that a classroom full of teenagers could sense weakness in a teacher, even if it was just tiredness, and for him the fact that not only was his dad about to go on high alert because of the not-human nonsense brewing, but also that Stiles had only just gotten back onto day-shift, and it wouldn’t do to stuff up his body clock even more. He couldn’t argue with her logic, and wouldn’t have even if it had been possible.

Stiles found he couldn’t sleep, though. He eventually reached out with his Spark and tested the wards in the walls and fences of their house. They were strong, far stronger than anything Aldin Allard had ever laid down. He tried not to focus on that, though, as it would just make him mad. Instead, he thought of the key he’d been given, and conjuring images of the four members of the Hale Pack in his mind, added them to the short list of people that could cross into Casa Martin-Stilinski freely.

Stiles went to sleep with thoughts of Derek snuggling down with Jane Austen, and only just resisted sending off another goodnight type text.

Stiles wasn’t late to work, but he’d not been far off it. He’d then had to take the first twenty minutes of the day to pull his dad aside and have the kind of conversation he’d really not wanted to have again for a long time. He kept the details light, but left out nothing important. It had been strangely gratifying to hear his dad huff at the idiocy of Scott getting into a territorial pissing contest with a wolf that could hardly be considered hostile, and then touching when that had been backed up with an offer to speak to Melissa about it all. Scott’s mom had taken even more of a step back from all things wolfy in the last couple of years than Stiles’ dad had. It was half because of her on again off again relationship with Chris Argent, and half because she didn’t like of Alena Allard. However, she still had every right to know what was going on in her son’s life when it could lead to death and destruction, metaphorical or otherwise. Stiles thanked his dad and told him to try not to worry about it all too much.

By the time lunch rolled around, Stiles was in need of something to wake him up, but instead he had the book Deaton had suggested he take a look at to start back in on his Spark with. He had no real desire to spend time reinforcing the wards he and Lydia had on their house when he knew that were not only strong, but still responded to him with ease. Last night he’d tweaked them with less effort than it took to make a cup of coffee. Still, he could see the logic in starting back into something at least vaguely familiar.

He flipped open the book. The pages of Cantus ad Praesidium et Continentiam were in close-to-modern English, regardless of the hoity-toity Latin title. Despite that, it wasn’t exactly light reading, and Stiles considered beginning at the beginning instead of letting himself skim back and forth, but then decided that fuck it, if he was going to actually be his Spark, there were better ways to go about things. Glancing out of the break room door to make sure no one was looking in his direction, he closed the book and put it flat on the table in front of him and laid his arms straight out either side of it. He reached into himself on his inhale, and asked the book and the universe what they thought he should start with as he breathed out over the space in front of him.

The book snapped open.

Stiles took a sip of his burnt-but-oh-so-strong coffee, and started reading. The universe, or the book, or whatever it was that had chosen the page for him, had decided that he should learn about making amulets. It described them as portable versions of the wards detailed in previous chapters. When Stiles glanced up to reach for his coffee mug again, he had a clear and insistent image in his mind of the night before, the four Beta wolves kneeling on the floor, Aldin next to them, clutching the hex-bag-thing that he’d had hanging around his neck. Stiles ignored the coffee. He flicked through a couple more pages and stopped at a drawing of a man which looked uncannily like the McCall Pack’s Emissary had done when he was crouched on the floor of Scott’s apartment the night before. The illustration’s artist had included pen strokes to represent a circle of protection around the man wearing the amulet.

There was a noise in the corridor outside the break room, and Stiles sat back and flipped the book shut. He pushed it away just as Heidi, the no-nonsense daytime-dispatcher, walked in. She nodded at him as she made her way to the fridge to grab her lunch. She didn’t seem to notice the weird, leather-bound book Stiles had laid out on the old, laminate-topped table. Perhaps she would have if he’d been holding it in front of him, though. Perhaps that was why Stiles had noticed Aldin’s amulet last night, but not before that. Then again, maybe Aldin had only just started wearing it? The Emissary might have had to physically feel the walls of the diner to sense the Hale Pack wards in it, but he’d submitted fully to Scott when he’d joined the McCall Pack and he therefore had a similar kind of Pack bond to the ones the wolves did. Surely Aldin would have felt the first, what, magical flicker? falter? in the bond outside the diner. Lydia had. Stiles probably would have if he hadn’t been as angry with Scott. Or, and he hated it when Deaton was right, or if he’d been more in touch with his Spark.

Stiles glanced at the clock over the door and pulled out his phone, swiping it open to send a text to Lydia. Maybe she remembered seeing Aldin with the amulet around his neck before.

♠♠♠

Derek got out of his car and hit the retro-fitted central-locking button on the remote. It wasn’t as if he was going to be out of his Mustang for long, but he liked his new ride. He’d grown attached a lot faster than he’d thought he would. He didn’t want it disappearing from under his nose. He was pretty sure he’d start missing his old pickup truck as soon as he started working again, but they’d decided that buying any more properties for the moment could be considered a little impudent, so he’d not be needing to move around many building supplies for a while. He entertained the idea of searching for a new truck, just in case, but banished the thought quickly. He itched to start working on something, and planned to spend the afternoon doing a bit of driving. He could do a visual, exterior inspection on the properties that they did own, and at least look from afar at properties he might buy to renovate in the future.

The fact that he wasn’t working at the moment meant that Derek was free to run the kinds of errands that he’d otherwise not be subjected to. He held the colorful, little cloth bag he was carrying a bit tighter in his hand and steeled himself for what he was about to experience. Kohaku had made himself and Cora fancy, healthy lunches the night before. It was apparently something he’d been schooled from an early age was the right thing to do. The guy had offered to make all of them lunches when they’d need them, and had already bought them each three-tiered Japanese style bento-boxes and matching chopsticks ready for when he could start. He’d left his own at home that morning in the rush, and unlike the average person who’d just buy lunch for one day, had called home to ask if Jackson or Derek could swing by the hair salon with it. Jackson had announced a suspiciously well timed Skype conference as his excuse not to. Derek had had nothing.

So, now he was standing outside the Beacon Beauty Boutique with several women giving him the eye through the window. He breathed in and pushed the door open, and wondered again how the hell any shifter could work in such a place; the ammonia stink of the dye and bleach was matched by the odor of stale coffee and vaguely sweaty, slightly aroused women. Not that there was anything wrong with vaguely sweaty and or slightly aroused women, but when it was four customers and three staff in that state in an enclosed space, plus the stench of the chemicals, it was too much. Derek had a new level of respect for his Beta’s ability to control his senses.

“Hey, there!” Kohaku was entirely too bubbly given Derek’s nose situation. He also didn’t pause the rinsing or shampooing or whatever it was that he was doing. The woman whose hair he was tending to opened her eyes and gave Derek the once over before closing them again and relaxing back into Kohaku’s touch. The others, including the staff, all looked at Derek in the long mirror they were in front of.

Derek nodded at his Beta and lifted the lunchbox up as proof that he’d done his duty as a good Alpha, and hoped no one expected him to speak. He tried to breath in without subjecting himself to too much of the stink, but failed. He winced and hoped he didn’t look too much like he was dying.

“Well, hon, given that Ko-chan has told us all about his lovely family, I’m going to guess that you’re his best friend’s cousin. Am I right?” She waited for him to nod and said, “Ladies, this is the long-lost, and very mysterious, Hale son returned to us from the wild blue yonder. Ko-chan won’t tell us if he’s eligible or not, though.” She winked at her audience. She was a few years older than Derek, and a few inches shorter. She looked familiar in the way that people who followed the most recent fashions usually did, but there was something else under it that made him stop and consider it more carefully. No, she wasn’t just few years older, more like ten or twelve. She reminded him of one of Peter’s high school friends. They’d been just old enough to be always too cool to talk to Derek or Laura. It had hurt Laura more than Derek. He was fairly sure that the woman in front of him, as a teenager, had taken pains to tell Laura that it was okay that she had hair the color of dirt, because with a decent dye-job even mud could look attractive. Derek couldn’t remember the woman’s name, and he didn’t much care. She looked as if she was the boss of the salon though, and like her or loathe her, this was Kohaku’s place of employment. Derek kept his tongue still.

Derek looked at Ko, then at the woman asking the question, and managed a small smile at his Beta, and forced himself to keep the expression when he finally responded to the statement. The chemicals in the air burnt his throat as he spoke. “Yes, I’m Derek. Kohaku’s best friend’s cousin.” It was a clumsy description, but accurate, and there wasn’t much of anything else he could say to describe why he was dropping off a lunchbox to a guy in the middle of the day at a women’s only beauty parlor. “I’m going to reserve the right to neither confirm or deny if I’m single.” He tried for a suave smile, and given that the level of hormones in the air started to rival that of the bleach, it seemed to have been effective.

Jackson and Cora were going to growl at who the owner was, and then snigger loudly at the description of this interaction when Ko described it to them once he got home from work tonight. The only small mercy in this was that Kohaku and Stiles hadn’t yet met. Derek had a flash of terror when he realized that there were only four or five decent women’s salons in Beacon Hills proper, and this was possibly the most expensive of the lot, and that Kohaku and Lydia were, one way or another, likely to bond over conditioner and shine-treatments at some point in the future. Derek wasn’t sure which combination scared him more, Stiles and Kohaku, or Lydia and Kohaku.

The woman who’d called him the mysterious Hale son, she was looking more and more like she was Kohaku’s boss by the moment, Laura’s old tormentor, seemed to take the short answer for what it was and, mercifully, ended what might have been an interrogation before it had begun. She stepped back over to the side of the room and started running her fingers through one of her customers’ long hair. It took a moment for Derek to realize that the customer in question was rather less relaxed than the others around her. A beauty salon was, for all it was genderist-bullshit, a definite women’s space, male hairdressers aside, and Derek should be the one feeling out of place here. The customer caught his gaze in the mirror and let her own amber eyes flash quickly, then glanced down deferentially. Derek blinked at her, and Kohaku coughed as he had his own customer stand up from the basin.

Even with Alpha senses Derek hadn’t realized there was a McCall Pack wolf in the room. The chemical stink really was that bad. Quarter-Kitsune Kohaku, on the other hand, had a skill that meant he’d have known the moment the woman stepped in front of him. The other wolf, as a Beta, would have been even less likely to pick up on the presence of other shifters than Derek. She may not have ever known if Kohaku didn’t touch her, or only did so in gloves. Well, she wouldn’t have known if loud-mouth Lizbeth, Derek remembered the owner’s name and less-than-pleasant but apparently-still-appropriate childhood moniker now, hadn’t announced his family ties for the entire room to hear. That she’d flashed her eyes at him meant that either she knew Derek was an Alpha, or that she considered the Hale Pack a threat in general and simply wanted it known, in this moment, that she wasn’t a one to them.

Kohaku raised an eyebrow at Derek from the other end of the long mirror as his customer sat and smoothed out her skirt. Kohaku adjusted the towel and cape around her neck.

Derek watched and when Kohaku looked back up at him, aware that the other wolf was observing every little thing, said, “I’ll just leave your lunch here, Ko.” He decided that despite it probably being an overreaction, that he didn’t want Kohaku walking home by himself. He added, “Jackson will be here to pick you up after work.” Kohaku nodded at him and Derek smiled wide at the women, even the wolf, and nodded at them as turned to leave. “Ladies.” He tried not to gag on his tongue. In moments like this he reminded himself far too much of Uncle Peter.

♠♠♠

Chapter Text

♠♠♠

Lydia didn’t use icons or smileys in her texts and she didn’t add images unless it was absolutely necessary. Both of which were a pity, Stiles mused, as a picture of her wagging her finger or a sunglasses-wearing, yellow smiley face would have added an extra level of snark to the statement: Living dangerously by ignoring the thing Deaton suggested and starting with something completely different? That’s my boy.

Stiles read over the text again. It had come a full twenty-five minutes after he’d sent her a pic of the kneeling mage illustration-plate from Cantus ad Praesidium et Continentiam. Lydia was either losing her ability to text without her students noticing, or she’d just taken that long to measure and remeasure what she’d been going to say. In the end, the predictability of her sarcasm was more comforting than Stiles liked to admit to himself.

Stiles snapped a picture of the seriously crappy carry-out coffee he had in his hand and sent it to Lydia with the caption: I live dangerously at all times. I’m even brave enough to tackle gas-station brew. Besides, I gave the wards a boost last night before bed. I added something to them to match the gift I got yesterday, by the way.

Her response was faster this time, but as reassuring in its snark: You gave out magical passes to our house. Joy. You better have a copy of theirs for me tonight, Stilinski.

Stiles smirked and thought for a moment or two. He was pretty sure he could convince Willcocks to stop by a hardware store on the way back to the station. He’d get a copy of the Hale’s key for Lydia and a spare to stash in his locker at the station. He sent Lydia a text containing a coffee-cup icon and a winking skull, and wondered if she’d have a comment about the image from the textbook by the time he saw her next.

Willcocks had suggested that they stop at the hardware store on Fifth just before the end of shift. It was his turn to cook for his wife, so he wanted to pick up Chinese from the place next door for dinner. Stiles had approved of the plan and been more than shocked that Lydia had not actually objected when he’d informed her of the idea.

She’d insisted on steamed rather than fried rice, extra water-chestnuts in everything, and proper dishes and non-disposable chopsticks when they’d sat down to actually consume the food, of course.

Lydia swallowed the slice of water-chestnut she’d stolen out of Stiles’ bowl. “I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon, but I can’t say that I’d seen Aldin wearing the amulet-bag before last night. I don’t think we’ll know if it was new unless we interrogate him.” She put her chopsticks down across her bowl and reached for her glass of Riesling. “I really don’t care enough to ask him, though. We’re both relatively vigilant about such things, and one way or another, and last night was the first time either of us saw it. I think that’s all that matters at this point.” She swallowed a sip of wine, and then asked, “Was there anything else interesting in the warding book?”

Stiles looked at the stack of books in the far corner, far away from their food. They’d not dare bring their noodles or egg rolls anywhere near something Deaton owned.

“I didn’t have much more time to look at it today, but.” He had been considering it on and off all afternoon. “The chapter after that one was about making what I think it was attempting to call ‘Standing Amulets’? It only had the name in Latin and from what I can tell the author’s grasp of that language was screwy at best.” He grabbed the last egg roll and dipped it in soy, letting the sauce drip as he said, “Despite that, it sounded pretty interesting. It seems to be about a spell for making not-so-portable somethings that could place protection around an area, rather than putting charms or wards into a building or land. I thought, well,” Lydia was going to see right through him on this, but he knew she was worried about the Hales too, so hopefully she wouldn’t tease him too hard, “If Deaton wants me to stretch my proverbial Spark-muscles, and we know an unwarded house full of pleasant werewolves, we might possibly send them a nice homemade housewarming gift? Say… a magic rock that radiates Keep the Fuck Out vibes to unwelcome visitors?” He tried to look nonchalant when he bit into his soy-soaked not-appetizer. He seriously doubted he’d pulled it off.

Lydia rolled her eyes and swirled her glass. “And tell me, dear, of those pleasant werewolves, is there one in particular you think you’d like to place protection around?” She smirked, and Stiles was tempted to make a matching remark, her Jackson to his Derek, but thought better of it. That whole thing didn’t end well, and they’d hadn’t stayed in touch beyond holiday cards and group emails. Sometimes Stiles wondered if that was more because Lydia had simply neglected to remove Jackson from her address books than the fact that she wanted to have contact with him. It really was quite hard to tell, and Stiles valued the continuing functioning of his testicles a little too much to risk asking.

There were other ways to get her back. “Keep laughing, Lydia, my sweet. And keep in mind that if that particular werewolf ever feels the need to reciprocate my protections or affections, not that I’m confirming the the second of course, that we might end up watching a four-legged beast lifting his furry leg in a circle around the house.” Her smirk turned into her nose wrinkling, and Stiles felt he’d taken the appropriate level of revenge for her snark by putting that image in her head. “The Standing Amulet thing sounds like a plan, though, right?”

She nodded, then drained the last of her wine before putting the glass down again. “Let’s get this all packed away, and then maybe move into the little office? I don’t doubt your ward reinforcements on the rest of the house, but I’ll feel safer knowing we’re inside a second layer of them if we’re about to stir things up a bit. Never know who’s keeping tabs at the moment.”

The conversation about what to make into the Standing Amulet, or Mobile Magic Rock, as they decided they’d like to refer to it, started, bizarrely, with Lydia asking Stiles what the Hales’ interior decoration was like, and ended with her silently judging him when he responded that it was, “kind of like modern, minimalist Ikea, only more expensive looking.” Actually, it ended with her simultaneously huffing and rolling her eyes while she walked out of the room.

She came back with a sculpture-cum-vase thing that Stiles thought looked pretty much like it could have come from the Hale house. Lydia forgave him his lack of decorating now-how when he praised hers and her ability to not only be fluent in three different forms of Latin, but also Stiles-ese. He tried not to think about the fact that he’d never seen the vase thingy before, or where in the house she might have plucked it from. Sometimes he pondered the idea that one day Lydia’s mother was going to come back to her house after her four-year European tour and wonder where all her beloved belongings had gone.

When it came to actually practicing the spell-making, Stiles cast over, or rather concentrated his on Spark on, a hopefully-soon-to-be-magic actual-stone. Unlike the rough, fist-sized rock depicted in the instructions in the book they were using, theirs was a smooth, black, designer-pebble from a pot-plant on the back porch.

It very nearly exploded.

The second test-rock looked as if it was going to crack open, but stayed together. The third and fourth just vibrated a bit until they each went perfectly still. They also became a little shinier than when they’d not been magic.

The sculpture-cum-vase thing did the same vibrating thing, and being glass it also rang for a few moments, like a bell or the bar on a xylophone. It was shiny to start with and after the magic looked as if it would never have to be dusted again.

“Pretty,” Lydia remarked once it stopped. “That’s such a warm sound.”

“I think even Deaton would be impressed.” Stiles sat back and considered what he’d made. It was all well and good to have the damn thing, but now they had to think about how they could get it to the Hales. “Do you think you can use the office courier at school to send it to them?” He sat forward again, and touched the smoky, gunmetal-colored glass. It felt warm under his skin. He wasn’t sure if that would wear off, or if he could only feel it as he was a Spark.

“Well, avoiding Caterina at the post office goes without saying. She’d text Robert before we’d even made it out the door. But the girls in the office at school won’t bat an eyelid if I pop it in with the other deliveries.” She stood and turned towards the door, adding as she went, “We should use an old looking box so they don’t bother looking. I’m sure we’ll have one in the garage. We’ll wrap the vase in a t-shirt or two of yours and mine so that we don’t have to sign our names to the shipment, and the Hales know it’s not a bomb or something equally as dramatic.”

Stiles smiled as he followed her down the hall. “We could just text them a picture of the box and warn them it’s coming, you know,” he said. He could have made a remark about the wolves liking the Stiles and Lydia t-shirts for other reasons, but he didn’t. He couldn’t figure out how to say it without sounding pathetically like he wanted to send a scent-object to them, or rather to Derek. He did, desperately, but that was so far beside the point even he wasn’t going to let himself think about it a moment longer.

Lydia ignored his statement, pointedly. “You’re keeping one of the little Mobile Magic Rocks on you at all times, even if you are its source. I’ll take one, too, and we’ll give another to your dad. It obviously didn’t take too much out of you to make them, so if we can think of another place that might benefit from one, we’ve got plenty more to manufacture them from if necessary.” She turned her head as she turned the handle on the garage door. “And fine. We’ll send a boring text about the box. But we’re doing the t-shirt thing, too. I know you want to.”

♠♠♠

Derek turned the burners down to set the chili to simmer just before the front door opened. He grabbed a beer, and waited the few seconds until Jackson and Kohaku joined him to see if he should get one for each of them, too. Jackson said yes, Ko joined Cora with sparkling water instead.

He flicked the bottle lids into the trash can in the corner, and they all sat at the table for a moment or two without a word. Derek liked these daily meetings that just seemed to keep happening, even if they weren’t for the greatest reasons. He thought that later he might ask if Cora remembered doing something similar at home when they were kids. Maybe she’d been too young.

Kohaku eventually said, “So, I’m sorry about the thing at the salon this morning, Derek. I had no idea who she was before she came in, and by the time I actually saw her, she was in the chair. I was in the middle of putting color on another customer’s hair and couldn’t figure a way of getting my phone back out of my pocket to text you not to come.”

“I honestly have no idea how you survive inside that place all day, Ko.” Derek wrinkled his nose as he asked, “How the hell do you breathe in there?”

Jackson grinned like a fool. “I bet you thought I was skiving off taking his lunch to him ‘cause I didn’t want to run an errand, right? Now you know better. I have no intention of stepping inside one of those places ever again. There’s a reason I stopped getting highlights and shit in my hair. A barber might not do fancy, but they usually don’t do such appalling stink, either.”

Cora laughed at them both, and looked at Kohaku instead. “While these two are commiserating with each other over their nose issues, can you explain to me what actually happened this morning?” She punched Derek’s arm as she continued, all the time looking at Ko, “Our exalted Alpha here mumbled something about teenage bullies and town gossip when I asked him before, but wouldn’t elaborate.”

Derek punched her back and she turned and poked her tongue out at him. He growled like a human faking it. “You should respect your Alpha, and take whatever explanation I deem you worthy of.” He nodded and smiled, and she smirked at him sideways then blew him a kiss before turning back to Kohaku.

Kohaku looked at Derek and asked, head tilted to one side, “Teenage bullies? I thought we were talking about the McCall wolf was in the salon today?”

“Yes and no,” Derek said. “There were two people there we need to mention. One is the McCall Beta who was getting a trim, and the other is your boss, I think? The woman that was giving the Beta the trim. She was known as Loud-mouth Lizbeth when she was younger,” Derek said.

“Sounds like someone you knew well,” Jackson said with a smirk.

“Again, yes and no.” Derek crossed his legs under the table, this was stupid, but it was even more stupid to not get it out in the open. “We all know that your biological father was an asshole, Jackson. But, his friends when he was a teenager were even worse. Lizbeth used to take delight in teasing Laura, who wanted desperately to be liked by the older, cooler girls that Peter hung out with. Lizbeth would push Laura until she was near to tears. Having her talk to me today was unpleasant. She was a little too friendly in her tone, and all I could think was that she looked so much older, and that Laura ended up so much more attractive than her, but that Lizbeth would never know it.” Derek breathed in and the others waited. “She really isn’t important, but I wanted to tell you all anyway. And I’ll play nice if I see her around, Ko, I promise. I probably would have suggested you not work for her if I’d realized who she was, but is okay now that you are.”

Cora squeezed his hand and Jackson nodded. There wasn’t much else they could do.

Kohaku pursed his lips together and then said, “I’ll make sure I take all her best clients with me when I open my own place.” Then he grinned, and Derek knew that although Ko sounded like he was joking, he meant every word.

Cora said, “I was going to brave the noxious fumes of your salon, but I think I’ll have you do my hair at home instead, Ko. I have no memory of what you’re talking about, Derek, and I know it’s long past and probably something that she grew out of, but I don’t know that I wouldn’t growl at the woman if I met her.” Cora sounded as resolute as Kohaku had in his previous declaration.

Jackson was looking at Derek as he said, “She sounds like a bitch. I might have been a shithead when I was in school, but even I had a line. I never picked on little kids.” He turned and looked at Kohaku then and said, “We should sit down and trim your five-year business plan down by a year or two.” The guy wasn’t much for shows of affection, but that pronouncement spoke volumes.

“And what about the McCall Beta?” Cora asked before she took a long swallow of water to finish off the bottle she was holding.

Derek took a small sip of beer to lubricate his throat. “It’s hard to say. Did you see her flash her eyes at me, Ko?” Kohaku shook his head.

“She flashed her eyes in public?” Jackson feigned sounding slightly scandalized.

Derek swallowed his mouthful of beer so he didn’t laugh though it. “No one else in the place noticed. I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t looking straight at her. Her control was good, too.”

“She’s a born wolf,” Kohaku said. “Her name’s Caterina Diangelo. She and her husband have been in town a year or two, from what I could gather. She tried not to say much while she was in today, which apparently isn’t like her. She assured Liz she was just feeling a little under the weather as her family has had some unexpected visitors that were outstaying their welcome.”

“Subtle as a brick through a window,” Cora said, “but it probably put the questioning off, huh?”

“It did,” Kohaku answered as he stood up to get another round of drinks for them.

“If she flashed her eyes at you Derek, does that mean the McCalls know you’re the Alpha? I thought we decided Deaton wouldn’t gab to Scott.” Jackson sounded unimpressed.

“After meeting the Druid, I’d say it wouldn’t surprise me if he did whatever seemed best for his own agenda at the time.” Kohaku pulled an elastic off his wrist and tucked his hair back into a loose bun-thing. “But, she flashed them at me, too, a while after you left,” he gestured at Derek with his head, “so I think it was more an acknowledgement that she knew we were wolves. Maybe they’ve been told to be polite, at least until the deadline McCall gave us?”

“It’s possible,” admitted Derek. He hadn’t figured it could be much else. “I don’t know what else it could be. I doubt that any of the wolves in their Pack would be as eager as Stiles and Lydia to go against orders.” Although, he wondered, “Do you think you could see if a wolf’s Pack bond is weak or fraying? Her eye flashing could also be seen as a declaration of interest, of sorts. Especially as she’s born, not Bitten.”

Kohaku shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. Not unless I could see both ends of the bond, at least? I’ve never actually thought to try. And, I wouldn’t be able to see it with the bonds inside our Pack, either way. It’d be like trying to look at the back of my own head without a mirror.”

Derek sighed and pushed back from the table as he stood up. “Then we’ll just have to wait and see, I suppose. Do we want rice or potatoes with our chili?”

Jackson looked hopeful.

“Yes, I made pork and chicken batches, Jax.”

The mid-morning delivery was unexpected, and had Derek and Jackson on their feet and at the door within seconds of each other. Jackson cracked open a curtain to make sure that their McCall surveillance team was still in their car, and Derek waited until he’d given a nod to answer the bell.

The red-shirted courier guy looked bored and stank of weed and the fact that he hadn’t showered for too long. The package he was holding, despite being covered in fragile-stickers, seemed to have been through hell before it got to them.

“Hale?” the guy asked, not really bothering to look up from the electronic clipboard he was holding in the hand not balancing the package.

“Derek Hale, yes.”

The guy looked up and didn’t blink. “This is a signature required package, so if you’ll just sign on that,” he waved the screen at Derek, plastic pen sticking out from one side. Derek had the distinct feeling that if he waited long enough, the guy would start chewing gum and maybe even blow a bubble.

Derek took the gadget and wrote without most of his signature registering on the screen. The guy swapped it for the package then turned and left without another word. Derek took a deep breath and instantly cared one hundred percent less about the level of service he’d just received. He shut the door and turned to face Jackson.

“He was charming.”

“He was high,” Derek countered. “He smelled like he’d rolled in so much pot he’d forgotten what bathing was, so I couldn’t smell this.”

Jackson inhaled. “Oh.”

“You think we should open it now?” Derek asked. It was addressed to the Hale Family, so technically they should wait, but.

“I don’t see why not. I’m having a shit day trading, so I could so with some cheering up. The last gift they sent us was cool, so…”

“Fine. I’ll put a coffee on and we’ll open it.”

Cora and Ko came home after work to find him and Jackson sitting on the couches, staring at the expensive-looking, dark-grey glass-thing they’d put in the middle of the coffee table. They’d unwrapped it carefully, separated the Stiles-shirts from the Lydia-shirts automatically, and then had coffee. Derek had received a messaged picture of the box half an hour later that said: Please give it a good home. It, like its creator, likes to be the center of attention.

He and Jackson hadn’t moved too far from it since. It was still, and yet they were mesmerized.

“Whoa,” said Ko as he followed Cora into the house. “When and more importantly, how did we get wards? They’re fucking awesome. I haven’t seen anything this intricate in ages. They're woven together around the place like a big wicker shield, or some seriously fancy, armoured lace.”

So, the gift was some kind of protection object? Stiles had used his long dormant magic for them. Derek tried not to whine at the thought. He said, “That’s what it is?” without taking his eyes off the table.

“I’m confused.” Cora sat next to him, and tried and failed to suppress her grin as Derek made sure to grab the Stiles-shirts before she could sit on them.

“Oh,” Ko crooned as he knelt on the floor between the table and the sofa. “It’s gorgeous. It’s quivering with power. This is the work of an impressive magic-caster. I’d say a deep Spark, even if I wasn’t aware that this was probably Stiles’ handiwork.”

Cora stared at Ko a moment, then back at the object. “I’m still confused.”

“I think you have the right to be,” Jackson drawled. “Facts: We got a delivery today, obviously. We couldn’t tell at first ‘cause the delivery guy was a stinky stoner, but once the door was closed it became pretty obvious who it was from. Then we got a message saying something about it,” he waved at the glass thing, “liking being the center of attention.”

“Well, the table is at about the center of the house. It’s a good spot to have it cover the whole place evenly.” Ko reached out and touched it, it didn’t seem to react. “I’ll have to do a turn around the place to see if it covers all the fences too, but either way, it’s damn pretty.”

“And a damn fine housewarming gift. I’m less confused now. I’ll color myself impressed, not only is it making Ko googly-eyed, it matches the decor.” Cora leaned sideways a little to look at it from another angle. “Is it a vase, or a statue?”

♠♠♠

Stiles rolled over in bed and grabbed his phone off the side table, making sure not to pull it too hard and stuff up the cable. He knew who he wanted the incoming text to be from, but he also knew he shouldn’t indulge his imagination too much, and he shouldn’t be greedy. They’d each received four photos of the Mobile-Magic-Rock-Glass-Thing late in the afternoon, one from each Hale Pack members’ phones. He had to hand it to Lydia, you’d think the damn thing had been bought with the rest of the furniture; even the most curious of sneaks wouldn’t think that it was something added or out of place. Not that the supernaturally sneaky could come sniffing around anymore.

He detached his phone from its charging cable and rolled back onto his back before he swiped to unlock the screen. He had half a thought about whether an entirely modern item like a phone could be warded from prying eyes without frying it, but let it float away as a bit too Harry Potter an idea, even for him.

Stiles woke the phone with a finger drag, tapped to open the message icon, and allowed himself exactly thirteen seconds to do an internal happy dance at the fact that it was, indeed, from Derek—that made one second for each year of the age he was acting over getting a text from a boy.

He opened the text and smiled. The image was of Derek’s bed and night-time reading material again. It was another Penguin Classics edition, this time a copy of Persuasion. The photograph’s caption read: I’ve always found Captain Wentworth to be more relatable than Mr Darcy.

Stiles hadn’t actually read anything by Jane Austen, but had at least heard of Mr Darcy due to movies and annoying numbers of memes on Tumblr and Facebook. He highlighted Captain Wentworth, and let Google search for him. He read the Wikipedia entry with a slight lump in his throat. From what Stiles could gather, Frederick Wentworth was a proud and stubborn fool who made a heartfelt declaration when he finally realized what he’d being forcing himself to miss out on.

Stiles flicked back to the picture and text, wondering if Derek had favored the character before the fire, too. He sighed and shifted on to his side. Derek’s bed was made up with a dark blue and green comforter and pillows. The pattern was modern and masculine in its simplicity. The cover of the book, with its stark black title frame and somber looking painting seemed to match that general feeling. Only the little orange brand-penguin seemed out of place. That and the orange thing sticking out from underneath Derek’s pillow.

The faded-orange thing that had a tiny hint of washed-out-blue at its corner.

Stiles had included the shirt in the box on a whim, shocked to find that he’d actually kept it all these years. It was more than threadbare, but impressively hadn’t actually yet developed any holes. It was too small now for him, too, but it had moved from place to place with him since high school. Stiles was torn between hoping that Derek had no memory of the shirt-changing incident, and hoping that he did. It hadn’t exactly been a stellar day in his past or Derek’s, but it was a moment of something he’d never been able to define.

Contemplation of the dilemma was quickly lost to the reality that Derek, born werewolf with a nose that was probably just starting to consider that the Hale house smelled like home and Pack, had put a Stiles-scented t-shirt under his pillow. It must have been a deliberate addition to the bed, but it didn’t look like a deliberate inclusion in the photograph.

Stiles wondered if Derek had noticed.

He wondered if Derek had realized and freaked over it and tried, hopelessly, to stop the picture from sending.

And now: to react, or not to react, that was the question. Stiles tapped on the reply button at the corner of the text-box and hovered his fingers over the keyboard.

♠♠♠

Derek finally put his phone down on his bed, walked out the door of his room, down the stairs, and into the kitchen. He picked-up Cora’s giant Tupperware tea container and breathed in just before he opened it. He ran his eyes over the little cardboard boxes and settled on lemon and ginger, which was, according to the carton, warm and comforting whilst simultaneously invigorating. He grabbed one of the packets, flicked it onto the counter next to him, worked the seal on the plastic box closed, and finally breathed in again. He was all for warm and comforting at the moment. He put a mug of water in the microwave and hit the button to heat it.

He really, really needed to learn to check what he was sending before he sent it. He’d stuffed all the Stiles-shirts into an empty drawer in his closet, and hoped that no one would notice that they’d disappeared. Well, he hoped no one would mention that they’d noticed, anyway.

He’d been closing the drawer when he’d realized that the blue and orange monstrosity in the pile was possibly something he’d seen before. He wondered if it was the same shirt, and if so, if Stiles had thought about that day when he put it in the box with the other ones. He wondered if Stiles thought anything about the shirt other than that it was old and a good thing to wrap around something to stop it from breaking. He knew, in reality, that Lydia and Stiles had been perfectly aware of what they were doing by sending old, soft items of clothing into a house full of werewolves.

Derek hadn’t realized he picked up the eyesore of a shirt until he’d found himself slipping it under his pillow. The movement had mixed his own scent with the faint, but definite, one of Stiles, and he’d had to work hard not to moan at the combination. He shouldn’t be so damn gone on the scent from something that reminded him of a horrible time in their relationship. Stiles had been such a manipulative little shit, and Derek, well. He shook his head at the memory of himself as he took the hot water out of the microwave. Derek had been an emotional disaster with a very, very short fuse. He’d agonized for hours after the steering-wheel-head-smash. He was just lucky that Stiles had turned out to have such a hard forehead.

Derek dunked the tea bag and inhaled. The lemon and ginger tickled his nose. The lemon wasn’t quite natural, but it wasn’t unpleasant. He watched as the water got slightly darker, but not much, and finally gave up after two or three minutes. He leaned back against the kitchen counter and sipped. It didn’t taste terrible.

He almost crushed the mug when he heard his phone ding and buzz with a message upstairs. He held onto the drink carefully and made himself walk normally. He forced himself to take each step on the stairs one at a time. He closed the door behind him and sat on his bed, put the mug down on his side table and picked up his phone.

He breathed in and opened it and the message from Stiles: Had to Google Captain Wentworth. I reckon a few years and a few stubborn choices is nothing if what we get at the end is worth it.

Derek held the phone tight and read over the text again. He hoped no one heard him yelp in shock when it buzzed again a few seconds later: I’m seriously impressed by your fancy-pants literary habit, by the way. You’ll have to read your favorites to me. I always loved bedtime stories.

Derek was in Peet’s finishing off the White Chocolate Mocha that he never ordered when he was with people he knew. He’d just taken his first sip when he heard Scott speaking. He hadn’t smelled more than a hint of wolf when he’d walked into the cafe, and it took him a second to realize the voice was coming through the speaker of a phone. He let himself look up, slowly, and saw the McCall Pack Emissary standing in line to order.

“Tell me again, from the beginning,” he heard Scott ask down the phone line.

The Witch said, “Just a sec,” then nodded and handed over a pre-paid card to the barista when she asked if he wanted his usual. He gestured towards a table and the barista agreed as she punched his card. The Witch then sat down at a table only a step or two away, dumped his shoulder bag on the floor next to him, and started talking again.

“Sorry, Scott. Okay,” he breathed in and out and started back into what sounded like an action report, “they never leave the house empty, yeah? But there was only one of them at home again this morning, so it seemed like a good time to check.” Derek hadn’t gotten any texts from Jackson, so apparently the checking hadn’t been intrusive. “I felt it as soon as I got out of the car, and I couldn’t get within two or three steps of the front gate without feeling sick to my stomach. I had Jett and Lorna try too, and they felt the same thing. We know they haven’t owned the place for long, and it’s not as if we’ve seen them with anyone new, but I suppose they could have snuck someone in the back way to put something up?”

So, the Witch had experienced the wards on the house. Derek pushed the last of his coffee aside. Kohaku had said the magic in the glass vase thing was strong, but Derek hadn’t considered what it would do to potential intruders.

Scott growled. “If some Witch or Druid snuck in the back way of their house I’ll have someone’s hides. They’re supposed to be alert while they’re on watch, not sitting the car texting their girlfriends.” He sounded personally offended by the idea. Derek grinned into his cup and wished he could record what he was hearing so he could play it for Stiles at some point; Scott McCall demanding kids not be distracted by romance was possibly the most hypocritical thing Derek had heard for months, if not ever.

Scott said, “What could you tell about the magic other than the fact that it was strong?”

The Witch shrugged in his seat, and looked over at the counter, apparently impatient for his order. “It’s more than just strong. It’s obviously not like the wards on their other properties, we’d have picked up something that made us all sick like that years ago. But there’s also something different about the underlying magic. It’s not only far newer, but it’s also a very different flavor of magic. I don’t think I’ve come across the caster before, but it isn’t completely unfamiliar.”

“And that means what?” Scott’s tinny voice asked.

The server appeared and the Witch took the cup he was offered with a look of true gratitude. He took a mouthful, swallowed, and then said, “It’s hard to say. It feels like I should recognize it. I think we should maybe get Lydia or Sti—”

“No!” Derek heard the growl again in the other Alpha’s voice, but sharper and stronger this time. “You know my decision on that.”

“Yes, Alpha,” the Witch said quietly, his head tilting slightly as he did. Allard was not only from a family of wolves, but had apparently fully bound himself to the McCall Pack if he did that without thinking during a phone call. “Perhaps we could ask Deaton, instead? We could approach him out of simple courtesy. It’s in his best interest to know if there is another magic-wielder in the area, too. And it never hurts to have an ally that owes us a favor. He might be able to help me figure out who, if not at least what kind of caster, built the wards. That might help us figure out how the Hales managed to sneak the person in, too.”

Scott didn’t answer immediately, but that didn’t seem to be strange to the Witch. He leaned back in his seat and drank some more.

“I don’t like the idea of someone outside the pack knowing too much about this, but I suppose Deaton will have to find out about them being here sooner or later.” Scott underestimated too easily. “You can talk to him today, if you’d like. I have lunch from half one, so that would be a good time to see him. Don’t push if he doesn’t want to give much, though. I don’t want to end up with a load of crappy extra jobs at the clinic just because he didn’t want to get involved and you couldn’t take no for an answer.”

Derek couldn’t help it, he laughed. Luckily it wasn’t loud enough to attract the Witch’s attention. He was going to be amused for hours by the idea of Scott cleaning up cat vomit, or worse, because one of his Beta’s had pissed off Deaton. Now he had two things to send to Stiles to make him smile. Hopefully it would make up for the other news he’d be sharing.

♠♠♠

Chapter Text

♠♠♠

Stiles stretched and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He’d felt a couple of texts buzz over the afternoon, but no one had tried to call him, so he’d figured there’d not been any emergencies.

He grabbed a can of diet soda from the machine and headed outside the station to the area that used to belong to the smokers. A few months ago, the Mayor had gotten extra health-conscious, or rather more litigation-conscious, and decreed that smokers needed to be more than fifteen feet from county building entrances to light-up. The little table and chairs the nicotine addicts had been made to abandon was under a nice-looking tree. It was a score for the non-smokers in the department.

Stiles sat, opened his drink, and was about to swipe open his phone to check for messages when it rang.

He answered it with a smile.

“Lydia, my lost love, what can I do for you this fine afternoon?” he asked, hoping his father hadn’t heard. He glanced warily over his shoulder at the Sheriff’s office.

“Your dad is going to start hinting again if you’re not careful, Stiles,” she tutted. “Have you had a chance to look at your messages at all today?”

“Nope. I was just going to. We were on traffic for most of this morning.” Sheriff Stilinski was known to do spot checks on the guys on speed-patrol to make sure they were actually patrolling, not napping or reading or playing candy-crush. “Then we had paper work to catch up on. Did I miss anything extra-ordinary?” He dragged the word into two halves for the hell of it. He was feeling lighter today than he had for a while. He thought, again, of the not-declaration Derek had made last night, and the fact that he’d not-declared back. He was strangely unconcerned by the fact that Derek hadn’t replied. He would when he was ready.

“You could say that,” Lydia answered. Stiles heard her push her chair back and there were a few moments before she said anything again. She’d likely gone to the window of her classroom. “Have you noticed that we haven’t gotten any orders from on high since our little earthquake?”

Stiles had, but hadn’t really thought anything of it. “I just figured there were only so many repetitive updates even Scott and company could send. Why?” He’d actually been enjoying the lack of them.

“One of our old friends was out and about today, in a coffee shop. He overheard an enchanting conversation between a follower and his leader. Apparently, they’ve discovered some new walls, and can’t figure out who might have built them.” If anyone in the pack was listening to this conversation it would likely be easy for them to understand what Lydia was saying, but she and Stiles been playing the silly no-names-ever game for some subjects for so long that it just came naturally now. “The leader was quite adamant that certain persons that we know intimately not be informed about the walls.”

“That’s, well,” Stiles took a sip of his drink and swished it about in his mouth a bit, “that’s a new development.”

Stiles stared down at the rough, splitting edge of the wooden table. It really was a nice spot the smokers had had to relinquish. The tree was big, and he knew that in spring it was covered in sweet-smelling, white blossoms. There was a surprisingly lush lawn right up the base of it’s trunk, too. There was a good view across the little memorial garden in the park next door. The trash-can was usually overflowing, though, as it wasn’t on any of the regular collection routes and no one really wanted to take responsibility. Only one of the chairs didn’t wobble. The concrete where the four of them and the table sat was cracked and broken away at the corners.

Some things looked better than they were if you didn’t stop to take notice of the details.

“Stiles?” Lydia’s tone was soft, but sure.

“I suppose it’s not something we should be particularly surprised by.” He looked back over his shoulder again. He didn’t need his father to see him upset. There was no sign yet of the Sheriff in his office at this point, though. “At least we’ll have to go to less meetings. And there’ll be fewer unwanted texts at all hours, right?” His heart rate was climbing, and he could feel something starting to buzz or burn or flicker just below his ribcage. He gulped on air. “Do you think we could get away with changing his ringtone back to something normal? I supp—”

“Stiles, hush.” Lydia had that lilt in her voice now, the one that reminded him that she was not quite human. The otherworldliness of it forced him to stop, and that was a good thing. She said, “Breathe with me, okay?”

He did. It took her a good five minutes to pull him out of the panic-spiral. It hadn’t truly started, or even her voice wouldn’t have stopped him over the phone. Either way, though, he was okay. He was fine. He was breathing by himself and he only had a couple more hours before he could go home and crawl onto the couch and feel properly calm.

He had a real and savage urge to get up and leave and go find Derek, damn the consequences. Then, when he looked over his shoulder again, and finally saw his father walking back into his office, he actually considered what some of those consequences might be. He thought better of it.

He stood up slowly, carefully, and grabbed his trash from the table to take it back inside with him. “Did you thank our friend for the information?” he asked. He really wanted to read the text, but if he opened it now, he’d probably start spiraling again. He might start worrying that it was the next thing he’d gotten from Derek, rather than something about their exchange last night. There were three other people in the Hale Pack, though, maybe one of them had been in the cafe, not Derek.

“I did. It was good to have confirmation of the efficacy of the newly built walls, and also to hear about the change in information dissemination.”

“That’s a lot of shons, Lydia,” he chuckled. His breathing was easier again. “Speaking of such, what’s the situa-shon on the reading front? Are you doing dinner tonight, or should I pick something up on the way home again?” If he was lucky, he could talk her into pizza. Who was he trying to kid? That wasn’t going to happen unless someone was bleeding to death. Next best thing, then? “I’m fairly sure that either way I’m going to require at least a pint of Chubby Hubby all to myself to make it through the book that’s half in Greek. Oh, or maybe even some Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz.”

“I’m not lifting the ban on that ice cream flavor yet, Stilinski. If we don’t have at least a vague idea of what Deaton was trying to tell us with the books after we’ve looked at them all, then,” she was using her teacher voice as she walked across the floor, clicking loudly in her heels, “and only then, can you have a tub of it.” She sat down with a motion that made her chair squeak a little. “I might even ask you to pick up a pint of Chocolate Therapy at that point.”

“We’re all going to be okay, aren’t we Lyds?” Stiles stopped walking as he asked. He didn’t want to take the first step inside the station while this was still eating into his brain.

“I don’t feel the urge to scream, Stiles, I promise. If anything unpleasant is going to happen, it will at least be non-fatal.”

He snorted. “That was supposed to make me feel better, right?”

Stiles put down the book he was reading and stood and stretched, letting himself enjoy the cracks he felt along his backbone as it happened.

“Not keeping your attention?” Lydia asked. She had a whole three lines of notes taken on the book that she was reading, too. Deaton had certainly given them information, but he seemed to have decided they should have it in the least compelling manner possible. Stiles was tempted to give it up and cue up something on Netflix.

He groaned. “Diaries aren’t ever exactly riveting, but this one is even worse than usual. The introduction said this guy was a renowned deep Spark, but he seemed to be mostly concerned with his goats and his neighbor’s olives. I can’t imagine how old this thing is.” He lifted the edge of the book to look at the cover again. Deaton had said the binding was three-hundred-years old, but that didn’t mean it was written then. The language suggested it was at least a thousand years older than that, if not more. “It’s the book that made me sneeze, though, so I can’t just give up. Even I’m not stupid enough to try to skim over something that was giving me supernatural pick-me! pick-me! messages.”

Lydia grinned. “I’m reading a chapter about Banshees and magic-casters helping each other. It seems to have been written by a Hunter rather than someone involved in the helping, though. It’s full of ominous warnings about keeping certain kinds of creatures away from others. Apparently particular combinations can boost power levels in thoroughly dangerous ways. There’s even a mention of spontaneous creature creation.” She’d be wiggling her eyebrows if that was something Lydia ever did.

“Sounds like fun,” Stiles said. “Do you want another coffee? We have decaf, right?”

“I won’t have one, and you shouldn’t either, decaf or not. Have some water, walk around a bit.” Lydia looked down her nose at him, and he hoped that it wasn’t going to be too far into the future that she needed glasses, because, damn, she would do the hot-librarian thing well for some guy or girl.

Stiles wondered if Derek had glasses. They’d match that soft sweater he was wearing at the diner in all the right ways. He blinked and forced himself to stop that train of thought right there.

“Fine,” Stiles said, “I’ll walk around a bit.” He stretched again, but it was far less satisfying without the popping of his joints. He went to the window and looked out across the backyard. It was just past the new Moon so there wasn’t much light, but he could see the trees moving in the night-breeze. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and opened the text that Derek had sent them from the coffee shop. Lydia had replied earlier in the day but he hadn’t yet, and he probably should.

It was weird to see a text from MW that was full of only words, despite the fact that Stiles had sent a couple to him the night before.

He went back to the table, snapped a picture of his empty cup, and tapped out a simple: We’re still trying to figure out the magical tremor whatsit and I’ve been cut off from the coffee pot. Woe is me, and hit send without letting himself think about it too much.

Derek’s answer was speedy: The magical tremor whatsit has no chance against you two. I’d bring you coffee, but I’m pretty sure L wouldn’t let me give it to you, sorry. And I remember you and hot chocolate, you’d be asleep in minutes.

Stiles felt warm inside, like he’d already had the drink Derek wanted to bring him. This felt different, so different to the way they’d communicated all this time.

The phone buzzed in his hand again, and Stiles read the next text. It was a question and an email address: Do you use Google Hangouts?

Stiles didn’t. He added the app to his phone as quickly as he could, all the time trying not to wonder how long Derek had owned the gmail account lupusacidus.

He sent a new conversation request and soon saw three little dots pulsating at him:

So, are you going to make fun of my email address? I’m a big wolf, I can take it.

That warm feeling was starting to move out from Stiles’ gut and into his throat and arms and other places—Derek shouldn’t be allowed to used phrases like ‘big wolf’—as he tapped out his reply:

I wouldn’t do that to you, big guy. Well, not unless I could do it in person, at least.

The three dots were there for much longer this time.

I’m sorry I had to be the bearer of bad news re the whole you two being cut out of the loop, by the way. I think I can make you smile though. You’ll never guess what else I learned from overhearing that conversation.

There was another break, and then Stiles read, sentence by sentence as Derek sent it, about the fact that Scott wanted to make sure Aldin didn’t annoy Deaton because he didn’t want to get shit jobs at the vet clinic. Stiles started giggling as he read that the suggestion had made Derek picture Scott all Alpha’d out with a peg on his nose cleaning out cat cages. Stiles let out a proper, loud, snort and guffaw as Derek went on to tell him about Scott being pissed at the idea of someone ditching their responsibilities for romance. Stiles could picture Derek’s eyebrows responding to the irony automatically.

Lydia looked across the room at him over her imaginary librarian glasses again. “You are going to have to tell me now, you know.”

Stiles realized he couldn’t actually form words, he was laughing too hard. He walked around to Lydia's side of the table and showed her the last couple of messages instead.

“What a hypocritical ass,” she breathed out.

Stiles focused on breathing more slowly, trying to finally control his laughter.

“Though I do appreciate the visual of Scott elbow deep in cat shit.” She smiled.

Stiles snorted again and waved at her desperately. “Stop. God.” He blinked a few times and realized he’d been laughing so hard he was close to crying. “Shit, Lyds. What are we going to do? This whole situation is not only bizarre, but it’s starting to feel positively stagnant. There are so many ways I’d rather be spending my night that eyes-deep in a text written by ancient goat-herding Spark.” He pushed the air out of his lungs and sat in front of the books again.

“I’m sure there are.” She looked at his phone and back up at him and this time her smile was softer. “Something will happen, Stiles, and even if we don’t know what we’re learning from these books, I am beginning to believe what Deaton said about us knowing the answer to our problem already.”

“And we’ll magically be able to use whatever that knowledge is to make everything okay.” Stiles tried not to sound too cynical. “I feel like we’re just waiting for someone to push us off a cliff.”

“I understand that, but I also think that we’d figure out how to fly before we hit the ground.”

She looked so sure, so certain, that all Stiles couldn't disagree.

He took his phone back from where she’d laid it on the table and tapped out:

Laughed so hard I almost cried.

Then added:

Thank you. The rest of my night isn’t going to be as fun.

He took a photo of the ancient Spark’s diary and watched as it uploaded. The response was swift:

I’m glad it’s you doing the research. Magic’s all Greek to me.

Stiles snorted again, but shook his head at Lydia when she raised a questioning eyebrow. He looked at the screen and licked his lip and used his thumb to peck out an answer.

I’m glad it’s you making me laugh, big guy.

♠♠♠

Derek stopped on the sunnier side of the old industrial-park and put the lid down on the Mustang. The soft-top’s mechanism was surprisingly quiet, and he enjoyed the whir it made as it pulled down the material cover. He opened the door and swung his legs out, then leaned back and picked-up the bottle of water he’d grabbed on his way out of the house that morning. This really wasn’t the kind of place that inspired a lunchtime picnic, but he found himself wishing he’d packed something to eat, too.

He walked down the street, past the building where he’d had his loft, not letting his gaze linger on it too long. His mother and father had bought that factory, and the one next to it. His grandparents had picked up what amounted to four or five town blocks in this area a couple of decades before that, when Beacon Hills had gone through its first major economic downturn since the Second World War. Markets had changed and manufacturing had died. The county had survived as a whole, but great chunks of it, factories and office blocks and banks—he hated knowing that his Pack members had been held all that time in a building that his family owned—had all been abandoned and mostly condemned.

Derek had vague recollections of the adults discussing their plans for the area, but even Laura hadn’t really started taking notice of it all back then. The vault under the school wasn’t the only place that held his family’s secrets however, and over the past few years he’d managed to piece together what his Mom and Dad had been thinking of doing, and more of the wealth that they’d been going to do it with.

The industrial park he was standing in had been way past the outskirts of town when it had closed down, but now the city and houses were starting to get closer and closer, killing its isolation. The Pack had known it would happen as they’d been in one place for generation after generation and had seen it happen before. They knew what was coming and had decided they’d wait a few years and then start building. Now that that the Hale Pack was here again, now that Derek had the time and knowledge, he could pick up where his parents and their parents and theirs had left off.

One of the few definite plans Derek had been able to find was they were going to start with a few high-end properties; they’d convert factories into fancy apartment blocks that would fetch good prices for little effort, then use the money from their sale to move onto more affordable options. The Hale Pack had always considered the whole town, not just its supernatural inhabitants, to be part of their responsibility, and providing a way to make sure there wasn’t really a wrong side of the tracks in their territory was a good place to start. It was something Derek was looking forward to.

He wasn’t, however, looking forward to ribbing that he was going to get from Stiles, or Jackson for that matter, when they realized that Derek had owned the apparently abandoned subway car factory where he’d been ‘squatting’, or the building with the loft in it, or well, half of the town. Jackson knew about the second half of it, of course, but he’d enjoy getting in on teasing Derek, just like two Pack members who’d grown up together usually—

Damn. Derek stopped walking and made himself take a few deep breaths. He had to stop thinking of Stiles, and Lydia, and the Sheriff by extension, as Pack. His gut told him they would be, sooner rather than later, but Derek was very aware that it might simply be wishful thinking on his part. His texts with SH, and now his messages with Stiles, seemed to suggest that he had good reason to be hopeful. But, until Scott had given up his idiotic posturing there was little that could happen one way or the other without causing a full-on Pack war.

He took another deep breath, ready to keep walking, but froze instead.

He rolled his shoulders and clenched his fists to stop his claws from popping, then pulled his phone out of his pocket, and tried to relax so he could check his gut reaction. It couldn’t be right, but he also didn’t think he was mistaken. It was faint, but he could smell the acrid stench of a group of wolves that hadn’t been taught that daily showering was a thing in polite society, as well as having the equally nasty habit of not washing blood out of their clothes. He’d only experienced this particular stink once before, and that had been after the fact.

He dialed Jackson on auto-pilot and was happy he answered on the first ring.

“Yeah, Derek?”

“The Pack they call The Hyenas, do you remember what Cora and I told you about them?” Derek had already turned and started walking back to his car. The scent was stronger the further he got from the center of town, but it was still weak. It was so weak that he probably wouldn’t have noticed it if he’d had anything but just water in his mouth when he’d come across it.

Jackson answered, “She heard about them from her adoptive family. You saw their aftermath somewhere north of here, I think you said? They’re a nomadic Pack that used to follow the Alpha Pack around, cleaning up whatever hadn’t been destroyed in the first place. They moved on to making their own travel plans when the Alphas stopped doing their thing. They prey on small or weakened Packs.” He sighed. “I take it this isn’t just a pop-quiz.”

“Unfortunately, no. I’m out near my old loft, looking at some of our properties. I figure I’m probably either just outside or just inside the McCall Emissary's ward boundaries.” He tasted the air again. “I can barely smell them, but I’d know their stink anywhere. They’re relatively close, or at least have been in the last hour or two.”

“Do you need me to do anything?”

Derek rounded the corner and saw that his car looked exactly the same as it had when he left it, and let out the breath he’d been holding. “Other than picking up Cora from work, no. I’ll get Ko this afternoon.” He needed to let Stiles and Lydia know, and the McCall Pack, too. “On second thoughts, any idea how we might call attention to this without it sounding like we somehow brought the assholes here? Now that they’ve been cut out of the loop we can’t just have Stiles and Lydia tell Scott and expect him to believe them. Whether he’s just pissed off at Stiles or actually suspicious of them talking to us, we can’t really risk it.”

“We can at least tell Lydia and Stiles to start thinking about a way to bring it up. And they’ll know where the actual ward boundaries are around the town.” Jackson’s voice dropped into the one he used when he was talking himself through a difficult problem. “It’d be good if Stiles could put up a get-out-or-chunder ward around whole town, but someone would probably notice him doing that, I reckon.” Derek could hear Jackson typing and clicking his mouse as he muttered to himself. He spoke up when he said, “I can’t see any news reports that might look like the Hyenas from any towns around here, so it’s hard to say what direction they’re actually coming from. I’ll widen the search and let you know.”

Derek slipped into his car and decided to put the hood up. The day was no longer looking as pleasant. He threw his water bottle onto his passenger seat. “I’ll text Lydia and Stiles, tell him to let his dad know, too. He might not be able to do the whole town, but he can at least boost the wards on their place. I’m sure he’d have them on his dad’s house, and want to up them, too. He could put something around the Sheriff's Station, if he hasn’t already.”

“I’m sure the Sheriff is going to love hearing that a group as charming as the Hyenas are coming to town.” The typing noise stopped and Jackson asked, “Do you think they are coming to town? They haven’t set off any of the wards, or Lydia and Stiles would have told us. Maybe they’re just passing through. Scott might be a dick, but the McCall Pack is big, and stable, and has a True Alpha the entire werewolf world knows about. Beacon Hills doesn’t really seem like it would be a scavenger Pack’s style. Too hard.”

Derek put his hand on his keys, ready to start the engine. He let go, and instead buckled himself in for once. He had no desire to find out that the Hyenas had breached the wards by getting his car rammed while he was driving, but knowing his luck, it would happen. They apparently had a knack for picking the moment when a wolf, or Pack, was at its shakiest.

And, that was it.

“Oh, they’re coming here.” Maybe they’d just been in the right place at the right time, but what a time and place. Whatever it was that the other night’s proverbial tremor-in-the-force actually was, it was possible that the Hyenas had felt something like it before. Maybe it was a sign of weakness that they were attracted to, or at least interested by. “The thing we felt the other night. Whatever it was, it didn’t exactly feel good, did it? It didn’t feel stable. Stiles called it a magical tremor. Maybe the Hyenas would normally go around this territory, but got curious because of the supernatural earthquake we had.”

“Maybe they think the area and Pack is weak because of it, you mean,” Jackson answered. “Shit. Okay. We tell Lydia and Stiles to start. She’s all up in the feeling of bad things, right? So maybe she can just play it off like that?”

“I don’t know if it works like that, but I’ll suggest it anyway. I don’t think even Scott would be stupid enough to ignore a Banshee’s warning.” Derek started the car.

“And, if we can get him to accept assistance, we have the power of surprise. The Hyenas probably don’t realize there’s more than one Pack or Alpha here.” Jackson was still clicking away at the keyboard. “I suppose Scott has to find out that you’re an Alpha again at some point. At least it will be for a good reason if it’s because we’re helping to protect the town, right?”

Derek pushed out a breath. “Yes.” He gripped the wheel and looked over his shoulder before putting the car into reverse, even if the entire area was deserted. “Can you text Lydia and Stiles and ask for a rough layout of the McCall ward boundaries in this area? I’ll start driving now, see if I can pick up a stronger scent without getting too far out of town. Once you’ve got an answer, then I’ll let them know why we asked.”

♠♠♠

Stiles was in the middle of taking another noise complaint from Florence Meyerson when his phone buzzed for the second time in twenty minutes. It buzzed three more times in quick succession about five minutes later, then three more times about a minute after that.

“Mrs Meyerson,” he said as quietly and respectfully as he could, not wanting to piss her off any more than she already was. With all the scary things he’d faced in his life—Dread Doctors and Chaos Demons and Wendigos and Alpha Packs and Ghost Riders—he still thought none of them had anything on little old ladies with vendettas against their annoying neighbors. “Would you like a coffee or some water while you fill that in?”

She looked up at him and pursed her lips before answering, “Water if you have it bottled. I won’t drink what comes out of the taps in this county, and I know that nobody here knows how to brew a decent cup of joe.”

Stiles nodded and stood up, fishing for change in his pants-pocket as he walked towards the vending machine in the break room. He pulled his phone out of his other pocket and swiped it open, then put coins into the machine and made sure he checked twice when he punched in the number to choose the water.

He bent down to collect the bottle and was glad there wasn’t something above him as he snapped back upright because of what he read in the text.

He sighed at what was probably the final death knell of the nice, quiet year Beacon Hills had been having on the supernatural front. He didn’t know anything about the group that Jackson and Derek were calling the Hyenas, but the short description they’d given him didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Why the hell a group that acted as scavengers around weak Packs would think it was a good idea to attack a territory that had a True Alpha in it, he had no idea. Unless, and he could see where the Hales were coming from, the magical tremor had indeed been a signal that others could read better than they could.

Stiles leaned against the wall on the inside of the break room and scrolled through the forwarded texts that Lydia and Jackson had included him, Derek, and the others in on. He agreed that her feigning a Banshee-bad-feeling about the northern border was probably the only way they could get Scott to take notice without leaping to ridiculous conclusions about the Hales’ constructing evil plans and using other wolves to do their nefarious bidding. Stiles didn’t like that Scott might assume the worst anyway and somehow blame Lydia for being the bearer of bad news.

He clutched the water bottle a little more firmly, it was starting to get a bit slippery with condensation which meant he’d taken far too long to think about this. He tapped out a quick: Can’t talk, call you soon to Lydia, slipped his phone back into his pocket and walked back out to the front where Mrs Myerson was laboriously filling in the complaint form.

She gave him a dirty look as he put the bottle on the table in front of her. “You took your sweet time, deputy.” She looked at the water, but didn’t touch it.

“Did you have any questions about the form, Mrs Myerson?” Stiles tried to sound helpful rather than impatient. It wasn’t easy, though. He wanted to call Lydia. He wanted to text Derek. He wanted to talk to his father.

“I’m perfectly capable of doing this without you holding my hand, young man.”

Stiles held his tongue.

“Come on, Stiles, wake up.”

That was Lydia’s pointer finger stabbing all up in his ribs. Having an ex-lover as one’s roommate and partner in supernatural-crime had some major downsides. She knew exactly where and how to poke to rip him from sleep. Not that he’d been asleep long. Even though they’d forgone a full night of study and headed to bed early so they’d be able to do what they were about to, it had only given them an hour or so of rest.

“What?” Stiles rolled over and tried to focus. He knew what, of course, but given that it was ass-o’clock in the morning and his body still hadn’t gotten used to his change of shift at work, he felt as if he deserved to pout a bit.

“Come on. I don’t want to be awake any more than you do, but we’ve discussed this, and a middle of the night Banshee warning will only be that much more dramatic and difficult for Scott to ignore.”

“Are you sure we can’t have coffee for this?” Stiles muttered into his pillow. “I know we discussed coffee, but I think I lost the argument, so I don’t think I’m remembering correctly.” Stiles rolled a little further and stuck his feet out from under the covers. It was cold, but not really. He should probably pull his slippers out of the closet at some point before winter, but now was not the moment to be doing it. He stood up and slipped his feet into his work boots and grabbed the stupid red jacket he hadn’t put away yet and followed Lydia out the door and down the stairs. “Remind me again why we need to be doing this in the kitchen?”

“Wolf hearing. If I woke you up with even half a scream you’d been down here making me tea. So that’s what we’re going to do. Scott will hear the right kind of echoes and noises.” Lydia sat at the kitchen counter and Stiles realized she was not only wearing slippers, but had wrapped herself in the old dressing gown that had once either belonged to her father or, possibly, Jackson. Stiles would likely never know.

“I’m going to make you tea. Right,” he said, and put down his phone so he could pull cups out of the cupboard.

She blinked and stretched her eyes open and shut again. “Yes. And I’m going to call Scott and he’s going to be pissed that I woke him up. I’m going to apologize, and he’s going to decide that I sound as if I’ve been crying, and you’re going to be telling me to be strong and that everything will be okay, and he’s going to buy it.”

Stiles nodded, and yawned, and filled two cups with water and put them in the microwave. He got the tea chest thing out of the cupboard and sat it on the counter. “Are we actually having tea, or?”

She looked at him sideways and he took two chamomile bags out of the box.

They watched the clock tick over a few more seconds on the microwave and she hit call. Scott took a few moments to answer.

“Scott. Yes, it’s Lydia. I, um.”

She sounded devastated. Stiles was glad that the romantic relationship they’d had never really gotten to the point that they’d had serious confrontations or even more than basic arguments. Lydia was a consummate actor, and a ridiculously good liar. Stiles would have never been able to figure out what was real and what wasn’t. Even given that, though, her skills wouldn’t work with Scott in the room with them. She wouldn’t smell distressed enough and her heart rate, even though more difficult than a human’s to read, would mark out her untruths. Over the phone, though, even a wolf wouldn’t know she wasn’t telling the whole story.

“I know, but I didn’t want to wait until morning. The feeling is growing and…” she said into the phone, and then forced herself into sobbing.

The microwave dinged and Stiles got the cups out.

“Yes. He’s making me tea. He woke up because I was crying so loudly.” She started gasping again, as if she was trying to hold back tears right now.

Scott wasn’t really audible over the phone, but Lydia started making a face.

Stiles tried to keep his voice at a normal level when he said, “You can do this, Lyds. Or, do you want me to tell him what you told me? I know it’s—”

Lydia gave him the thumbs up as she cut him off. “No. I can do it, Stiles. I just don’t like what it might mean.”

Scott said something else as Stiles sat down next to Lydia, dunking the tea bags, one with each hand.

She said, “I don’t know what it is exactly, Scott, but it’s coming from the north. The urge to scream isn’t full, yet, but I feel as if it could be any moment. There is so much sorrow and pain following whatever it is.” She took a moment, made a face a Stiles and then said, “The feeling is big. It’s a group, not an individual. If their intentions have invaded a Banshee’s dreams you know they have to be bad.”

She frowned as she listened to Scott say something else.

“What? Why would I do that? How would I do that? I haven’t heard his voice in years, Scott.” She put just enough shock into what she was saying that even Stiles believed she had no idea of how to get in contact with Jackson.

It was interesting, though, that Scott’s mind had gone there. Stiles dunked the tea bags a few more times and put them both in an extra cup. He raised his eyebrow at Lydia as she listened and made sign with her hand that either meant Scott was talking too much, or that he’d turned into a duck. Stiles’ sleep-deprived brain had the sudden urge to find out if there were Wereducks, or Werefowl of any description, really. He wondered if Chris Argent had left his super-dooper, extra-fancy French bestiary with Melissa when he’d left on his extended Hunter training jaunt. He supposed he could always send an email and ask.

Lydia waved her hand in front of Stiles’ face.

“No, I understand, Scott. But yes, a few more patrols along that border for a while would help me feel better.” She nodded as if Scott was in front of her and sipped her tea. “I’ll tell him. Thank you and sorry for waking you and Alena. Okay.”

She hung up.

“Did he actually ask you if you’d told Jackson?” Stiles asked.

“He actually did,” she said with a scowl on her face. “It’s quite possible his little werewolf brain would explode if he found out my Banshee-dream was actually a text from Jackson and Derek.” The scowl turned into a smirk.

Stiles looked into his cup and swirled the water around a little. “But did he buy it?”

“I think he did. He said he’d increase the patrols on the northern border from tomorrow, but he didn’t think there was much else we could do. He didn’t mention strengthening the wards or the like, but it’s possible he’s already got Aldin working on something like that.” She played with the end of her sleep braid. “While I’m happy to be called to fewer meetings, I’ll admit that being out of the loop is potentially very annoying.”

“Well,” Stiles started as he stood up, “if it is the so-called Hyenas, and I can’t imagine Derek would forget the reek of an olfactory cue like that too easily, there’s no way they wouldn’t trip Aldin’s current wards, anyway, and I suspect that the whole Pack will get called to a meeting if they do appear.”

Lydia stood up, pushing her feet more tightly into her slippers as she walked. “I suppose before we worry about why they are here we have to concentrate on whether they’ll cross the border at all.”

“Yes. And we should do that, at once. From behind closed and sleeping eyes, though. We’ve done everything we can for the moment.” He picked up his phone and typed as he followed Lydia upstairs: Done. More patrols to the north. Hope this doesn’t wake you, if so, sorry. He added the little zzzz icon to the end of the text, and sent it to all four of the Hales.

He got one a message back just before he slipped back into bed, the sound of the Google messaging app still strange to his ears. Strange, but welcome: Which book would you like me to read to you first?

 

Chapter Text

Stiles was woken by a text about ten minutes before his alarm. He rolled over and grabbed his phone, surprised that he actually felt quite awake. He sat up, wiped opened the screen and text, read it, then held out one of his hands to count his fingers. There were exactly five on the hand he was looking at. Damn, he’d have been glad if this wasn’t real.

The text was from Aldin’s number: Perimeter breach, outer northern border.

Stiles stood up and stretched, digging his feet into the carpet. He picked up his phone and headed to Lydia’s room. He knocked on the door and pushed it open just as his phone chimed with another incoming text: Perimeter breach, northern border proper.

“So, they’re in a vehicle, or vehicles, and we were too late with the warning,” Lydia said, staring at her phone as if she expected it to tell her how many cars the Hyenas were traveling in. Instead, she tapped out a reply to Aldin’s text and hit send. “Not that Scott would have done anything last night anyway.” She stood up, pulling her robe along the bed as she did. “Respond to Aldin, and then tell the Hales. I’ll go down and make sure we put the coffee on last night. For once I can’t remember if we did.”

Stiles did what he was told. He sent, Acknowledged to Aldin, then spent a little more time deciding what he’d say to Derek and the others.

He finally settled on: They’ve come into town. Outer, then inner northern border breaches about five minutes ago. Please stay in touch today. L, dad and I send check-ins to each other every twenty minutes in a crisis. Can we include you, please?

He sent his dad a text telling him they needed to talk.

Within three minutes he had four Hale replies in the affirmative. He took a few moments and added them, Lydia and his dad to a new texting group. He wavered a moment, but finally gave in and named the group Family.

♠♠♠

Derek didn’t know if he should be appalled or furious. The McCall Pack, according to Stiles and Lydia’s updates, had been instructed to stay in pairs when possible, but otherwise go about their business as usual. There was no hint that Scott was taking this threat any more seriously than he did the arrival of the Hale Pack, and that was not only insulting, but also incredibly stupid. Even if the warning’s presentation was manufactured, the fact remained that Scott was putting a known set of risks, the Hale Pack, on the same level as an unknown set of risks, a completely foreign Pack. Scott didn’t seem to have made any attempt to contact the Hyenas, put a watch on where they were staying, or, it seemed, possibly even figured out where that was.

There was still a pair of young wolves looking bored outside of the Hale house, however.

Derek wanted to storm into the animal clinic and smack some sense into Scott, which was not like him, not now. He hadn’t felt this physically aggressive, this violently angry, since he’d ditched a mercenary and her absurd vendetta in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Before that, he was sure, the last time he felt like this it was also because of Scott.

Derek breathed in and focused on his sister, her heartbeat steady and emotions calm, sitting in the driver’s seat beside him.

“They look clean, but they really do stink, don’t they?” Cora said. They watched three members of the Hyena Pack stroll back to the motel from the convenience store across the street. It was a dive on the edge of town, just inside what Lydia had told them was the McCall Pack Boundary proper. It was isolated enough that they had a bit of privacy, but central enough that they were making a definite statement about being in Beacon Hills.

Derek wrinkled his nose. “You knew you’d know it as soon as you got a whiff of them. Any wolf you meet who’s come in contact with them will understand who you’re talking about if you describe it to them, even if they didn’t grow up with the stories. It’s old blood and guts, ‘wolf sweat and skin that hasn’t seen soap for months, all overlaid with the stench of chain smoking.” Derek looked at the folded sheet of paper they’d been keeping track on. “We’ve seen eight now, and the three cars that they climbed in and out of.”

“They must wash their clothes, though. They smell like cheap washing powder.” Cora took a sip of water from the bottle she’d had in her hand for the last twenty minutes, as if trying to wash the stink out of her mouth. “They’re all our age or older. I don’t understand how that works if they’re actually a Pack that’s been around for years. I can imagine them dumping or even killing off older or weaker members, but do you think they just all use condoms? There’s no sign of kids, but I got a definite waft of sex off that last lot we saw.”

Derek scowled. “I don’t want to think about it.” He looked down at his phone. “It’s your turn to check in. Just tell them that we’re okay, no need to scare them with how many there are or anything.”

Their phones both started going off with check in texts just as Cora began typing hers. “I don’t see the point of staying here much longer, Der. Let’s send Stiles and his dad the address and the photos we’ve got of the wolves and the cars, and head home. Whatever is going to happen with this lot and McCall, it probably won’t involve us, anyway.”

Derek knew she was likely right. It didn’t sit well in his gut, though, leaving the defense of the territory to an Alpha and Pack that had no respect for him or his. “We shouldn’t be leaving this to others. Especially others that don’t know what they’re facing. We should at least let the McCall Pack proper know who they’re dealing with.”

“I don’t disagree, but I can’t help wonder why the Hyenas are actually here. For all we know it’s because we are. There are two Alphas in the territory, and the Hyenas are possibly waiting for there to be a battle they can come in and mop up after.” She put her water down and reached for the keys in the ignition. “Send the info we have to Stiles and his dad, and then call Ko to see if he can come home early today. We need to have a proper conversation about this.” She started the car, the engine rumbling to life and the car vibrating around them. Jackson’s brand-new Merc was nice, but to Derek the old Mustang felt as if it was alive and waiting to roar into action with them. Just over the sound of the engine Cora said, “We also need Stiles and Lydia to hurry up and figure out what that disturbance-in-the-force tremor thing was. If the Hyenas are here because of us, that’s one thing. If it’s because of magic or something then we might be playing a completely different ballgame.”

Derek looked over his shoulder at the motel for as long as he could as Cora put the car into gear and started heading back toward their side of town. He set to typing out a message to send to the Sheriff and deputy as soon as they were out of visual range.

♠♠♠

Stiles looked at the pile of reports that he’d found on his desk earlier that morning, then back at the ancient text he’d been studying in their place. His dad had caught him reading it instead of doing the paperwork, but hadn’t reacted. He’d either planned the desk work so Stiles would have the time to deal with the latest supernatural idiocy, or had simply decided it was a better use of police time right now. He’d looked pained when Stiles had shared the information they’d gotten from Derek and Cora, put on another pot of coffee, and closed his office door. He’d been dutifully sending update texts every twenty minutes with the rest of them. Stiles knew his dad was running license-plates and trying to see if there was any way the Hyena wolves could be pushed out of town for entirely human reasons. Stiles doubted there’d be anything that they could make stick.

He looked up when his phone buzzed on the corner of the desk. They’d all checked in with each other not ten minutes ago, so it couldn’t be that. He glanced at the clock and decided it probably also wasn’t from Lydia, as she’d not be on a break at the moment. He lifted himself a little off the seat to reach the phone and sat back hard when he saw that the notification was from Scott.

Meeting 5pm regarding border breech. Attendance required by ALL Pack members incl. kids. Usual mass meeting spot.

Melissa McCall was always thrilled, Stiles was sure, to have several dozen werewolves and the like tromping through her backyard. It would probably be a relatively short meeting, at least. Scott and company might not know what the Hyenas were, exactly, but they knew the visitors had set-off the wards. It would, hopefully, also have been noticed that the group had planted themselves in the middle of town so they couldn’t be chased away or dealt with without the local non-supernatural population noticing something was awry. It didn’t bode well.

Stiles paused a moment, wondering if he should pass along the Pack meeting notice to the Hales. He put his phone down on the desk next to the book. There was so much information that they did have, but so much that wasn’t being shared, and so much that still needed to be figured out. It was possible that the Hyenas had simply heard the Hales were back in Beacon Hills and were waiting to see if they could come in and take aim at the winning, but weakened, side of a True Alpha versus Old Blood Alpha Pack war. And yet, Stiles couldn’t help but think that that was just wishful thinking.

It had to be something to do with the magical tremor.

He looked at the book again. The tales of the goat-herding, deep Spark had slowly become more interesting as ancient man’s dealings had become more relevant to Stiles and his ideas of how he could use his own magic. Stiles had read about the Spark cleansing people of curses and laying down all manner of wards. He’d read about him blessing children and beasts, and casting out an evil dæmon that had tried to take over his village. But still, while the things were fascinating, especially as the guy had basically made his diary a how-to manual, nothing seemed to be relevant to what he and Lydia had experienced when Scott’s eyes had flickered.

Stiles looked over his shoulder at the break room and wondered if a fourth cup of coffee in as many hours was too many. He sighed, closed his eyes, and decided it was. He opened them again and looked at the book once more. He’d long ago come to understand that Deaton’s position as a Druid meant that he was sometimes actually magically bound to not be specific with his instructions and information sharing. It didn’t mean it wasn’t still as annoying as all hell. Stiles yawned and lifted his hands to his face, rubbing his palms and fingers up and down over his closed eyes. He held them still and let the resultant darkness calm his mind.

The other night Deaton had said that he and Lydia had both left their abilities mostly dormant for too long. The Druid had actively pursued them both at one stage to take apprenticeships, find mentors, or at least begin daily exercises with their magics. They’d stubbornly ignored him back then, trying to leave everything supernatural behind when they’d left town. When they’d come back to Beacon Hills, Deaton had already taken a step sideways from Scott’s Pack, and that had apparently meant that he’d taken a sideways step from pestering them about lessons, too. Then, when Scott had started recruiting, and that had included looking for an Emissary, Stiles had ended up distancing himself even further from his Spark because it hurt too much not to. He hadn’t wanted to face the unspoken, but undeniable, judgement that his magic was blemished or blighted or tainted. Lydia had stood in solidarity.

The other night, Deaton had also said that Stiles and Lydia had knowledge, connections, and understandings of the magical tremor that he didn’t. So, basically, he’d told them that it was either just about the McCall Pack, or coming from the McCall Pack.

Something in his gut was telling Stiles to lean towards the latter.

Stiles dropped his hands and blinked into the light around him, trying to adjust to the returned brightness. More than the books Deaton had shared, his very real surprise about Scott’s eyes, or the tutting about them not using their abilities, the thing that had struck Stiles about the conversation with Deaton the other night was the Druid’s insistence that they focus on the basics of their magics. It might seem like a normal thing to say to someone that hadn’t been practicing for a while—go back to the beginning, make sure you understand, that you’re grounded—but Deaton had never been like that. Even when he’d first handed Stiles mountain ash he’d thrown him in the deep-end and told him he could swim.

Stiles breathed in again and thought about the basics of being a Spark: purpose and belief, strength or change of focus. He breathed out and the pages of the book stirred. It was only him and his dad here at the moment, that and Heidi on the desk, but she was out the front. Stiles closed the book, closed his eyes, and breathed in. He really shouldn’t be so hesitant about using what came naturally. He concentrated on belief and purpose and focus and intent and breathed out. When he opened his eyes, the page was similar to the one he’d previously been reading, but was almost at the end of the book. He skimmed down the English text and stopped on the only phrase he didn’t immediately understand, the Star Maiden’s Beast. He read from the beginning of the passage:

And thus I weaved it for them. To conjure the Star Maiden’s Beast, I began with a man who had tasted the kiss of the wolf and survived with his soul tinted gold. Fueled with the flame of my intent, his fangs and claws and body and bones became as my tool, his mind and soul colored by blood, yet to be steered by the Star Maiden’s righteousness and purity.

Stiles read it again. And then once more to see if it made more sense. He took a picture of the page, then another of just that paragraph and sent it to Lydia. Magically guided or not, she would scold him when he admitted he’d skipped ahead, but she might just forgive him if it panned out. Stiles had no idea what, or maybe who, a Star Maiden was. He did however have a fair idea of what a man who’d tasted the kiss of a wolf and ended up with a gold soul could be. This was the first sign of a werewolf he’d seen in any of the texts Deaton had provided them, and even if the adage of the eyes being the windows to the soul didn’t go back to the Greeks, it still probably meant that the text was talking about an amber-eyed, Beta wolf. It possibly had absolutely nothing to do with Pack bonds and magical tremors, but it was still a wolf, and that made Stiles feel like he’d gotten somewhere, at least.

He captioned the photos with: Star Maiden? Sounds like a character for a new MCU movie, and sent it.

Lydia’s reply was prompt: I deserve a break from marking quizzes. Send me a pic of the original Greek text.

He did.

He left his phone next to the book and got up and fetched himself that fourth cup of coffee. He had an answer when he got back to the desk. Star Maiden is the literal translation. Original says Astraea, so the goddess of innocence and purity. Keep reading and keep me updated. And yes, you should tell the Hales about the meeting tonight.

Stiles huffed out a laugh loud enough that his dad noticed, then, again, did what he was told.

♠♠♠

Derek wasn’t sure that they should all travel in the same car, but in the end, he gave in. He was the Alpha, Cora was his second, and Kohaku had his extra talent; all piling into the Mercedes made Jackson feel as if he was contributing more to the Pack. It also made the four of them feel more relaxed, even safer, to be in the one space together. They were heading into the heart of another Pack’s territory—Melissa McCall might live alone in her house now, but Alpha McCall had lived there for most of his life—and that was never going to feel comfortable. That they were effectively gate crashing what Stiles said was a meeting with every single member of the McCall Pack just made the uneasy feeling stronger.

Derek was surprisingly okay that they were likely going to end up revealing their Pack structure tonight. He wasn’t as nervous as he thought he’d be about displaying his red eyes to someone who’d previously made it known that Derek didn’t deserve to have them. Derek was an Alpha with a strong and happy Pack; he didn’t need anyone else’s approval.

They expected there’d be an absurd number of cars parked on the street near the house, but it didn’t make it any easier to take in the sight. It was one thing to be told how many people were in the McCall Pack, but another thing entirely to have the evidence laid out before them with four wheels after four wheels lined up one after the other.

Derek took in the scent of his Packmates and shiny new-car, and looked down at the screen of his phone and the last Hangouts message Stiles had sent him. The little lone food image had confused Derek at first, but when he’d looked at the other icons in the set and named them aloud to himself—donut, birthday cake, cookie—he’d finally realized what the message meant. Stiles had was telling him not to worry, that the whole thing was going to be a piece of cake. Derek snorted again looking at the phone, and Kohaku looked back at him from the front seat and smiled. Stiles might be overestimating the ease of what they were about to do, but they’d all survive.

♠♠♠

Stiles knew the Hales had arrived moments after they stepped out of their vehicle. The noise in the backyard—a mess of voices and movement impossible to avoid if you had several dozen people nervously trying to take their mind off the reason they were at a serious Pack meeting—died almost all at once. He’d seen similar before, of course, but it never failed to be slightly eerie watching a room, or in this case yard, full of werewolves turn their heads simultaneously like pre-programmed-pod-people.

He and Lydia had made sure to stay close to the side gate so they could get in between the rest of the Pack and the Hales if bad became worse. No one had questioned his dad standing with them, and Stiles felt a little better knowing that even while he was acting as Sheriff, his dad now prefered wolfsbane-modified rounds in his active weapon.

The three of them pushed off the wall of the house and looked down the side path towards the street the way everyone else was, and then the quiet turned to the low rumble of a full Pack of werewolves growling under their breaths.

The four Hales appeared, and walked slowly, palms up and heads high, towards the sound. The growling was stopped short by a sharp voice.

“Oh, no you don’t, mister. Put those mutton-chops away. You know the golden rule for using my yard. No bloodshed unless it’s going to stop someone from dying.” Stiles, and almost everyone else, turned and watched as Melissa McCall smacked her son’s arm. “Put the fangs and claws away, or leave.” ‘Mere’ human or not, no one in the place was going to argue with her. Stiles had seen the same thing in other Packs, and had originally made the mistake of thinking it was because the Alpha’s mother was an ex-Alpha. He’d learned however, quite quickly, that it was just a mother thing, or in this case possibly a Melissa-is-a-BAMF thing.

Scott put his fangs and claws away, but his eyes stayed wolf.

“Good evening, Mrs McCall,” Cora said, loud enough for everyone in the yard to hear. “We’re truly sorry to add further tension to the gathering, but we have information we think is important for the safety of both of our Packs, and Beacon County in general.” She nodded at Stiles’ and his dad as she said the last. It was a nice touch. She was recognizing the Alpha’s mother and then the two cops in the yard, and in doing so was acknowledging that there were different levels and kinds of hierarchies in play. Stiles wondered if it was something she did naturally because she'd grown up in a Pack atmosphere.

“Good evening, young lady,” Melissa said. “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember your name. I can see that you’re your brother’s sister, though.” Melissa looked past Cora to Derek and said, “I heard you were back, Mr Hale, and Jackson.” She smiled at them both.

Jackson, standing next to Cora and in front of Derek, answered, “It’s good to be home, Mrs McCall. As Cora said, we’re sorry to create extra tension, and we understand and will abide by the rules of your home.” He turned his body and head slightly, and gestured back with his still open hand. “This is Kohaku Aoyama, our Packmate. He’s a friend of mine who moved back with me from London.”

Melissa smiled at Kohaku, then at Cora, and looked back at Scott with an expression that brooked no argument.

Scott waited until she’d stepped back a little to speak. He let a growl creep into his voice, but kept all but his wolf eyes at bay.

“How are you here, Hale? You’re not invited to this meeting. We don’t discuss private Pack matters with outsiders.”

“We’re here because we have eyes and noses, Scott,” Jackson said. “We know that there’s a strange Pack of wolves in town, and we saw that you and yours were all heading in this direction.”

Of course, they’d all grown up, Stiles thought, but it was a little strange, and frankly kind of wonderful, to see Jackson wielding that kind of subtlety. He was using the standard lie-evasion type answers that anyone would expect to hear from a werewolf who didn't want to tell the whole truth, but it was just so bizarre for him to not be stamping his feet and demanding something outright. Stiles hoped none of the McCall wolves were close enough to smell his hint of amusement—and his building feeling of pride—competing with all the stress hormones that must be floating around the yard.

Scott snarled and said, “There are two Packs of strange wolves in Beacon Hills, and you, the first one, were told to leave.” He lifted both of his hands and waved around him. “We’re a big Pack. We’ve handled nasty little groups of invaders before and we’ll do it again.”

Stiles bristled on the Hales’ behalf and felt a burning in his belly that he took a deep breath to try to push down. That was just rude. Scott had never done subtle well, but that was gauche even for him. Lydia huffed quietly beside Stiles and leaned a little closer.

The Hales, apparently even stoic in the face of blatant provocation, didn’t outwardly react to the taunt.

Voice even and quiet, Cora said, “You and I both know we’re not the same as them, Scott. We didn’t set off your border alarms like we’re certain the new Pack did. There is every reason that a protective set of wards would react badly to this particular group of travelers. The Hyenas are not to be trifled with. Good people in the Pack I lived with in Guatemala lost family members to them. Whole Packs, right across the country as well as down into Mexico and up into Canada and Alaska, have been wiped out because of them. You shouldn’t consider them a simple threat.”

There were a few murmurs of response to the name Cora gave the otherwise unknown Pack, and Stiles watched as Scott turned an ear to those behind him, apparently taking some notice of what was being said. Then he nodded, and Robert walked forward.

“The so-called Hyenas were scavengers that followed in the wake of the Alpha Pack and cleaned up anything and anyone that happened to survive. They ceased to exist when Scott McCall defeated Deucalion and his band of thugs.”

Lydia pushed her elbow into Stiles’ ribs and he managed to suppress a snort at the implication that it had been Scott, single handedly, who’d gotten rid of the Alpha Pack. Stiles had no doubt that Robert really believed it, though. Stiles wondered, momentarily, if there was some kind of emotion-specific scent dampening charm he could make. He and Lydia had to be putting off pretty heavy whiffs of incredulity at this point and it might become a problem if the suck-ups kept talking.

Scott looked at Robert, then Cora, and back at Robert again. Then he said to the Hales, “This Hyena Pack is obviously not around anymore, and there’s no reason for you to be here, in town or at this meeting, other than to be trying to cause us trouble. My previous statement stands. You have a deadline to be out of McCall territory.”

“And you know our answer to that, Scott,” Derek said. He looked at Robert, and Robert flashed his eyes. Without his head tilted it was an obvious challenge, but again, Derek didn’t react to it. He just said quietly, “The Hyenas had to change the way they chose their targets, but they didn’t stop doing what they do.” He stared at Robert now, and said just to him, “You were born, not bitten, Beta. Your family told the stories the same way ours did. You were taught what would let you know it was the Hyenas, the same way that I and my sister were as cubs. I’ve smelled their presence twice, once in Idaho three years ago, and now, in Beacon Hills.”

Cora’s back straightened as she started listing what sounded like a list she’d be taught to recite at an early age, something that needed to be checked off before coming to a conclusion. “There’s usually not more than ten or fifteen of them. They only stay a few weeks in once place. They look clean, but stink as if they’ve rolled around in the blood of the dead and not washed their skin in weeks or months.” She swallowed hard. “Right now, they’re staying at the Beacon Hills Comfort Inn. We could smell them a block away.”

Robert tore his eyes away from Derek—the you’re born, not bitten statement had made him stare—and said to Cora, “You’re missing the most important part of the stories, though. Even if we did accept the idea that they still exist, the Hyenas were called that because they were scavengers. They only ever attacked Packs that had been left for dead by the Alphas. They wouldn’t dare come into the territory of an Alpha with a decent-sized Pack, let alone a True Alpha with a strong one.”

Robert spoke with the kind of surety that stemmed from being a werewolf who had only ever been part of a big, strong Pack. Stiles glanced around and saw the same look on the faces of the others he knew had grown up the same way. They knew they were safe because they had authority and numbers that meant they couldn’t be anything but.

Kohaku stepped sideways a little so he had straight lines of sight to Robert and Scott at the same time. Stiles knew in his gut, even though no one had announced it, that Derek was the Hale Alpha. Tonight though, and the other night in the diner, all four of the Hale Pack spoke equally. It was possibly just because they were such a small unit, but it was still very different to what Stiles had become used to. Kohaku said, “We can see two possible reasons that they’ve come. Firstly, they might have heard that the Hale Pack had returned and were waiting to see if we’d damage each other badly enough that they could swoop in and clean up after the clash.”

There were a few overt snorts from around the yard, including from Scott. He said, laughter plain in his voice, “Please. It’s obvious that there’d be an outright winner if you were stupid enough to try challenging us.”

Stiles stiffened as Jackson tilted his head slightly. It was the most wolf-like gesture he’d seen out of any of the Hales since they’d come back into town. Jackson then outdid that by showing his radiant, electric-blue wolf-eyes. His voice was still smooth and human as he said, “You shouldn't underestimate the strength of the Hale bloodline or it’s connection to this land, and you should remember the kind of power that family unity creates in a Pack.” He let his eyes fade back to pale and smirked. Now, that was so much more like the Jackson that Stiles remembered from high school. The snark in his words was, too. “We’re three Hale bred wolves and a born wolf who not only bent his neck but also accepted our full-shift Alpha’s bite when he pledged to the Pack.”

Scott, Liam, and the others who’d heard the tales of Derek’s full shift all straightened. They didn’t have time to say anything about it, though. Jackson’s statement was apparently some kind of cue, and he and the others flashed their eyes in unison: his brilliant blue joined by Derek’s deep red, Cora’s warm gold, and Kohaku’s almost neon orange.

Stiles smiled. There was no need to ponder the new guy’s hair color choice anymore, even if he didn’t quite understand what that color meant for a wolf. There was no longer any need to speculate about the Hale's Pack structure, either. The three Hale bred wolves thing was a little bit more difficult to parse. He glanced at Lydia, her eyes fixed on Jackson. Jackson looked like Jackson: same sharp jaw, same college-boy-good-looks and cleft chin, same slick hair cut even if it was a little darker. The blue of his eyes took away some of the age he’d gathered at the corners of them, and holy shit. Jackson was a Hale, and Stiles could see the familial features as clearly as if someone had lined up a photo of Jackson next to Peter and started circling the inherited characteristics.

Stiles swallowed and reached out and grabbed Lydia’s hand. She was shaking.

All the wolves in the yard had their eyes shifted now. Jackson continued, “We also have allies. You felt the strength of our new house wards. The magic-casters who created them would react unkindly to us being attacked.”

Stiles thought he felt Aldin’s proverbial ears prick-up. Liam stepped forward. Scott snarled and his fangs dropped.

Kohaku’s eyes faded with those of his Pack, and his voice was quieter than it had previously been. “The other possibility is that the Hyenas were simply nearby and felt the magical tremor Beacon Hills had a few days ago. It’s not hard to imagine that it was a sign of some type of instability, and that’s exactly the sort of thing opportunistic scavengers are attracted to.”

♠♠♠

“There's no instability in my Pack,” Scott said around a growl that was so low in frequency that Derek doubted half of the other wolves in the yard heard it, let alone the young man’s human mother. It wasn’t enough to cover the sound of his steady heartbeat, however. Scott stank of indignation. The almost willful naïveté of his youth had apparently given way to a simple arrogance. Scott truly had no idea that anyone in his Pack wasn’t one hundred percent on board. Or, and for Stiles’ sake Derek hoped this wasn’t the case, Scott simply didn’t care about the members of his pack who weren’t happy.

Derek stepped forward a little and said, “Kohaku didn’t say the instability was in your Pack, Scott. But we all felt the tremor, and it’s likely anything and anyone else supernatural in a hundred mile or more radius did, too.” Derek couldn’t help but shake his head. He looked down at the ground a moment, then back up at the defiant red eyes in front of him. Anything else they tried to say to Scott now would be pointless. “We’ve told you what we needed to. We’re available and willing to help if you ask us to. But make no mistake, invitation or not, we will fight if the Hyenas come too close to us or anything or anyone we consider important.”

That was the phrase they’d agreed would be their cue to leave. Derek turned his back and started walking towards the car, Cora and Kohaku immediately falling in behind him. Jackson took a moment longer. He said, “You were made by a Hale, Scott. We are not your enemies,” then turned and walked out with them.

Derek didn’t let himself turn to see the look on Scott’s face, and he didn’t let himself listen to the clamor of cries and comments that erupted as soon as they walked past the gate.

♠♠♠

Stiles felt a tangible draw as he watched the Hales not hesitate in turning their backs on the entirety of the McCall Pack. He felt wrong not walking out of the gate with them. He’d have liked to call it a simple want, but it was more. He could have sworn there was an actual, physical rope around his torso, a hook dragging him towards the leaving wolves. When he turned to look, he saw that Lydia was feeling it, too. His dad just appeared impressed.

Scott, however, was not. He growled out a sharp, bark-like, “Quiet!” and there was silence. “I haven’t done it before now, but I can’t ignore it anymore. As Alpha of this Pack, I’m forbidding contact of any kind with the Hales. You’ve all seen them now, so there are no excuses. If you have to deal with them in your everyday lives, do your best to get out of it. Fake a coughing fit to not have to serve them, cancel your appointment if they’re at the salon you usually go to, move gyms if there’s a chance your class is being led by one of them. If you’re a customer, go ahead and tell the owner of the place that you just don’t want to deal with that person near you.” His eyes finally changed back to brown. “If you can’t get out of it, if there isn’t anyone else able to do the job you do, or you tried and they turned up in your space anyway,” he breathed in hard and smacked his lips together a few times, as if it was distasteful to give people choices, “you will inform me, Liam, Robert or Alena the moment you’re able to make a call.”

“Are they right about the Hyena Pack?”

Stiles stared at the back of his father’s head, thankful his dad had stepped up to ask the question.

Scott’s eyes flashed again, but it was someone at the back of the group that spoke. Even with Melissa’s wide yard lights on it was too dark for Stiles to be able to see the face of the person who said, “For all we know the Hales bought them here on purpose, and it’s got nothing to do with the Hyenas thinking that there might be some kind of showdown.” That was Rachel, a lone Beta who’d joined the Pack because she’d wanted to move closer the human side of her family. She rarely attended Pack meetings and kept to herself. She usually avoided confrontation.

Another voice, Mitchell this time, said, “I go past that motel on my way to work. I thought I was imagining things tonight, the way it smelled, but it was exactly what the Hale Beta said. The stink of dead wolf and unwashed skin is something I don’t think I’ll forget very easily.” Stiles could see that Mitchell had his arm around Anna, their toddler son on her hip, their baby girl on his. Mitchell often looked concerned, but he infrequently looked scared. Stiles had never seen him look as distressed as he currently did.

“Right now, it doesn’t much matter why they’re here,” Scott declared with a finality that said he didn’t want any other questions or comments. “We have two Packs to deal with, and we will, with both of them.”

Stiles’ dad cleared his throat, quite happy to ignore Scott’s demands in order to get his own job done. “Real Hyena Pack or not, they’d be the ones that are the most likely to cause actual trouble with non-supernaturals,” he said.

“We agree,” Robert answered. “Which is why they’ll be getting our attention first. Despite the fact that we’re all going to avoid interacting with the Hales, we’ll be watching them, but not as actively as we have since they got to town.”

Since they told you they’d got to town more like it, Stiles thought. It didn’t suck as much as he thought it would to have confirmation that he and Lydia had indeed been kicked out of the inner circle. There was a definite planned feeling to the way this part of the meeting was going; these orders had been discussed beforehand, and a set of expectations drawn up for the way every piece of information would be handled.

Liam said, “We’re going to move active surveillance to the second Pack, which right or wrong, we can probably call the Hyenas for now?” He looked at Scott for the okay. Scott tipped his chin up in assent. “We think the Hyenas are sticking to the area around their hotel, so we can keep the same type of schedule we did with the Hales. The minute they start splitting up, though, things will change, so be ready to do your bit.”

Alena said, “Parents need to think about kids getting fake-sick so they can stay home from school if necessary. It’ll be a last-resort measure, but you need to be ready to make it happen.”

“And, even though I’ve only recently done the rounds to make sure they’re okay,” Aldin added, “remember that your wards will only work if you’re actually inside them, and might fail if the Hyenas have got some kind of magic-caster with them. We don’t yet know if they’re wolves only.”

There were some murmurs, of course. It wasn’t nice to hear that you were basically under attack in your own homes. This felt far more like a war council than the meeting where they’d talked about the Hales. Of course, this time Scott and his new-and-improved inner circle had had time to prepare.

Scott growled to get everyone’s attention again and the chatter stopped. He flashed his eyes and the rest of the wolves flashed back. “We’ve been through worse than this. We all know that we can do it, and we know how to do it. The Hyenas haven’t approached us, so we’ll go to them. We’ll set-up a meeting with them in the preserve to tell them to leave.” He glanced over and caught Stiles’ gaze, then looked back at everyone else again. “We’ll deal with the Hales once the Hyenas are gone.”

♠♠♠

 

Chapter Text

♠♠♠

Derek raised an eyebrow when Cora declared she was making them all an early dinner. She didn’t actively avoid cooking, but she rarely volunteered for it. He understood her announcement a little better when he saw her pulling out tins of black beans and some of the tortillas she always insisted they have in the house. Whatever she was making, she needed to be reminded of her other family. Derek, again, silently thanked whatever gods or fates there might be to listen that she was here with him. He’d always expected that she’d choose the Marroquín Pack over his, over him, to settle with. He would have survived if she had, of course, but she hadn’t, and it still made his heart grow about ten sizes every time he saw her write her name as Cora Hale. He liked it when she cooked food that reminded her of her Guatemalan Pack, though. It gave him a chance to share something of her other life, and to feel comforted by it because she was comforted by it, too.

“Do you need me to get anything for you, Cora?” She turned and looked at Derek with half a smile on her face as he asked. It widened when he said, “I kind of have a hankering for barbecue Tostitos, and if you need very important ingredients from the store I’ll have an excuse to go get them.”

“You.” She was ginning madly. “What would Stiles call you? Transparent wolf?” She snorted at her own joke and grabbed a handful of herbs from out of the window box and spices from the cupboard before turning back and saying, “Thank you, but you know I’m going to make you something far superior to those crappy things you call tortilla chips. You just need a little patience. We have some decent beef in the fridge, right? Or at least some chicken?”

“We have both, and pork, and a couple of different kinds of tofu for weirdo-wolf, and lots of veggies and shit.” Jackson listed off as he came back down stairs and leaned on the doorjamb, hip out and arms crossed. “I went out when you guys were snooping and Ko was at work. Someone remind me to buy Stilinski a big bag of Reese's, or magic beans, or something, yeah? It’s good having wards so we can leave the building without having to tag someone else in to house-sit.”

Kohaku hip checked Jackson for the tofu comment as he slipped past him into the kitchen. “If we’re going to be in the kitchen while you’re cooking, Cora, you might as well put us to work. What do you need me to do?” He dodged Jackson’s counter-strike arm-slap as he moved and said, “Let me at least do some onions or something for you.”

She relented and said, “Three. In thin strips, please.”

Everyone’s phones buzzed.

“I feel like every twenty minutes is a bit much, but I think I’d worry if it was less,” Jackson said as he pulled his phone out of his pocket. “I’ll check in for all of us.”

Kohaku stepped around Cora to grab a knife from the block. “So, I know we’ve probably had enough serious business for the night but I just have to ask. I’ve heard all of you call Scott a dick at one point or another, but was he always so damn self-important?”

Derek finally pulled out a chair and sat. “For most of the time I’ve known him, I’d say yes. It wasn’t always the arrogance we saw tonight, though. I remember lots of righteous emotion, him always seeing things in black and white because he didn’t understand that gray existed for a good reason. It was there when he was a Beta and it only got worse with the True Alpha change.” Derek thought about Stiles’ real terror and regret when he’d taken down the chimera-hybrid-thing that had been trying to kill him, and the extra angst he’d had to suffer because of Scott’s judgement.

“The bite changed Scott,” Jackson said. He stared at his phone a moment before putting it on the table in front of him. “It was always Stiles that was cocky. Even when they were at the bottom of the pecking order in school, right back to when that involved naptime in the middle of the afternoon, Stiles was a loud, overbearing little shit. Scott was just the meek little shadow Stiles protected. I think the only time that really changed was when Stiles’ mom died. They both kind of disappeared off the radar at that point. Even that didn’t last long, though.” Jackson had a small smirk on his face as he said, “Nothing ever keeps Stilinski’s mouth shut for too long.”

“He managed to keep pretty quiet tonight.” Derek had found it strange to see Stiles like that again. It hadn’t hit home in the diner; at that meeting Derek had been too busy just taking in the fact that Stiles was there, in front of him, just out of reach, to notice it. Tonight, Stiles’ silence had been glaring. Seeing Stiles standing stiff and mute had made Derek want to pull him close and tell him he was allowed to speak, tell him that there was someone who wanted to hear everything he had to say. Derek understood that he wasn’t actually seeing a kowtowed Stiles, but it still seemed so unnatural for him to not be giving his opinions on a lot of what was said tonight. “It doesn’t feel right. I,” he breathed in and put his hand on the table, fingers splayed out, and watched as he popped each of his claws one after the other. “The first-time round, the main reason I wasn’t ready to be an Alpha was because I hadn’t realized that my mother, and all the other good Alphas we knew, didn’t see themselves at the top of a pyramid.” He looked back up, each of his betas—his sister, cousin, brother of choice—watching him carefully. He retracted his claws. “All of them, and all the outstanding Alphas I met in the last couple of years, seemed to know that to do what they needed to for their Packs, they were always going to be at the bottom of the pyramid, holding everyone else up. Sitting at the top and making everyone else carry your weight as well as their own isn’t right. But Scott sees himself as that golden capstone, high above all of his less important Pack members.” He let out a puff of laughter as he remembered the look of mortification on Scott’s face when Melissa McCall scolded him. “Well, everyone but his mother, of course.”

“As it should be,” Kohaku said with a firmness Derek didn’t think he’d heard from him before. Kohaku came from a family like the Hales had been before the fire; a long line of strong Alpha women who loved and cared for their Pack members with a ferocity that was to be respected. It was easy to see the same kind of strength and tenacity in Melissa, no matter how human she was.

“Derek,” Cora’s voice was quiet, but warm, “we’ll get this figured out. Maybe the next time I cook for us we’ll have guests, or even better. I’m pretty sure I could even woo the Sheriff over to us with a tray of Abuela Marroquín’s tamales.”

“We won’t need to woo the father when you’ve already stolen the heart of the son for us, Derek.”

Derek froze. Kohaku’s voice was in that same, warm tone Cora was using. There was no judgement on his face, and not even a hint of teasing in his words. Derek hadn’t yet learned the full intricacies of Kohaku’s scent, but he smelled something like joy or contentment.

Derek swallowed and tried not to look as if he’d just had his deepest secret laid bare. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t all smelled how happy he was when he got a text from Stiles, and they’d all figured out exactly where every single one of Stiles’ t-shirts had disappeared to.

It felt so much more palpable, more tangible, having someone put it into words, though.

Jackson laughed softly. “You could do worse,” he said. A human would only hear the snark in his voice. Derek could smell sincerity and approval.

“So, as I said, we’ll get this figured out, Derek. All of it.” Cora walked over and opened the fridge. She pulled out the meat tray and waving at it said, “You bought it, Jackson, so you choose.” He raised an eyebrow at her. “What am I saying, cousin? Chicken it is. Will someone get plates and things out? This won’t be much longer.”

♠♠♠

“Arrrrgh,” Stiles groaned as he tugged his seat belt on. They sat in silence for a few minutes, waiting for a gap to pull out into. Two more Pack member’s cars pulled away from Melissa’s house and Stiles slipped his jeep in behind them.

“I’m proud of you,” Lydia said a minute or two later, looking over at him. He glanced at her a moment, her face lit up by a passing street light, then looked back at the road. “The Hales appearing in town seems to have made Scott lose what little tact and grace he managed to develop in the last couple of years. You didn’t react. You didn’t put your father, or Melissa, or the Hales in danger by saying what I know you wanted to. So, well. I just said it, but I’ll say it again. I’m proud of you.”

“You need to put your own name in that list, Miss Martin. I held my tongue for my dad, and Melissa, and the Hales and for you,” he winced as he changed gear and Roscoe’s transmission whined. “And I’m going to say that I’m impressed you didn’t fall into a heap when we realized where Jackson got his cheekbones, pale-blue peepers, and that stupid chin-dimple from.” He snorted. “How was it not obvious to us before?”

Stiles could see her turn her head to look out the window and away from him. Her voice was small, but steady. “I had my suspicions.” Out of the corner of his eyes Stiles saw her huff out white against the glass of the door. Then she said, “He seems to have fitted in well to his cousins’ family, which is good.” She turned back to look at him. “Scott and the Hyenas are more important right now. I’ll do my freaking out later.”

“Scott and the Hyenas and the magical tremor. It sounds like a badly named indie band. I suppose at least the Hales were spared one of Scott’s pure-bullshit monologues on Truth, Justice, and the American way.” The gear box whined again, and Stiles regretted insisting on bringing the jeep instead of coming in Lydia’s lovely little runabout.

“Pull over, Stiles,” Lydia cried out.

“What?”

He did what he was told, even though he had no idea why.

“You just figured it out. Or I did because of what you said: A pure-bullshit monologue on Truth, Justice, and the American Way. That American Way you’re referring to is all about righteousness and purity of spirit and doing things because they are considered right, not because they’re necessarily good.” Even in the half-light from the closed-up shop he’d stopped outside of, Stiles could see that Lydia had gone unnaturally pale. Her breathing had sped up, each intake of air shallow and brief. “That passage you sent me from the Greek Spark’s diary. Read it out again, please.”

Stiles undid his seat belt so he could pull out his phone and turn around in his spot to try to see what she was thinking. He read off the words carefully when he opened the photo, “And thus I weaved it for them. To conjure the Star Maiden’s Beast, I began with a man who had tasted the kiss of the wolf and survived with his soul tinted gold. Fueled with the flame of my intent, his fangs and claws and body and bones became as my tool, his mind and soul colored by blood,” he caught himself as he stumbled on that word, but pushed himself to say the last phrase, “yet to be steered by the Star Maiden’s righteousness and purity.”

Lydia was shaking now. “We both immediately knew what a soul tinted with gold was because it was preceded by the kiss of the wolf. We ignored the fact that it changed to a soul colored by blood.”

“Gold to red.”

Stiles felt like he might throw up. Lydia reached over and took his phone from his hands.

“Seat belt back on, Stilinski. The lights were on in the animal clinic when we went past it a minute ago.”

Stiles clicked his belt into place and concentrated hard on doing a three-point turn. He breathed in and counted the fingers on each hand again and again, pressing them in turn into the steering wheel, and feeling the temperature inside his gut starting to climb.

The clinic’s outside door was shut, but the lock snapped open sharply when Stiles’ fingers touched the handle. He knew Lydia was behind him and that he should slow down and wait for her, but he couldn’t bring himself to change his pace. He covered the length of the darkened waiting room in three strides and pushed open the gate into the rear easily. He felt the magics inside it crack and shatter as he did.

Deaton didn’t look impressed. Stiles ignored it and all but shouted, “Did you know, Deaton? I swear I will rip every ward on this place and your house to pieces if you don’t give me a straight answer.”

“You know the answer to that question, Stiles, or you’d be at home looking in books instead of here demanding I provide the explanation.” Deaton screwed the lid onto the jar he had in his hand and put it down on the desk beside him. “I did know, but only after the fact. I will swear on my magic and the Oath to my Order that I had no hand in it happening. You also need to know that I couldn’t have stopped it, either.”

Lydia was beside Stiles now, cool hand wrapping around his wrist. He focused on it and forced himself to breathe more slowly.

“Explain, Deaton,” she said.

“It wasn’t that difficult of a conclusion to come to. Every True Alpha in history was created by a deep Spark. I knew you had that kind of magic potential in you, Stiles, but I didn’t realize what level of power you might have until I saw Scott’s eyes and heard just how he’d come by them.”

Stiles felt as if someone had sucker-punched his gut. This wasn’t right. It couldn’t be right. He was worried that if he spoke he might throw up. He did it anyway. “I wasn’t even in the same place when he changed. I was barely conscious, stumbling through the woods trying to get to my dad,” Stiles stammered out.

“Breath, Stiles.” Lydia squeezed his arm.

“You didn’t need to be with him when it happened, Stiles. You and Scott have been linked since you were very young. Your Spark’s power helped him live when he was bitten. It’s likely the only thing that allowed him to survive the change and the injury with neither anchor nor pack. It’s almost certainly what stopped him from answering Peter’s call in the days that followed.” Deaton paused a moment and then said, “And, when Scott needed extra Power to deal with the Darach and Alpha Pack, and, probably more importantly, when your father, your families were in danger,” Deaton swallowed, “your Spark reached out and created something that would help.”

“Some thing ?” Lydia asked. “Scott might be an ass, but he’s a person, not a thing.”

Deaton nodded. “But his Alpha-wolf is not. Think of what you read— Fueled with the flame of my intent, his fangs and claws and body and bones became as my tool. Scott became a weapon to be wielded. Your weapon to be yielded by you. What makes Scott an Alpha is an entirely manufactured thing. It was created by your Spark, Stiles, to suit a purpose.”

“But, I.” Stiles exhaled and let his shoulders slump. “Then why did he stay an Alpha after that?”

“Mutual benefit from the connection, most likely.” Deaton answered quickly. “Fueling the True Alpha gave your Spark an outlet and therefore the stability it needed, and it served you in other ways. It’s probable that your link to him helped anchor you and kept you from letting the Nogitsune take over completely. It’s likely that your magic would have beaten the possession anyway, but not as soon, and with more casualties.”

Stiles reached out and put his hands on the cold metal of the vet’s examination table. It was solid and soothing against his skin. He closed his eyes, breathed in, opened them, and breathed out again. “So, True Alphas are always made, blah blah blah. And, what? I’m getting fed up with Scott and his Alphaness is going to be the victim of me being pissed at him? This is hardly the first time I’ve questioned his leadership, Deaton.” Or his friendship. Stiles imagined he caught a whiff of chlorine, then resisted reaching up to worry at the scar on his shoulder, resisted remembering the look of Donovan broken on the floor.

Deaton’s eyes shone with the kind of fascination that only came from the true joy felt by an aficionado of knowledge. “Scott McCall’s ascendance is the first recorded instance where the creation of a True Alpha wasn’t done by explicit design. The man who wrote the Greek diary you’re reading was near the end of his casting days when he did it. It’s not an easy process. There have been more detailed accounts than his written since, and they all call it a master feat. The preparation and ceremony are intricate beyond the abilities of most, let alone the power needed. The process varies across time and space, but there are always similarities: the werewolf volunteers, the change from Beta to Alpha is painful, it usually involves actual flames from the deep Spark, and it’s always, always for a definitive amount of time. Usually no longer than months. The,” he looked left and then back again, “spontaneous and all but pain-free way Scott changed was not at all normal. The fact that he’s still an Alpha years after the fact is also not at all normal.”

Stiles shook his head. “Don’t tell me that means I’m some kind super-Spark Deaton. Hell no.”

“You’re a deep Spark, Stiles. Not the deepest ever recorded, but deep. Your level of power is seen every few decades rather than once a century or millennia, if that makes you feel better?” He raised his eyebrows and let that hang there for a moment.

It did make Stiles feel better.

“Then why, or rather how, was there spontaneous Alpha creation, Deaton?” Lydia let go of Stiles, seemingly content that he was no longer freaking out and wouldn’t randomly split things open with his mind. She looked at the clock and pulled her phone out to send their check-in text to the Hales and Stiles’ dad.

Deaton’s mask slid back. “There has been,” the pause was less deciding the word, more worry about how it was going to be taken, “quite a lot of discussion regarding that.”

Stiles shrugged, all the anger gone out of him for now. “So, leaving aside the fact that a whole bunch of Druids apparently knew that I magically made myself an Alpha but neglected to tell me, what was the verdict? How did I magic something into existence without knowing what it was or that I was doing it?”

“It’s impossible to say.” Stiles’ looked Deaton in the face and dared him, silently, to not say anymore. Deaton apparently decided that wasn’t a good bet and kept talking. “In most circumstances, your Spark would have been recognized earlier, Stiles. You would have been taken out of school and tutored privately so your magic could be nurtured at the same time as you studied everyday things. You’d have been given a mentor and chosen binding tattoos and sacred spaces so that you always felt in control of your flame.”

Stiles blinked at that, glancing down at his left, and wondering for a moment if the tattoo he’d gotten himself had helped at all. Deaton raised his eyebrows and Stiles looked at him again. Stiles wasn’t going to share that right at this minute, so he just looked right back.

Deaton continued, “You didn’t manifest your abilities when you should have though, and that was probably because of two things.” He put his right hand out, palm up as if to hold his point as he said, “Very strong emotion can suppress magic, so it’s likely the grief at your mother’s death pushed it down.” Stiles gritted his teeth, and Deaton noticed, but he kept talking, putting out the other hand and then slowly bringing them together as he spoke, “That, and the fact that the local supernatural presence in the area was all but removed when the Hales were killed, meant that you weren’t exposed to magic as soon as you would have been otherwise.”

“And the lack of early exposure didn’t change things?” Lydia asked.

“If you’d completed puberty before you and Scott met Derek and Peter, or some other magic being, Stiles, your Spark would have become dormant. But you were still in your teens when Peter went rogue, and that was when your Spark was lighted, or your switch flicked on, if you like.”

Stiles unclenched his jaw. It all made sense in the way that supernatural bullshit did and didn’t make sense. “And all that means insta-Alpha why?”

“Again, there’s no actual law on this so it’s mostly speculation. But, we know that you and Scott created a rare bond of friendship that helped you both emotionally as children. When you first came into contact with the supernatural, in the woods the night that Scott was turned, your Spark flared. I am not the only one who felt it. It’s possible your magic deflected Peter and kept you from being bitten, too. It also, through your bond with Scott, likely reached out and protected him as much as it could.” Deaton frowned. “The bite of a rabid Alpha is usually only settled, cured as it were, by immediate acceptance into a stable Pack. Scott only survived and controlled himself because of your Spark’s influence. Your emotional link became a magical link, and the magical link would have become stronger each time one of you helped the other, or people you were both trying to protect.”

“Are we talking about a feedback loop, Deaton, or something different?” Lydia prodded.

Deaton looked at her as he said, “It’s not that even an exchange. The vast majority of power is coming from Stiles.” He looked from Lydia back to Stiles. “Scott became a True Alpha because you needed to protect your father and Melissa and Chris, and the best way you could do that, at that particular moment, was to supply a potential, friendly, weapon with extra power. Your Spark provided a way for the Darach to be stopped.”

Stiles clenched his jaw. What Deaton was saying still didn’t explain how his magic, his Spark—something all about intent and focus—could have produced something so wild and unknown to him. “How did my Spark, which is part of me by the way, so how did I, manage to make something I had no idea could exist?” Stiles pushed back up off leaning against the exam table and wiped his hands on his legs.

“I don’t know.” Deaton said. “It’s a mystery we’re unlikely ever to solve.”

Stiles ran his hands up his face and into his hair. He left them there, arms making triangles that pointed out to his sides. He linked his fingers together on the top of his head. “Okay, easier question. Why do we call him a True Alpha if it’s all manufactured?”

Lydia stepped forward and pulled one of his arms down, then the other. “It’s probably a simple misnomer that comes from poetic license or fanciful translation.”

“I agree.” Deaton said. “The use of such a weapon was only ever possible for virtuous reasons: purity, justice, righteousness. The jump to labeling all of those as Truth is not that difficult to imagine, and much easier to say.”

Stiles narrowed his eyes at them both, but turned his attention to Lydia. “You’re taking this remarkably well, Lyds. You’ve never really liked Scott as Alpha, and now you know it’s all my fault. Why aren’t you pissed at me?”

“I’m okay with it because fixing it doesn’t mean someone has to die, and because I think there’s something our friendly neighborhood Druid hasn’t told us yet.” She took her eyes off Stiles and looked back at Deaton. “Well? You haven’t told us everything. Given that the remarkably unpleasant Hyena Pack is in town, a Pack that would absolutely not encourage the concept of balance that your Order seems hell bent on protecting, I don’t think that you should be keeping whatever it is that you’re not saying to yourself.” She tilted her head to one side and waited.

Deaton’s nostrils flared, but he tipped his chin up and said, “Sparks are not Druids. They aren’t about balance. Their magic is a reflection of their personality, and whether light hearted or ruthless in their presentation, they tend to be either fundamentally light or fundamentally dark.”

The Druid breathed in and Stiles couldn’t help but take that moment to interrupt. “I’ve been accused of a lot, Deaton, but no one has ever called me a goody-two shoes. I’m sarcastic and manipulative, sneaky and sometimes downright self-serving. Pottermore put me in Slytherin. There is no way in hell I qualify for team lightness and good.”

Deaton smiled at the Harry Potter reference. Stiles was quite impressed the Druid understood it.

“You’ll notice I said fundamentally, not purely, Mr Stilinski. Even if we are completely cynical about it, the reality is that you cannot be a fundamentally dark Spark. Those that follow that path rarely endure for more than a few months after they are recognized. Their power and its focus mean they basically self-combust. You are here, several years after your original magical Manifestation, alive and well.” He left the fact hanging there as a big therefore, then said, “A tendency to favor green and silver in your wardrobe aside, you are fundamentally light.” He turned and picked up the jar he’d been holding when they walked in. It was full to the brim. “As for Miss Martin’s question? There is only so much of particular things that can fit in a particular space. Werewolf packs expand and contract to fit the area and resources they have available.” He turned the jar in his hand, and the contents shifted minutely with the motion. “Two or more packs can exist side by side with regular negotiations. Two Alphas can exist in one pack if they are mated. Neither of those things are common, however.”

“And?” Lydia asked, obviously annoyed that Deaton had returned to his mystical-mystery-bullshit.

“Beacon Hills needed an Alpha. The True Alpha fulfilled that role.” Deaton focused on Stiles. “Your faith in Mr McCall has been waning for some time, but having a non-satisfactory Alpha for the Pack was better than no Alpha at all. The shift in power that’s currently underway could have happened sooner if another Alpha had visited and you considered them a better option.”

Lydia pursed her lips and nodded. “You’re saying that when the Hales came back, and Stiles saw them for the first time at the diner—”

“My Spark recognized Derek as a better option. It decided he was an Alpha candidate preferable to the one we’re currently beholden to, and it started to test out the possibility of breaking my existing Pack bond, and messing with everyone else's,” Stiles finished. He was going to need days, if not weeks to come to terms with this. How was he going to tell his dad? The Hales? How was he going to break it to Scott?

His phone and Lydia’s buzzed for messages in their pockets. It wasn’t time for another check-in yet, so they both pulled them out to look. Stiles’ then started ringing, his father’s face appearing on the screen.

Stiles apologized by saying, “He wouldn’t be calling unless it was important, sorry,” to Deaton, then started with, “Yeah, Dad?” as he answered the phone. Lydia leaned in to listen.

“Hey, kiddo. Heidi just called on her way home, said she saw what she thought might be a group of kids heading out to get drunk near the Hale Memorial. I get the feeling that means Scott and company’s meeting with the Hyenas was already arranged before the meeting with the full Pack.”

“We’re not home yet, Dad. Are you back at the station, or?”

Stiles watched as Deaton, who apparently shared his hearing ability with wolves, pulled a few plastic-baggies of mountain ash and wolfsbane power out of the cupboard. Lydia started typing out a message to the Hales.

“Yeah,” his dad answered. “I grabbed some extra ‘bane ammo from home on the way back from the meeting, which is lucky. Are you going to call Derek?”

Lydia leaned in to say, “I’m texting them now. Did Heidi say how many cars there were, John?”

“Three. She got one partial plate, and it matches one of the ones from the motel. It’s possible that Scott and his lot are already at the memorial, or were still on their way.”

Stiles swallowed hard. “We’ll see you up there, Dad. Scott probably knows that there are at least eight Hyenas, so he’ll have planned to have that many wolves with him. Aldin, too. That’s a lot of bodies. Wolfsbane bullets or not, promise you won’t go gung-ho into the fray if you get there before us and the fangs and fur are out, okay?”

Stiles held onto the steering wheel a little harder.

Lydia breathed in hard. “They’ll meet us there. It sounds like they’ll be on foot.” She had her phone on her lap, cradled between her knees in case any other messages that might come through. She was braiding her hair into something much shorter and less likely to get grabbed or caught. The wolfsbane and mountain ash Deaton had volunteered were stuffed half in her pockets and half in Stiles’.

The baggies felt heavy in his pockets, but all the new information spinning around in his head was heavier.

“Do you feel the urge, Lyds?” Stiles didn’t want to know the answer to the question, but he knew he had to ask. If there was going to be a death Lydia couldn’t prevent it, but at least they’d feel a little more prepared. Not that anything could make him feel ready for this, not with the new, awful knowledge he had. He made himself relax his grip a bit and tried to not think about the fact that his whole world-concept had just been turned upside down.

Lydia tucked a last tendril of hair into the band she’d used and sucked in an overly deep breath. Stiles could almost feel her slowly, slowly letting the air out of her lungs. They rounded another corner and she finally said, “You remember the night that Derek didn’t die, when he took his last breath and then he came back not the same and not different?”

Stiles blinked and didn’t let himself picture what Derek had looked like bleeding out, how he’d sounded with his breath rasping hard, mostly dead and only vaguely upright because of the big ass rock he was leaning against. Stiles didn’t let himself remember how he’d felt like he’d betrayed everything that was important by turning his back on a dying man, especially that dying man.

“You know I do.” He’d never forget.

“That’s what it feels like inside right now. I’m standing in front of a door, waiting for it to open. I’m on a stage waiting for the lights to come up. On a cliff edge, waiting for the gust of wind that will blow me over.” There was a quaver in her voice, but it sounded more like excitement than fear.

Stiles was almost whispering now, “It didn’t happen that night though. Nothing permanently bad. None of us died. Nothing that was actually alive died.” He couldn’t help but sound at least a little bit hopeful.

“No, but one of us changed.” It was definitely excitement in her voice, excitement and anticipation. “Derek’s soul left his body. His essence was unrestrained for a few moments, and that’s what allowed him the freedom to evolve.” She was smiling, it was soft, but real. “Perhaps tonight we’re going to see something similar.”

Stiles shook his head as if him disagreeing might make it not so. “I do not want to see another Hale wolf bleeding out, thank you. No matter how fucking cool it might be for another one of them to be able to do the whole full-wolfy shift thing.”

“We’ll just have to see.”

♠♠♠

Chapter Text

♠♠♠

Derek turned his ear to the sounds floating up the incline towards the preserve.

Jackson tipped his head in the same direction and whispered, “I can hear that damn jeep of his. He needs a new transmission. Is there another car coming, too?”

They were crouched, hidden, downwind of the McCall and Hyena Packs. There were nine of the first and ten of the second. Derek and Cora’s surveillance of the scavenger Pack hadn’t uncovered that a pair of them were identical twins. The women apparently dressed the same, down to their jewelry and the way they styled their hair. The other woman they hadn’t seen at all from their car appeared to be the Pack’s Alpha. It was possible she’d spent the day inside sleeping, or maybe she just liked the power of sending out others to do her bidding.

From where they were waiting they saw Scott, flanked by his first and second, go still mid stride towards the others.

“Apparently McCall can hear the jeep, too. And yet that’s not a happy face. You think he’d be more pleased to have one of the country’s deepest Sparks coming to his aid,” Kohaku huffed quietly.

Derek sneered, but tried to keep his voice low and even. “Remember, Scott tends to see everything in black and white. Though he’s an idiot to think Stiles’ magic is tainted, he does. He’s also idiot if he thinks we won’t stay out of this little brouhaha he’s got going tonight.” He breathed in, trying to get a read on the two packs, but everything was jumbled together and the Hyena’s stench just made it worse. He lifted his head a little to get a better angle on the road. “I’m fairly sure the other car we can hear is John’s police cruiser.”

In front of them, Scott had managed to make his pause look vaguely intentional. He took two more steps and stopped a few yards away from the other pack, second and third on his sides. His Emissary was in the line behind him again, this time with three others Derek had no names for. Scott’s fiancée was behind them and to the side a little, standing with the red-headed guy from the diner. Scott possibly wanted his other-half to have an easy escape if there was physical fighting; he always did have a thing for keeping his girlfriends at his back, even when they were better at attack than he was. Derek wondered if this one had any hidden talents.

“So,” Cora breathed, “other than the obvious, can we think of any particular goals for this?” She was strung tight, scent sharp and wary, crouched so small she looked as if she’d triple in size when she final sprang up.

They hadn’t had time to discuss strategy when they’d got the text from Lydia. They’d dropped everything and gone out the back gate and ran.

“I think the obvious is all we need to worry about,” Derek said as the blue jeep finally turned off the road, the Sheriff in his cruiser not a car length behind. “We protect what’s important and vulnerable. Human, then Banshee and Spark, and then each other. No matter how magically powerful Stiles and Lydia are they’ll probably still bleed like John if they get hurt.”

They all turned back to watch as the Sheriff got out of his cruiser and Stiles and Lydia followed him. The Sheriff was armed with guns, Stiles had a stiffness to his gait that told Derek he was carrying some kind of long, concealed weapon, and Lydia had her hands in the pockets of her jacket, likely around packets of dust and ash that no one would want to go near.

None of the McCall Pack wolves turned to look at who’d gotten out of the late coming vehicles. The Witch Emissary glanced at the new arrivals quickly, but then turned back again.

Derek put one hand flat on the earth next to him. “I never thought I’d have the chance to face the Hyenas, and I can’t say it wouldn’t be good for them to come out of this very much the worse for wear, but,” Lydia looked over the wide space between where she and the others were standing and where the Hales were crouched. Derek knew they were well hidden, but apparently they were still obvious to a Banshee. “Protecting those who are important to us comes first, always.”

Jackson answered, “Agreed,” and Cora and Kohaku repeated it.

They all stayed low. They’d keep hidden unless it was absolutely necessary, preferably only at the threat of physical danger to their three unofficial Packmates. There were plenty of other ways this meeting could go bad, though. From this vantage, they could hear every word that would be spoken and see every movement made.

It would only take two or three seconds for them to be across the grass and into the fray, if it came to that.

Derek truly hoped that it wouldn’t come to that.

♠♠♠

Stiles followed his dad away from the cars, and Lydia followed him. They stopped right on the edge of the Pack, but close enough to show that they were there as part of it. Stiles didn’t look at Lydia, but he knew she’d found and focused on where the Hales had positioned themselves. He took notice of which direction they were in, and hoped that his dad had done the same. Other than Aldin, none of the McCalls had acknowledged that the three of them had arrived. Stiles was pretty sure the Witch hadn’t noticed anything other than that they were there, only a few minutes later than everyone else by the look of it, despite not being invited.

Stiles looked over the Hyenas. Two of them, ice-blonde, identical-twin women, looked like hippies that had forgotten peace and love were important concepts. They were staring at Lydia as if she was all their wishes come true. They didn’t seem interested in her movements, or where she was looking, just her. They both wore a tangle of woven bracelets around each wrist, matching long, wide, floral-cotton skirts, and anklets covered in bells. There was an absolute mountain of a more-pink-than-white guy behind them. He was soft around the middle and so large he reminded Stiles of Ethan and Aiden when they’d done their Alpha-twins-combine thing. The big dude was squared up next to a man who looked like a tiny scrap of flesh in his shadow. A second look told Stiles that the little guy was the very definition of wiry. He appeared to be made entirely of muscle and sinew. The lines of strength that went up his neck and over his shiny, dark-brown head caught what light there was when he twitched, making it seem as if he was trying to send out flashes of Morse-code with his skin.

There were five more of them, but they melted into each other in Stiles’ eye as their Alpha cleared her throat. She looked disturbingly preppy in her dark-blue jeans, branded, white t-shirt, and a pair of expensive looking loafers on her feet. She was in her early forties, probably, a classic All-American beauty who might have made a great soccer-mom with attitude. Her face was free of makeup. Her dirty blonde hair was lighter at the ends and matched her seemingly beach-tanned skin. Stiles wouldn’t have looked twice at her if they’d been in the same line at the supermarket or he found himself waiting next to her to collect his coffee. He was pretty sure he’d have been flattered if she’d flirted with him.

She ran her gaze over them all, spending a little more time than necessary looking at the fact that he and his dad were wearing Sheriff’s uniforms, then staring pointedly at the ring on Alena’s finger.

She raised her eyes slowly and spoke too loudly. “So, Alpha McCall, it seems you changed your plans. I was assured that I’d only being seeing nine of your Pack tonight. Then again, maybe you’ve bought me a handful of minions as a welcome gift?”

Scott managed to keep the growl out of his voice, but his words were clipped and sharp. “This is my territory, Alpha Vincent. It’s my choice who I bring with me, and it’s my choice if I want to change my plans without notice.” He held his head a little higher. “And you assume too much when you call them simple minions”

Scott had learned a lot over the years about thinking on the fly and yet he still couldn’t resist gloating a little whenever he had the chance, even if that meant giving away secrets that could otherwise have strategic benefit. He was still yet to learn that having an enemy underestimate you was not a bad thing.

The Hyena Alpha, Vincent, curled her mouth into a cruel smile before she answered. “Well, then. Are you going to try to tell me that one of them was the source of the delicious crack of power we felt the other night? I have to tell you that I won’t believe it if you do. We,” she flipped her hand back over her shoulder at the rest of her pack, “were, of course, planning on going around big, beautiful, Beacon Hills and its very own totally awesome True Alpha, but then, well.” She flared her nostrils and licked her lips. “No self-respecting predator would ignore the sound of a dying beast, and we definitely couldn’t ignore the power rush caused by a rupturing Pack.”

Robert growled and flashed his eyes. Stiles couldn’t see if any of the other McCalls did, but now they were faced with nine pairs of neon-blues, and Vincent’s glowing an uncanny, sickly red.

“This is a strong territory held by a strong Pack.” Scott’s growl was there this time and from the angle he was at Stiles could see that Scott had popped the claws on both hands. “There is no one for you to hunt in Beacon Hills. Whatever you think you felt? It didn’t happen.” He stepped forward. There was Alpha power in his voice when he said, “You have until sunrise to be beyond my borders.”

The hippy twins giggled, and Stiles had a sharp, unpleasant realization of why they were so interested in Lydia; their stacks of woven bracelets were made of woven, human hair. Stiles wanted to move closer to Lydia, but felt frozen as Alpha Vincent laughed with her Packmates.

She almost cooed at Scott, “Ooooh, I bet you like using that little Alpha kick when you speak, don’t you, sweetie?” She cocked her head and hip sideways, more like a flirty high-schooler than a forty-something Alpha wolf, and added as she waved her hand up and down, “I honestly thought you’d be taller, bigger. Somehow more impressive.” She leaned the other way. “We rode Deucalion's coattails for a really long time. We saw up-close the carnage they caused. It was never as bad as the legends made it out to be though, you know? Contrary to popular belief, Deuc even liked to leave a few survivors so they had to get themselves a different Alpha. He liked the idea of coming back again later for the new blood while the bond was still fresh.” Her grin was wide now, her wolf-fangs dropped and her eyes shone more strongly, but the rest of her face was still as pretty as a magazine cover. “He never did find a rebuilt Pack once I took over, though. I couldn’t see the point in it. We harvested everything they left us. I saw my daddy ripped apart and bitten during a rampage by the previous Alpha of Alphas. He survived though, and he thought they were all weak. He taught me to clean the plate when I was fed. He taught me not to stop until every bite was all gone. When I took the Alpha power from him, I told him I’d make him proud.”

“And Alpha McCall told you there’s nothing here for you. There’s no one for you to hunt.” Liam sounded angry that Scott wasn’t being respected, and possibly eager at what that might mean.

“Oh, but you and I both know there is, little Beta.” Vincent laughed again and then shifted her whole face into something far more wolf than human. “You getting rid of the Alpha Pack forced us to expand our horizons, McCall. It made us push our own boundaries. I always thought I’d be thanking you for it if we ever met. Now I’m just wondering if True Alpha blood will taste any different to all the other wolf blood I’ve had on my tongue.”

Scott stood straighter and growled again, deep in his chest, and the other McCall wolves followed suit. “And what then? You seem to have this all planned out, Alpha Vincent. You’re pretty damn sure of yourself. And just what will you do after you’ve magically managed to take me down?” He laughed, but Stiles could hear that it wasn’t true mirth.

Scott was actually feeling threatened by the Hyenas. Maybe he was worried by what she’d said about the tremor, even if he didn’t know the cause. Stiles still wanted to step closer to Lydia, and he desperately wanted to put himself between his dad and the rows of gleaming blue eyes. He still couldn’t make himself do it, though. Drawing attention to himself, away from the conversation that was happening, would not be a good idea. He forced himself to breathe evenly, counting to six on each inhale and each exhale.

“We’ll do just what we always do, McCall. We’ll take what we need and what we want, then dump or destroy what we don’t.” Vincent looked away from Scott and over to Alena again and slowly wet her lips. Whether Alena was her type, or she just knew Alena was Scott’s fiancée and was using it to taunt him, Stiles had no idea. “We tend to start with what we want, rather than what we need, but,” she rolled her neck to tilt her head and looked straight at Stiles’ dad, focusing on the title and badge on his shirt, “it’s going to be difficult to make that choice this time.”

The wolves, McCall and Hyena, turned their heads all at once.

“You have no choice to make, Alpha Vincent,” Derek said. His voice was clear, and neither he nor the other Hales looked anything but human as they came closer. Derek was half a stride in front of, and seemed half a head taller, than his Packmates. Vincent would have no doubt of his position in his Pack. “Alpha McCall has told you to leave, and I am supporting his decision.” He slowed about twenty feet from everyone else, unfortunately on the other side of everything to Stiles, his dad, and Lydia.

Vincent bristled momentarily, but didn’t let herself show any other outward sign of what she thought of another set of wolves appearing. She and her Pack could surely smell that the newly arrived quartet were not McCalls. The big, pink-skinned guy behind Vincent huffed at the Hales and took a step towards them. He was stopped by his Alpha putting up her hand to bar his way.

“And who might you be, sweetie?” Vincent asked Derek. Her nostrils flared and her eyes glowed brighter for the second it took her to take a deep breathe. “Unless you’re the reason the True Alpha is losing his hold on his wolves?” She bared her teeth in something between a grin and a sneer, looking Derek up and down and appearing to decide that he, at least if he combined forces with Scott, might be a threat. She shifted her face into a smirk again. “McCall’s got himself a decent sized Pack, so I’ll tell you what we can do. We’ll have our pick of them, and as much as we can carry, and we’ll leave the rest for you to do with as you please.”

“We’ve got dibs on the redhead,” the Hyena twins said in what sounded like one voice but was two. Stiles was very, very freaked out by them, in so many ways.

“That goes without saying, sweet things,” Vincent answered without turning to look at them.

“No one’s putting dibs anything or anyone.” This time Derek’s voice held anger, rising up in his throat with the slightest growl behind it. When he pushed his shoulders back and tipped his head up he seemed to grow wider, taller. “Your suggestion offends me, and the memory of my ancestors buried in the ground you’re standing on. You will do as Alpha McCall has instructed you, and leave. I’d suggest you don’t wait until his deadline to start moving.”

Scott was strangely silent, though the other McCall wolves all had a continuous, whining growl emanating from their chests. Stiles saw his dad slowly lift his hand to his holster, ready to use what was in it, and watched as several of the Hyenas flexed their fingers, claws out and ready.

Vincent seemed as sure of herself as she had when she’d first spoken. “Oh, you’re a Hale, then. The prodigal son and so forth has returned home? You’ve certainly grown into a fine specimen of a wolf. I’m sure mommy and daddy would have been proud.” She lifted a hand, in the manner of a hundred thousand other women when they go to check a nail, and watched herself run the claw of her smallest finger up the inside of her thumb. The claw sliced her skin and drew blood. She flicked it off into the grass. She then smiled at Scott and said, “This is getting more interesting by the minute.” She turned to focus on Derek as she added, “I think I might come to like you, handsome. So, the offer stands if you’re still around once we’ve had our fun.”

And with that, she, and all of her Pack, attacked.

It wasn’t unexpected, but Stiles hadn’t imagined it would happen tonight. He’d thought about it, of course. That’s why he’d made sure his dad’s holster was unsnapped and the bags in Lydia’s pockets were open, and why he’d come with his trusty bat in his hand—Deaton had convinced him he could do a kind of magic cloaking trick on it and Stiles had been shocked, but pleased, to find the Druid was right.

He lifted the bat now to take a swing at the first wolf who took a swing at him. It was one of the Hyenas that he’d not had a chance to take that much notice of. The guy wasn’t short or tall, not particularly dark or light in his skin or hair. In fact, he was pretty ordinary looking all over. He was also pretty ordinary when it came to underestimating a human’s ability to twist and slide. Stiles felt a satisfying crack when his bat connected with the wolf’s head. The whine out of the guy’s throat sounded rather pathetic, especially against the sounds of the howling and snarling around them, but unfortunately he wasn’t actually that hurt. He shook it off and bit out through his broken jaw, “You’re going to regret that, human,” and then Stiles didn’t care.

Several things happened all at once. Lydia blew wolfsbane over the freaky twins, but one of them managed to draw her blood anyway. Lydia stumbled and fell.

The Hyena Alpha slashed open Liam’s chest and howled in triumph, and Kohaku and Jackson seemed to take that as indication to attack her together. Stiles caught their movements out of the corner of his eye; their claws stretched out, fangs dropped, advance perfectly coordinated, as if they’d practiced it a thousand times, which for all he knew they had.

Beside them, the wiry Hyena, the one who’d looked dwarfed but dangerous when Stiles had first considered him, apparently decided his Alpha could handle two on her own and leaped away from her. The guy’s movement was more like that of a cat than a canine, and his range was absurd. He was going to clear a good six or seven yards in one go, and that meant he was going to land near Stiles’ dad. That in mind, Stiles dodged the broken-jaw-guy and ran to the side to try to get there first. He couldn’t see Derek or Cora or Kohaku or Jackson, he couldn’t see Lydia anymore, all he could see was his dad.

But he was going to be too late, he wasn’t going to—

Before Stiles could finish that thought Scott also jumped, and Stiles felt the taste of sweet relief. He pushed out a breath of thanks. His dad was going to be okay. Scott was going to protect him.

But. That wasn’t what happened. The relief Stiles felt was ripped away moments later when Scott landed and threw his arms around Alena, pushing her down and rolling her away from Stiles’ dad and the imminent danger.

Stiles blinked and then, when the realization of what he was seeing hit him, he screamed out for his dad.

The wiry guy landed a quarter of a second later, knocking away the gun that had just been fired at him, spinning the body that had been holding the firearm sideways, and swiping one large, gnarled paw at the back of John Stilinski’s neck.

It could have been, no, it would have been a decapitating blow, except that it didn’t have the follow through the wiry guy had planned on. Derek had landed on the other wolf’s back with a roar, eyes blazing and claws very much out, and now both of the Hyena’s arms were broken and twisted.

Derek tossed the guy away and launched himself sideways, descending to a crouch over Stiles’ dad. Derek wasn’t in full-shift, but at a quick glance he’d have appeared to be. Another of the Hyenas stepped closer to him, apparently thinking that Derek being on his knees was somehow going to make him an easier target. And, well, Stiles knew Derek wouldn’t let anything else happen to Stiles’ dad. He knew that the Hyena Beta was a fool for thinking there was a chance he could take the Alpha on.

But Stiles was so, so done with all this shit.

The tiny flicker of anger that had been growing in him since he’d gotten wind of this meeting bloomed. It reached up and out and around him, and he felt the energy inside him roll and swirl and swell. He wanted to scream again, but it didn’t come. Instead of a hard rush of air from his lungs he felt a great wave of verve from his core, hot and deadly and definitely the true flavor of his Spark. It felt a hundred percent natural and normal and part of himself, but it also felt far more powerful and blistering and driven than it ever had before. The dirt and forest and animals reached up into him. The stars and moon and sky pressed down around and through him.

Stiles inhaled through his nose, and as he exhaled out of his mouth he saw his magic reach out and knock flat all of the wolves, including Scott and Vincent.

Scott was lain over Alena, eyes closed tight and arms equally as tight around her. Vincent was just flat. The magic had pushed Jackson and Kohaku out of her reach when they went down. The Alpha had apparently first fallen to her knees, but then folded backwards. It looked to be a very uncomfortable position, and both her jeans and t-shirt weren’t going to be salvageable with that much dirt on them, and Stiles felt unsuitably pleased about all of that.

Derek, though, he was over Stiles’ father still, hunched on all fours, claws dug into the dirt. He hadn’t been spared. It looked as if instead of pushing him down, Stiles’ magic had held him up. He was frozen in the position he’d taken as much as all the others.

Stiles thought that when he took a step, the magic holding the wolves might fade or break, but it stayed strong. The wolves watched helplessly, pinned to the ground, as he walked past them. He ignored the noises they were making. Stiles saw Aldin start to move, but the Witch went still when Lydia shook her head at him.

Stiles took another step and knelt next to his father in the dirt. His dad was laid out on his belly, arms by his side with legs akimbo. His face was pale. His head was turned sideways so that one cheek was up and the other was flat on the cold, rough ground. Stiles couldn’t see properly in Derek’s shadow, but there seemed to be a lot of blood on the back of his dad’s neck; it was soaking out and down and darkening the light brown of the Sheriff’s uniform to a color that Stiles never, ever wanted to see again.

His dad whispered, low and labored, “Hey, kiddo. I’m still here. Breathe for me, son. Breathe.”

Stiles did what he was told, and then listened. His father’s lungs were working, at least. Stiles wanted to reach out and take his dad’s pulse, feel his dad’s skin to know it was warm, prod his dad’s hand to see it flinch, or maybe have fingers wrapped around his own. He was fairly sure his dad couldn’t do that right now, though.

Stiles’ father wasn’t moving other than to speak and blink and breathe.

“Derek’s got me, Stiles. He won’t let anyone hurt me again. You do what you need to do, then you think about me, okay? Don’t make me give you an order, deputy, even if you are off duty.”

Stiles blinked and nodded and then swallowed. Derek looked at him with his eyebrows missing and his fangs out and eyes deep, deep red and growled out, “I guard my Pack with my life.”

Though Stiles knew that statement was all kinds of important he couldn’t think properly to take it in. He stood slowly, resting his hand against Derek’s back as he pushed himself up. Derek seemed to relax at the touch, no longer constrained by whatever it was that Stiles was using to keep all the others still. Released from the hold or not, Derek stayed where he was, not conceding his place of guardianship over Stiles’ dad.

Stiles breathed out.

He turned on his heel to look at the wiry guy who’d slashed open his father’s skin. The Hyena would be cowering if he could move himself to do so. Instead, his body was wide open, his guts and chest exposed to anyone or anything that might want to take the opportunity to eviscerate him. Stiles couldn’t smell it like a wolf would be able to, but he thought he could almost see the stink of fear spiraling off the man. He looked far less intimidating now. Then again, it was hard to be imposing when you were being held to the ground by something you couldn’t see or fight against.

Stiles took a step closer, and the wolf desperately tried to move his head. Stiles realized, with a wash of indignation, that the man was uselessly attempting to bare his throat to the magic-caster who had him at his mercy.

When Stiles spoke, he could hear an echo of the Nogitsune in his voice, but he felt no emptiness, no disconnect. The words were all his. For once he felt totally in control of the supernatural side of himself. It felt good to be making his own decisions about how to wield his power; there was no accidental or unknowing casting at play here, there was no one telling him he couldn’t, or shouldn’t, use his natural abilities. He may not have known exactly what he was going to do to stop the fighting, but he’d wanted his power to do it, and it had worked perfectly.

Stiles half-stepped forward and looked hard at the wiry man’s hands. He wondered how many lives they’d taken. “You have a human’s blood on your palms and fingers and probably under your claws.” The wiry guy’s eyes faded and his face became smooth again. “Looking more like the human won’t sway my opinion of what you’ve done. Neither wolf nor man has the right to wreak the kind of havoc you and your Pack do just because they can.” Stiles leaned in a little more, trying to see some kind of truth in the wolf’s eyes. “I’d like you to consider carefully that I’ve just incapacitated twenty-three werewolves with one breath.” Stiles could play the bad-guy, even if he didn’t feel it in his bones. “You don’t really seem like the type to think about what your actions might be doing to others. I doubt, for example, that you took the time to use your nose to make the connection, or even your eyes to read the names on our chests, but you just attempted to decapitate my only living relative.”

The wiry guy pissed himself, the dark spread of urine across his pants mimicked that of the blood on Stiles’ dad’s back.

Stiles leaned back, but stopped himself from wrinkling his nose as he said, “I’m not mistaken that you understand fear then? I’d think you at least fear your Alpha, but perhaps that’s more of an instinct than a true emotion.” Maybe this man had never known actual fear before now. It was a real possibility. If he’d been born a wolf he might have always been one of the apex predators, and even if he’d simply been turned young it could be the case. He might not remember what it felt like to be the hunted rather than the hunter. “Were you bitten or born?”

The wiry man opened his mouth as if he was going to answer, but no sound came out.

“He was bitten.” Stiles looked away from the wolf at his feet and saw Kohaku staring at them. The Hale Beta had landed on his side, and unlike some of the others was able to see what Stiles had done since he stopped everything else. “All of them are bitten wolves, except the twins. Even the Alpha.”

Stiles had no idea how Kohaku would know that, but the Hale Beta sounded sure, and if the looks of shock on the faces of the Hyenas around them were to be believed, he was accurate.

Stiles looked down again at the hands of the man lying supine before him. Sure, they could take a life without claws: knife, gun, rope, fists, fingers wrapped tightly around the throat. The bite of a werewolf, though, and the twisted form that the Hyena Pack had taken, had contributed to this man becoming a killing machine with just the flick of a wrist.

Stiles looked over at Vincent. Her eyes were all wolf, but otherwise her face had returned to hot-soccer-mom mode. She seemed shocked that he was speaking to her when he said, “It really would be better if your Pack wasn’t a Pack anymore. You’d be so much easier to make go away then. You’re not the sort of thing I like the idea of releasing back into the wild.” Surely they’d have illegal things in their hotel rooms. None of their cars matched the license plates they were sporting. It wouldn’t be hard to scrounge up some illicit drugs to go into their belongings, if necessary.

Vincent tried to lift her head, muscles in her neck straining. She spoke even though she couldn’t face Stiles fully, “What the fuck are you?”

Stiles glanced back at the wiry guy at his feet again, looked at the way his hands were half-way to claws in the contorted shape they’d been frozen in, even if they were one-hundred percent human, then back up at Vincent. The Hyenas, and the Alpha Pack they’d previously taken from, were a mutated and malicious version of what it meant to be werewolves. They were like an infected, diseased piece of fruit that if left hanging on the tree might destroy the whole crop.

“I’m an antidote,” Stiles hoped, as he answered her.

“You may have us tied down now, but that can’t last.” She let her eyes fade back to human. She looked almost innocent behind her long lashes. “What are you doing to do? Have the McCall Alpha kill us all one by one? I’m pretty sure he’s never killed. Or are you going to ask Hale to borrow his blue-eyed Beta? Murder is hardly something a bunch of good guys would do.”

“No one’s going to die tonight.” Stiles couldn’t think about Lydia’s warning as anything but just that, a warning. “Though I can’t promise that no one else is going to feel pain.” He turned his attention away from Vincent. “Jackson, Kohaku, can you get Liam? He needs his have his wounds washed. There’re water bottles in the jeep.”

The Hale Betas stood despite seeming slightly shocked to be able to move. They looked between each other and Jackson went to Liam, the younger man groaning as he was released from Stiles’ magic’s hold and pulled into the other man’s lap. Kohaku ran to where the cars were parked.

Stiles watched them for a few seconds, then turned in the opposite direction. “Cora, you’ll need to help Aldin move the other injured McCall wolves.” Stiles barely felt the pull on his magic change as he released them one by one so they could be shuffled away. It felt as if he could hold the Hyenas in place all night if he had to, which was promising; he’d need all the strength he had to do what he was about to attempt.

When he looked over at Lydia he knew that she could see his plan on his face. She’d read most of the same texts as him. They’d discussed the things they thought most useful or interesting. “I’ll contain the twins,” she said as she stood up, favoring one side as she moved to do just that. She pulled a bag of powder out of her pocket.

Stiles waited until the mountain-ash had fallen to change his focus again. He looked at his dad, who seemed to be losing color for every moment Stiles delayed, but still managed to return his son’s weak smile with a truly blinding one.

Stiles tore his eyes away from that, and ignoring the others moving around, looked into Derek’s waiting human face and said, “Don’t you dare let go of him.”

“I won’t.”

Stiles closed his eyes as he faced the man at his feet again. He dropped his chin to his chest and thought about the little flame inside of him. It was stronger now than he’d ever felt it. It could do what he needed it to. He remembered the tales of the dæmons and banishments that he’d read in the ancient Spark’s diary, and considered the ways they were different and the same to modern pop-culture stories of similar things. Stiles didn’t consider being a werewolf in anyway equivalent to being possessed, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t use the idea as a way to visualize what he wanted to do.

He opened his eyes and looked straight at the wiry man. Stiles knew that some magic-casters spoke of seeing Pack bonds. He told himself, and his Spark, that that was what he needed to do now, and after a moment he could.

The wiry man had only one Pack link. It wrapped around his neck like a noose and the length of it ended in the gut of his Alpha. Stiles followed the line and saw materialize, one after the other, all the other bonds that reached out from Vincent’s middle to around her Beta’s throats. They stretched out like the matted and tangled legs of a deformed spider. The only two Pack members who had bonds to each other as well as to their Alpha were the twins. Stiles pushed aside the possible reasons for that and only thought about the links he could use. He would ignore the sisters from this point on.

Stiles looked at the wiry Beta again, and thought he saw threads from the noose stretch down and along and into the man’s skin, weaving into the wolf through mind and flesh and bone. For some reason, Stiles imagined a mille-feuille made of layers of lace sewn with little wolves and roses. He traced the thread back up to the noose, into the bond line, through Vincent's body and down each and every one of the other bond lines and into the other bitten wolves. Convinced that he had what he needed, Stiles picked a thread from the wiry man’s body, and using his Spark, tugged it taut and set it aflame.

♠♠♠

Chapter Text

♠♠♠

Derek had absolutely no idea what Stiles was doing to the Hyenas. They were all soundless, though, and other than the fact that they’d all gone back to claws and teeth and glowing eyes, they hadn’t moved at all. They reeked of pain and something so much more potent than simple fear.

The space all around was quiet and filled with an uneasy tension. In the silence since Stiles went still the McCall Pack had moved themselves all together, pushing away the Hales despite their help. Scott and his Betas all were hyper aware and uncomfortable. It was understandable; it must be strange to see a man you’d believed to be completely human doing something so magically powerful. It had taken a few minutes after Stiles had started whatever it was he was doing, but soon all the McCalls, as well as Lydia, Cora, Jackson and Kohaku, had gone silent as they watched. More minutes passed, Derek wasn’t certain if it had been fifteen or fifty.

The tension in the air increased the longer Stiles stayed motionless. There was a scent of burning building on the breeze, but not like wood or plastic or paper. It was metallic and razor-edged in the nose. It made Derek think of the welding he done on construction sites and in auto-body shops.

Derek could hear that everyone, even Lydia and the Witch Emissary, were taking progressively shallower breaths.

Derek wished he could see Stiles’ eyes.

Then, one moment after many, the smell sharpened to a point and was gone in the same second that Stiles collapsed. Derek still couldn’t see Stiles’ face—none of his Pack could from the positions they were in—but he saw Stiles’ muscles go lax and his body slump like the proverbial puppet with its strings sliced through. Derek tensed to jump and catch Stiles, but the Sheriff groaned and Derek now understood that Stiles had foreseen that exactly this would happen. Stiles had told Derek not to leave John. Half an instant after that memory held him still, Derek saw, with relief, that Cora and Jackson had bolted to Stiles’ side instead. Cora just got her hands under Stiles’ head before he hit the ground.

Kohaku was there a moment after, and Lydia not far behind.

“Stiles!” John cried. Derek could smell the strain it took on the man’s body to make that much noise.

“Well?” Derek growled out. Every muscle in his body was crying out for him to get up, to go check Stiles himself. The strain to stay where he was was real; he was desperate to keep the promise he’d made, but was near overwhelmed by a distinct, visceral pull towards Stiles. “Is he okay?”

Cora’s voice was steady. “He’s okay, Sheriff. He’s breathing evenly.” She looked up a little. “Focus, Derek, you can hear his heart, right?” Derek did, and he could. It was faint, but it was there and familiar and Derek felt his own skip a beat. Cora added, “There’s no real hurt for me to take.” Her hands were flat against Stiles’ skin, but there were no pain-pull marks on her arms.

“He’s still radiating magic, too.” Kohaku looked up and down Stiles body, then over at Derek. “He got brighter and brighter as the metal smell got stronger and stronger. The smell might be gone, but the glow hasn’t completely.”

Lydia reached out and smoothed her hand along Stiles’ forehead, then looked directly into Derek’s eyes. “He probably just needs to rest. He’s never used that kind of concentrated power before, and I doubt that he will again. You do all realize that he just un-made eight werewolves?” Lydia sat back on her heel. It had never been an easy thing to see her cry, but it seemed like she was close.

Derek blinked, trying to take in everything he’d just been told, and finally lifted and turned his head to look at Vincent and her pack. They were… He took a long, deep breath.

They were human, and they were all crying, even the twins, who were wolves still.

“Derek.” John’s voice was thin, each word measured carefully. “We need to get everyone out of here. Then call it in as something like a gang fight. The Hyenas are driving stolen vehicles, they’ll be questioned for that, too. They probably have other things that we can book them for.” He paused a moment then added, “Contact Eichen first, though, get the twins taken there. The station doesn’t need to try to deal with two Omega werewolves without Stiles and me there to help.”

Behind them, the Witch Emissary cleared his throat, and Derek turned to see him. His distrust of this man wasn’t particularly deep, but apparently the guy could see it anyway. He tilted his head, just enough to show his deference to an Alpha, and then said quietly, “Whatever it was that Stiles did drained everyone’s phone batteries, and—”

“And my Pack feels vulnerable. Stiles’ did something else, too.” Scott stood there, facing away from all of his wolves, and waived his Emissary back to them. He waited a few beats and then said, “There are more important things to deal with than a bunch of newly-human criminals.” Scott showed them his wolf-eyes, tapping out a strange rhythm between Alpha red and Beta gold, and Derek couldn’t help but stare. He’d never seen anything like it before. Derek hoped the shock wasn’t too plain on his face. Scott’s demeanor didn’t change at the reaction. His words were forced and full of venom. “I don’t know how you convinced him to do it, Hale, but Stilinski has betrayed me and every other member of my Pack.” Scott forced out a harsh breath and his eyes seemed to settle on red for a few beats as he said, “As of this moment his choices and welfare are no longer my concern. Make him fix it, or I’ll fix him.”

McCall stepped back, ready to turn and leave, but stopped when Lydia called out his name.

“Scott.” She looked smaller than she had for a long time, but still ready to take on just about anything. “Liam isn’t dead. Everyone is healing. You’re all still wolves. Whatever it is that you’re experiencing has nothing to do with what Stiles just did to the Hyenas.” She tipped her head a little to the side, but it wasn’t submissive at all. It was as if she’d done it in case the slight change in angle might help to discern a particular truth. “Before you accuse your oldest friend of anything else, think about the first time you felt this. Think about when you felt it start.”

Scott’s answer was a look of what seemed to be a long-practiced contempt. He stepped back, then opened his mouth to say something to his Emissary, but abandoned the idea when he tilted his head to listen to an approaching vehicle. “Deaton’s here.”

“It’s not unsurprising considering what just happened, I’m sure it was felt a hundred miles away like the first tremor,” Lydia said. Scott looked hard at her again, but she simply turned away and started fussing over Stiles’ clothes. Her’s was a clear dismissal and far more effective than the one Scott had tried on them moments before. He hadn’t included her in his censure of Stiles, but she had made her choice quite clear.

John coughed, and Derek finally lifted himself up, and sat down on his knees next to the Sheriff, with his back purposefully turned to Scott. Derek heard the other Alpha huff and walk away, and then two car doors close one after the other. There was some conversation, Melissa’s voice and Scott’s and the Witch’s and Deaton’s, and then a scream when Melissa realized what she was seeing from across the way.

“John! Stiles?” She moved faster than Derek would have given her credit for, and stopped between the two Stilinski men, unsure of who she should check first. Her heart rate was steady, but she was oozing stress and concern.

“Melissa, I’m,” John was starting to have more difficulties breathing with every minute, “well, I’m not great, but I’m alive. And Stiles is apparently just doing some recuperating.”

Melissa looked from his face to his son’s, then at Lydia, and raised both her eyebrows.

Lydia understood the demand. “Stiles’ breathing is steady, apparently his heart rate is fine, and his magic is still intact. He wore himself out. I’d say he just needs sleep and food.”

“You’re certain?” Melissa knelt down and reached out. She took one of Stiles’ hands, resting her fingers over his wrist. She didn’t seem to actually try to find his pulse, though. Derek wondered how long it had taken her to become used to the fact that the wolves around her were much better at doing it. The skin on skin contact would be something harder to hand over the responsibility for. She seemed satisfied at the nodding heads. She turned her attention back to John, looking back and forth between his face and the gash in his neck. “Don’t you dare try to tell me you just need rest,” her voice was somewhere between stern and trembling.

Derek couldn’t help but smile at their obvious camaraderie, but let it slide away quickly. “He won’t, Melissa. He can’t,” he whispered, then shuffled around so he could look John in the face. He leaned in and concentrated on John and John alone. “His claws went deep, Sheriff.”

“Yeah,” John croaked out. “Can’t feel my toes, or fingers, or anything other than my face in the dirt. My lungs and head kinda hurt, but not as much as they probably should.”

Derek knew what he wanted to do here, and every part of his gut told him it would work. There was pain in John’s scent, but Derek hadn’t taken any of it. John wasn’t feeling much and Derek hadn’t wanted to risk overloading an injured body with pain-relief it didn’t quite know it wanted. He could mostly smell John’s blood; it was sharp and healthier than Stiles could ever have guessed, and ready to fight to keep living. The only question would be if the man was, too.

If John said no to what Derek was going to offer it wouldn’t be the first time a Stilinski had refused.

“I figure you have three choices,” Derek started. He glanced over and saw that the others, well his others, were all listening carefully. “First, we call the paramedics, and difficult explanations aside, you take your chances with modern, human medicine.” He breathed out and tried to blow it away from John. Derek knew the man couldn’t smell emotion, but he doubted that a werewolf’s used air was something he wanted to feel as well as the cold ground. “Two, you accept The Bite and become a Hale in everything but name. You’d be my Beta,” and Derek wanted this understood by everyone, “but even wolves understand that time gives wisdom, and I’ve never had anything but respect for you. You’d bend your neck to me just once. It has to happen to cement the Pack bond. But I swear I’d never make you do it again.” Melissa and Lydia looked pleased at that, and Derek’s Betas simply accepting. “I,” Derek stumbled on what he needed to say next, but thought of Stiles and pushed his way through. “There’s no absolute guarantee your body will accept the change, John. But there’s no indication in your scent or your history that makes me think you’d reject The Bite. With it, you’d be healed in a day or two.”

Stiles still hadn’t stirred, and no one else was saying anything either. Derek glanced up and could see that Scott was looking over the wide space between them, anger all over his face. He’d probably listened to the whole exchange. Derek didn’t know if he was annoyed that the Hale Pack’s privacy was being ignored. He did feel slightly cocky at the fact that a rival Alpha was watching the Hale Pack grow, or, well, very cocky at the fact that he’d already apparently won two valuable people, and was possibly about to take one, if not two, more.

Scott’s fiancée tugged on his arm and he turned away, apparently deciding against waiting for his mother. He headed for his Pack’s cars.

“And, three?” John’s question pulled Derek’s attention back to task.

Derek tried to keep his expression neutral. “If you ask me to, I’ll finish the cut. You’ll go quickly, and I’ll take your pain as I do it so you feel nothing. And,” Derek swallowed, hoping that even if Stiles could hear what he was offering, John would have made his own decision, “I’d take the fact that you made that choice to the grave, and so would my Betas, if you asked us to. I wish you had more time to make a decision, but your heart is becoming more strained and your breathing is shallower than it was even a minute or two ago.”

Melissa swallowed hard, her heart beat faster and she breathed out a wave of sorrow, but she nodded her head. Stiles and Lydia had hinted that she wasn’t an acknowledged member of her son’s Pack, and it was a shame. She’d be a valuable asset, and not just because of her medical skills, if her Scott made more effort to include her.

Lydia gave no reaction, but Derek expected she’d do what she thought best for Stiles, and that Derek and his Betas would simply have to accept that, no matter what the outcome. He couldn’t fault her for it.

John took another shallow breath. “I admire the docs’ and nurses’ hard work. But,” he couldn’t move much more than his mouth and eyes, but managed to shift his voice a little, “sorry, Melissa, but all the hospital would do for me now is stick me with a huge bill, a wheelchair, and full-time care. I won’t be a party to burdening my boy like that.” Derek heard him swallow, and smelled the pain it caused. “I can’t. I can’t leave him, though,” the pause was long, “he can’t lose me as well as his mother, not yet. Not without me trying to fight, at least. I know the risks and the obligations.” He sucked in another difficult breath and held it a moment. “If it doesn’t work, you are all witnesses to the fact that I’m making my own choice.” He waited until he had murmured agreements and then said, “So,” Derek could see him trying to move, trying to tilt his head, and bare his neck, even with his body as broken as it was. This man was going to be an amazing wolf, just as his son would be if he ever made the choice or was forced into it like his father. John’s voice barely wavered, and there was no falter in his pulse. “Yes, Alpha. It would be an honor to accept your Bite.”

“As you said, you should do it soon, Alpha Hale.” Deaton was standing a few feet away, close enough to see what was happening, but far enough to be respectful. “You’ll likely lose consciousness, Sheriff. I’ll volunteer my station wagon to get you from here to the Hale house as you’ll need to be kept steady and supported. I’m sure Melissa will be able to help you not add any further damage.”

“Yes, we’ll need some kind of backboard,” Melissa said with a certain voice, “and something to keep John strapped to it.”

“There are five able-bodied men here wearing belts.” Lydia said, looking around at them and down at Stiles. “And there’s some wood and the like out by the turn-off, we’ve been trying to get the county to do a clean-up for months.”

Derek nodded and Kohaku and Jackson both stood and then ran, passing the last McCall vehicle as they did. Derek undid his belt, and Lydia leaned forward to start on Stiles’ one. Derek looked away.

Deaton watched Kohaku and Jackson a moment, and then turned back to look at the Hyenas, now crawled into a group, but strangely not next to the twins, who were still trapped in their circle. It was an unusual sight. None of them seemed badly injured, but none were standing to leave, either.

Deaton turned back and said, “Melissa and I were far enough away from this when it happened that our phones weren’t affected. I’ve already called my contact at Eichen, and someone will be here shortly to take custody of the two remaining Hyenas, unless you have other plans? Mr McCall seems to want nothing to do with any of them.”

“No, that sounds like what you said, right Sheriff?” Cora said, shifting a little, her leg apparently falling asleep under the weight of Stiles’ head.

“Good. But,” John’s voice was much weaker now, and he wasn’t building full sentences, “need call in fight soon.” Derek looked back to the road, glad to see Jackson and Kohaku heading over, Jackson carrying what looked to be something about the same length as he was tall.

“I can call in a disturbance once we’ve left. Say I heard shouting as I drove past on my way to, somewhere?” Melissa suggested, not sounding as certain as she might.

“Don’t tell them destination.” John’s answer was labored and weak. “No need alibi.”

Derek needed to do this now, if not sooner.

“Will this do?” Jackson said as they covered the last few steps and offered up a piece of wood that may or may not have been a door at some point. It was around that length, but not quite as wide. One side was straight, but the other was split off at an angle, leaving it a few inches thinner at one end that the other.

“It should,” Melissa said as she stood. “Okay then, with all of us helping we should be able to manage this.” She stood and looked down at John, then up at Deaton. “How certain are you that he’ll pass out?”

“I’d be shocked if he didn’t,” Deaton replied.

She nodded. “Okay. Then we move you after you’ve done that, John. There’s no need to put you or your body through any unnecessary stress.”

He blinked, and they all seemed to take that as assent. “Remember. My choice. Tell Stiles.”

“We will, John,” Lydia answered as she shuffled into place with Stiles’ head in her lap now instead of Cora’s.

Cora walked over and put her hand on Derek’s shoulder and squeezed. He felt her take a step back, and let that be the last thing he thought about before he said, “Okay, John. Normally I’d do this on your side, above your hip. When it’s because of an injury though, we do it as close to that as possible.” He remembered some of the things his mother had taught Laura, at least.

“Neck?” John asked.

Derek extended a claw and sliced open the collar of John’s uniform, running the slit right along the seam, all the way to the top of the sleeve. “The angle you’re at means it’ll have to be on your shoulder, on the side you can’t see.” That was possibly a good thing, but he still added, “I’m sorry.”

“Fine, son. Thank you.” John closed his eyes.

Derek heard Melissa suck in a breath and hold it, and then he shifted.

♠♠♠

Stiles’ head hurt and his body hurt and his everything needed more sleep. He had no idea where he was, but it seemed familiar enough that he shouldn’t worry. He concentrated a moment and realized he could hear Lydia speaking to someone. He was okay then, if she was here, she’d have found them somewhere safe to be.

He sunk further into sleep, vaguely registering that he was being moved. He thought he might be in his jeep for a little while, but that couldn’t be right because he wasn’t driving. Then he was wrapped up and warm and sliding back into bed and stretching out and wiggling his toes against the lovely warm sheets and.

Sleep was always good, but rarely this good. He breathed in and relaxed even more and let himself go deeper.

♠♠♠

It had been a little more of a process than a usual Bite, but they’d managed. John had indeed passed out. Derek had sat in the cargo-tray of Deaton’s station wagon with John, the back seats folded down to make room, Deaton driving and Melissa turning back to check on them every minute just in case. The Eichen House team had arrived for the twins just as they were all leaving, and Melissa had called to report some kind of wild party going on in the Preserve about ten minutes later. They figured that that was all the time professional supernatural-wranglers would need to pick up two newly Omega’d wolves that were already trapped inside an ash line.

Jackson drove the Sheriff’s cruiser and Cora and Kohaku climbed into the jeep, holding onto Stiles tight as Lydia damaged its transmission a little bit more.

Derek had begun sucking pain from John as soon as the engine had started. There was a lot, but even as they neared the house it started to lessen. He was truly glad for the distraction of a new Beta. Without it he’d have been fussing and whining and generally making a complete fool of himself over the state Stiles was in. Despite having been assured of his health several times over, and listening to his heartbeat for as long as he could before the sound of three car engines made it impossible, Derek still hadn’t had the chance to actually touch Stiles. It felt important that he do that as soon as possible. He needed skin on skin confirmation, as well as scent and sound and sight so that he knew, beyond a doubt, that Stiles was alive and well.

He got that contact, finally, a little while after they reached the house. Jackson pulled up first, parking the cruiser in the street and running up to open the front and then the garage doors. Deaton backed his wagon up as close as he could to the roller-door, and they slipped John inside the house that way, hoping that no one was taking any notice of the strange new neighbors doing weird things on a Saturday night.

Jackson and Derek got John inside and down into the soundproof basement cell without too much fuss. Jackson stayed while Derek went to get the others. Kohaku and Cora had waited in the jeep for him to come and take Stiles. Derek lifted him carefully, happy when Stiles’ forehead rested against his collarbone and he could feel no pain in Stiles skin, and sense no distress in his scent. Lydia watched every movement he made like a hawk. She didn’t look as if she’d intervene, though, and seemed satisfied that Derek was doing everything he could considering the state Stiles was in.

Derek didn’t think about where he was headed. He paused halfway up the stairs to his bedroom when he felt the Pack bonds stretch and finally wrap themselves gently around John. Derek had to anchor himself, focusing on Stiles’ presence to settle his wolf, stopping himself from howling in joy as he knew the other three would be doing down stairs in the soundproof basement. There was no need to call even more attention to the house this evening.

Derek stripped off Stiles’ shoes, socks, and uniform pants and shirt before making sure he was covered by sheets and blankets. He then stood, entranced for several minutes, basking in the fact that he had Stiles in his bed. Stiles looked bone tired, but other than that he seemed relaxed and natural in the space. He looked right. Derek knew it wasn’t the same as a wolf settling somewhere, but even with Stiles’ magic overworked it would be looking out for him. That he wasn’t stirring or fussing in his sleep probably, hopefully, meant that his magic recognized that where he was as a safe space.

Eventually Derek knelt on the floor, palms and forehead against the sheets, breathing in the scent of magic and Stiles and Pack and himself mixing together. Derek was back in his family’s territory. He had friends and a steady Pack. He had a home and a future. He had just made a new wolf.

The Hale Pack had a new Beta. They also likely had the planet’s most intelligent Banshee and the deepest Spark the world had seen for decades. There was Melissa to consider, too. She was a more difficult possibility, but had proven herself ready to help. She was also wonderfully devious. She’d concocted, without any prompting, a food poisoning story that would help them all over the next few days. She knew they’d have to hide the fact that the Sheriff needed time to regrow his spinal column, and that one of his deputies needed to sleep off the magical-hangover he’d given himself after stripping the supernatural-mojo from eight bitten werewolves. Making it a communal issue mean that Lydia, Kohaku, and Cora would be able to join in the deception without problems with their bosses. They could stay and help John discover his wolf-self.

From beside his bed, Derek heard Deaton leave with his station wagon and a renewed declaration that he was a neutral party in the Pack clashes he expected might soon come. Before he drove away, however, he told Lydia and Kohaku that not only would the Packs’ group-presence help the new wolf, but that it would also assist Stiles in his recuperation. He quietly, and quite shockingly to Derek’s way of thinking, wished them all luck before he finally left.

Derek alternated between sleeping on the floor next to his bed so he could watch Stiles’ eyelashes flutter, and sitting in one of the cots in the containment-cell so he could talk to John about anchors being best set as wide, and watch him learn as quickly as Derek had expected. He would be an amazing wolf and an incredibly valuable Beta. He healed faster than he could conceive of himself, but a little slower than Derek would have liked. The Sheriff ate everything they presented him with though, and Melissa was happy with his pallor and range of motion when she came to check on him. He wanted to go upstairs and see his son, but agreed when they suggested that it might agitate his new wolf to not have Stiles one hundred percent okay yet.

Derek resisted taking pictures of Stiles in his bed to tease him with later, or sending him soppy texts he’d see when he finally woke. Derek didn’t let himself start another book, either. He’d do it when he had someone to read it to.

♠♠♠

Stiles stretched and reached out to smooth his hands over his comforter, but curled his fingers into the material instead when he found it wasn’t the texture he was used to. He opened one eye cautiously and looked at the ceiling. It was white, as he expected it to be, but that was definitely not the light fixture he woke up to every morning. He rolled onto his side so he could get his phone, but there were novels on the side table where he usually plugged it in. He rolled over the other way and saw it, and an extra charging cable, but no mirrored-door closet.

He took his phone and slowly and carefully unhooked it from the charging point. It was after twelve in the afternoon. More shockingly, it was Tuesday. No wonder his bladder felt as if it was going to burst. He sat up carefully and swung his legs out of bed. There was a door that was open in front of him, and beyond it was a shower and likely a toilet. Both were excellent ideas. He stood, weak and slightly unsteady on his feet, and saw that someone had left sweats and a toothbrush for him on a chair next to the door. He was alone though, neither being guarded nor held vigil over. He took that as a good sign.

Stiles had realized, as he emptied his bladder and washed the sleep out of his eyes and his hair and everything else, that he was in Derek Hale’s ensuite, using Derek Hale’s body wash. That, and the fact that he was about to put on Derek Hale’s clothes would mean that he was going to smell very much like Derek Hale. All of that was on top of the fact that he’d spent the last fifty or sixty hours sleeping in the man’s bed.

He left his shorts and undershirt on the floor in the bathroom. He dressed and made his way past a lot of open doors and started on the stairs down. Halfway, he closed his eyes a moment and breathed in as an attempt to stop himself remembering what he’d seen at the preserve. He made himself not think about the fact that he had no idea if his father was okay or not, or even alive. He reminded himself that things couldn’t be too bad, or he’d not have been left unattended. He took the last couple of stairs and stood on the ground floor of the house, wondering which direction the kitchen was in.

“In here, Stiles,” Cora called out, solving the problem for him.

The kitchen was huge. From what Stiles had seen the other day in his official capacity, and just from making his way down the hall to the stairs from Derek’s bedroom, the whole place was pretty big. The table everyone was sitting around looked like average kitchen furniture but on steroids. Lydia, Cora, and Jackson were sitting on one side, with Kohaku on the other.

“G’morning. Kinda,” Stiles said. He felt more than a little exposed dressed in Derek’s clothes and scent, but realized he was smiling anyway. He had no idea what had happened after he passed out the other night, but at least these four were okay.

“I’m glad to see you up and about, son.”

Stiles snapped his head around and saw this father standing with Derek on the other side of one arm of a u-shaped kitchen counter. He almost fell over himself trying to bolt around it, glad that Derek hadn’t left him socks on the little pile of clothes; he was having enough trouble getting traction on the polished-wood floor as it was.

Stiles wrapped his arms around his dad, pulling him close at the same time as trying to check to make sure everything was attached to where it should be. He looked good. He was also in borrowed sweats, and had all of this arms and legs and fingers in their right places. He had a bit of a beard starting, but his hug was strong and he smelled fresh and clean. Academically, Stiles understood the only way his father could be standing here in front of him, but that thought was muted by the simple pleasure of hearing his old man’s voice.

“Breathe, kiddo. I’m okay, I promise.” He pulled back, and they went through the same physical checking thing, but in reverse, his dad trying to touch every major part of Stiles to make sure there was nothing missing.

His dad hauled him in for another hug, pressing his slightly prickly face into Stiles’ neck and breathing in, and Stiles’ academic understanding came to the fore in sharp contrast. His dad was alive and he didn’t have a great gushing wound in the side of his neck. He was however sucking in great gobs of air from Stiles’ hairline, and rubbing his hands over every available bit of Stiles skin.

"You’re scenting me, Dad? Really?” he tried to sound unimpressed and slightly shocked, but it he was apparently a little too relaxed for it to be believable.

Well, except to his father who wouldn’t have complete comprehension of everything he was sensing yet, and also lacked enough practical exposure to wolves to realize that what he was doing was not only normal, but to be expected considering that Stiles was not only his kid, but currently covered in his new Alpha’s stink because of the whole clothes sharing and bed stealing situation. Stiles, and everyone else in the room, would have been shocked if his dad wasn’t trying to inhale him.

His dad pulled back a little, red in the face and said, “I’m, um.”

Derek took half a step forward and pressed his hand against the nape of Stiles’ dad’s neck. “He’s messing with you, Sheriff. It’s perfectly normal, and he knows it.” Derek looked up at Stiles with one raised eyebrow and said, “I believe you know the Hale Pack’s newest unofficial Beta, Spark Stilinski?”

Derek’s smile was wide, and that distracted Stiles a moment from what he’d said. Unofficial? That didn’t sound right to Stiles, but it was possibly as he hadn’t eaten for days and could feel the siren call of caffeine in his veins. Luckily, Lydia knew his trying not to say what the hell face well.

“Sit, Stiles.” She turned and looked at Derek. “He needs coffee and food. High energy is good. Is there anything left over from breakfast, or did you eat all the bacon with your waffles and syrup, John?” Lydia tipped her head to the side with just the right amount of faux innocence, and Stiles groaned, smacking his head into the cool surface of the table as he sat down. Bacon. And waffles and syrup. His father was probably loving the whole wolves-don’t-need-to-worry-about-their-arteries thing.

♠♠♠

Chapter Text

♠♠♠

Derek focused on each heartbeat and scent in the kitchen in turn, making sure everyone was calm and happy. Stiles’ pulse was a little slower than usual and he smelled as tired as might be expected after the drain from his serious magic use. Yet he looked, sounded, and smelled happy. Something close to content. All those things increased when his father put a cup of coffee in front of him.

Derek stepped back again, watching Jackson fuss over making his special French Toast and debating with Cora, once more, over whether Canadian or streaky bacon was better. Derek leaned against the wall and reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, swiping it open and pressing to bring up the Hangouts conversation he’d been having with Stiles until Saturday night had happened.

Derek hesitated a moment, uncertain for once over how to say something rather than over what to say. There were a hundred important things and ideas and images Derek wanted to share with Stiles, he just needed a place to start, and a sign to help pick which words to start with. He decided it was okay to cheat a little; there’d be plenty of time to actually say what was necessary soon. He tapped on the smiley face at the side of the text box. None of the faces-icons were what he wanted to express though, and there wasn’t a decent looking wolf amongst the animal ones, either. He scrolled down and saw plants and, well. If Derek was going to do this he might as well be as upfront as he could be with a tiny, generic picture. He chose a lone sunflower and hit the send button, then slipped his Samsung back in his pocket. He heard Stiles’ phone buzz with the notification.

Derek really wanted to see Stiles’ reaction when he opened the message, but didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that he’d sent it. He used his best Alpha voice to say, “Now that Sleeping Beauty is awake and about to feast on all the breakfast foods he can handle, we’ve got a few decisions to make,” as he stepped out from the corner and took the seat opposite Stiles.

Cora came over and sat next to John. “Don’t make it sound so ominous, Derek. It’s nothing weird or serious, I promise,” she said, knocking her shoulder into the Sheriff’s.

Derek tried to focus on them as he watched Stiles fiddle with the cover of his phone. He’d pulled it out of his pocket as soon as it buzzed, but seemed worried that he shouldn’t check it in company or at the table. He put it next to the plate when Jackson brought him his food.

Jackson handed Stiles cutlery as he sat next to him and said to Derek, “Well, then, oh mighty Alpha! If you’re going to lead with a line like that, and I agree that it was pretty ominous sounding, you’ve got to have something hefty to back it up with.”

Kohaku snorted, and didn’t even look slightly chastised when Derek glared at him. So much for an important and serious talk with the extended Pack. Admittedly it was hard to cultivate anything like a formal atmosphere when everyone was wearing what amounted to pajamas.

“It’s refreshing to see a top-down power structure that actually has some flexibility, Derek.” The Sheriff had made himself another cup of coffee as well as the one he’d given Stiles, and had just stolen a piece of bacon from his son’s plate. Stiles was blinking wide-eyed as it got waved around for emphasis. “I’m interested in hearing about these decisions, though.”

“I’m fairly sure that both I, and the Spark with the pouty-mouthful of cinnamon-fried goodness over there would, too.” Lydia’s face was stern, but her tone and scent were playful. Stiles just chewed a little harder, apparently mourning the loss of his bacon, streaky or otherwise. He looked, and smelled, comfortable and happy.

Derek breathed out and let his shoulders round a little.

“John, I know we talked about it downstairs, but I should repeat it so we’re all on the same page. Because it was my Bite that turned you, you’ll always have a link to this Pack whether you choose to remain with us or not. If you don’t want to stay you’re in no way beholden to us for anything, at all, ever.” Derek let himself look at Lydia and Stiles for their reactions and wished that Melissa was here to hear what he had to say, too. Melissa may never choose to become an official member of one Pack or another, but she was important either way. Derek never wanted to be in a position where he was filtering, let alone deliberately withholding, information from his Pack ever again. It felt good to have them as witness to what he was sharing, and any choices that did need to be made.

John wrapped his fingers around his mostly empty coffee cup, but didn’t pick it up. “And, again, though I’d be stupid to try to promise forever, I can’t see myself ever deciding to join a different Pack, Derek. But I thank you for making it clear that it’s a choice. I needed to hear it, and I’m sure these two did, too.” He nudged Stiles with a slightly-too hard shoulder, and nodded at Lydia. She smiled, and Stiles elbowed him back, apparently so used to being rough-housed by wolves that he didn’t realize what his dad had just done.

“That’s one decision. You said decisions, though,” Lydia prodded. Derek doubted that she hadn’t already guessed what he was going to say. He hadn’t had that much contact with her when she and Stiles and Scott and Jackson were all still in high school, but he knew that she’d grown into her intellect and was only really kept here, in Beacon Hills, by the same magical tether Stiles was. They hadn’t, despite obvious efforts, managed to escape the thrall of what was left of the Nemeton’s power. One day, Derek was certain, she and Stiles would figure out exactly why it held them the way that it did. Now, she just tilted her head at him, wide eyed and waiting for an answer.

“Well, as John’s certain, we’ll do his formal acceptance ceremony tonight. The Moon’s waxing so it’s the perfect time for it. Tradition would call it auspicious.” Derek looked at his sister, cousin, and chosen Packmate in turn and they all half-nodded back. They’d discussed this while their new Beta and house guests were sleeping, and decided it was the right choice. Derek looked from Lydia to Stiles, and tried to think calming thoughts. He was glad they couldn’t hear his heartbeat and that John wasn’t practiced enough yet to distinguish whose was whose. “As Alpha, I speak for us all when I say we’d be more than happy, as a Pack, to welcome three new members tonight instead of only one. Lydia Martin, Mieczysław Stilinski—” he’d practiced that with a Youtube video, and by the way both John and Stiles were looking at him he’d done okay with the pronunciation at least “—the Hales would like to formally request that you join our Pack as full and valued members. As you aren’t wolves I won’t demand formal submission, but you choosing to give it would mean sharing a full Pack bond. It’s something we all agree we’d very much want if you’d let us have it.” He tilted his head just a little, allowing them, and John, to see the line of his throat, something he learned from an Alpha in a tiny town in Nebraska; submit first, and loyalty will follow. He didn’t doubt he’d have it here, but he’d shown Kohaku the same courtesy, and he’d liked the way it felt. “We would be honored to have a Banshee and Spark counted among us.”

Lydia looked satisfied and Stiles looked astounded. Derek wondered how Stiles couldn’t have guessed it was coming, and also how such a dazed expression could be so attractive. Stiles opened his mouth, hopefully to answer, but ended up stifling a yawn. That’s why he hadn’t figured it out, he was still exhausted. Stiles snapped his mouth shut and went red in the face.

“Oh, god. Sorry. I mean.” Stiles gulped and flailed a little and almost knocked over his coffee cup and Derek smiled.

“Breathe, son,” John said, running his hand across the back of Stiles’ shoulders. It was a very wolf-like act of scenting, but it was also a practiced, comfortable movement between father and son. The contact visibly calmed both of the Stilinskis. “You’re still really tired, Stiles. You might’ve slept for two days, but this is all you’ve had to eat.”

“If I somehow developed the ability to un-Bite eight people in one go, I’m pretty sure I’d sleep for a few weeks, not just a couple of days.” Jackson stood as he eyed Stiles plate, staunchly ignoring the fact that Stiles was still flushed with embarrassment. “Did you want anything else to eat now, or?”

Stiles blinked at Jackson, possibly not able to parse the memory of a cold, teenage kanima with the apparent den-making wolf in front of him, but managed to say, “More coffee?”

“We should all have one,” Lydia declared before anyone else could react. “It’s not quite a Champagne toast, but it works for now.” She stood up and walked around to stand next to Stiles. She looked down at him, and in a way that made it clear that despite the fact that everyone was listening, the words were only for Stiles, said, “You and I are no longer associated with the McCall Pack. Alpha McCall publicly abjured you, and then I all but did the same to him. We never bent our necks for him, so it made for an easy break.”

Stiles folded in on himself and Derek gripped the table to stop himself from trying to intervene with a hug or enthusiastic round of scenting.

“Scott…,” Stiles faltered. He stared at Lydia, mouth wide open and one hand gripping his other tight. “Really? While I was passed out?”

Lydia’s voice was soft and calm. “We knew it would happen, Stiles.” She leaned in and pressed her forehead against his. “I’m glad you didn’t have to do it to him instead.” She put a hand over his and squeezed, then stood back up. She ran a finger over the cuff of the sweatshirt she’d borrowed from Cora. “Honestly, I doubt he’d have been able to face you to do it if you’d been conscious.”

Stiles sucked in a breath and seemed to sit a little taller with it. He looked around the table, then up at Lydia, and finally stared right into Derek’s eyes. “We’d be honored to be accepted as members of this Pack, Alpha Hale.” He flicked his eyes back to the woman Derek could see was now his best friend, and they communicated with a couple of blinks and a quirk of her lips. Stiles glanced around the room, looking over his shoulder to make sure he acknowledged Jackson as well as those at the table, then faced Derek head on. “And we’d be delighted to have the opportunity to form complete Pack bonds with you all.”

“There are things we should explain that can’t really wait for the Moon to rise, however.”

They all, except Stiles, startled at the change in Lydia’s tone.

♠♠♠

Cora decided that they should sit someplace more relaxing if they were going to discuss what she called not-happy-serious things, so they all picked up their coffee mugs and headed into the lounge room. The sofa was huge, and Stiles readily sank himself into a corner. While he was waiting for everyone else to settle, he pulled out his phone to check who could have sent him the message before. Other than Melissa, the only people outside of the McCall Pack that he was likely to get a text from were either in this room or overworked at the Sheriff’s station because two people were out sick.

Stiles swiped open the screen and blinked at the fact that the only icon in the notification bar was for Google Hangouts. He tried not to look over at Derek too obviously, and found that the guy was doing his best to not look at him, either. Stiles let himself smile and hoped that Derek caught it out of the corner of his eye, at least.

The message was one thing only: a bright yellow sunflower icon. There was no photo or message. Just a single icon. Stiles hated, and loved, the fact that he was in a room with people who could smell just how fucking happy one little tiny picture could make him feel. He hoped beyond hope that his dad couldn’t yet distinguish that there was an underlying sense of excitement, some of it admittedly sexual, at the idea that he and Derek were finally moving into something more than just friendship. A flower, even a crappily-rendered, digital one, was still a romantic thing. Stiles tapped open the tab that would let him choose something similar and pressed on the tulip. It looked red on his screen, and would have to do for now. He didn’t know if Derek was familiar with the meanings sometimes associated with flowers—Stiles really did spend too long in internet click holes, even now he was a responsible adult—but he figured it could make for an interesting conversation starter later. Then again, maybe Derek’s love of certain kinds of novels would mean he’d be the one teaching Stiles all about it.

Stiles looked up from his phone and saw that his dad was also reading a text or something similar.

“Have you got news from the station, Dad? I mean.” Stiles looked back at his own phone. There were definitely no messages asking where he was or even checking up on him. “How is it that we’re both off work today?”

“The same way I’m not at the salon, of course,” Kohaku said, smiling into his coffee. “It’s not the nicest thing to say about our Pack-sister, but Cora really is a terrible cook. Not that she meant to give us all food poisoning, of course.”

Stiles widened his eyes at that.

“I should have cooked the chicken better. Definitely.” Cora agreed a little too cheerfully. “It’s a good thing that Melissa couldn’t come by until after her shift on Saturday night, and that she’d already eaten when she got here. It would have been terrible if she’d ended up sick, too. Instead, she made us all go to bed early and told us the effects could last until, well, today, at least. We might all be under the weather tomorrow, too.”

It was a good cover, Stiles decided. It was a safe bet that no one would want to visit a group of ill and potentially vomiting people, and no one would question a nurse’s opinion. There was still the matter of the Hyenas, though. He said, “And, what? I suppose while we were eating poorly-cooked chicken there was some kind of fight going on out at the preserve?”

“Such an appalling thing to happen in our lovely town,” Jackson shook his head with an impressive amount of condescension and put on a very good imitation of what Stiles’ remembered of the older Whittemore’s judgey-face. Then again, it could very well have been one of Peter’s judgements, too.

“Officially we’re leaning towards it being some kind of gang having at each other over internal disputes. We’ve no idea why they chose Beacon Hills to do it in.” Stiles’ dad didn’t have to fake the Sheriff face. “Deputy Willcocks has been keeping me informed. There was an anonymous complaint about a disturbance out near the Hale Memorial. So far, the department has made eight arrests for disturbing the peace, and several for possession of stolen goods, grand theft auto, possession of illicit substances etcetera. It was a good weekend to get food poisoning if we wanted to avoid paperwork, that’s for certain.”

Stiles took that in. “Only eight arrests? What about—”

Lydia breathed in and let out a sigh as she said, “Deaton felt the magical shockwave. He turned up with Melissa after you passed out and arranged to have the twins picked up by Eichen House. They were the last wolves standing and best kept out of it all. It was all taken care of before anyone out-of-the-know came to investigate.” She patted Stiles on the arm and sat back in her seat, tucking one sock-covered foot under her body. She wasn’t favoring one side more than the other, Stiles noted, so whatever injury she’d gotten the other night must have healed fairly quickly. “I don’t like it, but sometimes it’s better to hide the truth than explain it. Besides, they were ripped from their Pack. They didn’t really seem that stable to start with, I can’t imagine what they’re like now.”

There was a moment of silence as they all contemplated that. Derek and Cora, unfortunately, knew what it was like to have their whole Pack taken away in a matter of moments. The hippy-twins may not have lost family, but it would still have been reasonably traumatic.

“So,” Kohaku said, looking back and forth between Lydia and Stiles, “I will be the first to say that I’d much rather have an explanation than a cover-up for what we saw happening to Scott the other night. Derek and I visited Deaton earlier in the week, and he hinted to us that Scott thinks your magic is tainted, Stiles.” Kohaku was pretty straightforward, it might be one of the reasons he and Jackson got along so well. “Is that why he blames you for whatever it was that was going on with his eyes on Saturday? I’m sure it’s more than just the eyes, but...”

They’d seen the eyes. That would be why Lydia was extra keen on laying things out on the table, then. Stiles was surprised no one had tried to get her to go into it while he was still sleeping. Or maybe they had, and she’d just been more stubborn in her refusal than they had in their pestering.

Stiles gave Kohaku and his curious expression the only real answer he had. “Yes and no.”

Luckily Lydia was far better at making things understood. She patted Stiles on the arm and then proceeded to describe, in detail, everything that had happened since the Hales came to town. She skirted the issue of just how long the McCall Pack had been under less than pleasant leadership, but she didn’t try to hide it.

She talked for at least thirty minutes, and Stiles barely managed to stifle his yawning for the last five. Everyone else listened intently. No one interrupted with questions, no one looked as if they thought Lydia was making it up as she went along. The other wolves made disapproving noises as they heard descriptions of Scott’s near-autocratic leadership style. There were shocked faces and then raised eyebrows at the concept of the True Alpha being a constructed magical weapon, but they eventually melted into looks of understanding and acceptance.

It really was good to have a group of people believe what you were telling them.

Unfortunately Derek had slipped on his old no-emotion-face; it was still as impossible to read as ever, and Stiles wondered what he might be able to do to chase it away.

Stiles’ dad though, he was taking it hard. He frowned at Lydia and Stiles and muttered out, “You two really didn’t want me to know what was happening in the Pack, did you?”

Stiles looked at his dad’s pained face and then down at his own hands. They’d seemed so tied in the past, so useless. He lifted his chin. “I didn’t want you to worry about something you couldn’t influence, Dad. It wouldn’t have been fair on you, or Melissa, to worry you with it.”

His dad flared his nostrils, such a familiar gesture from him and yet strange now that it meant so much more. “I was talking about your friendship, not your place under a mini-dictator's rule. I honestly thought that you and Scott had just grown apart, kiddo. I’m sorry I couldn’t see that there was more to it than that.”

Then there was a sound in Derek’s throat, low and pained, and his Betas, even the newest, all echoed it.

“And I’m,” Derek swallowed hard, and the stress that had been in his throat was gone. “I’m more than sorry that I left. I knew that you were all young, and I knew things weren’t going to be easy for you, but.” Derek looked and sounded wrecked. His cool, detached façade had given way to lines of worry. He looked ten years older, and Stiles really wanted to wrap the big guy in a hug and not let him out until he was smiling again. “We grew up with stories about True Alphas being strong enough, and wise enough, to handle anything. I thought that by leaving I was putting Beacon Hills under the best care I could. You had each other,” he turned to Stiles’ dad, “and they had you, John. And Melissa, and—”

Kohaku reached out and put his hand on Derek’s arm. Derek swallowed and looked up as his Beta said, “I remember being told the same kind of stories. It never sounded like just a fairytale to me, either. You weren’t in a good place, Derek, and you had every reason to believe you were giving your family’s territory over to someone who’d be capable of everything you couldn’t do at that point. We all know you made the best decision you could with the information you had. There is no blame to be laid.”

“We’re all here now, Derek.” Cora looked at Lydia and then Stiles. “And let me get this straight, the fact that Derek is here is kinda what made the whole True Alpha situation get really shaky, right?”

“Well, yes?” Stiles still wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but that didn’t sound wrong. “I don’t know that we really got to the bottom of it with Deaton.” Kohaku coughed to cover a laugh, which confirmed, conclusively, that he had indeed met the Druid. “But I figure that, yeah.” This was a little more embarrassing to say out loud now that he had a digital flower in his pocket. He looked at Derek and said, “I trust you. You saved my life back then, a lot. Even before we started treating each other as friends. And you put yourself in harm's way and sacrificed all you had left of Laura to save someone less familiar, but just as important.” They both looked at Cora, and she leaned over and rested her head against her brother’s shoulder. “Seeing you, with a stable looking pack and, well. You all look really healthy and happy, to be honest. It was a welcome change as much as a shock.”

Lydia coughed dramatically, “I think he’s trying to say that yes, Cora, it was Derek in particular being here, not just some random other-Alpha, that Stiles and his Spark reacted to. Without the personal connection they share Stiles probably wouldn’t have seen a better option for the power apex.”

Stiles tried to look offended that Lydia had stepped in to explain, but he couldn’t. He really needed to sleep some more, and probably eat something else. He was starting to find it difficult to keep his eyes open.

“Is this power issue going to create some kind of turf war? It’s one thing with a travelling group, but if it’s between people who live here permanently it’s going to get messy.”

That was his dad’s official Sheriff voice back again, and it jarred Stiles. There was more than just official curiosity in his dad’s words, though. Stiles figured there was a fair bit of the old you don’t mess with my family kick in it too, especially now that he’d be dealing with the extra protect and defend feelings that came with being Bitten into a Pack.

Derek really didn't look as if he wanted to answer, but he did. “It has the potential to, yes. I promise you that we had no idea that coming back would cause something like this, John. Two Alphas with their own stable packs should be able to share territory without there being any big deal. Especially given that we both have connections to the area. Scott would also have always had the upper hand with his much larger Pack, so it should have eased the transition for him. We thought that because of those things, and probably because of our assumptions about the True Alpha status and the fact we had personal ties to Scott, that he’d not have any problem with us being around. We’d have been a lot more formal about it all if we’d known he’d be so unwelcoming.”

“I get the feeling that even if we’d come in on our hands and knees offering frankincense and myrrh that Scott wouldn’t have liked it, Derek.” Jackson leaned forward and tapped his knuckles against his thigh. “He hasn’t come looking for us since Saturday, but we’ll have to talk to him before his get-out-of-my-territory deadline hits.”

“We should do that tonight too, then.” Everyone looked at Cora with the same doubt Stiles knew he was wearing on his face. “It would be nice to have more pomp and circumstance around new Pack members joining, but we’ve got a very real reason to postpone a proper party. Adding three more people to our Pack bond would nearly double our strength even if it were all wolves. But we’re talking about a Banshee and a deep Spark, that’s probably just going to make everything a lot stronger.” She sat forward, shifting to the very front of her seat. “Scott might not be conscious of the magic around him usually, but he is an Alpha, and he’s probably more magically aware right now than he’s ever been. He’s probably pretty close to DefCon-1 where it’s concerned, honestly.”

“You think he’ll feel the shift in our Pack bond.” Derek looked more interested than worried.

Stiles thought of the conversation about the Hales’ magic in the land around Beacon Hills and said, at the same time as Lydia, “They’ll all feel it.” He looked at her and she leaned back a bit, letting him know that he should be the one to explain.

“The Hale Pack has been in the Beacon Hills area for a really long time. That’s left a mark on the land. Your bloodline, and anyone who’s pledged to the bloodline through the Pack, will probably always want to be here, or come back here, because of it.” Stiles took a deep breath. “Members of the Hale Pack will feel the pull no matter where they are. But, anyone or anything who’s supernaturally inclined can feel it while they’re here. It’s not the same kind of magic as the Telluric currents or the Nemeton, but in a way it might as well be. You coming home has, well...” Stiles didn't want to say it woke the magic up, because that wasn’t right.

“It’s raised awareness of it,” Lydia said for him. “Aldin, Scott’s Emissary, had always been conscious of the power of the Hale Pack’s mark on the town, but it wasn’t until he had a reason to examine it that he appreciated what it really was. His recognition will have fed into Scott through their Pack bond, and that will have gone out to everyone else.”

Stiles wanted to hide, but said, “If the Hale Pack’s magic is drastically weakened or reinforced, they’ll all feel it, especially Scott. I can’t see that they won’t understand exactly what they’re sensing.” Stiles almost felt guilty for being the one who’d pointed it out to Scott and Aldin, but they’d have figured it out eventually anyway, and what was done was done.

Kohaku stood and reached for the coffee cups he could take easily. “Then, as Cora said, we confront him tonight. We do the acceptance ceremony as soon as the Moon rises, and then go meet with Scott before he has any real time to react to the change in the magic.” He stepped sideways so he could get to more of the cups. “Melissa’s would be a good spot to ask to meet. There’s the whole no blood-spilling thing she has going, and McCall will feel more comfortable on her turf. It might seem like giving an advantage to him, but a more relaxed opponent is a good thing.” Stiles agreed, but also wondered just how long Melissa had spent in the Hale house in the last couple of days for a relative stranger like Kohaku to already be calling her by her first name.

“I’ll call her and ask,” Lydia said. “She was due to come back here tonight anyway to check on us all.” She slipped her foot out from under herself and stood up. Stiles realized that the borrowed sweatpants she was wearing didn’t have pockets, so she mustn’t have her phone with her. “Once I’ve done that, Kohaku and Cora, can you two come for a drive with me? Stiles, John and I will need some of our own clothes if we’re going to officially treat with another Pack.” Cora and Kohaku nodded, and Cora grabbed the rest of the coffee cups and they headed to the kitchen as Lydia disappeared upstairs.

“While they’re off doing that, I’ll make you some more food, John.” Jackson smiled. “We can all, well, almost all of us can hear your stomach growling. Your appetite has at least another week before it settles down.” They followed the other two to the kitchen, and Stiles could hear his dad agreeing to whatever it was that Jackson was suggesting he eat.

Stiles took in the fact that most everyone was up and doing things, and wondered if they’d mind if he just laid himself down where he was to sleep.

“No. You need proper rest, Stiles.” Derek was there, suddenly, right beside him. “Come on, up.” He reached out his hand for Stiles to take, and Stiles felt him shiver as the skin of their fingers touched. “You’ve eaten now, so according to Deaton your healing should speed up.” Derek’s skin was warm and soft, and Stiles wanted to hold on for as long as he could.

Stiles stood and swayed a little, and let out a tiny sound that he’d deny till his dying day was a squeak when Derek wrapped an arm around his waist to steady him. Stiles realized, now that they were so near, that they were almost exactly the same height. He could remember having to look up to Derek before, having to always feel as if he was being looked down on. That had been his inferiority complex as much as Derek’s prickly demeanor. Now they were more equal, far better matched. Derek looked soft and welcoming and Stiles wanted to lean in and press his face against Derek’s neck, or perhaps kiss Derek’s lips, see how well they fitted against each other right up close in one way or the other. Derek’s nose flared and his cheeks pinked a little.

“And what are you going to do now, Alpha Hale? Everyone else has the next few hours planned out.” Stiles felt a little like he should be whispering, but there was probably no use trying to hide their conversation in a house full of wolves.

“I, um,” Derek’s fingers pressed a little harder into Stiles’ side, “I was thinking of doing some research.” He flicked his eyes to the kitchen where everyone but Lydia was. He looked back at Stiles and pulled them a little closer together so he could speak into Stiles’ ear. “I have a strange urge to know about the meanings of flowers.”

Someone in the kitchen let out a little guffaw, and somebody else shushed them, and Stiles made to roll his eyes in their direction, but instead yawned again.

“Shit. Sorry,” Stiles muttered, letting himself lean into Derek’s body. He was wide and warm, and if Stiles could get Derek to stand still for a minute or two, he was sure could fall asleep right here.

Derek stepped back, but didn’t let Stiles fall and didn’t let go of his hand. “Come on. You can have another hour or two of sleep before nightfall.” He tugged on Stiles’ arm, and smiled as Stiles shrugged and followed him slowly up the stairs.

“I don’t think I’m going to only need a couple hours more sleep, though,” Stiles groaned, hating that there were always so many steps from one floor of a house to the next.

“Good thing you won’t just be relying on it to get you back to one hundred percent before we see Scott then, isn’t it?” Derek replied as he twisted and waved Stiles into his bedroom. “You didn’t,” he paused with wide eyes apparently realizing something. Stiles looked at him carefully, trying to see what might be happening behind Derek’s blinking lashes. Derek returned the gaze and asked, “You didn’t accept the full Pack bond from him.”

Stiles shook his head and took the last few steps to the bed. He leaned his legs against its side. Derek followed and fussed with the covers, straightening them, and then flicking them back. Stiles watched the precise movements of Derek’s hands as he said, “Scott never offered, and Lydia and I never asked.”

Derek looked pleased. Stiles wasn't sure if it was in response to that admission, or seeing Stiles at his bed. It was quite possibly both.

Derek hummed and nodded and reached right around Stiles, adjusting the pillow behind him for maximum plump. “I’m glad the two of you want to with us.”

Stiles turned and sat on the open sheets, then laid himself back. Derek bent at the waist and lifted Stiles’ feet and pushed them under the covers. “Do you tuck-in all your Packmates, Derek? If you do, you’re a very attentive Alpha.”

Derek chuckled, and Stiles couldn’t help the wide smile he felt himself making. It was really, really good to hear Derek laugh.

“Though I’d probably tuck in any of my Packmates if they asked nicely enough, this is definitely not standard practice, Stiles.” He pulled the blankets higher and smoothed them over Stiles’ chest. He kneeled on the floor then, bringing his face down to about eye level with Stiles. “It’s probably wrong of me to feel like this, but I’m glad mine is the first Pack you’re officially joining.” There was a tiny blush at the top of his cheeks. “Both of you will heal better once you’re connected to us, you know. We’ll be able to take your pain more readily, and you’ll be able to lend us your strength, too.”

“Does that mean I don’t need a nap now?” Stiles smiled to fight back another yawn that was building in his throat.

“Oh, you definitely need sleep. If you were officially in my Pack you’d feel better just for me being near you. I could get under the covers with you and you’d feel even better when you woke up.” Derek hadn’t moved his hand from the top edge of the blanket, and Stiles could feel the weight and heat of it against the skin of his exposed collarbone.

Stiles was having problems keeping his eyes from shutting, and his vision was smudging every time he blinked them open again. He was at that point between awake and asleep where he wasn’t quite sure if he was lucid or dreaming, so it felt perfectly logical to ask, “Is that the only reason you’d climb in beside me, Mystery Wolf?”

Derek rumbled in his chest, and Stiles could feel it vibrate through the bed as much as he could hear the low, almost purring, sound. “I thought I was Sour Wolf, not Mystery Wolf.”

“You’re both. Right now, I wanna call you my Sweet Wolf, but also my Naughty Wolf ‘cause you won’t come to bed with me.” Stiles rolled onto his side so he was facing Derek, and took hold of the hand that had been resting on his chest. His thoughts were starting to float away from him. “I thought you’d know all about the language of flowers, Derek, considering you choice of bedtime reading.”

“You always have something to teach me, Stiles.” Derek leaned forward, and for moment that seemed too precious to be wasted on that space between sleep and not, Stiles thought he was about to be kissed. Derek ran his nose up Stiles’ and back down again. “I’ll wake you with enough time for you to eat something and get dressed before Moon rise.”

Chapter Text

Stiles opened his eyes to a darkened room. The door was pulled to, but outside there were voices and the sounds of people moving back and forth.

“Hey,” Kohaku said as he stuck his head in. He’d probably heard Stiles’ heartbeat change as he came to. “Derek’s in the shower, sorry. He figured you’d wake up when he left. We’ve got food downstairs, and,” he opened the door fully, “your clothes are here, too.”

Stiles blinked against the light coming from the hall as the door opened and saw Lydia holding a suit-bag. “We’re taking a leaf out of Scott and Alena’s playbook and doing the power-dressing thing. We decided on black and white and classy, instead of bright and flashy.” Stiles sat up as she walked in and dumped something on the floor, then turned and laid the rest of what she was holding on the end of the bed. “I got you your dark suit and shoes from home. You’ll be wearing one of Jackson’s shirts and Kohaku’s ties. I’m wearing Cora’s shirt. We’ll be Pack by bond by the time we leave here tonight, but the scent sharing will emphasize it.”

Stiles screwed his eyes shut and then opened them wide in an attempt to wake himself a little more. “We don’t need something of Derek’s, too?”

Lydia smirked. “You’ve been sleeping in his scent for days, and I’ve apparently been being urged into his favorite chairs, too. Besides, he’s going to put his teeth to our necks just before we leave. I’m sure that will have the desired effect.” She flicked her hair over her shoulder as she turned, “Don’t even think about skipping shaving. Derek said everything you need to do it is in his vanity. You have twenty-five minutes before we need to eat.”

♠♠♠

It felt a little hurried, but still comfortable and right. The Moon wasn’t much more than a sliver in the sky, yet Derek could feel Her pull like a command he had to honor. He followed Her in silence out to the edge of the forest. It was just far enough away from the houses that most of what they could smell was earth and animals and trees and the darkening sky. He felt the others slow behind him when his own steps halted. The newness of the night was sharp against his skin, and he let himself shift into his beta face; it would do for now. Derek would offer them all the opportunity of taking the oath again with his full-shift later, when there was no longer a threat to them as a Pack.

“Janusz Stilinski.” The Sheriff stepped closer and his eyes glowed their warm gold against the night. “We ask that you accept us and the bond to our Pack, and that you accept that we are here for you and you for us. Do you take this pledge?”

John’s wolf came forth as his beta shift, and Derek could hear Stiles’ and Lydia’s heartbeats increase. They’d not seen the Sheriff’s new face until now. Neither of them smelled scared or worried, though. Their chemo-signals were pumping out something closer to pride. John wasn’t used to speaking around fangs, and Stiles’ and Lydia’s scents colored with fond amusement when he answered.

"It would be my honor, Alpha Hale."

Derek leaned forward and put his teeth to John’s neck, and felt the Pack bond, loose and easy between them until now, strengthen and snap tight. His Alpha felt stronger with the addition of a Pack member already so devoted to them all. Derek barely held back his howl of joy. He looked up to see the other wolves practically biting their lips to control themselves the same way.

John stepped aside and Lydia took his place.

Derek looked down at her. She had her hair high on her head in a intricate design Derek had no hope of understanding, and her shoulders held back with pride that he could. “Lydia Martin, we ask that you accept us and the bond to our Pack, and that you accept that we are here for you and you for us. Do you take this pledge?”

"It would be my honor, Alpha Hale."

She tilted her head the same way John had. Derek leaned in and wasn’t surprised that she had no anxiety in her scent. She shivered as he placed his fangs to her skin: a reaction to the rush of power she was feeling, not fear. The bond wrapped around her, too, weaving itself in a way that Derek hadn’t experienced before. He’d ask her about it later, but for now he simply returned her smile.

He could feel the tension in his Betas. The desire to sing to the Moon about what She was giving them in these new Packmates was nothing if not demanding. They had to hold off, though. They’d talked about it over the spaghetti they’d eaten for dinner and promised each other that they wouldn’t, if they could manage it. Scott and his Pack were unlikely to miss the huge magic shift under their feet, but the Hales didn’t need to draw extra attention to it by howling out the fact for all and sundry to hear.

Stiles stepped up next, and Derek could see that he was still tired, but mostly alert. Stiles looked ready. He smelled of each of them, but mostly of Derek, and it was going to be hard not to nuzzle his throat instead of marking it. Derek thought of the fact that he’d probably end up getting called Cuddle Wolf for his troubles, though, and was able to resist for a little while longer.

Still, he steadied himself and hoped that he could do this without giving in and nipping the man he was increasingly seeing as not just his Emissary, but also his match.

Derek felt his wolf rise in his throat as he said, “Mieczysław Stilinski, we ask that you accept us and the bond to our Pack, and that you accept that we are here for you and you for us. Do you take this pledge?”

Stiles smiled. It was a small, warm expression. He barely whispered, "It would be my honor, Alpha Hale."

The first few sounds were hardly out of Stiles’ throat before the bond reached out from the Pack and pulled him in. It slid around and through Stiles and seemed to bring everyone closer to him, and each other. The connection was stronger than Derek could have let himself imagine, and Stiles’ was more powerful than even his demonstration on the Hyenas had lead them to believe. His magic was as warm as his smile though, and it felt as if it could help keep them all together for a long, long time.

Derek put his fangs on Stiles’ throat, and underlying all the power managed to find the scent of lust and pure happiness. The bond was extraordinary. There was a heat to it and it went down into Derek’s bones, and it wasn’t until he needed to take a breath that he realized they’d all done exactly what they’d been trying not to. Their howling must have echoed for miles.

“I’m incredibly flattered,” Stiles said, grinning. His cheeks were rosy and his eyes looked full of energy. The Pack bond certainly suited him, and Derek wondered just what they’d all be able to achieve together as one unit. The first trial would be sooner rather than later, of course. Stiles looked ready to tackle just about anything, but Derek was sorry that their first task as a unit was going to involve Stiles being tested hard by something no one should have to face. Stiles didn’t look to be thinking of the fundamentals of what he was about to deal with, though. His smile was enough to warm them all against the cool of the evening. “But we better get going. There is no way every wolf in the county, and probably a lot further afield, didn’t hear your fine singing voices. I’ve heard howls before, but that was something else.”

“I doubt if even I could have drowned that out,” Lydia said, smirking and eyes sparkling with the same kind of joy on Stiles’ face.

Derek forced himself to shift back from his beta form and saw the other’s doing so too. John’s control was truly extraordinary for a new Bite, but no one had a problem with him not being able to resist the urge he had to hug his son. Cora watched for a moment, said, “Fuck it,” and stepped forward to wrap her arms around both of the Stilinskis. It was soon everyone, including Lydia, as she was dragged in by Kohaku.

Derek let Jackson pull him in and took in the scent of them all together. He let it fill his lungs and reach into his veins and finally managed to say, “Our Emissary is right, we should go. We’ve got about twenty minutes before we told Melissa we’d be at her place.” Jackson looked at him dolefully until Derek added, “There will be time for more Pack-hugs after what we need to do is done.”

They split apart, and Derek couldn’t help but smile at Stiles not so surreptitiously low-fiving Jackson as they hurried back to the house. The Jackson of six or seven years ago would be horrified, but Derek was proud of the wolf his cousin had become.

There weren’t as many cars on the street outside Melissa McCall’s house this time. Cora parked the Mustang right behind Jackson’s Merc. Derek focused on the yard behind the house as they walked around the side to the gate. There were no voices he could listen to, but there were heartbeats and breathing. It sounded as if half the adults in Scott’s Pack had come to see just what Stiles and Lydia had to say to the McCall Alpha. It was probably stupid to hope, but Derek really wanted this to be over and done with without too many harsh words. He was fairly sure they’d be needing the Pack-hugs he’d promised to Jackson, though. Stiles would need help to grieve, one way or the other. Scott might no longer be his best friend, but it was probable that whatever was said tonight would kill any chance they had of being close to each other ever again.

Derek focused on the six important heartbeats behind him, put on his best blank face, and pushed the gate open. He was here to support Stiles in an unenviable task, and offer kindness to those who would be hurt by what needed to be done. Derek would play his part as well as he could.

♠♠♠

Stiles took stock of who was in the backyard. Jackson had whispered, “about twenty”, to him and Lydia as they’d rounded the corner of the house, so they were prepared for the number of faces. Night had settled now, but Melissa had her bright spotlights aimed wide across the lawn. A quick glance over the McCall Pack members revealed no real surprises except that Mitchell and Anna weren’t amongst them.

Stiles scrunched his toes in his shoes—squeeze and release, squeeze and release—and chose to not look directly at Scott quite yet. He smiled at Melissa instead.

“Hello, Derek.” Melissa stepped in between the two Alphas as she spoke. “I’ve just finished going over the rules for everyone here, and I’ll repeat the two main points for your lot, too.” She looked them all over, face lighting up a little when she caught Stiles’ eye. “First, while I’d prefer not to see any fangs or pointy ears at all, I understand that’s probably a pipedream. The no bloodshed rule you heard the last time you were here still goes, of course. Secondly, and I’m going to stress this as it seems difficult for some people to understand,” Melissa didn’t glance around, but there were a few mutterings behind her, “this house and everything inside the fence is my territory, no one else's. No one is taking it, and no one is claiming it. I’m not anyone’s Pack member, and therefore it can’t be claimed by association, either.” She looked Derek straight in the eye. “Do you and your Pack understand and agree?”

“You have my word that I and all of my Pack understand and will abide by your rules.” Derek punctuated the statement with an ever-so-slight tilt of his head to her, only scarcely baring his neck. Melissa being Melissa she accepted the gesture with a nod, and then her smile faded into something closer to sadness. She stepped back towards the wall and leaned against it, wrapping her arms around her body against the chill of the night. She was just out of the light, but Stiles could see that she was looking at her son sharply when he spoke.

“Why did you call this meeting, Hale?” Scott had his body angled so that it was very obvious he was only speaking to Derek. It was a ploy he’d picked up from the head of Alena and Aldin’s birth Pack. The older man had liked to make a show of the fact that as Alpha, he’d only speak to his equivalent in rank. Scott had decided he liked it, too. “You should be packing. Or, maybe you’ve done that and have come to tell me that you’ve fixed what you needed to before you go?” He made a face that Stiles thought was probably both attempting to look smug and courteous all at once.

Lydia had given Derek a run-down on some of Scott’s favorite tactics, and Derek had told her he’d simply ignore any powerplay, no matter how outrageous or offensive, and go with his gut. Apparently, his gut was telling him to be polite.

Derek breathed in heavily in the direction of the McCall Pack, making it obvious to everyone that he was searching for something in their scents. “I’m glad that your Second has healed well,” he said quietly, lifting a hand towards Liam. “I hope everyone else did, too. But, other than the injuries that we also sustained the other night, there wasn’t anything for us to fix. We’re all at full strength again, thankfully.” Derek reached out and Lydia took his hand and came to stand beside him.

Scott kept his face still as Lydia bared her neck to Derek in a blatant show of allegiance. He sneered a little as she turned to face him and said, “My Alpha didn’t call this meeting, Scott. I did. I wanted to know if you’d thought about what I asked you before you left the preserve the other night.” She was using as soft a voice as Derek, but enunciating clearly so that even Melissa’s human ears would be able to understand everything that was being spoken.

Scott’s eyes hadn’t left Derek’s face as Lydia spoke, but he seemed to decide he’d have to answer her. He raised his shoulders a little and looked down, quite purposefully, at Lydia. “There was nothing to think about. The magic used in the Preserve wasn’t right. It wasn’t—”

“No.” Stiles clenched his fists and sighed. He didn’t want to play word games right now, and despite the rush of power and renewal he’d gotten from the Pack bond, he was still too emotionally drained to play at diplomacy. He stepped forward and said a little too loudly, “The magic I used in the Preserve on Saturday night wasn’t evil, Scott. And, just as importantly, it didn’t touch you or any McCall wolf. I used the Hyena’s Pack bond as a conduit to undo their transformations from human to wolf.” He got control of the heat in his throat a little better and managed to speak a little more slowly, more quietly. “You and I know that the sensation you felt in the Preserve started well before I cast on them. It was the same thing you felt outside the diner when we met the Hales that first night, and at your place the last time Lydia and I were there.”

“So, you’re admitting that you’ve cast on him more than once?” Alena snapped. “You’re actually that jealous of my brother being Emissary that you’re attacking your oldest friend over it?” She’d stepped up beside Scott and taken his hand and was squeezing it tight. “I always knew you wanted to be closer to him again, Stilinski. But I didn’t think you’d stoop so low as to try to bring him down to your level to do it.”

Lydia bristled, something undoubtedly caustic on the tip of her tongue. Derek leaned into her and her expression softened. Alena didn't seem to notice. Her brother stepped up to her and brushed their arms together in a similar fashion and she leaned into it, too.

Aldin waved a hand at Lydia. “Were you going to deny that what we felt half an hour ago, and the other magical events we’ve had over the last week, aren't because of him? I know he’s your friend, but I’d think that you, as a Banshee, would be especially sensitive to the kind of dark magic he has access to.”

And, for the second time in a handful of days, Stiles had had enough. No one was in real danger this time, though, so his response was only verbal.

“What you felt half an hour ago was the Hale Pack growing. My magic isn’t tainted, Aldin, and you damn well know it. I’m not evil or dark or even vaguely nefarious. I do have a pretty short temper, however, we both know that Melissa’s no-blood rule doesn’t have to be broken for you and I to hurt someone. I’d leave before that happened, but don’t push me. I want this cleared up as much as everyone else.”

“You have an explanation for how you’ve been disrupting our Pack bond then, Spark?” There were murmurs of discomfort after Aldin asked, as if everyone had known that was the issue, but hadn’t wanted to hear it said out loud.

Stiles was going to have to come at this the long way, and he was going to have to speak to the only person who’d been there for all of it. He gritted his teeth and stepped a little closer to Derek, and Scott.

“I’ve only done magic that directly affected you and the rest of your Pack a few times, Scott. It’s only involved more than mountain ash exactly three times.” Scott finally turned his body a little and looked in Stiles’ general direction. It wasn’t much, but it would have to do for now. “Last week Lydia helped me charm a protective amulet of sorts, like the one Aldin wears around his neck. I gave it to the Hales because I believe they have the right to be safe in their own home.” Stiles turned his eyes sideways at Aldin as the Emissary took half a step backwards, but decided that a Witch’s reaction to meeting his magical better wasn’t the most important thing right now. Stiles looked back at Scott. “On Saturday night, I stopped every wolf in a two hundred yard radius from moving because I didn’t want to see any more blood spilled. Liam’s lucky to be alive.” Scott was finally looking him in the eye. It made everything easier and harder. “Before I tell you about the other time, I need you to tell me something.”

Scott huffed out a harsh word that Stiles didn’t catch, and pulled Alena closer. “Fine. As long as it doesn’t involve any Pack secrets,” he glared at Derek, “you can have your answer.”

Stiles had given himself exactly as long as it took to have a quick shower that afternoon to come up with all the reasons he could that Scott might’ve chosen to protect Alena from attack instead of Stiles’ dad. There was only one explanation that he’d decided he could forgive. It was the only possible way Scott might be able keep his red eyes, though even then it wasn’t exactly a given.

Stiles had hoped to not have a big audience for this, in case the answer was yes and still hush-hush, but Scott had invited his Pack members, so he’d just have to deal with the consequences.

“I’m sorry to ask this bluntly, and I apologize to you especially, Alena, but.” He swallowed and hoped he smelled at least a little contrite. “Scott, is Alena pregnant?”

Scott startled, and it reminded Stiles so strongly of when they were still pre-wolf that he almost wanted to slap the guy on the arm and tell him it was all a joke so it didn’t cause an asthma attack. Scott’s demeanor changed quickly, though, and the shock turned to spite and he was obviously all wolf again, a growl underlying every word. “What the hell are you asking that for? Why would I tell a rival Pack if she was?”

Stiles bit the inside of his cheek and focused on the Pack bond he could feel flowing over and through him. It was exquisitely calming, even better than Lydia physically grounding him with touch. “Just answer the question, Scott. I swear I’m not asking it to be rude or flippant.”

“I’m not,” Alena said, the defiance real in her tone, as if she was challenging everyone to deny she knew her own body. Stiles saw his wolves nod at her steady heartbeat.

“Could you be?” Stiles prompted, even hoped. “Is there anything about you now, or in the last week or two, that could have made Scott think that you might possibly be expecting?” He was allowing for too much, he knew, but he really, really didn’t want to hear the answer he dreaded was coming.

“Not that it is anyone’s business, but no, there really wasn’t. What the hell are you talking about?” Scott finally spat. He had Alena pulled in tight and would be grinding his teeth together if they hadn’t dropped to fangs. There were murmurs from behind them, but everyone on Stiles side of the yard was still silent.

Stiles felt a great swell of pure, devastating sadness of the kind he’d not experienced since his mother died. He felt his eyes start to wet with tears and tried to blink it back. He’d expected rage. He could calm the flame inside him if it wanted to lash out, and he’d thought that would be the case, but apparently that wasn’t going to happen. There would be no shouting, no swinging fists or slicing claws. This thing, this great big change in Scott’s and his lives—as big as Peter Hale biting Scott, or the True Alpha eyes when they first appeared—it was going to happen with nothing but an imagined pop and a tiny mewl. Stiles refused to look at Melissa, he didn’t want to see her reaction to any of this. He hoped beyond hope that she’d forgive him once everything was said and done.

There was a beat or two and then Stiles’ dad, Kohaku, Cora, and Jackson were close behind him. Stiles blinked and swallowed and made himself speak. “The first and only other time I used magic that directly touched you, Scott, was on September 15, 2011. I had no idea at the time that it had happened, and in fact I only found out a few days ago that it had.”

Scott blinked this time, but out of confusion. “That was years ago, and it doesn’t explain what you’re doing to my Pack and our bonds, or asking about me and my fiancée. Get to the point, Stilinski, or go.” He puffed out his chest a little despite being wrapped around Alena. “In fact, one way or the other, you should probably be going with the Hales when they leave town.”

Stiles stood a little taller himself, feeling the physical and emotional presence of his Packmates behind him, and the pulsing encouragement Derek and Lydia were passing him along the bond. “My Spark kindled something in you that night, Scott. I am what changed you. I am what made you stronger. My faith in that change has been fading for a while now, but you’ve just confirmed that on Saturday you did something both entirely indefensible, and completely unforgivable.” He swallowed, the idea leaving a horrible taste climbing out of his gullet. “It’s finally shown me that you’re no longer worthy of carrying the gift I shared with you. I need you to remember that. I need you to know that it was your actions, your choice, that made up my mind to take back what I gave you.”

Scott had twitched at the mention of him being stronger because of something Stiles had done, but stayed silent. Stiles knew that Scott understood everything he’d just said, but that he’d not want to actually know it. Stiles was basically asking him to make what amounted to a huge cognitive leap. Scott had no reason to believe he was anything but what he’d been lauded as over the years. He had no reason to think that he wasn’t the source of the color of his eyes and everything that they meant and everything that they’d earned him.

Yet, Aldin seemed to be lining it all up in his mind. Perhaps he had been taught more about True Alphas than he’d wanted to remember. Perhaps he hadn't wanted to face the truth before now. Perhaps he could just sense the increasing magical heat of Stiles’ spark in front of him. He looked at his Alpha and then back to Stiles and said quietly, “You’re saying that—”

“Stay out of this,” Stiles snapped at the Witch Emissary, without taking his eyes off Scott. He tried to make himself sound detached, but doubted it was working. “On Saturday night, Alpha McCall, you chose to protect a physically fit, born wolf who’s perfectly capable of defending herself and recovering from almost any physical trauma. You did this to the detriment of a human who was more of a father to you than your own sorry, sack-of-shit dad ever was.” Stiles could feel his anger thrumming now, finally. It was invigorating, but he didn’t feel wild or uncontained. He felt perfectly in control; the emotions of his Pack were entwining with his and providing him with an anchor that felt steady and strong and oh, so reliable. “Because of that choice, a Beta from the Hyena Pack almost ripped my father’s head from his body. The only thing that saved his life and made it possible for him to walk and eat and crap by himself was the Bite of an Alpha wolf who took responsibility after you’d willfully abandoned it.” Stiles rubbed his hands down his sides and then brought them up to cross over his chest. His magic didn’t come from his palms, but most people pictured it that way, and he wanted to make damn sure no one thought he was actively casting something when he did what he was going to. “The instability you and the others have felt over the last week and a half has been because your Pack is losing its center point. Most Packs can’t survive without a strong anchor, no matter how in control its members are individually.” He swallowed hard. “Remember, your choice is what made this happen.”

Stiles shifted his feet apart another inch or two and gently reached forward with his Spark and gathered back what he’d previously given. The wolves on the McCall side of the yard whined and growled as they dropped to their knees. Their eyes flashed and claws popped and a couple of them shifted into their beta forms. Most gripped each other for balance. Scott and Alena fell together, her arms circling his waist and one of his gripping her shoulder tightly. Aldin huffed and flailed a little. He looked unsure of what he should do other than holding onto the charm bag around his neck.

Melissa pushed off the wall she’d been leaning on and took a tentative step closer as phones started chiming and ringing and squealing. Whether Scott had been acting like a dick or not, he was still Melissa’s child, and she obviously wanted to go to him.

Scott’s eyes were closed and his jaw was clenched tight. His hands and face melted back to human and he choked out, “What did you just do to me? How could…” He leant forward and pressed a hand to the ground. “What have you done?” His voice cracked.

“You should be concerned about what he might have done to the rest of your Pack, not just yourself, Scott.” Lydia’s tone was sharp. “Perhaps if you thought about others before yourself more often, this wouldn’t be happening now.”

Scott opened his eyes, and Melissa gasped at the fact that her son was now presenting the solid, golden glow of a Beta. Alena turned to look at what her future mother-in-law had reacted to and whined low and long. Stiles hoped that she loved the man more than she loved his position in the Pack; losing his Alpha status and his fiancée in one blow might be too much for Scott to deal with.

“Undo whatever you just did, right now!” Alena would be screeching if she was human, but her wolf made it all come out as a bark and snarl. “What did you do to him? How can you hurt him like this?”

Aldin reached out to touch his sister, but she smacked him away and growled in his face. He’d bruise from what she just did. Maybe she did love Scott the man, not just Scott the Alpha. The Witch stepped sideways and looked over the others around him and glanced down at his phone as he pulled it out of his pocket. He looked back up and straight at Stiles as he said, “You’ve just created a huge power void, and a very real red-flag to anyone that might be watching, Stilinski. Or is that not something you thought about when you planned this? How can you not see why we think your magic is dangerous?”

Lydia guffawed. “His magic is no more dangerous than yours, Aldin. Possibly less so as he isn’t constrained by the rules of a self-serving Council. Stiles answers only to his own conscience, and to the judgement of his Pack. You didn’t look shocked to hear that a Spark had created the True Alpha, but you never shared your knowledge with Scott, did you? You weren’t allowed to.” Lydia had just as little time for the Witch’s Elder Council as she did for the High Druids. “Sometimes things aren’t about the rules in a book.”

She stepped back and came to be next to Stiles and took his hand. Stiles’ dad took her place next to Derek.

John Stilinski stood as the voice of reason while human, and he did now as a wolf. “I’m new to this side of everything, but I’m pretty sure as long as there is a stable Alpha in Beacon Hills, the status quo should be okay.” He looked at Derek and Derek nodded.

Stiles hadn’t been privy to most of the Pack discussion about what might happen tonight, but he didn’t need to have heard it before to know what Derek was likely about to say.

“The Hale Pack is not leaving Beacon Hills. We’re more than happy to share it with all of the wolves, other supernaturals, and their families and friends, who currently live here. We’ve just added three new members to our ranks, but in the next week or two we’d be happy to consider others doing the same. It will not be a requirement for you to stay here, though, and it would not be made a permanent bond unless it was requested and the personality match was good.” Derek looked at each of the wolves on their knees, even those who hadn’t raised their eyes to him. “I will swear to you, on the Hale bloodline, that this is not about stealing territory or wolves or power. The Hales didn’t come back to do this. The Hales didn’t cause this. My offer is about providing a safe place for us all to be.”

Stiles hoped Derek could feel the pride he was pushing through the Pack bond. Of course, Stiles knew that Derek was a changed wolf. He knew that the reticent and moody man who had been around six or seven years ago had been the product of some pretty messed up circumstances, and that he now only existed in Derek’s nightmares. It was so freaking amazing to see the proof made real, though.

Jackson didn’t move from his spot when he said, “Scott was Bitten by my biological father, Derek’s uncle, so you’ve all already got a link to the Hales. It should make things easier if you want to join us.” He lowered his voice, but not enough that everyone couldn’t hear it still. “It’ll be a hard road, Scotty, but if Derek forgave me, there’s no way he won’t be able to do the same for you.”

Scott didn’t look at Jackson, though. He didn't’ look at any of them. He kept his eyes down and his body closed in. Alena pulled him closer and pressed her face to his a moment, sucking in his scent, and then whispering something so low that it seemed like no one else, not even Derek, would be able to hear. Scott closed his eyes and moved his face so it was buried in her shoulder.

Alena turned her head slowly, eyes blazing and fangs slowly dropping. She looked Stiles right in the eyes and spat, “Undo it. Whatever magic you just did, undo it right now.” When he didn’t move or answer, she turned even further and stared down Melissa. “He hurt your son. It’s bad enough that you helped them before, how can you not take Scott’s side in this now?”

♠♠♠

Blaming Melissa for any of this really wasn’t right, but the scent of hatred that Scott’s fiancée was exuding was long ingrained and bitter. Derek could see that she was accusing out of habit as much as need.

He tried for his most calming, friendly voice. “Use your nose, Ms Allard. Melissa is as worried for her son as you are. Don’t let your differences blind you to the fact that she only has his best interests at heart, even if the two of you don’t agree on what those best interests are. It’s not fair to condemn her for helping people she’s known for decades.”

Alena snarled at Derek in reply. “And what? You’re taking the tainted Spark’s side because you’ve known him for a long time, too? I’ve heard all the stories from when he and Scott still had a friendship. They’ve known each other since they were in elementary school. It’d be nice if your magic-caster showed some kind of loyalty. But no, he happily waltzed in here and cursed his best friend.” Her eyes were glowing hard, but all Derek could smell from her was the urge to protect. “That abomination you call a Spark ripped the wolf from eight people the other night, and he ripped the Alpha from Scott just now. Why would I believe anything else?”

Derek saw Lydia start to step forward, and Kohaku pull her back in. Stiles’ head was down, and despite the pride and surety Derek could feel flowing through their Pack bond, Stiles smelled as sorrowful as he was sure.

The slight tremor in Stiles’ voice made it sound softer than it was. “Listen to my heart, Alena. I didn’t curse Scott. I didn’t even cast on him just now. I did the opposite. There was magic on him, and I took it away. I think your brother can explain it as well as I can. What just happened is nothing like what I did to the Hyenas.”

Alena shifted into her full Beta face, and if she wasn’t basically holding Scott up, Derek was fairly sure she’d have been right up in Stiles’ face, using her claws to emphasize what she was saying. “You’re a Spark. You can make anything sound like a truth or a lie. You can hide your heartbeat and scent if you want, or make it seem completely different to what it is. There’s a reason Scott and I haven’t believed anything you two have said for the last couple of years. If you have any decency in you at all you’ll give him back his Alpha powers. Undo what you just did. Undo it or I’ll—”

“Enough,” Derek said, and all of the wolves, Scott and the other Hales included, showed him their necks. Stiles and Lydia bent theirs’ to him, too. “I will only ever use the Alpha in my voice when things have gone too far. And your accusations have tonight.” He let the power fade from his throat before saying, “It’s Tuesday. I’ve been told that you usually meet on Thursday nights when you can. We have a building on Maple Drive that will suit. It would be beneficial if everyone in your Pack came, young and old, but I understand that you might not want to expose your children to what will possibly be a tense meeting.”

There were a few whimpers from the McCall wolves, but Derek didn’t know them well enough to tell if they were from fear or assent.

He rolled his shoulders and tried to remember what else should be said. “Witch Allard, your wards are important for the safety of the town. While we don’t expect you to maintain them indefinitely, we ask that for the sake of everyone you know, that you keep them strong for now. We can discuss any changes or replacements that have to be made after the meeting on Thursday.” Aldin tipped his chin up once, and Derek decided that was all the agreement he was going to get. He looked at all the wolves staring and him, and focused in on one in particular. Lydia had said that Scott’s second, Liam, probably wouldn’t be an issue. But she’d warned him to watch out for Scott’s combative third, Robert. Derek looked the wolf in eye. “Any fighting, arguing or general trouble between now and then will be seen as an act of aggression not only towards the Hale Pack, but every other supernatural being in the territory. You will be expelled quickly, and formally banished without question.” Robert bared his teeth. “Any outright challenger for the Alpha position will be met as tradition demands, with the full force of my wolf and Pack behind me. They will be made to submit or given death if they prefer.”

Melissa moved her weight from one foot to the other. She apparently knew that such a fight wasn’t going to happen immediately, but looked keen to end the possibility that it could. “You can get the full address and a time for the meeting out to everyone, right?”

Derek really wished she wasn’t so apparently adamant about not being in a Pack; she was a seriously calm thinker. He’d like the chance to get to know her better. “Of course. Either Stiles or Lydia will text the information to Scott, or Liam sometime tomorrow morning.” She tried to smile at him, but it didn’t reach her eyes. He couldn't imagine how she felt right now. She was watching her son’s life crumble and break in front of her, and there was a woman she obviously didn’t like standing between her and her child. “Thank you again for allowing us to meet here. You know how to contact us if there are any issues or questions.”

“Of course.” Melissa nodded her head, and took a step closer to Scott.

 

Chapter Text

Derek watched Stiles in the rear-view mirror on the way back to the house. He was withdrawn; purposefully squashed between Lydia and his dad in the back seat of the Mustang. No one spoke until they were back at the kitchen table.

“Hot chocolate is a thing I think is very necessary.” Kohaku shrugged off his jacket and threw it over the back of one of the chairs.

“Double hot chocolate.” Cora was probably going to win on this, but Kohaku stared her down anyway.

“What on earth is double hot chocolate? Other than something I would have been chastised for daring to drink a few days ago?” John looked keen. He’d taken his jacket off and was starting on his tie. “Whatever it is, count me in.”

“I’ll be asleep inside twenty minutes if I have any.” Stiles was pouting a little, and Derek thought that was a definite improvement on the blank face he’d worn since they left Melissa’s house.

“I’ll see your hot chocolate,” Jackson said as he pulled a gallon jug of milk out of the fridge. He put it on the counter and started rolling up his sleeves. “And I’ll raise it the crash-room.”

Cora’s eyes lit up. “Oh! Can we? I mean it’s the perfect night for it, really.”

Lydia sat next to her and slipped off her shoes. “I’ll bite. Where, and what exactly, is the crash-room?”

Jackson smiled over his shoulder as Kohaku handed him three different types of chocolate chips. “Down stairs, next to the containment cells. And, it’s, what? The Pack chillout and bonding room? And weirdo-wolf is finally caving, I think, Cora.” He pointed to the dark, milk and white chocolate buds Kohaku had. “Triple hot chocolate.”

Derek let himself woop along with his sister—the more chocolate in hot chocolate, the better—then sat down next to Stiles. “Personally I’d probably just prefer double, but I’m game.” Lydia huffed at him and John looked intrigued.

Stiles looked at little lost, as if he still wanted to tell his dad he shouldn’t, but knew that wasn’t the case and just didn’t know what else he might say. The others started chatting about chocolate combinations and whether it was a travesty to use two percent milk to make something so decadent.

Derek pulled off his own tie and laid it on the table. He grabbed his phone out of his pocket and opened the Hangouts app.

He typed out We should start our bedtime reading with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, humming a moment while he figured out how to type the diacritic over the e, and added an icon that was a pile of books. Stiles looked at him and blinked, tilting his head in a way that said he’d seen Derek fumbling. Stiles wasn’t smiling, but his gaze was warm and Derek hoped that he could further it along into something happier. Derek hit the little paper-plane send-button and heard it buzz, still on silent, in Stiles’ pocket.

Stiles looked at Derek and the lines around his eyes softened a little and his lip curled just a touch. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone and bit at his lip—grabbing the skin and letting it go and grabbing it again with his teeth—as he typed out his reply. It was taking far too long for whatever answer Stiles could possibly be attempting to give, and Derek thought he knew just what was coming, but really didn’t care how silly it all might be. He could watch Stiles wrestle with his bottom lip all day if needs be.

Derek’s phone buzzed in his hand and he looked down at it.

Ƭħȃŧ šőʉnđş lȉǩǝ ą ƒǐńe ᵱlāň; ėvɇƞ ĩf Ī ȡǿɳ’ţ ꝃṇöŵ ẅħõ Charlotte Brontë ɪṩ.

Derek’s eyebrows rose of their own accord and he was very aware of the scent of smug-Stiles wafting his way. He mouthed, “Show off,” as Jackson put mugs in front of both of them and Kohaku said something about the no-phones-at-the-table thing. Stiles grinned as he put his phone flat in front of him and picked up the cup instead.

Everyone sat and took a sip, and John let out a contented rumble from deep in his chest. “I wouldn't have asked for the Bite in other circumstances, but damn. If this is what being a creature of the night tastes like, I’m sorry I didn’t make the change sooner.” He took another mouthful and looked Jackson in the eye, “This is damn fine chocolate, son.”

“Thank you, sir.” Jackson blushed a little behind his mug, and what Derek felt was as sweet as the chocolate. It was a peculiar and rather unorthodox little Pack they were building, but itfelt right.

Stiles hummed into his mug. “It is good. I’m sure it’s restorative properties will mean, unfortunately, that I’ll have to go back to work tomorrow.”

“We probably all should,” John agreed.

“Not you, dad. I want a day at the station to suss out what’s happening with the ex-Hyenas. They’re still in the holding cells, right?” Stiles’ scent had morphed from smug to worried in a slide that moved too smoothly for it to be anything but a well-worn transition. They were two emotions that really shouldn’t be together often.

“Going in together would emphasize the fact that you’re a team.” Kohaku sipped his hot chocolate with both his hands around the mug and elbows on the table.

“It would,” Stiles agreed. “Which would be important if they were a rival Pack, but they’re not. They’re a group of,” he stopped, eyebrows pinched in, apparently fighting to find the right word.

“Anomalies,” Lydia provided.

Stiles nodded vigorously. “Yes. Who until a few days ago were all werewolves. They’ll know exactly how to push your buttons, Dad. We can’t risk one of them pissing you off and making you wolf-out in public. I’ll go in first and make sure they’re aware of what I could do to them if they try to mess with you.” He smelled smug again, a little distressed, but also ready for a fight. It was a difficult mixture to parse.

“And just what would you do to them, kiddo?” John’s expression, and scent, was a mix of proud and uneasy. His heart rate had picked up a little, too. He wouldn’t have a handle on his nose for a while yet, and what Stiles was giving off must be pretty confusing.

“Oh, can we guess?” said Cora. She put her mug down on the table and twisted it so the handle was pointing right at Stiles. “I’m going to go with absolutely nothing. Am I right?”

Cora was damn good at reading scents and faces.

“One hundred points to the young werewolf who’s definitely earned another hot chocolate,” Stiles said grinning. His scent had settled to something closer to satisfied. “I’m not going to actually do anything to them, Dad. They won’t know that, though. They’re basically blind to the world at the moment. They can’t tell if I’m lying or grandstanding, and we can take advantage of that. All they know is I’m the one who un-wolfed them, and that fact, along with a few well placed words, should be more than enough.”

John’s heart rate and scent steadied. “I can see your logic, whether I like the idea of you facing them alone or not.” He raised his eyes across the table as Stiles started to object. “Me being fully aware of the fact that you could quite possibly literally skin them all alive with your mind, doesn’t make it any easier to deal with as your dad, okay? I know you won’t, though, and I agree with the plan. But, I’m reserving the right to come snooping around, out of uniform and off the books, if I, say, get bored tomorrow.”

Derek tried not to laugh. John was already as good at avoiding outright statements as a wolf born into Pack arguments and negotiations.

“It all sounds good to me,” Kohaku said, standing and heading back to the chocolate. “Does anyone else want more, or are we all just getting an early night? I have to say, I’m not really looking forward to getting back to regular working hours. Injuries or not, it’s been a good few days.”

“You’re only saying that because Stiles knocked over that Vincent bitch before she got her claws into your gut, Ko.” Cora turned on the faucet and stuck her hand under it, waving back and forth to measure the temperature. “Bags not sleeping next to you, by the way, oh, lactose-intolerant one.”

Kohaku huffed and hip-checked her, handing over his mug to wash. “I’m not bloody lactose intolerant.”

“Bloody?” Stiles’ eyes were lit up with curiosity. “You don’t sound like you’re actually English, but that makes me think otherwise.”

“He’s just as much of a Yank as us,” Jackson said, topping up John’s mug half-way and passing it back, “but he landed in school there right after elementary, so…”

Stiles snorted and Lydia’s eyebrows rose at the use of the word Yank, and then they were both full of questions about school in England and how Jackson and Kohaku actually met, and John had plenty of time to finish a third cup of hot chocolate. The conversation wound down easily, and despite the fact that it was still quite early by the time all the mugs and pots were washed, everyone decided to head to bed. The walk upstairs to toothbrushes and pajamas was filled with making plans for the next day.

Derek shucked off his suit bottoms and shirt and threw them over the end of his bed. He slipped into a pair of soft sleep pants he hadn’t yet had occasion to wear, but had happily let Cora talk him into buying while they were shopping in L.A. He hesitated a moment, but pulled out another pair and a plain undershirt, then knocked on the door to his bathroom.

“I know you’ve got your sweats from before, but did you want something fresh to sleep in?”

Stiles’ voice was muffled behind the door but clear enough when he answered. “Um. Yeah, that’d be good, actually. The others probably kinda stink like old magic and really rank everything.” The door opened an inch or two and one of Stiles’ hands waved out and around like a slightly manic burrowing spider trying to grab its prey. It disappeared into the steam of the shower once it had the clothes in its grasp, and the door snicked shut.

Derek sat on the edge of his bed, not quite sure if he should head straight down or wait. He stood, opened the door to his room, then sat back down. He hadn’t yet brushed his teeth. When Stiles finally stepped out of the ensuite, Derek was glad he was sitting down.

Stiles smelled clean and fresh and like he belonged just where he was. The combination of Derek’s toiletries and clothes wrapped him in a layer of wolf and Hale and Derek that was then underpinned by the definite scent of Stiles and magic and energy. He looked soft and calm and sleepy in the stripy pants and tighter than Derek had expected t-shirt. The only thing stopping Derek from popping claws right then and there was the fact that Cora would kill him for putting holes in his swanky, new pajama bottoms.

Stiles didn’t say anything, but stank of amusement and satisfaction. Derek liked the combination, especially combined with everything else in his nose at the moment.

“I, um.” Stiles looked back over his shoulder. “You aren’t taking a shower, so just teeth? I’ll wait for you. I have no idea what’s downstairs, so.” Stiles was the only one who hadn’t even been down to the cells where they’d kept John while he was healing. “Clean those fangs, mighty Alpha. I need an escort down to this crash-room of yours.”

“Ours,” Derek said, probably a little too sharply as he stood up.

Stiles just smiled and answered, “I didn’t want to presume.”

Derek let himself drag his fingers over the inside of Stiles elbow as he walked past, and watched the shiver he got in response in the mirror. “Once things have settled down a bit the others will move out and this will be my place. We bought this particular house with an Alpha in mind. The Pack crash-room and containment cells are part of that. The Hale Pack always considered them both necessary parts of providing a happy, safe environment.”

It was a serious conversation for another time, so Derek bared his fangs in the mirror to make Stiles smile, then started brushing the blunt version.

Stiles half snorted at him and then went quiet a moment, before saying, “So. You didn’t actually plan on becoming an Alpha again.” Derek shook his head and looked Stiles in the eye, via the mirror again, and kept brushing. “The last text message I got from you before all this was from a desert someplace in Texas. The picture was, well.” The lines around Stiles eyes faded a moment and the corners of his mouth twitched. “I wish I could make photos look as good with my phone.” He blinked and the lines were back. He looked older than Derek remembered him from years before, of course, but it looked good. Even seeing Stiles like this that first night, in the diner, he’d looked right. Derek was almost glad he had a mouthful of minty froth so he didn’t blurt out something entirely too soppy for a moment in a bathroom. Stiles just kept looking at him as he dropped his voice a little and asked, “Is that where it happened, Derek? In the middle of the desert?”

Derek ran his tongue up the inside of his bottom teeth and decided he was done for now, then spat into the basin. “I was staying overnight in a side-of-the-road rest spot. There was a river and a shower there and I hadn’t seen either for a while.” He flicked the faucet on, cupped water in one hand and swished it in his mouth a second or two before spitting again, only shifting his eyes off Stiles for the last movement. He put his toothbrush in the cup next to Stiles’ and turned and leaned against the counter. “I was on my way out of the Chihuahuan Desert. He was an Omega who hadn’t washed for even longer than me. He picked the wrong tent to attack in the middle of the night.”

Stiles’ eyes went wide a moment, then he shook his head a little and pressed his lips together in a hard line. “Did you, I mean. It can’t be traced back to you or anything? If it can we just need a heads up so Dad and I can steer any inquires away.”

Derek stepped forward and put out his hand for Stiles to take and stand up. “I’d only been there for a few hours. The land had no Pack boundaries, and I hadn’t seen another person for about two weeks before that. I burned any clothes and things that got blood on them. I dusted the area with wolfsbane and ash as I was leaving. If there was much of the Omega left by the time he was found an autopsy’ll show he was killed by something canine in nature. A wolf, or a really big dog.”

Stiles stood without taking Derek’s hand and punched him on the arm instead when he was at height. “You did it full shift? Why didn’t you start with that?”

Derek thought about lying, but decided he didn’t want to. “I knew I’d like watching your face move through all the emotions you just went through if I did. I missed it.”

“You missed making me freak out?” Stiles smelled hopeful and, something else. It wasn’t an emotion Derek came across particularly often, and he’d never thought he’d smell from this source. Stiles was giving off waves of pure bashfulness. Derek wondered at it a moment and then realized that Stiles was hoping for a compliment. There was no reason not to oblige.

“I missed your face.”

Stiles blinked, and his scent changed to utter delight and he reached out to finally take Derek’s hand and—

“Come on you two, can’t have a Pack-puddle if the Alpha and Emissary aren’t in the room.” Cora smirked at them and lead the way.

They walked down hand in hand.

♠♠♠

Stiles decided, after a quick survey of what was in front of him, that the crash-room looked like a cross between a lush porn set from the seventies and something out of one of the rebooted Star Trek movies. His brain provided him with a very interesting visual that he quickly pushed aside. He’d be revisiting it later, alone, but sexy thoughts of Spock and Kirk were not the sort of thing one should indulge oneself with in a room full of werewolves. Especially when one of those werewolves was your father.

His brain flashed from sexy gold and blue uniforms to blood and mayhem and family and—

Derek reached out and took his hand again. “We don’t have to stay down here, you know. It’s closed in at the moment, but we’ll open up the skylight eventually. Most of this room is under the backyard.” Derek pointed up, and Stiles followed the gesture. “Those three panels”—they were a different finish to the others“—are right underneath the flower-bed in the middle of the garden. We’ll take out the middle plants, but leave the hedge around the border so it doesn’t look strange to the neighbours. When we take away the ground cover and undo those sections there, there’s a strong layer of glass. It’ll let in the moonlight.”

Stiles felt a little dizzy. Derek sounded so earnest. Stiles looked back down and around the room, and gripped Derek’s hand a little tighter and hoped that the guy could hear his heart fluttering in his chest rather than pounding the way it had before.

“That sounds fucking amazing, Derek,” he said as he turned. “Really. It doesn’t feel closed in, or anything like that. That’s not why, um.” Derek squeezed his fingers a little. “I guess the last week is just starting to catch up to me mentally now that I’ve had some time to deal with the physical healing side of things.”

“This looks like the perfect kind of place do to both.” Lydia was settling herself in a big pile of cushions just off the center of the room. “I’m glad you went with warm and comforting for the colour scheme instead of cool and calm, though. Much more conducive to sleeping in my opinion.”

“See?” Kohaku said to Jackson, flopping himself onto the floor near, but not quite next-to, Lydia.

Jackson flipped up his middle finger at Kohaku and landed within arms reach and dragged a couple of other cushions closer.

“Is the whole floor a mattress, or?” Stiles’ dad asked. He was steady on his feet, but he had a look on his face that said he wasn’t sure why he wasn’t falling over.

“It’s basically an ultra, ultra thick carpet underlay? Somewhere between super-plush and mattress sounds about right. It means we don’t really need sleeping platforms of any kind.” Jackson had pulled another pillow from a pile on the opposite side of his body to the others. “We didn’t have any humans to test the firmness, though, so sorry if it sucks?” He looked at Lydia and then over at Stiles.

“It’s as close as I can remember to the one that we had in the old house.” Derek’s voice was soft, but not sad. “It smelled like Pack and home and safe. The cells next door are for possible problems, but most of the time if one of us had difficulties with the shift on the moon or, well, just because we were teenagers? Coming into the crash-room just brought you back down to the level. No restraints required.”

“Which means we have to sleep in here as often as possible, right?” Cora sounded almost childishly excited. Apparently she knew it, too. “I don’t really remember this kind of space from the house here. They had a big outdoor area at the Marroquín’s compound. It smelled like Pack, but I can’t imagine how much more it will be like that here. The skylight will open properly, too, so we can have airflow, but.” She dragged a couple of soft-looking blankets out of a chest and handed them out before laying herself on her back and star-fishing widely. “This room is going to be amazing once we have cubs in the Pack.”

The room was silent a few seconds, and then thankfully Stiles dad said, “So, we just pick a spot anywhere?”

When they were in high school still, Stiles had, indeed, imagined puppy-piles or Pack-puddles or whatever they were officially called. Of course at that point it had been mostly fantasies that featured strong suggestions of nudity and frottage and general sharing of sexy times. Those dreams had never, not even once in a nightmare kind of way, featured his father being in the same room.

It was all more than fine, though. It was good.

Kohaku and Lydia ended up being a lot closer to each other than when they’d both originally sat down, which Stiles was totally going to be quizzing his best friend about, hard, as soon as possible. Jackson and Cora’s feet looked to be pressed up against each other, and despite the fact that Kohaku had migrated almost a yard closer to Lydia, Jackson was still within arm’s reach. Stiles’s dad fell asleep really quickly but didn’t snore or snort, which was excellent. Apparently werewolf noses were better at night breathing than human ones, too.

Stiles worried for a little while that he’d be the one who ended up snoring, but eventually the concern faded into nothing. He found himself being relatively aggressively spooned by Derek, which was, well, awesome. It was better than everything else that had been good in the last week or two and multiplied by a very large number. The whole situation was amazing, and snuggly, and he could easily become used to this kind of Pack life and bonding. He rolled his shoulder and Derek, who was wuffing out quietly in his sleep, pulled him nearer.

Stiles could get used to this kind of closeness, mostly. He could welcome the idea of cubs draping themselves over every available Pack member and putting their sticky little fingers and paws in places Stiles would otherwise cringe at. Especially if it all came with this kind of spoonage.

The morning came too soon, and Stiles found himself swept up in the energy of the Pack. He was bundled upstairs for a shower, shave and new sweats, and then fed some of the most delicious pancakes his father had ever produced. Kohaku winked at him when he moaned over how good the coffee was and Derek blushed. Stiles wanted to pinch Derek’s pink cheeks, and Cora looked like she was having a great deal of difficulty not teasing the shit out of her brother for his prettily-tinged skin.

The day’s plans were discussed again as the sun finally started to color the sky outside. Jackson was staying at the house with Stiles’ dad to work more on controlling the shift. Lydia and Stiles were each heading to work via a quick stop at home. They needed to get changed into something other than sweats and grab more day-to-day clothes just in case they ended up at the Hale house again in the evening. Kohaku and Cora would be doing long shifts at their respective workplaces to try to make up for lost time and appease slightly annoyed bosses.

Derek was apparently heading to work, too. Stiles wanted to ask him so many questions about it when he had the chance. The idea of Derek doing any kind of construction was slightly shocking, yet something Stiles could easily imagine him doing. Picturing Derek’s muscles working as he swung a hammer or carried around giant lengths of lumber was just a bonus. Today Derek probably wouldn’t actually be building anything, just checking and cleaning the old rec-centre on Magnolia. It was apparently in good condition, but Derek had that Alpha gleam in his eye that spoke of protection and primping at the same time; he wanted the place to look impressive, but also wanted it to be safe for everyone in attendance at the meeting. It was pretty obvious that his worry was especially focused around any kids or cubs that might come. It was apparent that both the Hales, and even Jackson by the look on his face while Derek was discussing the already half-kitted-out playroom in the building, were keen for there to be small people, wolf or human or otherwise, in their Pack.

Stiles let himself worry about the fact that he couldn’t exactly make little Alpha babies for Derek for all of about ten seconds, but Derek caught it anyway. He murmured, “Don’t freak out. There’s nothing to stress about. We have lots to discuss, and there are so many things, good things to talk about,” into Stiles’ ear. Stiles very nearly leaned over to press his skin against Derek’s lips, but decided that the breakfast table was a little too small for that to go unnoticed. Not that everyone didn’t hear and see Derek wrapped around him in the crash-room when they got up, of course. His dad smiled at them from across the table, and Stiles let himself sigh a little.

Stiles sat through the morning briefing and happily laughed off the other deputies’ cracks about him being laid out for three days by a particularly vicious chicken-dinner. They all asked after his dad, though, and had no qualms in palming off most of their paperwork to keep him company at his desk all day. Normally Stiles would resent there being several stacks of forms in his future, but being in the station all shift today was actually going to work in his favor.

As soon as the hustle and bustle died down a bit, he sent a set of rapid-fire texts to Lydia:

 

Good morning again. Time to spill, my lovely.

How are you doing? Is there anything you need?

Did you figure anything more about the True Alpha malarkey?

Do we know how/when Jackson found out about his Haleness?

And... Neon orange: what kind of wolf is Kohaku, exactly?

He was proud of himself for managing to curtail the urge to poke her about the not-quite-snuggles she’d had with the tangerine-haired hottie last night. Kohaku seemed like a really nice guy, and they’d looked very comfortable with each other this morning before and during breakfast, too.

There was no immediate response, and when Stiles looked up at the clock he figured that there wouldn’t be for a while as she’d be in the middle of class. Hopefully she wasn’t cursing out whatever substitute teacher had been handed her work load for the last day or two.

He thought better of it for a few moments, but decided that he might as well, and sent off a Hangouts message to Derek, too: How’s the meeting-house looking? adding a little crossed hammer and wrench icon to the text before he hit send. He pouted for a moment when he realised there wasn’t any kind of housework or cleaning icon he could use to go with it. Hopefully the meeting-house was going to need none of the first and not much of the second. He pictured Derek all sweaty and workmanlike for a few seconds, and then that somehow morphed into an image of the Alpha wearing a french maid's outfit while mopping and dusting and yeah. He put the phone down and was glad no one was around who could smell what he’d done to himself with his imagination.

There was no quick reply from Derek, though, and after doing not even a quarter of the paperwork he’d been left with, Stiles decided he might as well get the whole Hyena thing out of the way early. Heidi was dealing with her own stack of reports, and Malcolm, the guy who came in to clean and generally keep everything in order, was busy at her end of the building, chatting away to her about his new grandbaby while he tried to fix the roller on a chair.

Stiles stood up with his coffee cup in hand and headed in the general direction of the breakroom. He went past it and put his mug down on the filing cabinet next to the gate to the secure area. He thought about cracking the keypad open with his Spark—the way he’d done with Deaton’s door the other night—but decided against it. He really didn’t have much practice with the everyday side of his magic, and he might end up melting the lock instead of opening it or something equally as mortifying and impossible to explain. It wasn’t as if he could leave them in there all day without checking on them anyway. The normal, everyday way of opening the door should be fine.

Stiles tapped in his six-digit code and followed it with a card swipe. The building had changed a lot in the last few years. Several members of the force being slaughtered in the station made it easy to get better cells and even better security after the fact. There were five holding pens now, each with double-bunks and a metal toilet. There were two single-stall showers on one side of the prisoner-area that gave enough privacy that no one could see anyone else’s pink bits, but not enough that everyone didn’t get to see what your knees and neck looked like naked. One of them was usually propped open and storing a few brooms and mops and things. That side was closed now though, and there was a gouge in the door that made Stiles think maybe someone had tried to grab a cleaning tool to use as a weapon.

The sharp end of a broken broom-handle wasn’t exactly a set of werewolf claws, but it could still do a lot of damage, and the idea that a Hyena had tried to attack one of the deputies made Stiles mad. He swallowed and stepped through the gate proper and walked over to the damaged stall, running his hand down the door and over the gash in the faux-wood panelling.

The voice that broke the silence was full of snark and bravado. “Admiring my handiwork, officer? I reckon I could do better the second time if you’d like to give me another go.” There were a couple of chuckles, and a groan or two.

Stiles didn’t move. He thought about the fact that he didn’t want there to be anything to incriminate himself, or more importantly, taint his dad’s reputation. There was no problem with their being a visual record of him being in the room, but the video cameras couldn’t have any audio record of what he was about to say. He pushed the idea out of himself and into the cameras, projecting the need to protect his father from scrutiny and the town from evil. The light flickered on the camera.

“And I reckon I could gut all eight of you without raising a sweat or even opening the doors to those cells. Ripping open the bellies of a handful of humans is a far, far easier thing than making eight werewolves suddenly immune to the Bite.”

He turned now and looked at them. A couple were standing, and where as one or two had been lying down before they were now all sat up straight, staring at him.

Stiles let himself laugh. He thought about what movements made a werewolf look like a werewolf. He rolled his shoulders back and lifted his nose to the air, just. He tilted his head to the side.

“Immune?” Vincent might not be their Alpha anymore, but apparently she still had gumption, and some smarts.

Stiles drew back his lip in the best impression of a snarl that he could muster. “You didn’t think I’d allow the possibility of you becoming wolves again, did you? I called myself an antidote, but I forgot to mention that you should also think of me as a vaccine. You’ll never be werewolves again. You’ll probably never be anything other than mundane again. I’d tell you I’m sorry it ruins any plans you were making, but I’d be lying.”

A few of them shrank in, and the man who Stiles’ had hit with the bat in the Preserve let out something of a sob.

Stiles summoned his own version of an Alpha voice. “Listen to me carefully, because I won’t do you the service of repeating any of this. You’ve all left evidence at crime scenes across the country. It’s being collected and collated. None of you will ever live in free society again.” He ran his eyes over each of them. “If you’ve any love for your fellow Packmates, use the last few days you have here to say goodbye. Who knows where you’re all going to end up.”

He stood himself a little taller and moved so he was standing directly under the camera, out of it’s visual range, and made a little ball of fire to hold in his hand. It was one of the first things he’d taught himself to do when he and Lydia had come back from out of state and he was still entertaining the idea of being able to use his Spark for some good. He hadn’t summoned fire for years, though, and he’d forgotten how mesmerizing it was. If he let himself he might stand there and stare at it all afternoon. He forced his eyes away from it and scanned the cells again. The flames were having the desired effect. The not-wolves all had at least some trace of fear in their eyes.

Stiles lifted his hand a little and said, “When the Sheriff returns to work tomorrow, none of you will speak to him. None of you will even look at him. You will treat him, and every other person you come into contact with, as the most important person in the world to me. If you don’t, the heat you felt in your body the other night when I stripped you of your wolves?” He concentrated and carefully made the fireball a little larger, watching it flicker and reach out to the tips of his fingers. He kept it contained by concentrating on not damaging himself or anything that might call back to his dad. “You’ll remember it fondly compared to what I’ll put into you for the rest of your days.” He snapped his hand shut to put the flames out and looked back up at the not-wolves. “Understand?”

There were a few murmurs of vague assent. Most of them were still looking at his hand.

Stiles snapped out his words loud and sharp this time, “Do you understand?”

There was a chorus of Yes es and a couple of Yes, Sir s ! thrown in for good measure. Stiles counted to twenty-five in his head, and decided that it made for a good enough amount of time to be threateningly quiet. He turned and showed the Hyenas his back, and thought about the surveillance cameras working perfectly again to bring everything back online. Hopefully he hadn't entirely ruined the recordings, or worse, the system that controlled them.

Stiles pressed in his code and swiped his card and stepped back through the gate. He picked up his coffee mug and went to the break room and let himself fall into one of the chairs. He leaned forward and stretched out his forearms on the cool of the table, then folded them so he could rest his head. He breathed out and in and counted the spaces. He wasn’t even close to a panic spiral, but he felt unsteady and uneven inside his brain.

His phone buzzed in his pocket and he sat back, hoping that it was something he wanted to read. He swiped open the screen as a handful of texts came in one after the other. As usual when asked a group of questions, Lydia had answered them in reverse order:

 

Kohaku has Kitsune heritage, thus the eyes (and hair to match). Sees, and can distinguish, different kinds of magical energy. Apparently, your Mobile Magic Rock is one of the prettiest things he’s ever seen.

Jackson was main the beneficiary of Peter’s will (Malia wouldn’t accept anything). Hale family legal team contacted Jackson. Jackson contacted the Hales through the legal team.

Deaton was far more forthcoming with books after your efforts with the Hyenas. So, True Alphas: Maximum recorded time in existence previously was ten months. Requires situation of serious distress—eg threatening whole town/way of life, not just one person or family. Previous youngest known Spark to produce one was 38 years old. As Deaton said, it’s usually a difficult spell/casting, involves immense pain for the wolf. He didn’t tell us it usually requires a blood sacrifice as well. Generally shortens life of wolf involved, if wolf survives process (50/50 chance). Usually considered last resort, even for powerful Sparks.

I’m better than I’ve been for months, and I think you are too. Other than tomorrow’s meeting being over and done with, there’s nothing else I need at the moment. But thank you for asking. You need to tell me, too, if there’s anything you need.

It wasn’t the cute message he’d been hoping for from Derek, but Stiles had asked her the questions, so really it was something he’d wanted to read. He was glad to hear her say she felt good. He groaned and stood back up and poured himself the remainder of the coffee. It was bitter and strong and a little burnt, but it was kind of nice to have something that tasted so familiar no matter how bad it was.

He couldn’t really comment properly on anything she’d written in the time he had to tap out replies before she went back into class, so he just sent Lydia a quick kissy-emoticon and left it at that. She knew he appreciated her efforts and knowledge. She now had others who would do the same, and for that Stiles was very, very grateful. He couldn’t think of anything he needed other than more time with Derek, probably, and as she said, the current not-crisis over and done with.

Stiles sighed long and hard, forcing himself to expel all the air he could from his lungs, then dragged enough back in to make it feel as if he might pop the buttons on his uniform shirt. He had a feeling that if they could all just get through the next few days, get to the next Full Moon without there being any bloodshed, literal or otherwise, things would be okay. There was so much to look forward to now—more than two people in his and Lydia’s social circle, Pack meetings that felt like they were a democracy, snuggles with Derek in the crash-room and possibly other places, Stiles’ dad being able to eat all the burgers and onion-rings he damn well wanted to.

A few days of uncomfortable negotiations and getting used to things was a small price to pay.

♠♠♠

Chapter Text

♠♠♠

Derek opened all the cupboards and found a dusty glass. He rinsed and then filled it from the faucet and took a big, long drink.

The big kitchen and the bathrooms were clean, finally. The building they’d be using to meet with the McCall Pack felt larger in person than it had seemed on the plans and in photos, but it was thankfully in perfect order other than a stubborn layer of dust. Derek had given it a quick inspection, made a trip to the hardware store to pick up cleaning supplies and an industrial sized vacuum cleaner, then rolled up his sleeves and gotten stuck in.

The place had once been the Maple Seniors’ Recreation Centre. It had several rooms, a couple of spots that were potentially excellent kid friendly spaces, and a decent back yard. It would work well as a meeting-house if the Pack got bigger. Well, if they could think of a good cover story for why they’d all be there regularly, of course. It was a little closer to the centre of town than Derek would have liked and would definitely not go unnoticed by the locals. During his wanderings over the last few years he’d met several large, not-family-based Packs that let the human population around them think they were new-age churches, and others that had fronted as really intense martial arts studios that didn’t take new members. He wasn’t sure if either idea would fly in Beacon Hills.

Derek shook that particular concern out of his mind for the moment. The Pack, in its current configuration, sat quite happily around the kitchen table. If there was an influx of members then Lydia or Stiles or Kohaku or Cora or someone else far smarter than their Alpha would come up with a good cover story. Derek put down his now empty glass and finally let himself look at his phone. He’d only heard two messages beep in his pocket all morning, so he figured there hadn’t been any kind of emergency.

The first, from about twenty minutes after he’d left the house, was Jackson and John telling Derek he should let them know if he needed a hand with anything, but preferably not cleaning. Jackson had used John’s newly sensitive nose as a very convenient excuse. Derek was almost sorry he hadn’t seen it earlier, wishing that he’d been able to send a reply promising to make sure John did the sweeping while Jackson took care of the toilets and bleach. He let himself smile as he imagined the look on Jackson’s face if he’d read that.

The second message was in the Hangouts app, and Derek opened it with a certain trepidation. Stiles had freaked out a little that morning. Derek hadn’t had the time, or the privacy, to do much more than tell Stiles not to worry about whatever it was that was bothering him. Now, about to press on the message to see what Stiles had sent, Derek worried a bit himself, concerned that he might have unknowingly brushed off an important question by not looking sooner. He opened it and read it over with relief that made his whole face warm up, How’s the meeting-house looking? was not necessarily the start of a serious conversation.

Derek put down the phone and filled another glass full of water and took a big sip. He turned and looked at the room. He put his drink on the counter and then stacked the bucket and mop and brooms together in the corner and put a couple of bottles of cleaning stuff with them. He snapped a picture and sent it. He hesitated a few moments, but sent the caption: If I’m Cinderella, then are you Prince Charming /and/ the magical Fairy Godmother?

Derek put his phone in his pocket so he could feel it if it buzzed again, then went to get the vacuum cleaner from the trunk of the Mustang. The faster he could get this done, the faster he’d be home and able to talk everyone into what he just decided he wanted.

♠♠♠

Stiles stared at the message a moment, trying not to let his face give away just how much he wanted to make like one of his wolfy Packmates and howl with happiness. He’d be the damn pumpkin if that’s what Derek wanted. It’s not as if they’d ever really conversed about relationships in general, though, and these little hints that were way more than hints were going to have to be discussed soon.

Stiles knew this much: A few years ago there had been pictures of Kinsey Scale test results and snap-shots of an ill-advised evening with glitter and waxing from his end. They were quickly matched by an image of a bisexual Pride flag from Derek’s and a photo of what looked like a mostly empty bottle of Boy Butter H2O. So, they both knew where each other stood generally, at least.

Stiles hadn’t had any long term male lovers, but he’d been there and done that as far as experiencing much of what standard gay porn was made up of. Mostly. But, well, porn was porn, and while slipping into a fairy-godmother dress for Derek if that’s what did it for him would so not be a problem for Stiles, the possibility that they might be each other’s Prince Charmings? That would be a lot more like a Happily Ever After deal than a one night stand where you lose one of your favorite shoes.

Stiles looked at the picture again and wondered just when he’d graduated from the wholly expected, but entirely respectable, Little Red Riding Hood, to the slightly less obvious, but never the less extremely welcome, Cinderella story. He wanted his turn at the happy ending. Even though he was only in his twenties and he knew some people never found it at all, well, he kinda thought he, and importantly Derek, deserved a shot at it.

He was considering sending an answer when the front door of the station opened. Stiles put his phone face down on the desk and looked out to the reception area to make sure Heidi was okay. Standing in front of the counter, looking as if there was no reason at all that he might not be welcome in the building, was Scott. He smiled at Heidi and said something. She waved him through to the back.

Stiles sat up further in his seat and wished he had at least two more coffees in his system.

Scott couldn’t really make a big fuss here in the station, thankfully. There was a live witness and a bank of security cameras, and Scott knew that. Either he wanted to see the Hyenas, which Stiles would be able to flat-out refuse quite easily, or he was here to have some kind of heart to heart. But they hadn’t had a conversation, just the two of them with no one else participating or there to referee, for a really, really long time. Stiles shifted in his chair again and wished he was more in touch with his Spark so he could hide his scent or heartbeat. So far he’d only been able to do off-the-cuff things when he was worried about people being in danger. But he knew he wasn’t in any real danger right now, and his Spark would too.

“I’m glad I caught you, man. I wasn’t sure if you’d be here or out patrolling or something.” Scott smiled wide, and long, and Stiles felt a little uncomfortable. “Have you got a few minutes, or are you under the pump with all that paperwork?” He motioned at the reports and requests on the desk and waited for an answer.

Stiles crossed his ankles under the desk and focused on feeling calm and centred. He wasn’t in danger. He didn’t need his Spark to protect him, and he certainly didn’t need to freak out enough that any of his new Packmates could feel it down their bond.

“I’ve got time.” He pushed at the edge of a paper pile. “Take a seat if you want.”

Scott grabbed a chair and rolled it closer and sat down. He looked across the desk and puffed out his chest a little and said, “There’s no easy way to say this, and Alena reckoned I should just come out with it, so…” he rolled his head to the side and batted the lashes over his big, brown eyes and Stiles just knew what was coming next. “I need you to undo the whammy you put on me last night, Stiles. I’m the Alpha, and my Pack needs me. I’m sorry for whatever it was that I did to upset you, but you’re in another Pack now so it probably won’t happen again.”

Stiles wasn’t sure, because he didn’t have a mirror in front of him and he was too flabbergasted to try to figure it out otherwise, but it was quite possible he was doing the shocked-goldfish thing with his face.

Scott thought that a half-hearted not-apology and an appeal to outside needs was going to put everything right. It reminded Stiles of Scott trying to talk him into reinstating gaming privileges after they’d had a disagreement pre-werewolf: Scott would do something to piss Stiles off, Stiles would tweak Scott’s game account settings so Scott couldn’t play, Scott would make poor-me eyes and promise he’d never do anything to piss off Stiles never-ever, and Stiles would cave and they’d go back to being best buds until it happened again.

Scott looked a little impatient with the fact that Stiles hadn’t yet answered him. “I mean. Did you do this ‘cause you wanted to look cool for Derek? I know you’ve had the hots for him for years, but this is a bit over the top even for you.” Scott leaned forward a little, as if he thought Heidi might be listening from the reception area and he didn’t want her to hear. “He’s pretty straight, though, dude, so it was probably all for nothing.” He sat back and spoke a touch louder again, because apparently werewolf business was less embarrassing than human sexuality. “I promise I'll take back the whole running him out of town thing. He’s never going to have that big of a Pack, so it’s not like he's someone I have to worry about.”

Stiles gripped onto his chair and pushed down hard on the heat inside him. Opening himself to his Spark again meant that he was experiencing anger as a very different sensation than he was used to. Yet, there was still a familiar need for restraint. Instead of having to control the urge to stand up and smack Scott, Stiles just needed to make sure he didn’t fry him with some kind of magical, idiocy-zapping hex.

Stiles flexed and clenched his toes in his shoes and wondered how it was that Scott was just ignoring the fact that he was pumping out anger in his scent and his heart rate had skyrocketed.

Stiles started, “I don’t,” but his voice was shaking, and that actually got Scott’s attention. Scott leaned forward a little and put on his, I’m listening I promise face. Stiles focused on the normalcy of that and tried again. “I don’t know where to start with what you’ve just said, so I’ll take a bit of Alena’s advice and just dive in, shall I?”

Scott nodded, and Stiles leaned away a little. He looked Scott in the eye and Scott didn’t blink. Stiles spoke quickly, trying to get as much out as he could before he needed to take a breath so it would be harder for Scott to interrupt.

“I didn’t whammy you last night, Scott. I un-whammied you. You aren’t an Alpha. True Alphas are made by Sparks as weapons in times of distress. It’s a complicated and painful magic. Sometimes the wolf in question dies during the change, or while they’re Alpha. It shortens the wolf’s life even though being a True Alpha usually only lasts a few months either way.”

Stiles put his chin up a little and waited for Scott’s harsh words, but Scott just smiled at him and said, “I can do some pain, man, you know that. If I need to hurt or bleed for you to undo it and make this right, I will.”

Stiles opened his mouth and closed it again. Scott was hearing what he wanted to hear, nothing else. It would have to be one step at a time, then. Stiles gripped the edge of the desk with one hand and rubbed his other along his leg.

“I didn’t whammy you last night, Scott. There’s nothing to undo.”

Scott narrowed his eyes a little, a sure sign that he was hearing something he didn’t like. He was apparently starting to take in what Stiles was saying. He looked a little more serious when he said, “So, you whammy me again, then. I’ve been a True Alpha for years. You know I can handle it. I can take the pain.” He looked sure and certain and definite and Stiles wanted to slap him to wake him up.

“It’s not about the pain, man.” Stiles wanted to shut his eyes and lose himself in the memory of waking up surrounded by the Pack and Derek’s arms in the crash-room that morning. He settled on the brief flash of it that he’d just experienced and dropped his shoulders. “Creating a True Alpha is normally a long, intricate spell that involves more than just a physical toll. It’s blood magic and fire, Scott. My Spark actually burned you to make it happen, even if we were all too fucked up at the time to realize.” Stiles had been beaten and battered in his jeep that night, he’d probably bled enough for any spell. He wondered if they’d ever figure out just how he’d managed it the first time around. He couldn’t let himself get distracted by that right now, though. Scott didn’t appear to be registering any of it still. “The most important thing, though, is that it can’t be done any old time. There has to be serious distress and imminent danger to fuel the transformation. When I did it before there’d just been a string of murders, our parents had been kidnapped, and I thought that there was a serial-killer Druid about to try to take over the damn town and all the supernatural things in it.” He sucked in a breath and tried to put every ounce of the terror he’d felt that night into his next words. “I thought the Darach was about to rip a hole in what it meant for us to be alive.”

Scott nodded. He was agreeing without hearing, though. “We can do it again, man. There wasn’t a spell or ceremony last time, so it should be easier for you if there is, right? And, we’re like,” he smiled over the desk, flashing his pearly whites and puppy-dog eyes and Stiles could see, finally, that it was starting to look forced. “Still brothers forever, man, even if you chose another Pack. If anyone can do this, we can.” He was still nodding madly, trying to convince himself and Stiles. “It’s dangerous to have so many wolves without an Alpha, and I’m distressed about that, so. That’s what we need, right there. Tell me what I should do to get ready for the spell casting, and I will. I can do ingredients, fasting, special outfit, anything.”

Stiles felt the fight go out of his chest and the flame in his belly settle. Scott was clutching at straws. There were red lines through the whites of his eyes and his shoulders were hard bars tensing under his shirt. He looked more tired than Stiles could remember seeing him, not since the last time he got ripped open by a major monster of the week. He still had that pleading look on his face, though, like he was thirteen again and trying to convince his already double-shift working, cash-strapped, single mom that she could afford to send him to summer camp. It had no chance of happening then, and there was no chance of this happening now. Scott just didn’t want to admit it to himself.

Stiles glanced out to the reception where Heidi was, then back at the desperate werewolf in front of him, and in the calmest, quietest voice he could find said, “No, Scott.”

“No? Just no?” Scott’s anger made him look more alive and that realization put a wave of nausea through Stiles body. “Hale waltzes back into town and flashes his sprayed-on jeans at you and you throw away everything our friendship has ever been, and you have the guts to sit there and just say no?” He stood, but his claws were in and his eyes were still dark brown as he spat, “Alena has never trusted you, you know? Her family told us to watch out for you. They nearly didn’t let Aldin come to a Pack that had another magic-caster in it because they were worried that you’d try and steal his power. Alena almost grabbed him and ran back home when I admitted that you’d been possessed by a chaos demon.” He shook his head at the memory and looked down and away. “She threw up when she found out how many people you’d killed.” He took a step back. “I tried to believe you when you said it was all behind you, but I don’t think I know who you are anymore. Did you plan all this? Did you and Hale bring the Hyenas here so this would happen?”

Stiles was frozen. He had no answer for what he was being accused of because he honestly had no idea how someone, anyone, could be thinking he’d do such a thing, let alone someone who'd called him brother just a few moments before.

“My son didn’t kill those people, Scott. The Nogitsune did. And Stiles didn’t plan anything.” Scott startled, apparently he hadn’t realized someone else was there, let alone another wolf. Stiles' dad was speaking low and soft. “He was just as surprised as you when the Hales came back to town, and just as concerned by the appearance of the Hyenas. No one is conspiring against you.”

Stiles’ dad was using his Sheriff’s voice. Sometimes he deployed it as a shield, a way of compartmentalizing when things got difficult. He was a new wolf, and another wolf was making threatening noises in his son’s general direction. Keeping his cool was probably a little bit tricky right now, which was why he should be at home, or at the Hales, or with another wolf Packmate.

Stiles wanted to know where the hell Jackson was.

“He’s taken everything from me, Sheriff.” Scott had turned his body so that he was facing the new physical threat. “You feel the Pack bond now. Imagine that being ripped away from you and everyone else that used it as their anchor.”

Stiles wanted to answer that, and he wanted his dad to be away and safe. But his dad was calm enough as he shook his head a little and came one step closer. “One thing in your life has changed, Scott. A big thing, but only one thing. You have your home, your job, your mom, your fiancée. This territory will remain stable because there’s a Pack here to take care of it, even if you’re not the Alpha. I know you're upset, but things will be okay. ”

Scott’s shoulders rounded and the pull of his eyebrows disappeared and he looked an inch or two shorter. He looked back and forth between Stiles and his dad a moment or two, and then finally asked one more time, “You won’t undo what you’ve done?”

Stiles shook his head and finally let go of the desk. “There’s nothing to undo.”

Scott turned and walked away, long steps taking him past Heidi and out the front door in a matter of seconds.

Stiles’ dad turned to watch Scott go. “I texted Jackson from the front steps when I came in. He’s moved the car down the street a bit, so hopefully Scott will have a straight line to get to his. He didn’t seem like he was about to get violent, but I don’t have a full handle on the whole new-improved-sniffer thing yet.”

Stiles couldn’t help it, he snorted and followed it up with a giggle or two until it faded. He pressed his lips together until he felt like he could speak without screaming, then gave his dad a smile. “I thought you weren’t coming in today? You’re supposed to be sick still, remember?”

“I figured it wouldn’t hurt to come take a look when it was just you and the, uh, prisoners here.” He looked over Stiles shoulders and made little wolfy-claws with his hands. It looked as ridiculous now as it always had, even though his dad now had the real thing. “You need back up with them?”

“Nah. Already taken care of. We’ve had our little chat.” Stiles looked down at the desk and the pile of paperwork. “I haven't even filled out half the requests we’re sending out to other counties for records on their prints and things, though. This is going to take forever to get sorted properly.”

“We’ll do what we need to do. They’ll be going away for a very long time if their reputation is even half-way true.”

“So.” Stiles stood up and grabbed his now cold coffee, “are you really just here to say hi, or?” He waved towards the back room and raised his mug as a question.

“Just to check in. I won’t stay. I’m actually headed home to my place. Jackson, and maybe Kohaku? are going to be babysitting me there tonight. They’re worried that I might not be okay with what I can smell if I don’t have help. Apparently it could be pretty overwhelming.”

Stiles could see the logic. “Jackson’s the only other wolf who’s been through the change. It makes sense.” He smiled. “You don’t want to take some of these request forms home with you, do you?” He looked hopefully at all the paperwork he hadn’t yet managed to do, and his father snorted at him in a way that was all-dad and no-wolf.

When Stiles got back to the Hale House he parked his jeep in front of the garage, grabbed his stuff from the back seat and walked up to the front door. He stood there a second realizing that he had no idea if he should knock or just walk in. He had a key, but this was hardly the time to use it. He wasn’t even sure if anyone else was home. He juggled the stuff he was holding so he could reach up.

Derek opened the front door just before Stiles lifted his hand to rap on the wood. “Pack members with keys don’t have to knock, Stiles.” Derek grinned and wiped his hands on the dishtowel he was carrying as he turned and headed towards the kitchen. He said over his shoulder, “I hope you’re hungry. I’m already used to having to make enough for four wolves, and I may not have adjusted the number of potatoes I peeled down enough. The wedges are already in the oven, though, so...”

Stiles dumped his bag at the bottom of the stairs, laid his clean uniform over the banister, and heard his stomach make a mortifying noise. Derek laughed out loud and clear and Stiles really, really needed to kiss him hello. He settled for leaning against the kitchen counter. He wanted to offer to help, but Derek seemed to have everything under control.

“Dad said he was heading to his place tonight and taking Jackson, and maybe Kohaku with him?” Stiles glanced at the food that was out ready to be used. There was a tray that had what looked like deep red, minced beef—there were hardly any bits of fat in it, so it was the good stuff. There were a few jars of spices and a handful of freshly picked herbs from the little window garden. Stiles had a second’s thought about just how they’d gotten them to grow so quickly, but brushed it away when Derek reached out and grabbed a knife from the block next to him.

Stiles was again struck by how much softer Derek looked all over now. And yet, here in front of him, was proof that Derek’s muscles apparently hadn’t gotten the message; they shifted and pulled under the wolf’s top and looked so damn good that Stiles wanted to lean over, lift away the material, and taste them. He needed to stop that line of thinking. He looked at what else Derek had out on the counter: tomatoes in a bowl, a pack of swiss cheese slices, an expensive looking sauce in a glass bottle, pricey looking bread rolls with white flour clinging to their crusty tops.

Derek Hale—Alpha of one of the oldest Packs in the country and probably number one on some super-secret most-eligible-wolfy-bachelor list—was in his kitchen, dressed in old, washed-out-to-gray sweatpants and an amazingly snuggly-looking, dark-purple sweater, hand-making hamburgers and wedges for Stiles Stilinski. The domesticity of it all was doing nothing to calm the growing arousal Stiles felt pooling below his gut and threatening to tingle out into his fingers. They needed to talk more before there was kissing, though. At least Stiles had a topic that was guaranteed to kill any burgeoning mood, though he didn’t really want to talk about it.

“Dad’s appearance was definitely the highlight of my work day.”

Derek picked up the chopping board from in front of him, then an onion and large knife, and moved to use one of the arms of the U-shaped kitchen bench as he chopped. Now he could look up, not back, at Stiles as he spoke. “How did the Hyenas take the visit from the Spark who stripped them of their wolves?” He cut the ends of the onion and sliced the skin down the side, like slitting open the belly of a beast. Stiles startled a moment when Derek looked up and his eyes were Alpha red. Derek blinked a few times and they faded back to blue-green. “Sorry, it helps with the onion fumes.” He stripped off the onion’s skin and cut the flesh in half.

Stiles snorted. “I learn something every day.” Derek smiled and waved Stiles on before starting to chop. “The Hyenas were full of bravado until I told them that they’d never be wolves again.”

Derek’s hand stilled mid slice, then he finished the cut. He didn’t look up. “You made them immune?”

“Yes.”

Derek’s fingers tightened around the handle of the knife and then he kept chopping. “That’s. That’s even better than I’d hoped.”

Stiles waited a beat, in case Derek had anything else to add, but he just picked up the second half of the onion and started dicing it, too.

“Dad was less of a surprise than my other visitor. I suppose you know Scott dropped by to try to get me to undo my magic again?”

Derek reached over and grabbed a metal bowl and swept the onion into it. “John said. But, he couldn’t tell me what Scott smelled like. Do you think he gets that there’s nothing you can do, now?”

Stiles wasn’t sure. Scott had looked defeated. “I think so? He doesn’t trust his ability to tell if I’m lying or not, but he seemed shocked at how sincere Dad was. And even though Dad’s sniffer isn’t up to parr yet, his control while they were talking was perfect, and Scott has to understand a lot of that is from having a strong, stable anchor.” He thought of the look on his dad’s face while Scott was talking. “Even I could see that Dad was pissed at Scott for saying what he did, but Dad didn’t even flash his eyes. I think that went a long way to convincing Scott that things here aren’t just slapped together like he was probably assuming.”

Derek nodded and turned and reached for the beef. “John’s control is amazing for such a new Bite, that’s for sure. It looks like he won’t have a good handle on his nose for a while, though. That’s why I sent him home with an escort. He’s lived in that house for a lot of years. I was a bit worried about how he’d react to some of the things he might smell there that he hasn’t for a long time.” Stiles doubted that there would be anything of his mother’s scent left, but he wasn’t a wolf, so he really couldn’t know. Derek saw that he understood and smiled softly as he added, “Jackson’s with him, but I’m not sure if Kohaku decided he’d go with them or with Cora and Lydia back to your place.” He stopped what he was doing a second and turned around to face Stiles. He rubbed his hands down his jeans and said, “I, um. Are you okay with crashing here again tonight? I kind of assumed.”

Stiles hoped that Derek could smell just how okay he was with it. “I have a feeling that if it’s Kohaku and Lydia and Cora in a room there’s going to be copious amounts of hair-braiding and things. I might not have a buzz cut anymore, but I’d still have no idea what they were talking about, and I can’t afford to wake up with purple hair or something.” Stiles leaned forward and reached out for one of Derek’s hands. Derek softened around the edges a little, and Stiles knew he was reading this right, but he was nervous anyway when he said, “Besides, I’d much rather spend the time with you.”

♠♠♠

Stiles’ scent had warmed into one that made Derek want to abandon dinner and drag him upstairs. He wanted to kiss Stiles senseless, wanted him touch-drunk and wanton, but also close and safe and resting easy inside Derek’s arms. Stiles’ heartbeat had risen and there’d been a touch of anxiety in his tone when he’d reached out. It was growing a little now, and Derek squeezed his hand and pulled him a little closer to try to settle any fears he might have.

He couldn’t quite find the words to answer what Stiles had just said, just admitted out loud, so Derek did the next best thing. He leaned his head forward a little, holding Stiles’ eyes in his own and making sure he gave Stiles time to move away. Derek rubbed his scent down the side of Stiles’ face, across his cheek and up his nose.

Derek couldn’t help gasping when Stiles returned the gesture, gripping his hand a little tighter and dragging his scent up and down. The combination of them together was rich and heady, and growing warmer and sweeter with every moment. Stiles blinked at him, slow and steady, and tipped his head back slightly without dropping his gaze.

The timer on the oven beeped to warn Derek that he had about fifteen minutes to cook the burgers if he wanted to serve them with perfectly crisped wedges.

“Food time, huh?” Stiles said, leaning away an inch or two. “I’ll set the table?”

Stiles pronounced the burger to be the best fucking thing he’d ever tasted, and demanded that Derek try his hand at onion rings next time because that would be the only possible thing that would make the meal better. He grasped the burger with two hands and took big, wide bites. Derek managed to eat his own but almost missed his mouth several times. It was difficult to concentrate on anything other than the way Stiles licked the dark sauce from his long fingers, lapped at the sour cream the wedges left on his lips, and moaned over the fact that the swiss cheese apparently tasted like the tears of freaking angels the way it was melted into the meat.

It was damn near close to obscene, and Derek wondered if he was ever going to be able to eat in a diner or at a barbecue again. Stiles drank from his bottle of beer, tipping his head back and swallowing hard and Derek hated that he was responding as if programed to react to every possible cliché that porn or erotica might possibly employ. He struggled not to adjust himself under the kitchen table, and was glad he’d cut far too many potatoes as it meant he could keep stuffing wedges into his mouth and not sit and gape at the indecent show before him.

♠♠♠

Bellies perfectly full, washing up done, and everything put away, Stiles happily let Derek take him by the hand and lead him to the stairs.

“There’s another part of the house I want to show you,” Derek said as he picked up Stiles’ duffel and uniform and climbed the stairs two by two. Stiles was perfectly capable of carrying his own bag, and he knew that Derek knew that. He side-eyed him and then let that melt into a smile when Derek put them inside his own bedroom door.

“Given that I’ve had the pleasure of your room, Alpha Hale, is there something I haven’t yet seen involved in this tour, or?” Stiles tried for smooth, but he felt more than a little silly trying to chat Derek up. At this point kissing and snuggling and probably-hotter-than-the-sun sex kind of felt inevitable, and none of Stiles’ usual make-them-laugh-until-they-can’t-turn-you-down lines seemed particularly appropriate to the situation.

The corner of Derek’s mouth twitched up, his cheeks rounded a little more, and his eyes practically twinkled. “There is, indeed.” He stepped away from his bedroom door, though, and waved towards the end of the hall. “It’s something I haven’t shown anyone else, in fact. You might call it virgin territory.” He reached his other hand forward.

Stiles raised his eyebrows and slipped his fingers along Derek’s palm and let himself be led. Virgin territory wasn’t something he thought Derek would possess much of, quite frankly, though the idea was kind of nice. Derek wasn’t talking about sex, but Stiles was happy to let his brain consider the double entendre because there were sexy things that Stiles had always wanted to try. Things that he hadn’t felt comfortable doing with hook-ups or one night stands, and it would be, well, cool if Derek had some of those things on a list somewhere, too. He was pretty sure he’d feel comfortable exploring just about anything if Derek was that one he was doing it with.

He shook off the idea when Derek opened the last door in the corridor. Stiles hadn’t exactly had the opportunity to go exploring in the last few days, but he’d thought that this door—slightly wider than the ones for the bedrooms and seemingly a dead end—was some kind of closet or storage space.

Derek reached around the doorjamb and flicked a switch and Stiles saw that they were at the base of a wide spiral staircase with metal uprights. It had a dark-stained, intricately-carved, curved wooden railing. Two more steps inside the door and he could see that it was a short climb, not really a full floor above. Derek pulled him closer and said, “There’s a switch at the top of the handrail at the left. Up you go.”

“Virgin territory?”

Derek smiled some more, but it was softer, and Stiles could feel that Derek’s palm was starting to sweat and see that he wasn’t standing quite as tall. Whatever it was that Derek was about to share was important to him, and he wanted Stiles’ approval. Stiles smiled back, hoping that he could give Derek what he wanted. He squeezed their hands together a second then let go, and started the climb.

It wasn’t completely dark; there was the warm light from the staircase behind him, and a crisper, whiter light above. A few more steps and the last of the turn and Stiles could looked up at a giant window above letting in the moonlight. He found and flicked on the lightswitch easily and caught his breath.

It was a big space, open and empty. There were windows at each end of the room, and the one in the slanted roof was crisscrossed with wide pieces of dark wood that divided it into sections. It left stretched squares of moonlight laying across the polished wooden floor. The staircase broke the area into sections, one third of the length of the house to one side, and the rest stretching back over the bedrooms below.

Derek’s voice was soft. “The short side is over the garage. There’s proper attic type storage area underneath, level with the base of the staircase. We figured we could fit everything that needed to be stored there, instead of using up here.”

Derek was behind him, a stair below. Stiles stepped forward and reached his hand back, grabbing onto one of Derek’s and using it to pull him in close, then reaching back for the other so he could bring them around to his front.

Derek was warm pressed up against him like they had been the night before. Stiles turned a little in his arms and said, “I am pretty fucking impressed with whoever suggested this shouldn’t just be the attic, it’s gorgeous.”

Derek whispered, “I’m glad you like it,” against Stiles’ neck. The next words spilled out a little louder. “It’s all properly insulated now. The big window has external electric-shutters, but the others need curtains and the floor might need carpets even though the central heating is wired up here too. And...” he gripped a little harder, then stepped them sideways, away from the stairs, and turned so they were facing the front of the house and the street. The wall before them was windowless, but had two doors. Derek rested his head on Stiles shoulders and used their combined hands to point first right, “That’s a walk in closet with built in racks and drawers and things,” and then left, “and there’s a private bathroom with an actual bath and a big shower.” He turned them again, facing back towards the third of the space above the garage. “I figured that end could be sofas and a bookshelf or two. Maybe, eventually, a cot.” He stilled, chest and head and hands frozen as if waiting for permission to move again.

Stiles twisted around, dropping one of Derek’s hands so he could make the turn, but holding the other tight so Derek didn’t think he was trying to pull away. “It’s a beautiful space. It’s definitely worthy of the Alpha.” He wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to ask. This was obviously a thing that was happening here. An important thing. An Alpha didn’t just bring anyone into their private den, the place where they could escape from everyone and everything else. Derek had brought Stiles here with some trepidation, and he seemed pleased that Stiles liked it. The kids thing was an entirely different type of important, though.

Stiles tucked himself into Derek’s front a little, and Derek looked down into his eyes. He blinked at Stiles as he whispered, “Hopefully it’s worthy of the Alpha’s match, and their babies if they decide to have them?” He rubbed his lips together. Stiles could feel Derek’s heart pumping hard, his chest thrumming against Stiles’ as he spoke. “Wolves have never been as difficult about same sex couples as humans are. If a Pack’s male Alpha is married or bonded to another man, for example, often a female member of the Pack will offer to carry a child for them. If the Alpha and his other half are extremely lucky, they’ll have a sister between them that will volunteer.”

Stiles felt his own heart skip a beat. He raised himself up so they were eye to eye again and barely found enough voice to say, “Cora?”

Derek smiled and pressed himself forward, resting his forehead against Stiles’. “It was one of the first things she said to me when she got back to the States. The Marroquín Pack’s emissary is more of a seer than magic-caster. They told Cora she shouldn’t hesitate, because knowing would be the best way for me to help my intended accept that we could be together.”

Stiles took in Derek’s scent and pressed his face down against Derek’s shoulder to absorb some of it and let himself melt a little. He felt his head lighten as if he’d sat up too quickly or maybe had a shot or three too many tequilas.

Derek pulled him in even closer, wrapping one arm around Stiles’ middle and bringing the other up to push back some of the longer bangs that had fallen over Stiles’ face. He combed them through, again and again, and Stiles looked up, finally able to bring himself to take in whatever expression he might find on Derek’s face.

It was hope and contentment, and a brightness in his eyes that looked just a little bit hungry. Stiles opened his mouth to say something, but realized he didn’t quite know what he wanted to say. Derek’s eyes flicked down and settled on Stiles’ parted lips. His nostrils flared and his pupils grew wide inside his eyes.

Stiles held Derek’s gaze, pressed his lips together as he swallowed, and then very slowly licked his lips. Derek’s heart was still racing beneath his sweater, and Stiles’ lost its rhythm a moment or two when Derek rumbled in his chest.

Stiles smiled and dragged a hand up to rest on Derek’s collarbone and licked his lips again. Derek happy-growled a little more loudly. “I like that sound, Alpha Hale.” Derek lifted his eyebrows a little and one side of his smile followed and he smirked as he forced a little more of the not-purr out. Stiles pressed his hand more firmly into the vibrations. “Will it stop if you’re kissing me?”

Derek shook his head and his hand stilled in Stiles’ hair, and then his palm was warm against Stiles’ cheek.

“Then kiss me, Derek, please.”

Derek lifted Stiles’ chin and ghosted his thumb across Stiles’ mouth. He closed his eyes as he leaned in and his touch was soft and sweet but not tentative at all. He rolled his bottom lip against Stiles’, opening his own mouth just far enough to press in and taste. He lapped and teased, but didn’t push any further. The rumbling in his chest was steady, and Stiles wanted to immerse himself in everything about this moment.

Derek didn’t pull away to end it, just turned his head and rubbed his cheek against Stiles’ and Stiles squirmed a little at the prickles and rough. Derek’s beard was probably soft and pettable, but his stubble was definitely not.

Stiles eventually laughed out, “Okay, big guy. I’m pretty sure that say, switching pajamas from last night and then revisiting our awesome first attempt at spooning is going to lay down your scent on me even better than death-by-scruff. Kisses while snuggling would go far, too.” Derek huffed and turned his face and started on the other side of Stiles’ jawline. “Fine. But you’re explaining me turning up to work covered in stubble rash to Dad.”

Derek pulled back and didn’t try to hide the look of fear and realization in his eyes. He blinked a couple of times and Stiles pressed another kiss onto Derek’s lips.

“You wanna be the big spoon again, or?”

Derek ducked his head a little. “It’s my turn to be the little one.”

♠♠♠

Derek hadn’t slept much. He spent the night counting Stiles’ heartbeats and breaths. He attempted to catalogue Stiles’ scent, trying and failing to split it into recognizable, explainable notes of fragrance. He listened to the tiny noises and half-words Stiles made in his sleep now that he wasn’t using all his energy to heal himself from magical overuse. He revelled in the way their bodies fit along each other and the weight of Stiles’ arm across his chest and the heat of Stiles’ air against his neck. Stiles didn’t let go in his sleep.

Stiles had stirred before his alarm and they’d spent half an hour trading supple, lazy kisses, heedless of their stale breath and the growing amount of stubble between them.

Deputy Stilinski left for work smelling perfect and mumbling to himself about whether banishing beard burn to appease one’s boss-dad was a worthy use of magic.

Derek spent most of the day wishing it was five AM again. The memory of their morning together was strong and warm, though, and it lasted long enough that it was even able to see him through the more unpleasant parts of the mixed Pack meeting that evening.

Scott and Alena didn’t show. Derek had also been worried about Robert causing problems, but he’d apparently decided against a challenge; he and his wife had reportedly given notice at their jobs and started the process of moving towns already.

Most of the rest of the old McCall Pack came. There were raised voices and eye flashes and growls and only a long explanation of Sparks and True Alphas from both Aldin and Deaton—the Druid had turned up uninvited and unannounced, but they were all glad for it anyway—stopped outright bloodshed. There was of course disbelief, and an enormous number of questions about how and when and why it couldn’t be redone. A few wolves wouldn’t be persuaded, yet Derek didn’t blame them for their incredulity. If he hadn’t trusted Stiles with his life before he’d seen what the Spark could do, he’d have found the whole thing suspect, and frightening, too.

The ginger-haired wolf, Mitchell, and his wife Anna, were the only two that came to the meeting with their kids in tow. Anna, a slight, but strong-voiced, born wolf had presented her children without discussion and bent her neck and requested protection and inclusion for herself and all her family. Derek had been more than happy to oblige. Once scented by the Alpha, the toddler had happily waddle-rushed towards the small pile of new toys in the corner of the main room. The baby had fallen asleep in his father’s arms despite the growling and pointed words flying about the space for the next hour and a half.

The meeting wasn’t fun, but no one had left the building angry. Derek was happy to call it a success. Only a handful of wolves—mostly the ones who’d not believed the True Alpha explanation—didn’t take the Hales’ offering of temporary Pack placement. They’d accepted Derek and Cora’s oath on their family’s blood that they’d be treated fairly and without malice if they chose to stay in Beacon Hills as Omegas, though. And, once everyone had witnessed Anna and Mitchell do it, several other parents had sought permission to visit Derek the next day with their kids.

It was a worthwhile, if not entirely comfortable, evening. John, Cora, Kohaku, and Jackson had forced Derek to leave Stiles, Lydia, Deaton, and Aldin while they discussed wards and boundaries and magical contracts. The wolves cleaned and tidied the meeting house. The magic-casters and Banshee made lists and appointments and had several long staring matches, but managed to do it all while not speaking loud enough to be heard. It was frustrating, and Derek was glad that he wasn’t the only one that thought so. John looked like he was about to crawl out of his skin.

They were stacking chairs while the other three wolves wiped over the still mostly-unused kitchen. Derek was watching John with one eye and the meeting in the corner with the other. “I think one of them is using some kind of sound scrambling spell. My mother had one around her study.” John looked unimpressed and shrugged his shoulders. Derek understood the feeling. “I’m pretty sure your input would be valuable for what they're discussing, Sheriff.”

“That and the Alpha’s two cents, huh, son? It’s important to make your mark in discussions, too.”

John’s scent morphed quickly from concern to amusement. Apparently he hadn’t said anything to Stiles during the day about the condition his son’s face and neck were in, but the other deputies had done more than enough to make up for it. The ribbing had increased after Derek decided to bring the Stilinskis lunch at the Station. Stiles had come back to the house after work with a bottle of aloe vera lotion and three slightly different shades of foundation. He’d lamented loudly than none of his coworkers had bothered to buy him a decent brand.

Derek rubbed a hand across the back of his neck and hoped he wasn’t blushing too badly. He was only saved from further scrutiny, and probable teasing, by Lydia.

She slipped a notebook into her bag as she watched Aldin turn and leave. “We think we’ve got it all figured out now, you two. Stiles is probably going to need some time off work to get it all done, though, John.”

Stiles flattened the edge of the map he’d just folded. “Oh, and that would go down well with my colleagues. Sheriff’s deputy-son scores a boyfriend, then Sheriff’s deputy-son scores a week off.” Derek felt all the rest of the blood in his face rush past his cheeks and into the tips of his damn ears, and watched Stiles’ stubble-rash get a background shading of embarrassment-blotches. The patches started at his temples, covered most of his cheeks and tucked themselves down under the collar of his shirt. “I mean—”

John, thankfully, decided to cut them both some slack. It was possibly, probably, simply as he couldn’t handle the stink of excitement and worry and shame and anticipation that was rolling off Stiles and Derek at the same time, but still. “You’re up for a double-dose of annual leave soon, and you’ve been putting off choosing when to take it. I’m sure it can be arranged sooner rather than later. Until then you’ll just have to make use of the fact that you have a night-vision equipped boyfriend at your beck and call if you need to head out somewhere to do what you do with wards and the such.”

Kohaku and Jackson barely contained their laughter, and Derek was glad that John was old enough to be their father. The three of them any closer to each other would be a nightmare.

♠♠♠♠♠

Chapter Text

♠♠♠♠♠

“There’s more ice in the freezer down stairs,” Melissa shouted to Chris as he disappeared inside. He waived his hand back at them in acknowledgement before the door shut behind him. Derek found the couple’s on again, off again relationship a little strange, but Argent had only arrived back in town the week before and there would be plenty of time to get used to it. Derek had a suspicion that Chris’ involvement in the hunter side of things might be the reason Melissa was so adamant about not officially being part of a Pack, any Pack. It was a question and a discussion for another time, though, and it possibly wasn’t something worth worrying about anyway. Melissa was a Hale in every way other than presenting her neck, and Chris had greeted Derek as an old friend, and told him that Isaac would be trying to visit soon. Chris had congratulated Derek on his return to his family’s land and his blossoming relationship with Stiles. Chris even acknowledged them as an Alpha pair, something that no one outside of the wolves in the core of the Hale Pack had spoken aloud until that moment.

Derek turned his attention back to their host. Melissa had her hair undone, lime-green glitter on her eyelids, and was wearing a long, black dress. It was, she’d told him, the closest she ever came to donning an actual costume. She loved everyone else’s though, and laughed as a handful of kids ran past with buckets of candy on their arms, trying not to trip over their trailing mummy-bandages and flapping dragon wings and all the other things that seemed to follow them around.

Derek tore his eyes away from the children. “I know the others said it, but I will again, Melissa. Thanks for having this here. We’re just not quite ready to open up our place fully yet.” Most of the McCall Pack members who’d joined the Hales had decided to come to the party. There were kids and pumpkins and fake tombstones all over Melissa’s backyard.

She handed him a beer to open for her and chuckled. “Even human couples like time to settle in together before they feel comfortable letting the hordes invade, Derek.” Stiles hadn’t left Derek’s bed, or the house, after that first night with the two of them alone. Melissa took a sip of Heineken and looked at her watch. “Speaking of which, when are the Stilinski men joining us? They're both rostered off at some point tonight, yes? I can’t imagine you got decked out in that for the rest of us.”

Derek was glad she couldn’t see him blush in the half-light. His jeans were absurdly tight, the Wolverine leather jacket had cost a small fortune because he’d done it as a rush order, and the prosthetic hand-blade-things had been sold out everywhere. But, after spending days practicing so he could manifest just his beta-shift sideburns, Derek had finally mastered it. He had it on good authority—Kohaku the Orange Power Ranger, Jackson the tenth Doctor Who, and Lydia the slightly miniaturized but still very intimidating Wonder Woman—that Stiles was going to love it. Cora, who was wearing a pair of tiny, yellow devil-horns clipped in her hair and had shifted her eyes to match, just laughed and told him that he and his Alpha-match-to-be were going to drive everyone mad once they had cubs to dress for trick or treating.

Derek was fairly certain that John would be turning up to the party as John, and that Stiles was going to be dressed as Deputy Sexy, even though his dad had forbidden him, loudly, from putting fluffy, pink handcuffs anywhere near his uniform.

Derek allowed himself to smile at the memory of that conversation.

“They won’t be here until late. I’m not sure I understand the system completely, but the deputies rotate through holidays and this year the Stilinski men are part of the team on for Halloween.”

Melissa smiled. “They both had to work through Christmas last year. I’m pretty sure that this year they won’t.” The McCalls and Stilinskis probably had plans long decided for the winter holiday. Scott and Stiles may not have been Scott’n’Stiles for a very long time, but they were still Melissa’s and John’s sons, and they were each other’s family. Derek could imagine that like most slightly estranged relatives, they’d tried to hold on to their traditions, no matter how uncomfortable they’d become.

Melissa took another drink and looked down once she’d swallowed. Derek could smell, more than see, the tears welling in her eyes. He wondered if she was still planning on taking Christmas day off, too, or if she’d volunteer to do a long shift because it was better than being in an empty house.

“Scott’s not coming home?” Derek kept the question as even as he could.

Melissa blinked at him, but didn’t wipe at her eyes. “He said he’d try, said that he might not be able to because of his new job. But, he made the mistake of doing it over Skype instead of on the phone.” She scoffed low in her chest. “He never did learn that a mother doesn’t need a werewolf-nose or ears to know when her kid’s lying.” She sniffed and took another swig from her bottle, then looked at it hard when she lowered it. It was more than half empty. “I think I might have had enough of that for now.”

“It’s the only alcohol you’ve had all night, enjoy it.” Derek hoped he wasn’t pushing too hard when he said, “I’m sure Scott just needs time and space. He’s got Pack support with Alena’s family, which is good. You know there’ll never be any issue from us if he wants to come back, but he needs to make the decision for himself.” Derek stretched to grab a bowl of snacks from the trestle table closest to them, dodging another set of small, running people as he did so.

The cub that collided with his leg spun around in a circle and then landed on her butt. She couldn’t have been much more than six years old, and her ladybug wings were crooked when she got up. Derek reached down and put out his arm for her to lean on as she dealt with a shoe that wasn’t doing what she wanted it to.

Her scent was full of the giddy happiness that only children produced, but had a touch of seriousness about it, probably due to the shoe being a difficult task. Once she was done she looked up at him and yelped.

“Oh, sorry! Sorry, Alpha!” She bared her neck and looked down at the ground and let out a waft of anxiety. It drifted closer to the smell of fear when she spied the spilled potato chips on the ground around them. It was quite possible, though difficult to tell from the angle he was at, but it looked as if her lower lip was quivering.

“What’s your name, little one?” Derek handed the half-bowl of snacks and his beer to Melissa—who looked glad for the change in topic—and knelt down on one knee. More and more of the Pack and Pack-adjacent kids were being introduced to him, but this little one didn’t look familiar.

She didn’t look up when she mumbled out, “Rebecca Rena Hamilton, Alpha. Mommy and Momma call me Becca.” That would explain why he hadn’t met her yet. One of her mothers wanted to trial being part of the Hale Pack, but the other wasn't keen.

“Can I call you Becca? Or is that just for your moms?”

“You’re the Alpha, Alpha, you can call me anything you like.” She sounded so certain. Derek knew that no matter what his faults, Scott McCall had spoiled the kids in his Pack, so that idea wasn’t something this little one had gotten from him. Derek didn’t know much about where her moms had originally come from, though.

“Miss Hamilton, can you look up at me, please?” She did, though she had difficulty meeting his eyes. “It’s your name, and you get to decide how I should use it, just the same as you do for everyone else you meet.”

Melissa shifted beside him, and Derek realised that she’d just cleared a line of sight for Becca’s moms to watch what was going on. Officially Pack or not, Melissa was a very welcome backup in this situation.

“Even if they’re the Alpha?” The little girl’s eyes flashed a few times as she asked, and one of her moms whimpered. The woman had obviously come from a Pack where the Alpha considered a child’s accidental shifting a breech of etiquette. That anyone could think that left a bad taste in Derek’s mouth.

“Yes, even if they’re the Alpha. You belong to you, and your moms until you’re big enough to make all your own decisions, so I don’t get to choose for you. Even if you were in my Pack.”

She screwed up her face a little and looked at him hard. “Is that only for names?

Derek wondered how much of her moms’ discussions she’d heard over the last few weeks. The Hales were an old line, and despite the fact that he had a rather unusual inner circle in his Pack, some might envisage Derek holding to staunchly traditional roles and expectations for his other Betas.

“No. It’s for all sorts of things. If you were in my Pack I’d want to scent mark you, because I’d be your Alpha, yes?” She nodded and her wings and tight brown curls bounced with the effort. “But I couldn’t do that without asking your moms and you if it was okay. I’d be sad if you said no, but I would accept it. You get to say what I can call you, and if I can scent mark you or not. And that goes for anyone else you meet, too. Human or wolf or anything else. Do you understand?”

She pressed her lips together and scratched her nose, and looked right into his eyes and said, “My name, my choice. You can call me Becca, Alpha.”

Derek smiled and she did too, and her eyes flashed again.

“And you can call me Derek, Becca. Or Alpha Derek if you like that better,” or if her moms felt more comfortable with that. “Just remember, you’re stronger than some of the adults here because they’re not wolves, so try not to run into anyone else, okay? You might knock them over.”

She nodded and smiled and Derek really wanted to straighten her wings, but he just let her go.

Stiles smelled tired, but happy. “Let it be known, Kohaku Aoyama, that I am seriously jealous of your ability to wear spandex. Even if your signature color leaves a lot to be desired.”

“I’ve heard wild tales about your signature color, Stiles Stilinski, but I’m yet to see you in an actual red hoodie. I think perhaps the legends have been overstated.” Kohaku smirked around his words, and winked.

Lydia, tucked under Kohaku’s arm for more than the warmth that she was claiming, snorted. Derek suspected that she’d downed several glasses more wine than she usually did. “He had half a closet full of them at one stage. Some of them with layers of bloodstains. It’s been a long, hard road, but I think I managed to whittle it down to three.”

Stiles shook his head back and forth and held up his hands proudly to show everyone—other than Lydia who couldn’t see past Kohaku’s chest—that he in fact still owned eight of them. His miming didn’t elucidate anything about the presence of battle stains, however. Derek hadn’t seen him in a hoodie yet either, though, and he had a rush of nostalgia. Imagining Stiles in a one of those red sweatshirts was almost as good as picturing him in Derek’s leather jacket.

His normal leather jacket, not the Wolverine one that Stiles had loudly squeed over when he and his dad had finally gotten off shift. Derek had long since let his face go back to normal at that point, but Stiles had still oohed and aahed at the way Derek had done his hair and the way the black and mustard-yellow leather looked freaking amazing, and when Derek had finally sprouted the just-sideburns he’d been practicing, well. Derek hadn’t gotten to see Stiles’ orgasm face yet, but he was fairly certain they’d all witnessed something pretty damn close to it in that moment. It had taken all of Derek's self-control not to pick his boyfriend up and carry him home right then and there.

He’d been stopped by Stiles leaning in close and whispering something along the lines of not knowing if he wanted to fuck Derek while he was wearing only the jacket, or have Derek strip it off real slow before Derek fucked him with his face pressed into the leather. Derek had shivered all over and very nearly lost hold of the partial shift he’d worked so hard to master. They were practically living together, so Derek had no idea why they hadn’t already had sex. He knew it was something he was planning on changing as soon as he could.

Stiles had then settled himself along Derek’s side, content with Derek’s physical reaction to his teasing and the looks of knowing their Packmates were giving them.

“I think what you really want to know, Stilinski,” Jackson had an evil twinkle in his eye, “is what Derek would look like in all-over spandex. The original Wolverine had a yellow X Men suit, didn’t he?”

Stiles whole body went taut against Derek’s side, and Derek didn’t dare look at his face. Derek had thought Stiles had smelled turned-on before, but he’d been oh-so very unprepared for just how aroused Stiles could get while standing in a backyard surrounded by fading children and his tipsy-friends. Thankfully John, whose sense of smell was still a little weak but was improving every day, was on the other side of the garden, blissfully unaware as he chatted with Melissa and Chris.

Lydia, unburdened by the pungent stink of Stiles sexual appetites and buoyed by the Merlot she been drinking, declared, “It’s milkshake time. And pie. I need a milkshake. You all need pie.”

Stiles’ scent went sweet and as happy as Derek had smelled him. He pulled Derek tighter around the middle and said, “A milkshake, Lydia? What flavor?”

“I. Oh.” She leaned a little harder on Kohaku, and for a moment Derek could have sworn she was also a wolf. She lifted her nose to the air and breathed in long and slow. It wasn’t until she swallowed that Derek realized she wasn’t searching for scent, but stretching out her throat. “Caramel.”

“Excellent.” Stiles obviously knew something the rest of them didn’t. Derek raised an eyebrow in question and Stiles just mouthed, “Later.”

“Apple. With ice cream, not cream,” Jackson said.

“Apple? You need to expand your pie horizons, Jax.” Cora looped her arm over his neck. “The Apollo does a mean Banoffie.”

“Oh. Okay, milkshake and pie, for me then.” Lydia stepped sideways and grabbed at both Kohaku and Jackson’s hands. “Come on. You’re all crashing at mine tonight. I’m pretty sure none of you want to hear or smell what those two are going to get up to later. The semi sound-proofing isn’t going to be enough.” Lydia’s abilities had gotten a power boost from the Pack bond, and her prescience, even when not death-related, was something everyone was learning to respect and kind of fear.

Derek knew that he’d gone a shade of red that would probably match well to one of Stiles’ famed hoodies.

John’s hearing was far better than his sense of smell. “Don’t forget you’re still technically on standby until four AM, son,” he called across the yard. “Enjoy yourself, but don’t turn your phone off.”

♠♠♠

“Didn’t we already do this once?”

Derek had his hand over Stiles’ eyes this time, though, as he maneuvered them up the spiral stairs to the attic room. The steps were carpeted, but cool against his newly naked feet. It felt good. Stiles was alive and full of energy.

The last few weeks had been as busy as hell: extra shifts at the station to make up for Stiles’ sick-days and the four-week leave he’d start on Christmas eve, nightly visits to Hale properties and old-McCall Pack members’ houses to switch over their wards, and a handful of trips out to the borders of the territory to sure up the temporary protections Stiles would be replacing properly now that Aldin had finally left.

During that time Stiles had basically moved in with Derek, but other than a handful of enthusiastic make-out sessions and one promising but unfortunately interrupted bout of frottage that had left Cora and Kohaku screaming in laughter when they’d caught them, they hadn’t actually had much time to explore each other physically. They kissed each other hello and goodbye and snuggled on the sofa in front of the TV and were starting to finish each other’s sentences. They knew how to wake each other up from nightmares, and what it took to soothe one another back to sleep. Stiles was yet to see Derek’s dick in more than passing, however, and that was not right. He was not about to complain about their long, slow, sleepy kisses in the mornings or as they fell asleep holding one another, but he wanted more.

It was a matter he’d been planning on remedying tonight, empty house or not. Derek’s absurdly arousing Halloween costume just made Stiles need it harder. They’d be making use of the leather jacket at some point in the future, but tonight Stiles just wanted skin on skin. He had Derek all to himself and the words of a Banshee who’d foreseen that they’d be having some very loud, and presumably very awesome, sex. Stiles was so ready for it that he was slightly worried that he might already have a wet spot on the front of his khakis.

He was only slightly pissed that instead of continuing the groping they’d started just inside the front door downstairs, Derek had decided to lead him back up to the unfinished master bedroom. Stiles took the last step up with a warm feeling in his belly; they had all night to get naked and sweaty together. A detour on the way to sexy times that involved the fact that this was going to be their space, their bedroom, well, it could be forgiven. Especially if it involved some kissing. It probably would involve kissing. Damn it, Stiles would probably be okay with them just kissing all night. He was so far gone on Derek it was almost beyond even his own belief.

And he seriously enjoyed kissing Derek Hale.

Derek pressed up behind him. Stiles heard the click of the light and the sound of the electric shutters opening outside the big window. Derek moved a little to one side and Stiles realized that the space around them was warm. The heating must have finally been switched on up here, too.

“I made some changes.” Derek’s voice was just as tentative as it had been the first time he brought Stiles up the private stairs. “I did as much as I could without your input. I hope you like it.”

Stiles blinked a few times as he reached back to pull Derek in closer, and took in the space before them. There was what he guessed was a king-sized mattress, made up and sitting on top of a dark, square carpet in the middle of the room. There were long boxes along one wall with arrows and symbols on them that made it obvious they were designed for long-distance transport. All the words were handwritten, though. Their contents probably matched the two gigantic chests of drawers and the three elaborately carved, honest-to-goodness, straight-out-of-Harry-Potter, trunks that were sat in a row across the far end of the room.

“I asked you about the colors and things, but I couldn’t decide where to put our bed.”

Stiles couldn’t reach any of the pieces from where they were standing to touch, but he wanted to. “How? I mean.” The dark-finished surfaces had a glow and depth to them that Stiles guessed meant they weren’t made of plywood or masonite. They must have weighed an absolute ton. He was pretty sure he and Derek were the only people who’d been up here since the Hales got back to town, though, so. He twisted his head around. “I have no idea what kind of wood that is, but it all looks amazing. You brought this all up here by yourself? I mean. How?”

Derek stood up a little straighter, and Stiles hoped that was him feeling proud of himself. He should.

Then Derek shrugged. “I moved slowly and carefully. The shape of the staircase made it harder, but I had all day.” Then he leaned forward and rested his chin on Stiles shoulder, pressing his cheek against Stiles’ ear. “It’s...” Stiles felt him swallow. “We haven’t really spoken about it, but. We’re an Alpha Pair. It’s an important part of any Pack lucky enough to have one, and there are some loose rituals, traditions really, that go with the idea. My father spent hours telling us stories of how Mom, despite not knowing one end of a screwdriver from the other, put together bookcases and their bed and their ugly coffee table in the first house they rented together.” His voice changed, and Stiles felt a bloom of warmth in his chest: Derek was mimicking his dad,

“She made the delivery guys put everything on the front lawn even though they insisted they could bring it inside for her. She had to wait until almost midnight to pick up the sofa and get it in the door. No one would have believed a five-foot-eight, bird-boned woman could shift one all by herself. The neighbors actually thought her big strong husband had come home after working late and let her help him move it all in. Little did they know.

Stiles felt Derek smile as he turned his head more. He kissed Stiles’ neck and Stiles twisted so he could kiss Derek back. It was just a light brush of lips across lips, but it said what Stiles wanted. He tilted his head to the side and rested it against Derek’s, and Derek let his chin push into Stiles’ shoulder.

“Your dad was a Beta, so the fact that he was your mom’s other-half is what made them an Alpha Pair?”

Stiles and Lydia had looked up the phrase the first time they heard it a week or two ago. Cora and Kohaku kept using it to describe Stiles and Derek, but they hadn’t really heard Jackson use it unless he was talking to the other two. It seemed like a born-into-a-Pack piece of knowledge only. Lydia hadn’t been able to find a definition, Stiles hadn’t been able to find even a mention, and they hadn’t wanted to ask Deaton in case it was Pack-sensitive information. All they really knew was that no one had ever used it to describe Scott and Alena, so despite the way he’d just asked Derek, he knew it wasn’t just about one of them being an Alpha.

Derek pulled him closer. “An Alpha pair is, quite literally, a pair of Alphas. Mom inherited the Hale Alpha power before she and Dad met. On the other side of the family, my grandfather was heir to the Meyer’s Alpha Power when my dad, his eldest child, was born. But Grandad died when dad was only eight or nine, and the title passed to an uncle. Dad wasn’t actually an Alpha, but he had all the potential to be. If he hadn’t accepted mom’s proposal, he still might have ended up as the Meyer Alpha.”

Stiles took a moment to get that straight in his head. Talia Hale was a born and bred Alpha who inherited her red eyes early. She married Sebastian Meyer, a Beta who was second in natural succession to become his Pack’s Alpha. When he got hitched to Talia he became Seb Hale instead, and so stayed a Beta.

“So, either two Alphas, or and Alpha with a Beta who has Alpha potential?”

Derek pushed his lips into Stiles’ neck again before loosening his hold. He twisted Stiles around so they were facing each other, then put another kiss on Stiles’ mouth. “Almost. Either two Alphas, or an Alpha and anyone who has Alpha potential. You’re an incredibly deep Spark, so you’re basically an Alpha in your own right. If I was ever in a situation where I needed to turn you to save your life, I’d be shocked if you woke up with anything other than red eyes. It’s rare, but it’s what happens when someone magically powerful transforms.” Derek lifted a hand to push some of Stiles’ hair back off his forehead. “You’d be a horrible Beta, besides. You’re terrible at taking orders, aren’t you?”

Stiles’ brain was still trying to process what he’d just heard about being a potential Alpha, so it took him a moment to realize he’d just been insulted. There were better times than now, alone overnight for the first time in weeks, to consider just what all the Alpha Pair stuff meant, though, so he mock gasped to show that he wasn’t impressed with Derek’s cheeky accusation. “I’m not terrible at taking orders. I’ll have you know I’m a very good deputy.”

Derek gave him what Stiles was sure was supposed to be a judgemental stare, but just seemed like a fond look. He was trying to keep a serious face, but there was a slight curl in his lip as he said, “So good that you ignored the order not to have these,” he slid a hand down Stiles’ side and over the things in the front pocket of Stiles’ pants, “on your person while in uniform?”

Derek’s hand settled over what were indeed a pair of padded play-handcuffs. He pressed against them and pushed them in towards where Stiles’ dick—which was still at a definite half-chub—was starting to take a extra interest at the change in conversation.

Stiles licked his lips and decided to play coy for a moment or two. He dipped his chin and looked up at Derek while he batted his lashes and said, “I didn’t contradict the order. There are no fluffy pink anythings near my khakis, I swear.” His cocked his hip out a little, pushing the toy against Derek’s palm. “They’re not pink. That would clash with what I’ve got underneath the uniform.”

The way Derek’s pupils dilated made Stiles wonder if he shouldn’t have picked something fancier than the underwear he’d eventually chosen. He’d settled on a basic, functional jockstrap with a wide band around the full waist and sensible straps of elastic that ran down and under his butt. He’d resisted the ones with the extra straps or mesh pouches or lace detail, mostly. He’d ordered a few different kinds, but he’d left them buried in the box they arrived in, on the back seat of the jeep. There’d be time, and apparently interest, in exploring later.

Derek licked his lips and looked down between them briefly, then lifted his eyes to Stiles’ as he lifted his hand to reach into Stiles’ front pocket. He took a few agonizingly good moments to grab hold of the cuffs, pushing and pulling and prodding at them, making sure Stiles’ cock was not quite involved, but certainly noticing, before he tugged the toy out. He raised them up and grinned wide when he saw them. “Do they match just the color, or the theme of your underwear, too?” He flared his nostrils at Stiles’ obvious surge of interest.

“Just the color, tonight. I tried to find ones that would match the shade of your eyes perfectly, but—”

He didn’t get to tell Derek about the drawbacks of trying to pick colours while shopping online. Derek kissed him with a growl that rumbled through them both, Stiles could feel it in his chest and in his throat and travelling through his tongue as Derek fucked into his mouth, hard and sloppy. Stiles’ cock was back to fully interested, and he pushed forward to share that fact with Derek. He was happy to find that Derek was just as hard.

Derek ran his empty hand up the side of Stiles’ face and into his hair and then dropped the handcuffs so that he could do the same with his other. He pulled back from the kiss a second. “Fuck I love your hair longer like this.” He stole another kiss before moving his hands down and pressing them into Stiles’ neck, licking between the words and his fingers. “I’ve always loved the long line of your throat. I’d let myself watch you, sometimes, way back before I left. You stretch your head back and sigh when you get stuck on a problem you're trying to solve. I felt like a filthy old man, sitting waiting for you to get frustrated by something you were researching, just so I could see you do it. I mostly managed to keep my mind from wandering to other things, I swear. But, your neck. The wolf in me just couldn’t ignore it.”

“Yeah?” Stiles tipped his head and stretched it out now, and Derek leaned in and licked a long stripe up, pulling the side of Stiles’ collar out, starting as low as he could.

His stubble scratched at Stiles’ skin as he kissed and licked back down again. He scraped his blunt teeth beneath Stiles ear. “I wanted to mark it, mark you. It was purely primal. You reminded me of what I wanted if I could ever have it. I thought the need to have you would go away when I gave up my Alpha powers, but it didn’t. I pushed it all down as far as I could and stepped away. You were more than a smart-mouthed kid, but you were still a kid and I couldn’t…”

Stiles turned his head and nudged Derek up into another full kiss, it was wetter and softer than before. He drew their lips apart and then tipped their foreheads together and slid his hands around Derek’s waist. “You weren’t ready, and neither was I, and not just because of my age.” He dragged his nose along Derek’s cheek, then leaned into his ear to whisper, “The first time I built a full-on fantasy around a guy it was about you. I thought about you sucking me off and swallowing it all, and then me returning the favor. I always imagined I wouldn’t be able to catch it all, you’re come would end up all over my face and my neck.” Derek growled again, long and low, and Stiles wondered what the vibration would feel like with Derek’s lips wrapped around his cock, or Derek’s tongue in his ass.

“That’s. Fuck.” Derek wasn’t soft at all with his kiss this time. Stiles heard the play-cuffs kicked across the floor, and then Derek was tugging at Stiles’ shirt, trying to pull it out of his pants.

Stiles was very much on board with the idea. He slid his own hands up Derek’s t-shirt and between that cotton and Derek’s jacket, lifting in the hope of pushing the leather off. “No Wolverine tonight. I just want Derek.”

Derek let go of Stiles shirt and rolled his shoulders back so that the jacket fell on the floor. “Just us?” He reached up and undid the top couple of buttons on Stiles’ uniform shirt, then dragged it over Stiles head and threw it. “I’m all for just us.” He ran his hands up Stiles’ sides and then down his arms, and all the hair stood on end. “When you imagined us together, before, did you only think about us going down on each other? Did you think about us any other way?”

Stiles twisted one wrist to take hold of Derek’s, pulled Derek’s hand to his mouth and drew a finger inside. He flattened his tongue under it and sucked hard. Derek shivered and stepped back in closer, tugged his hand out and slid it up Stiles’ face and into his hair, and took another long, hard kiss.

Stiles pulled back, but held on to Derek tight. “I did. I do. I want to find out what all of you tastes like. I want to find out what it feels like to be inside you. I want you to fuck my mouth and eat me out. I want you to fill me up and take me apart and put me back together again. I want you to let me do it all to you, too.”

Derek’s arms slipped around Stiles and picked him up, several inches off the floor, and walked them both the handful of steps to the mattress. “What do you want now, Stiles?” He let go, pulled his t-shirt over his head, then started on the buttons of his Levis. “‘Cause I want you anyway I can have you.” Half undone, he pushed his jeans down and his black boxers almost went with them. Stiles wasn’t sure what he wanted to look at first; Derek’s bare chest, Derek’s wide thighs, Derek’s hairy underarms, Derek’s cock tenting and staining the cotton of his shorts. Derek walked a few steps backwards and lifted a small chest, about twice the size of a shoe-box and made of the same wood as the rest of the furniture. He flipped the lid and proffered the contents for inspection. That focused Stiles’ attention.

“Were you a wolf-scout, Derek Hale?” Stiles knew he probably shouldn’t, but he couldn’t help but tease. The little box was full of lube and condoms. There was a bullet vibe, still in its packet, and a few differently shaped glass dildos. Stiles looked up and Derek’s cheeks were pinked again, and his ear tips were not only slightly red but also starting to point into wolfiness. The sex-goodies were part of the Alpha-providing for his other-half thing too, perhaps. Stiles slipped his hand over Derek’s, where it was gripping the box tight, and took some of the weight of the chest. He eased the box down to next to the bed and leaned over it to kiss Derek’s mouth softly. “You’re so fucking amazing. You’ve thought of everything. You have all the essentials, and more. I know you don’t need condoms, and you’d hate using them, but you bought them in case I wanted them anyway, right?”

Derek nodded.

Stiles stood up straight again and brought Derek with him. He pulled Derek’s hands over and guided them to lift his undershirt up and over his head. He flicked the shirt away, then moved Derek’s hands down over his own chest and pushed them to the belt of his pants. Derek took the hint and opened the buckle, then the button beneath it.

Derek sucked in a deep breath as he lowered Stiles’ zip. “I want you anyway I can have you, Stiles.”

Stiles uniform pants came off and were pushed aside without breaking a long, lazy kiss. Derek ran his hands down Stiles’ back and over his ass and slid his fingers under the leg-straps of Stiles’ jock, curling them around and holding on.

Stiles followed the action with his own, slipping his fingers from both hands down under the waistband of Derek’s shorts. He slid one finger just into the cleft of Derek’s ass, and then licked out of Derek’s mouth and around to his ear, dragging his teeth over Derek’s stubble.

“I want to mark you as mine, Derek Hale. I want you to mark me, too. I want any shifter who comes near us to have trouble understanding where you start and I end. I wish I could let you bruise my skin. I want everyone to know that I trust your teeth at my throat. I want everyone to see that I let you make me yours.”

Derek thrust his hips against Stiles, and Stiles rolled his to match.

Derek flashed his eyes and put his fangs against Stiles neck and dragged them across Stiles’ jaw. “I’ll mark you below your collar, if you’ll mark me above mine? You can, you know. You're my Alpha match. If you bruise me with your body, your hands, your mouth, your teeth, it’ll be there for days.”

Stiles stepped sideways onto the mattress, pulling Derek with him. He pushed at the top of Derek’s shorts and Derek helped pushed them down and kicked them away. Stiles let himself look down over the hair at the top of Derek’s chest, past his nipples and navel and the thicker trail of hair and down to Derek’s cock. He was uncut and thick, head wet and balls swaying low and heavy.

Stiles wanted to taste the come beading at Derek’s slit and the musk that would be all through Derek’s hair and over his balls. First though, first, “I really want to fuck you Derek. I want to be inside you.”

“Yes, that’s. Yes.” Derek went to his knees, and lead Stiles there with his mouth. Then there was a cold-something on the bed next to Stiles’ shin. Stiles looked down at it and started to push down his jock strap with one hand, reaching for the lube bottle as he did. Derek used both of his hands to tug Stiles’ waistband down, and they toppled to the side, both laughing as they fell.

Stiles rolled onto his belly to make the straps of the jock easier to negotiate. When he turned back Derek went still.

♠♠♠

Derek could have sworn his heart stopped a moment and jumped into his throat. When the thick elastic of the waistband of Stiles’ jockstrap rolled down it left lines in his skin. They rounded the sides of his waist and ran through the tattoo hidden just above the line of his soft, but visible, adonis belt. Derek had seen Stiles almost, but never quite fully naked over the last few weeks. They’d passed each other in the ensuite bathroom and buttoned each other’s shirts and run hands over each others bodies in the dark, but they hadn’t seen all of each other without anything in the way.

“Derek?”

Stiles’ heart rate was increasing, and his scent had taken another turn. In the time they’d been upstairs, Derek had smelled him go from turned-on to impressed, impressed to intrigued, intrigued to turned-on again, and now? Now, Stiles was beginning to smell uncertain.

It wouldn’t do, but Derek needed to calm his wolf before he moved much. He couldn’t risk hurting Stiles, not even accidentally. He sucked in a breath and tried to retract his claws and change his eyes back, but although the scent of him and Stiles together was calming, it wasn’t enough.

Derek knew he was Stiles’. He knew Stiles was his. Stiles was in his Pack and in his bed and he’d pledged himself to the Hales and smelled so, so relieved and happy when Derek said they could have children together.

Derek knew he had Stiles in his Pack.

He also knew that Stiles had gotten that tattoo on his hip, the only one on his body, just a month or so after Derek texted a picture of a sunset that made him think of Stiles’ eyes.

Derek reached out to trace the curve of the triskelion with the side of one claw. The ink of the tattoo was dark red and the edges still looked crisp and new despite having been there for years. Stiles’ pulse was still fast, but slowing a little. He slid a finger around Derek’s, and Derek looked up at him.

“You marked yourself for us, even then.”

Stiles pushed himself up on his other elbow. “I wanted those truths in my skin, too. Alpha, Beta, Omega. Past, present, future. Life, death, rebirth.” He raised himself higher and slipped all four of his fingers through Derek’s and twisted them so they were intertwined. “I wanted to remind myself that no matter what happened, no matter how bad things seemed, I could do what you did and grow because of it.” Derek looked from Stiles’ hip up to his eyes and back down to the tattoo again. “Hey,” Stiles leaned forward and brought his free hand up to Derek’s face. His touch was light as he cupped his palm under Derek’s chin. “Even then I wanted you on my skin. I wanted you with me and in me.”

Derek felt the rumble in his chest rise and the muscles all over his body tense and his cock jump. He barely managed to stop himself pressing forward to taste Stiles’ kiss again. He wanted Stiles under him and around him and he couldn’t do that with his wolf so close to the surface.

“I need.” Derek could barely speak with his human voice.

Stiles used his hand to nudge Derek’s chin up. He brushed his lips against one of Derek’s fangs and smiled when Derek shivered. “I really, really want inside you. But you need inside me, right? You need to claim me?”

Derek had never been this close to someone with his wolf face before. Not in anyway that didn’t mean the other person wasn’t going to get their throat ripped out. Definitely not this close to a human like this. Not close to someone he was going to have sex with. Not this close with all of his most dangerous parts on show with someone he loved.

“I don’t want to hurt—”

Stiles put a finger across his lips.

“You won’t hurt me.” He looked at the lube on the bed, and then over at the box on the floor. “We have to get me ready, though. Do you want me to, or do you need to?”

The Alpha in Derek’s brain was so proud of his Packmate and match for understanding it wasn’t just that Derek wanted to stretch him out. There was a compulsion around this, too. It was the same as the need to feed Stiles and create a den for him. Derek looked down at their hands, still linked together. His claws were still there and he couldn’t.

“Good thing you prepared so well, hmm?” Stiles licked his own lips as he bent to the side and came back with a smooth, glass dildo from the box Derek had shown him. It wasn’t why Derek had put them in, but he was very glad he had. “I want your fingers some other time, though. Yeah?” Stiles nuzzled into Derek’s cheek and then licked across Derek’s mouth and inside carefully. “You won’t hurt me, big guy. I trust you. I want you inside me, I want to you fuck me hard. Make me feel it for days to come. Mark me up inside. I’m happy to let you take what you need.”

Derek watched in silence and Stiles leaned back on the bed again, heart beating fast, cock hard and weeping, pupils blown and breathing so hard he might be mistaken for a wolf trying to drown in his lover’s scent. It was what Derek was trying to do. He flared his nostrils as Stiles flicked open the top of the lube bottle with a click and then put it on the bed next to the dildo. He kept Derek’s gaze as he twisted slowly until he was on his knees, pressed his chest against the sheets, and raised his ass high.

Derek couldn’t help but blurt out, “You’re fucking perfect.”

Stiles sat up again and tipped himself backwards. He reached behind himself to pull Derek closer, and when they were chest to shoulders, kissed Derek’s lips. “And you’re fucking beautiful. Now,” Stiles wriggled so he could take both of Derek’s hands and run them down his own sides, “get me ready, and get inside me, Derek.”

Stiles laid himself down again, chest against the bed, knees shuffled out a little wider. Derek dragged one hand from Stiles’ skin and passed himself the dildo and picked up the lube. The chemical smell was familiar, not enough to distract him from Stiles’ own smell, but the two together was a heady mix; Stiles’ enticing everything combined with the mechanics of sex. Derek tried to will away his claws and fangs and wolf again. He wanted to lick into Stiles, fuck him with his tongue and make him cry out to be filled. He wanted to wrap his hand around Stiles’ cock, lay back and let Stiles fuck his mouth. He wanted to taste Stiles’ hole, worship his balls and.

None of that was going to be safe to do until he placated his wolf.

Derek held the glass rod tightly in his hand to warm it through. The lube slipped in his hand as he tipped it, and he squeezed too hard and there was too much, but Stiles made a noise that didn’t sound at all like a protest. It definitely didn’t sound or look like a protest when Derek ran the end of the glass through the liquid and down across Stiles’ sack.

“Again, Derek. Fuck.”

Derek did it again, and then once more, before bringing the toy back up to Stiles’ entrance and pressing down, soft, but firm. Stiles lifted his shoulders and canted his hips and his hole opened just enough to swallow the tip. Derek pulled it out again and coated it with more of the lube, then pushed it further inside. Stiles’ whole body shuddered at the breech and Derek pushed the claws of his other hand into his thigh to stop himself from abandoning the task to force his cock deep into Stiles.

He watched, instead, as Stiles rolled his hips again and again, and the swirled, blue ribbons inside the glass slid in and out and in and out of Stiles.

♠♠♠

Stiles bit at his lips and clenched his fingers into the sheets. “Derek, if you don’t get in me soon I’m going to come without you. That feels so fucking good.” He’d never had glass inside him before, and it was something he really, really wanted to try again. He’d never had a werewolf cock in his ass, either though, and that was what he really wanted now. “You’re going to feel even better, come on.”

He turned his head back more and saw Derek squeeze even more lube out of the bottle. His cock was hard and looked so much bigger with the hood pulled all the way back and Stiles couldn’t wait to get better acquainted with all of that, but right now he just wanted to be filled.

Derek rested a palm on Stiles’ hip. The skin of his hand was hot and sweaty, his fingers splayed out so his claws weren’t a risk. Stiles wished Derek could grip him properly, pull him in and lift him, move him to just where he wanted Stiles to go.

Then Derek pressed his cock inside in one hard thrust and Stiles didn’t think there was anything that could make this better. He was open from the dildo, but Derek was thick and so not-smooth and far, far hotter to the touch. “Fuck, yes.” Stiles groaned long and loud and pushed himself up on his elbows and let his head hang. His cock swayed with each push Derek made, and Derek was grunting and growling, speeding up and thrusting harder and harder and every second pass teased over what felt best and made Stiles’ cock leak more.

They’d both been hard for most of the night though, and this wasn’t going to last.

“Come on, Derek. I’m so fucking close. I’ve been waiting for this for weeks. I’ve been wanting it for years.” He whined as Derek hit his prostate fully. “Again, fuck. Yes. Come on, Derek.” Stiles had made himself come exactly twice without touching his cock. There hadn't been anyone else involved in that, though. Just him and a superbly shaped and angled dildo. Derek’s length and width and everything was wholly superior. “Make me come, Derek. Fuck, you’re so fucking perfect for me. Make me come without touching my cock. I know you can, Alpha.”

Derek at last grabbed hold of Stiles’ sides, but Stiles felt no pain from his claws. It felt like Derek was finally using all of his strength behind each push. Four, five more times and everything in Stiles went hot. His come hit his chest and his chin and Derek slammed into him one more time and howled. His hips faltered, little aborted thrusts that Stiles could have sworn went on and on forever.

“Fuck, Stiles, I’m.” Derek’s fingers were rounded at the ends now and digging in deep. “You’re fucking perfect.”

The last sound he made was half exhaustion, half wonder.

Stiles clenched around Derek. “Good? Damn.” Stiles wanted to turn to look, but Derek seemed focused on keeping them flush with each other. Stiles pushed himself up on his knees again and pressed back into Derek’s chest instead. He linked their hands and meshed their fingers and brought them around, all human and no claws, to his belly. He could feel Derek’s heart beat starting to slow.

Derek’s hips stuttered one last time. “Can we stay like this? I mean,” Stiles wanted to turn, just to see the color Derek’s face and ears must be as he said, “I can pull out if you want me to.”

Derek pressed his face into Stiles skin and his body finally went still. Stiles tilted his head, almost putting his ear to his shoulder. “We can stay like this all night if you want.”

Derek dragged in a huge breath against Stiles’ skin, and Stiles sighed. It took a little time, but they managed to lay themselves down without Derek slipping out. Derek dragged his fingers through some of the mess on Stiles’ chest and licked at what he could off Stiles’ chin. His tongue was rough but right, and he alternated closed-lip kisses and kitten licks. Stiles’ shoulder and neck had never been so adored.

“I,” Derek whispered behind Stiles’ ear. “I want more, but.” He breathed out and then in, and he wasn’t inside Stiles any more.

Stiles turned his head to steal a kiss as he twisted the rest of himself around. He wrapped his upper arm and leg over Derek and pulled them closer together. “That was astonishingly good and I really, really want more, but I’m zonked. I’m all for sleepy sex, even completely sleeped-up sex if that’s something you’re into, but only if one of us isn’t completely exhausted.”

Derek smiled against his lips. “I’ll add somnophilia to the Wolverine jacket, handcuffs, kinky underwear and glass dildos list, shall I?”

Stiles pushed into Derek’s mouth with as much force as he could muster, which at this point wasn’t a lot. “Big words like somnophilia do it for me, too.” He licked his lips and hoped he didn’t look too embarrassed. “I really liked the glass thing.”

Derek huffed and puffed up the side of Stiles’ face, and Stiles let his head flop so his neck stretched out even further. “Your neck does it for me, but I’ve said that before.” He licked again, and Stiles shivered. “And wolves like glass. Not as many nasty smells. We like sleep too, though. Do you want a shower, or?” Stiles made a sound that Derek seemed to understand was a negative. Derek leaned back and sat up, disentangling himself but not letting go completely. He reached over to the little chest again and came back with,

“Wet wipes. My Alpha boyfriend has a perfectly shaped cock, is a freaking genius, and a perfect provider.” Stiles blinked at Derek and Derek laughed.

“Yes, you said that aloud.”

The sheets were cool against Stiles’ back when Derek nudged him over.

Stiles was nearly full, but the brunch Derek had made him was too good to leave on the plate.

The first text Derek got came after he’d just finished his third slice of toast. His phone buzzed again as he picked it up. He read the first message with a smile, then froze at the second and put down his coffee slowly. Stiles swallowed the mouthful of omelet he had and hoped that whatever it was wasn’t life threatening.

Derek blinked and put his phone next to his mug. “The Hamiltons.”

Stiles waited. The Hamiltons had a gorgeous little girl, Becca. She had big brown eyes and tight, natural curls and skin that made him think of chocolate because he wanted to eat her all up. Her moms had escaped a pretty nasty version of an old-fashioned Pack—racism and homophobia were less likely amongst werewolves, but they still happened; a mixed race, lesbian couple hadn’t gone down well where they’d come from. They’d been hesitant to agree to Derek as their Alpha simply as he came from an old bloodline. They hadn’t had good experiences with old bloodlines.

Whatever the text was about, it didn’t seem to be an emergency, at least. Stiles put his hand over Derek’s on the table, and Derek twisted his so they were palm to palm.

“Melanie asked for her, Teasha and their daughter to be admitted to the Pack.”

“I’m glad, little Becca is a sweetheart.”

Derek hummed. “I spoke to her for the first time last night. She’s adorable.” He squeezed Stiles’ hand, and Stiles realized that Derek was shaking.

“Hey.” Stiles reached over and took Derek’s hand with his far one, and wrapped the closer one around Derek’s middle. Derek leaned into the touch and sighed. “And the second text?”

Derek turned his head and looked up at Stiles. His eyes were wide and he flicked back and forth between Stiles’ a moment, then tipped his head up to steal a quick kiss. “Teasha would like to meet so she can make a formal offer to carry a child for the Hale Alpha Pair.”

All the air rushed out of Stiles’ chest. Derek squeezed his hand and his eyes were wet at the corners. Today was going to be even better than yesterday.

♠♠♠♠♠

 


You could stay and watch me fall
And of course I'll ask for help
Just stay with me now
Take my hand
We could take our heads off
stay in bed just make love that's all
Just stay with me now
The Used