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Luna

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Luna

(Alternative Universe to Nightingale)

By: Lalaith Quetzalli

She was the human in a family of supernaturals; they saw her as the vulnerable one, weak, fragile, the pawn… They forgot a pawn can become a queen if only she tries hard enough. If she wants it badly enough. She'll show them one does not need to be a wolf to be able to run, fight and hunt with them.

New Moon

Without Darkness one would never see the Light.

Sometimes Fate can be cruel, what does one more or one less baby born matter in the grand scheme of things? A man that will never be a father, a boy that will never be a cousin… they're but a couple of drops in the wide blue sea. But sometimes… sometimes Fate may choose to be merciful and turn a blind eye when Destiny slips through to twist a single thread in the Tapestry. Just one, a baby who gets to be born, a family that gets to have her in it; and from those few drops, a whole tide will follow, until the Tapestry becomes something entirely different from what Fate once intended. But that was okay, just this once, Destiny would have her chance…

For most people the world could be a wonderful place. There was good and bad, but that was alright, it was a big place, full of wonders and opportunities. And then there were those few who saw the world differently… it was still a place full of wonders and opportunities, but it could also be frightening, terrifying even, a place where life or death was often dependent on your power and your will to survive. It was not easy to live in a world like that, and while most humans could ignore all about it and live like it didn't even matter… once the knowledge was theirs, they either found a way to survive… or they died. It was the survival of the fittest, quite literally.

In the old times it had been easy, for those who lived in that part of the world that most couldn't begin to imagine. Even when things were bad, even when the dead piled up, most humans had a hard enough time living their own lives to bother much about others. And the few who did, who tried to find out the truth, to get involved… it never ended well for them. Oh, there were those who tried to protect them, those who survived in the darkness and were still good, and did their best to protect those they saw as both innocent and ignorant. That didn't always end well.

And then years passed, things changed. Losses weren't so easily ignored and the supernatural became dependent on its own secrecy to survive. There were those who chose to live in complete isolation, cutting themselves off from the world, believing it was the only way to survive. There were those who did live in the world, but they never did mix up with those not like them, the humans, nothing more than work and perhaps some superficial socialization; keeping to their communities, to those who were like them. Not all saw humans as less, strictly speaking, but they did see them as other, and even if not in a malicious way, most couldn't help but see them as trouble. Humans were fragile when compared to them, to the supernatural (the witches, the fae, weres, mages, etc.), it was risky to get attached to one, when they could be so easily lost. Few truly were capable of accepting everything that made the supernatural what they were, the way their instincts, their ways might differ from the norm. And it was so easy for them to be used, to become liabilities…

There were also those, like the weres, where humans were actually less. As they lacked all the physical attributes of the wolves (or whatever animal they turned into, though the most common was wolves). In most packs, humans were only there as servants, almost always when they owed a life-debt, and they were lower than even the lowest wolf, completely subservient to anyone else in the pack. If one of the wolves were to fall in love with a human, that person would need to pass all sorts of tests to be accepted by the alpha, and be subservient to them. They had a position, depending on the rank of their mate, but still wasn't exactly important in pack hierarchy. Though most of the times that wasn't an issue, as the human in question would be turned before actually joining the pack. Few weres would ever be willing to mate with a human who stayed human, both for their fragility, for the risk having a human meant for both sides, and because weres aged very slowly once they hit their maturity, and a human mate would never live as long.

The Hales were a very traditional pack, for the most part. They didn't keep humans as slaves or servants, an alpha generations ago having decided it wasn't right. They rarely took them as mates either, not without changing them, and when they did for whatever reason, it was only after they were completely sure of the human's submission. Humans were seen as a liability for the most part, and those of blended blood even more so.

The children of blended blood, or hybrids, as they were more commonly known. The epithet referred mostly to those born from a were-human pairing. Before their birth it was impossible to tell which of their parents they'd take after more. They knew that if the mother was human it was less likely for the child to be a shifter, but that did not mean that none of the traits were passed on. When the child in question was from two different shifters, that made things all the more complicated; for while quite compatible, sometimes traits contradicted themselves, so-to-speak, that could be dangerous, both to the hybrid and to the pack they were a part of. It was hard enough to have two natures (human and whatever animal essence was in the were), the children of two different weres had to deal with three, and the animal essences could be harder to deal with then. It was why most alphas refused to allow such pairings.

With the hybrids that were half human the biggest risk came with the traits inherited. There were those who may inherit the spirit essence and the ability to shift, but not the healing, so they had to be very careful when with other weres, or their lives could be in danger, also, the shift would always be hard on their bodies. Then there were those who may have the animal essence but couldn't shift, which left them without a natural outlet for those instincts, making them in turn volatile and violent at times. Finally, they couldn't be turned, because they were never 100% human, a part of them, no matter how small, was wolf (or whatever other animal), and if someone bit them, the new essence would fight against the one already there. It was a sure death sentence, and a very slow and painful one.

The Hales were a very traditional pack, and each generation was raised according to the positions they were meant to occupy. Talia was born to be the alpha and was raised as such. Taught from a very young age to have authority, to be commanding; she was prepared for the power that would one day be hers. Her brothers and sisters were raised to be Betas, either in the Hale pack, or another (though with the importance the Hale pack had in the supernatural world it was likely that whoever they mated with would be joining their pack, rather than the other way around, even with the females).

Peter Hale was the youngest of twelve children. Born at a point where no one expected there to be another baby. The mother died before his first birthday and his father, the Hale alpha at the time, refused to spend time with the baby. Resenting him for no true reason. Talia tried to be there, but in the end their age difference was very big, and with the alpha female gone and their alpha quite old, she was taking more and more responsibilities in the pack.

If they were to be sincere, the Hales would admit that no one ever truly took the time to educate Peter. It wasn't like he was stupid and couldn't see how things were, how they were supposed to be, but unlike most of his siblings, he'd never been the kind to just take things at face value, he always wanted to know why things were supposed to be a certain way, and when there was no suitable answer… he rebelled. Talia tried to help, but in the end she had too much to do to dedicate any real amount of time to her youngest brother.

In the seventies, a terrible tragedy hit the Hale pack, when they lost almost half the pack during a war. The war wasn't actually against them, but against a jaguar pack in Mexico. It so happened that the youngest Hale daughter, Maia, was in a relationship with the eldest son of that pack's alpha. She tried to convince her alpha to send help, but Alpha Hale refused. It wasn't surprising, he'd never approved of the match in the first place, he was among those who saw blended children as problems and refused to allow it with his daughter. But Maia refused to forsake her lover, so she went on her own… and half her siblings followed.

It was a tragedy because the pack was almost completely decimated, and of the six Hales that had gone to aid them only one returned: Peter. Maia had been his favorite sister, the youngest after him, the one who tried very hard to make time for him. They'd spent a number of nights whispering about how one day she'd mate with her lover and join his pack; and perhaps Peter might join her that day.

Alpha Hale cared very little about any of it, except to make an example out of Peter and his blue eyes, the signal of the loss of innocence in that wolf, of blood spilled. The reasons were irrelevant for him, all he cared about was that his betas had disobeyed a direct order, and they'd paid for it, most of them with their lives.

Talia took over as Hale Alpha in the mid-eighties, shortly after the passing of her father, and right after her official union with her mate. The youngest son of a lesser northern pack (something that surprised many, as most would have expected the heiress of a pack as important as the Hales to choose someone of more importance). Talia chose Peter as her Enforcer and left hand, which surprised no one at all; he was the Hale with the blue eyes after all…

In 1988, Talia's and Zachery's first-born, and future Hale alpha: Laura, was born; followed eighteen months later by Derek.

Ever so slowly, Talia's remaining siblings, and her cousins, married and had families of their own. Most of them remained as part of the Hale pack, thus seeking her approval and submitting to her as their alpha. Talia had been older when mating than most were-females, but not so much that they had reason to worry, as was proven by the two children she birthed once she was sure her position was secure. The only one that seemed to have no one was Peter. Oh, he dated, often, human women most of the time, but he seemed to have no intention to settle. Most believed that it was the viciousness of the wolf inside him, that it wanted violence more than it wanted love. Peter never cared for giving them a reason.

Which was why it took Talia so much by surprise when she learned that Peter had a lover, a pregnant, human lover, close to giving birth… Talia hadn't even known that her brother was seeing anyone seriously! And not only that, but she was pregnant, almost to term, and Peter had never so much as mentioned it. In the end though, she decided to wait until after the baby was born before confronting Peter with his blatant breaking of the pack rules.

Talia was there while Peter sat in the waiting room of the maternity ward in Beacon Hills' (the human town closest to the Hale estate in the woods) Memorial Hospital. She was there when a nurse stepped out to announce the baby had been born, a bit on the small side for a were, but perfectly normal for a human. She was still there when the nurse stepped out again, her countenance much different than it had been earlier. The mother, Letizia, was bleeding too much. The doctors were doing all they could, but she'd gotten to the point where there was next to nothing they could do, and she'd already been so delicate, the pregnancy having taken a toll on her body (it was another downside to humans having babies with weres, the babes took a lot from the mother). It was clear Peter understood what the nurse was really asking of him when he went in, he was being given a chance to say goodbye…

On sunset of the 1st of February Peter stepped out of the room with a baby enveloped in a soft lavender blanket (Letizia had hated the whole blue-boy, pink-girl stereotype) held tight against his chest. His face was smooth, not a sign of tears, or the slightest emotion… except when he would look at his daughter, then there would be so much love in his eyes… it left Talia breathless to see him like that.

"I present to you Letitia Maia Hale, my daughter." He announced solemnly.

Talia knew, from the moment she saw the baby girl and felt no bond to her, that she was human. Whatever traits she might have gotten from Peter, she had no wolf, and thus no bond to the alpha. Oh, humans could be part of packs, but only once they were grown and could pledge their loyalty (and submission) with full knowledge and consent.

From the start Talia couldn't help but think that the whole endeavor was a bad idea. Peter as a father? It was insane! She'd held hope that since the two of them hadn't been mated, or married, and didn't seem interested in doing so (Talia would have known!), that meant that mother and daughter would leave. With the mother being human it was likely the baby would be as well, and thus they would be no bother for the Hales. A belief that solidified when she heard whispers about how the high-school music teacher had gotten an offer from the Symphony Orchestra in Portland, a great opportunity that a musician would never think about refusing.

And then Letizia died… Talia actually considered getting rid of the baby anyway. Putting her up for adoption, making Peter forget all about her. They didn't need the complications a human baby in the pack would bring! There was a reason why there were no humans in their pack! But then Peter told her that the baby had been registered already, a special favor from the people in the hospital, to ensure the mother would be there. It meant that anything that Talia tried, would require Peter's involvement, and the way he was holding onto the newborn showed there was no way he would willingly part from her.

Talia didn't understand. Peter had never cared, not about having a mate, much less about a family; and he didn't, Talia would have known! He clearly wasn't grieving his lover, so why then was he so fixated with the baby, and a human baby at that?! It made no sense!

"Are you sure this is a good idea Peter?" Talia couldn't help but ask. "The baby is human, we're not and…"

"Letitia is my daughter, I'm the only family she has!" Peter practically snarled at her. "Letty was an orphan, no siblings, no family anywhere. I will not be abandoning my daughter, wolf or no wolf, she's mine!"

In the end there was nothing Talia could do. She wouldn't turn her little brother away, she needed him, and he clearly had decided he'd be keeping the baby. So Letitia Hale officially became the first ever human in the Hale pack.

xXx

It wasn't easy, being the only human in a werewolf pack. Peter had stopped working almost completely (he was a lawyer, so good clients would seek him out from other cities and even out of the state) for the first year in order to stay with his baby girl all the time. He did his best to teach the cubs how to act around her in order not to hurt her but it wasn't easy. He knew that Talia had given them the order to be careful, but the pack had never had a human member, much less a child, and Peter would rather not risk it.

It wasn't easy, not only because Tish (that's what Peter called her, his chosen nickname for his baby girl) could tell she wasn't like the other kids, but she didn't understand why. It took forever for her to begin to speak, so much that Peter had gone as far as taking her to a doctor (a human one), only to be told that it was nothing to worry about, all children were different, liked to do things at their own pace. How was he supposed to know that?! He didn't have any experience with were-children (no way would any of the parents ever allow blue-eyed Peter, the Enforcer, Talia's left-hand, around their innocent cubs), much less with human ones!

Eventually he decided it might be that she needed to be around human children. So he made a habit of taking her to one of the parks in Beacon Hills every week. It still took Tish a while longer to begin to talk but once she did… Peter loved hearing her, regardless of how pointless the things she said might be, about the animals she saw, the way one kid pushed another in the sandbox, about the birds… he loved hearing her voice, and he especially loved hearing her laugh.

Going to the park also allowed him to see other children of different ages and at different points of their development. It was how he knew that while Tish had taken forever to begin to speak, she was getting a grasp of the language much faster than most children her age, she also began walking early, and was much less clumsy than the rest of her peers. A part of him wondered if her dexterity and agility might be were traits she inherited… except she didn't move like a wolf, like a predator, there was a lightness to her feet and a grace to her every move that even the best alphas did not have. Wolves were agile, fast, but they weren't light, at all; and while they were graceful, it was a different kind of grace entirely.

Peter made a point never to lie to his daughter. No matter how hard the question, or even harder the answer might be:

"Where's Mama?"

"She's in a better place little one. She was sick, and had to go… it's not that she didn't want to stay, because I know she wanted to. She loved you, loved us both, very very much. Sometimes things happen and we just cannot help it. But even if she's gone, we'll never forget her, it's why I gave you her name. Both your names in fact, come from very beautiful, very strong women, I know you'll do them proud."

"Why am I so different from all my cousins?"

"Because with them both of their parents are wolves, so they were born wolves. With you, your Mama was human, so you are part me, wolf, and part her, human."

"Is that bad?"

"No! Of course not. There's nothing wrong with you being human, little one. I know it's hard, being human when everyone around you is a wolf. But I promise you that no matter what, I'll always love you."

One conversation Peter never expected to have, involved Derek.

"Uncle Peter," The boy called, with all the seriousness a child could muster (which was more than he ever expected to see in his young, usually dreamy-eyed, nephew. "Why are you so different with Tish than how Mom and Dad are with us?"

For a while Peter didn't know how to answer that. In the end, he decided to go with his instincts (and to say the truth, that had worked well-enough with his daughter thus far).

"You know how Tish is different from you and Laura, and the other children?" Peter asked in turn, wanting the boy to understand that part first.

"Yes." Derek nodded vehemently. "Because we're wolves and she's not."

"Exactly, she's human." Peter nodded. "You're wolves and you need a pack. Talia is alpha, your dad is the alpha's mate. You understand that. It's what you need. But Tish… she's not a wolf, she doesn't have the instinct you do. She needs different things."

"What does she need?"

"A family. A family the way humans understand it. And I'm doing my very best to give her that. To make sure she knows she's loved."

Derek seemed to consider that answer for a very long time. Peter said nothing, waiting. Knowing that the kid would need a little while to wrap his head around it all, if he even could; he wasn't sure, Derek might be too young to understand what he was trying to explain right then. However, when the kid spoke again, what came out of his mouth was the last thing Peter could have ever expected to hear:

"Can I be family too?"

"Of… of course you can! Derek, you're already family." Peter blurted out.

He was rarely ever taken by surprise, and wasn't sure what else to say.

"No, family like you are." Derek seemed to be at a loss of how to explain it. "Can I be family to you and to her, like you two are?"

It was then that Peter understood it. He'd felt it too, the Hales were a pack after all, Talia would always be the alpha first. Just like their father had been… And while most of his siblings might have accepted it as just how things were, a part of Peter had always resented it. Derek didn't resent it exactly, but he did feel like he was missing something. Peter wondered if it might not be his fault. After all, he was being a father to Tish, a father, not an alpha, or a wolf of higher rank. And Derek could see that, he could see that the way Peter treated his daughter was different from the way his parents treated him and Laura. And it was clear he wanted that… and he didn't understand that it was something he should be getting from his own parents, not from an uncle… then again, the way Peter acted wasn't exactly the norm for a pack (on the same vein, and like he'd already told Derek, Tish wasn't a wolf, her needs were different).

"Of course you can." Peter answered after what seemed like forever. "You will always be family to Tish and I Derek, always."

And then things turned a tad more complicated…

Peter never planned on getting involved with Corinne. But Talia had heard that the Desert Wolf was in town, and she was a too well-known killer in certain circles for Talia not to be concerned about it. So she asked Peter to look into it. To do anything he had to in order to find out what the were-coyote was doing in Hale territory and how it might affect their pack (and when Talia said anything, she really did mean anything). So Peter went.

It's not like he regretted sleeping with Corinne, not really. The sex was great, and he hadn't had any since Letty! He didn't love her, and she didn't love him, it was nothing more than sex for the both of them and that was just fine. The pregnancy was completely unexpected, and when Peter heard that she was planning on terminating… it was the only time he ever asked anything of his big sister, his alpha. He could tell that Talia didn't like it, she had been in disagreement about keeping Tish. That was already one child of blended blood in their pack, it was clear the alpha didn't want two… but Talia was aware that she was the one to push Peter to meet with Corinne, to get involved with her at all. And the baby was an innocent… so Talia got involved, she convinced Corrine to not have an abortion.

It all went well, until Corrine actually gave birth. With the mother being a shifter they weren't in the hospital but at home, with the Hale midwife present. Peter wasn't in the room, it was against tradition. Instead he, Tish (all of four years old by then) and Derek (five and a half) were sitting on the floor outside the room, waiting. Derek had taken to spending a lot of time with Peter and Tish since their conversation, and while most didn't understand their sudden closeness Peter knew that Talia liked it because it gave her the chance to focus on the pack as a whole, and on training Laura as the future alpha.

"Papa!" Tish's cry was completely sudden and unexpected. "Sis is in danger!"

That certainly made Peter move. He'd been turning to his baby girl, ready to help her in any way he could, when her words made him jump to his feet and force his way into the birthing room instead. What he found there was a dead midwife and Corrine's claw a hairsbreadth from the newborn baby, who hadn't even had a chance to cry yet.

Peter's sudden bursting into the room distracted Corrine, long enough that Peter had the chance to rush her, pull her by the hair and to him, where he proceeded to tear her neck open without ceremonies. Not even realizing that Derek was standing behind him, at the door, Tish in his arms. The boy had the sense to look away, and turn Tish in his arms so neither of them had to look at the dead woman.

"Talia!" Peter practically roared.

They all could hear the sound of someone moving fast, probably the alpha. But what took them by surprise was when Tish twisted and turned until Derek was forced to let her go. Then she rushed into the room, not paying any mind to the two bodies and instead making a beeline to where her dad was gesturing, not daring to touch the baby. He was still too agitated for his claws to disappear, and there was nothing he could do like that.

"I'm here Papa, what do I do?" She asked straight out.

She purposefully kept her eyes away from the blood on her father's claws, instead looking briefly at his face before turning her whole attention to her baby sister.

"We need to make sure she can breathe." Peter informed her, voice still a bit growly.

Tish nodded and then followed instructions as she opened the baby's mouth, cleaned her face, cleared her nose and mouth. Right when it looked like Peter was about to have a meltdown the baby's tiny face twisted a bit in discomfort, a moment before she opened her mouth and wailed. Tish didn't even need to ask, in the next second she took the towel Derek was offering her, swaddled the baby like she'd seen some of the ladies in the park do with their own babies and pulled the newborn to her.

"There, there, little one, you're alright now." Tish cooed as she swayed from one side to the other. "You're safe now. Papa will always keep us safe."

Talia chose that exact moment to enter the room and all she could do was look around: at the body of Peggy, the midwife, black veins marking her arm where the wolfsbane had entered her system; Corrine, laying against a wall, in a pool of her own blood, throat completely torn out; Peter standing a few feet away, by the side of the bed, his hands still dripping blood, claws only then beginning to recede; Letitia was sitting on the bed, baby in her arms and Derek was beside her, using a hand-towel to clean the baby's face of the blood.

The two wolves tensed completely the moment Talia entered the room, and the alpha was quite sure she'd have been attacked if the girl hadn't chosen that exact moment to speak up:

"Hey Aunt Talia, come meet my little sis!" Tish called, bright smile on her face.

It was almost as if the signs of violence and death all around her suddenly didn't exist, or as if they couldn't touch her. Her voice was enough to make Peter finish calming down, enough that he was able to smile, just a little, as he looked at his two daughters. Derek too, relaxed, turning to look at his mother with an expression that showed he'd no idea what to do. And Talia… all she could do was approach and smile at the girl. She had no idea what had happened, having been on the other side of the mansion, putting Cora (her youngest, just six months old) down for her afternoon nap. Even when Letitia had shrieked, she hadn't known what was going on, and while she had begun moving right away, she hadn't been in a hurry exactly, hadn't seen any reason to truly worry until Peter's roar echoed throughout the house, and apparently by then it had been much too late already.

"Mom, can you help?" Derek asked him very softly.

Talia did so. She lead the children to the bathroom, where she helped Tish bathe her baby sister for the first time. Then Derek handed her a blanket, which Talia recognized as the very blanket Letitia had been wrapped in the day she was born. It made the alpha turn to look at the human girl in bewilderment.

"I thought it would be nice." The girl shrugged her shoulders a bit. "A little gift for my baby sis. So she knows she'll be as loved as I am."

Talia was there, but it was clear the girl knew what she was doing as she swaddled the baby. The wolves couldn't know it, but for months Tish had made sure to pay very close attention whenever one of the mothers in the park swaddled their babies; until one of them, Claudia Stilinski noticed:

"You curious darling?" The kind, honey-eyed woman asked softly.

"I'm getting a baby sis soon, and I wanna to know how to do that." Tish explained quietly.

"Well, why don't we teach you then?" Claudia offered, moving a bit to the side. "Come up here and I'll show you how it's done. I'm sure Mischief won't mind."

"Mischief?" Tish asked even as she climbed. "That's his name?"

"His name is Miecsyzlaw Stilinski, but I like to call him Mischief. My name is Claudia. What's your name sweety?"

"Letitia Maia Hale! But Papa calls me Tish."

"That's a very pretty name. Now, pay attention, okay? Here we go."

And thus Claudia Stilinski taught her how to swaddle a baby. By the time her Papa returned from taking a call it was all over and all he knew was that she'd made a new friend (which wasn't exactly rare, the girl seemed to have a gift for befriending anyone; everyone who met her seemed to love her almost instantly. Peter had gotten more than a few names and numbers that way, though he hadn't been interested, he wasn't sure he'd ever love another woman, not after the loss of his Letty).

"Papa, you need to wash up so you can hold the baby." Tish stated in a very solemn voice.

"Of course little one." Peter agreed immediately, because of course there was no way he would be touching either of his girls with his hands covered in blood.

He took care to wash his hands with a lot of soap and warm water, until the water didn't turn even the lightest pink anymore. Then he went and sat beside his daughter. The baby was placed in his arms and after he made sure he could hold her fine with just one, he used the other to pull his oldest daughter against his side. Making sure she wouldn't have any reason to feel left out.

They stayed there for some very long minutes. Eventually Peter exhaled, he could feel Talia's unease, she wanted answers but didn't want to break their moment. She was being extremely understanding, more than Peter ever expected in fact, so he decided to cooperate.

"Hey Derek, would you like to hold your littlest cousin?" He offered.

"I… I don't want to drop her." The boy seemed absolutely terrified at the prospect.

"You won't." Peter assured him. "Come up here."

So Derek climbed on the bed, beside Tish. Peter waited until he was settled to stand and then carefully place the baby in the boy's arms.

"There, just make sure you support her head." Peter instructed. "You're doing great Der. Now, I'm just going to step out for a second to talk to Talia, okay?"

The two children nodded, never taking their eyes from the baby Derek was cradling. Talia waited until they were out of the room, the door left open just enough for them to still hear what was going on inside, half their attention on the children…

"What happened here Peter?" Talia asked, doing her best not to try and force Peter, he'd never responded well to that.

"We were out here in the Hall, waiting for the midwife to bring out the baby, when Corrine decided to change the plan." Peter explained, very succinctly. "Tish… I don't know, it was like she sensed something, she cried out, told me her sister was in danger. That was when I rushed in. I found Peggy dead and Corrine about to kill the baby. You know she never wanted to have her. She knew she'd lose a lot of her power, she hated that."

"I'd hoped… it doesn't matter now." Talia shook his head. "So you killed her."

"I did." Peter nodded. "Then I couldn't calm myself enough to clear the baby's airway, make sure she was breathing. That was when Tish stepped in. She walked straight to the bed and began working. Following my instructions but still. Then Derek handed her a towel so she could keep the baby warm… and then you arrived."

Talia nodded. In the silence that followed between them they got to hear the children murmur that the baby was asleep. Peter said nothing, just turned to look at Talia. She was the alpha, his and the baby's too. She had a power over that baby girl that she didn't have over Tish, and they both knew it. A part of Peter hated it, hated that he'd to wait for his sister, his alpha to decide what was going to happen next. Talia saw it, and for the first time she wondered what would have happened if she'd pressed the matter with Letitia years prior… in the end she chose to push that aside and focus on the present.

"Malia." The alpha announced. "Her name is Malia Hale."

Malia, it was their mother's name; their mother who had been an alpha's mate, and almost an alpha in her own right, part of the loup-garou pack in Eastern Europe, the biggest were pack in the world. The woman who loved Peter so much, even before he was born, that she chose to have him even when her body was weakened after too many pregnancies and a conflict with a coven of witches that caused her to miscarry the baby before Peter. It was a special name, one Peter hadn't dare give his eldest because it was a family name in a way even Maia's hadn't been. But Talia could give that name. It was her right, to name the child, as the alpha of their pack, and the fact that she was choosing that name… Peter bowed his head in gratefulness and respect.

And so Malia Hale joined the pack, and their family…

xXx

As far as the (human) inhabitants of Beacon Hills were concerned, the Hale family had an odd custom where they didn't send their children to school before high-school. They thought it was nothing more than an old tradition. The Hale family was old, one of the founding families of Beacon Hills in fact, and the odd 'quirks' like that were not only accepted but expected. They of course didn't know that the Hale family was in fact a pack, or that young wolves were usually more volatile, running the risk of shifting unexpectedly, which was why they couldn't go to school, it would be too risky, for both the secrecy of the pack and the safety of the humans. By the time they hit fourteen-fifteen and began high-school they were expected to be able to control themselves, and thus actually went to school.

Tish didn't have that problem of course, but it would have been suspicious for the populace. Questions would have been asked, why where the Hales suddenly sending one of their kids to school? And more importantly, why only one? So in the end Letitia was home-schooled along with the rest of the pack children. The fact that she didn't have to take time to control her wolf the way everyone else did played in her favor, and soon enough Tish got ahead in her studies.

Something else that was discovered and no one was expecting, was how much the constant company of a human helped the control. It was revealed when Derek gained control over his shift, even under stress, much earlier than any of the other cubs had, his older sister included. And Malia and Cora (the only other cub who hung around them for any considerable time) seemed to be heading in the same direction.

It surprised all except Peter when Tish and Derek ended attending high-school together (him being thirteen, soon to be fourteen, while she was just twelve still), just a year behind Laura, who'd started high-school at fourteen, as was usual. Laura didn't like it, the idea that her little brother might be better than her at something, she was supposed to be the future alpha! She'd taken her anger out of Tish all of one time, and then got a huge surprise when not just Malia, but two of Laura's own little siblings backed up the human girl. Laura didn't understand. That's not how things were supposed to be!

She expected even less to get in trouble over it, but Peter had been angry. Even though Tish hadn't had more than a few bruises and had certainly never submitted to Laura (which was the part that irked the older girl the most). Talia had given her daughter a long lecture about how Laura's actions were wrong, how Letitia was human, and fragile, and she didn't feel the need to submit but that didn't mean she wasn't pack… and Laura actually wondered if her mother was so blind she didn't realize what was really going on… the fact that it hadn't been just the human standing up to Laura…

Of course Letitia had never given Talia reason to think anything bad about her. The alpha knew the girl could be willful of course, but that was to be expected from any child of Peter's, shifter or not. Her refusing to submit to Laura could be explained simply with the fact that she was human and thus didn't feel the need to, didn't have a wolf that might show her how she was supposed to react, and she didn't understand that it wasn't just Talia she owed her submission to. In any case, as long as the girl didn't rebel against her actual alpha Talia saw no reason to do anything about it. As for the others, it was clear that Malia had only acted in defense of her sister, knowing that despite being the older one, Letitia was actually more fragile; while Derek and Cora were close to them, had always been, and Talia wasn't ignorant to how Laura acted sometimes, wanting to show off a power she didn't have yet. So Talia didn't worry about them either, it's not like anyone had ended seriously hurt anyway.

Tish loved music. It wasn't exactly a surprise really, her mother had been such a gifted musician the Portland Symphony Orchestra hadn't just offered her a place, but they'd been willing to wait until after she gave birth and her baby was old enough. Tish did wonder at times, what her life, what their lives would have been like then… But never for very long, much as she might miss her mother, or having a mother at all (she couldn't say she missed someone she'd never met, though she did miss the idea of her, the person she imagined she'd have been, as her mother, as her father's mate).

In any case, Tish loved music, and it surprised no one at all that she joined the high-school group as soon as she was able. Since being very young she'd learned to play a great many instruments, though she had a few favorite ones, like the Chinese traversal flute and the classic piano… but if she was honest with herself (and she truly preferred being so, her dad said there was nothing worse than lying to one self), she wasn't particularly gifted with any, not like her Mama had been with the harp. But when she sang… when Letitia sang the entire world seemed to stop and listen:

"I pirouette in the dark

I see the stars through me

Tired mechanical heart

Beats til the song disappears"

"Somebody shine a light

I'm frozen by the fear in me

Somebody make me feel alive

And shatter me

So cut me from the line

Dizzy, spinning endlessly

Somebody make me feel alive

And shatter me!"

"Shatter me!

Somebody make me feel alive

And shatter me!"

Letitia was such a sweet, gentle person, everyone loved her. She was so different from Laura, that some people found it hard to believe that they were both Hales. Derek was a contradiction all by himself. To most people he was the jock, the popular guy with lots of friends, doing stupid things just because someone dared him to; but when Tish was around he softened, he was always so kind and patient with her. He wouldn't let anyone bother her for any reason (like her being small, young, a genius, none of it). There were some people convinced that Derek had to be her big brother rather than his cousin, with how protective he was of her.

It was Tish who introduced Derek to Paige Krasikeva in their sophomore year. Paige was a freshman, the same age as Derek, and the most talented musician in the school. A violinist, and a great fan of Tish's mom (the school had several videos and cassettes with her melodies recorded). Paige was Derek's first love. She was such a nice girl, never bothered Tish, or anyone else.

Laura teased Derek mercilessly when she found out that he had a crush on the girl. And no one said or did anything to stop her, until Tish snapped:

"There's nothing wrong with Paige!" She snapped at Laura.

They were standing in the middle of the hallway, where Laura had been, yet again, teasing Derek, who refused to come out of his room. Everyone in the house could hear Laura, could see that what she was doing was hurting Derek, and yet no one did a thing. Tish couldn't stand it…

"She's human…" Laura said in a drawl.

"And so am I!" Tish reminded her in a near-snarl. "You might be a wolf Laura, you might be the future alpha. But that doesn't make you better than me, or Paige. It just makes you lucky. This power that you have, your future rank, you have done nothing to earn it. You just happened to be born to the right parents, at the right moment to have it. So what makes you think that you're any better than anyone at all when you haven't earned a thing?!"

At the beginning of Letitia's speech it looked like Laura was getting ready to tear her into pieces, verbally, possibly even physically; by the end, the teen-aged were looked absolutely stumped. And then Tish very pointedly turned her back on her and walked away, just stopping long enough to take Derek by the hand (he'd finally opened his door and stepped out when Tish began her speech, worried that Laura might do something to hurt her) and pull him with her, muttering something about them going into town for an ice-cream or something; Cora rushing after them right away (she was becoming so good at controlling her shift that she was allowed to go with them into Beacon Hills every so often even though she was just eight).

By the time Laura moved, they were gone; and then she noticed she was no longer alone. Peter and Talia were both there, looking at her.

"Tish's way might not have been the best, but you know she was right." Peter was telling his older sister, quietly but strongly.

"Wha…?" Laura wasn't expecting that.

"You might have been born to be alpha, Talia, but you had the chance to prove yourself, long before you had to take the position." Peter said out-loud, mostly for Laura's benefit. "You earned the pack's respect. We both know this would have never worked otherwise. The loup-garou would have never respected your claim, and our pack, if you hadn't proven yourself before Father ever died. Laura hasn't done that. And not just that, but she barely even tries." He turned his whole attention to Laura then. "You're a sheltered girl. Wolf or not, future alpha or not. You think being alpha is just about giving orders, about being the bigger dog." He bared his teeth at her. "It's not. Being alpha is not a right, or a luxury. It's a privilege, a duty, it's a responsibility. You're responsible for the lives of every single member of your pack. For making sure they are safe, happy. You're also responsible for the territory, which in the case of our pack means almost half of this state. And it's not just about the weres. Most humans might not be aware that we exist, but we are also responsible for protecting them from the supernatural beings that might wish to harm them, either because of the territory, because of us, or simply because it's in their nature to harm others. And as the alpha, it's your responsibility to make sure it's all getting done. That we as a pack are doing our duty. Are you ready for that responsibility Laura? Because until the answer to that question is yes, you haven't yet earned the right to be alpha."

Laura just stared at him, eyes wide. She wanted to say something to defend herself, anything; or even better, for her mother to say something. The fact that she didn't, spoke volumes. Even if she might not say it outright, at least a part of Talia agreed with her brother, and Laura could see that. Never before had she seen her mom actually agree with something Peter said. Peter… she hardly ever saw him as an uncle really. The man was the 'blue-eyed wolf', the pack's Enforcer, the alpha's left-hand; so many ways to refer to him, and they all could be summarized in two words: bad news. He was someone most of the adults on the pack still didn't allow their children to get close to. As if he were some kind of bogeyman. He had two daughters, and there was a reason the two of them had no playmates their age other than Derek and Cora. And yet what he was saying in that moment… Laura was seeing another facet of his uncle. It was part of being the Enforcer, the left-hand, he was one of his mom's most trusted, the tactician, and yet somehow Laura had managed to miss that in all the years that she'd known him… what else had she missed?

xXx

Derek took Paige to the Winter Formal three weeks later. Derek in charcoal gray slacks and a royal blue button up, while Paige wore a periwinkle blue dress with some abstract stitching on the lower edge of her skirt in a shade similar to Derek's shirt. Tish also walked in on his arm, her midnight blue dress much more modest than anyone else wore, but then again, she was just thirteen; also, the color suited her and her long mahogany hair, which she'd curled very carefully and arranged to fall around her shoulders. She thanked Derek for escorting her (her Dad would have never let her attend otherwise) and then let the two lovebirds have their date and kept herself occupied for the duration. She was alone but that didn't bother her at all.

By the time the next term came around, Derek and Paige were officially a couple and the whole school knew it. What no one, not even Tish, ever expected, was for Derek to be so in love with her he was actually considering telling her the truth, about himself, and his family. And not just that, he wanted her to consider becoming one of them.

"You think I'm crazy?" He asked the girl that he considered his favorite sister, even if they were only really cousins.

"I… not crazy." Tish hurried to reassure him. "I'm still surprised though."

"Uncle Peter made it work." Derek pointed out. "I mean, your mom knew the truth about him, right? And she accepted him. She loved him. They had you!"

"Of course, I'm not denying that." Tish nodded. "But Der, mom was in her twenties, dad was older than that. Neither of them were fifteen!" She raised a hand when it looked like Derek was going to say something. "I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, or that you should. I just think you need to think long and hard about this. Paige might be the love of your life, or she might not be. Only you can know that for sure, and I'm no one to say it's impossible to find your true love at fifteen… I just don't want you to hurry and then regret it. Or to do it for the wrong reasons…"

Derek had no answer for that. He knew what Tish meant, they'd both heard all about how Paige had gotten a letter from Juilliard, they were offering her a spot in their summer-camp (which was apparently a huge deal), with the possibility of a full-ride afterwards (which was even bigger, a great opportunity if Paige wanted to be a professional musician, and the two Hales knew she did). It didn't matter if she was still only in high-school, she was such a talented violinist, they were really interested in her. And Paige was really interested in going. So much she'd asked Tish to help her a bit with a few melodies she was composing and which she'd be sending to qualify for the scholarship.

"Derek, you cannot use this information, this secret, to try and keep her with you." Tish said very quietly. "It wouldn't be right. And it's not about the secret. It's… Paige deserves the chance to make her own choices, freely." She exhaled. "I'm not saying she doesn't love you, I'm sure she does, very much. And if that love is true… going to Juilliard shouldn't mean you cannot be together anymore. If you truly love each other you will find a way…"

They found a compromise. Derek told Paige about being a werewolf, Tish confirmed it, also letting her know she was completely human due to her mom, which in turn let Paige know that it was possible for a were to be in a relationship with a human. Paige took it all in, accepted it. She never asked questions beyond wanting to make sure she wouldn't do anything that might hurt Derek. She learned there was no need to yell, used a bit less perfume (Derek confessed it made him sneeze sometimes) and was careful not to do something he might view negatively, none of which were really huge sacrifices on her part.

All in all things were going pretty great and Derek had begun looking up colleges on the East Coast that might allow the two of them to stay close while she attended Juilliard. Tish didn't comment, she probably would be going with him anyway, if he wanted, it's not like she had any particular interest in a specific school. And through it all, the girls kept working on their song:

"If only the clockworks could speak

I wouldn't be so alone

We burn every magnet and spring

And spiral into the unknown"

"Somebody shine a light

I'm frozen by the fear in me

Somebody make me feel alive

And shatter me

So cut me from the line

Dizzy, spinning endlessly

Somebody make me feel alive

And shatter me!"

"Shatter me!

Somebody make me feel alive

And shatter me!"

xXx

When things began going wrong, Tish knew. She could feel it, deep inside. They all knew about the Summit, Peter had warned them to be careful as there would be new wolves in the territory, made sure that Tish always carried the scent of pack. It had also been mentioned in one of their very first meetings, so all packs knew about Letitia Hale, the eldest daughter of the Hale Enforcer, she was to be respected as any other firstborn child of a wolf.

But then the Summit happened, and something went wrong. No one was telling the children, or the teenagers for that matter (other than Laura anyway) anything, but Tish could feel, almost like some kind of weight deep inside her, that something was wrong, and it was only going to get worse… so she stopped taking Cora and Malia into town, and she convinced Derek to make sure to stay close to Paige, just in case. Derek had no idea what was going through Tish's mind, but it wasn't the first time one of her 'feelings' turned out to be completely right, so he did as asked. He also made sure to stay with her.

And thus all three of them were together when things happened. They were three weeks away from the end of the term, and about a month from the date when Paige and Tish would be performing their song live as the last part of the process to have Paige get her scholarship (one of the judges had been confused on why Tish wasn't interested in the same, but while the girl loved to sing, it wasn't something she was interested on doing professionally).

It was already late in the evening when they left the school, as the closer they got to the aforementioned date the more nervous Paige got, and the more she insisted they practice. She wanted everything to be perfect, and the Hales absolutely understood that, so Tish practiced with her, and Derek waited until they finished before driving them home.

Neither of them were expecting it when, as they were making their way out of the school and towards Main Street to drop off Paige, someone rushed out of the woods so fast that even Derek, with his wolf-fast reflexes, lost control of the car briefly. He managed to avoid crashing or anything, but he couldn't get it to start again afterwards. So focused he was on that, that it didn't occur him to wonder about the figure that made him lose control in the first place, not until Paige saw it and let out a shrill scream.

Tish and Derek both snapped to attention immediately, neither of them recognized him, though they knew immediately they were looking at a werewolf, and the red of his eyes… that gave away even more.

In the next second, the wolf had broken the passenger window of Derek's car, immediately reaching for Paige. Tish barely reacted fast enough to pull the girl out of the seat (thankfully she'd taken the seat-belt off already) and into the back with her. In that same time Derek forced his own door open, got out and then opened Tish's, helping the two girls out.

"Run!" Tish yelled as she half ran, half stumbled out of the car and into the woods.

They ran through the woods for what seemed like forever. The Hales making sure Paige didn't fall behind. Even if Tish wasn't a wolf herself, she had always been agile, graceful and very light on her feet. That helped her in that moment, as they all ran for their lives.

"There!" Paige yelled suddenly, pointing a bit to their left. "There's something there."

What she was seeing turned out to be a trapdoor into some kind of root-cellar. Derek went ahead, using his strength to open the heavy, creaky doors, while Tish made sure Paige wouldn't stay back. The moment they were all in Derek secured the door as much as he was able. They had just made it fully into the cellar when they all heard a loud bang as someone began pounding on the trapdoor, trying to force it open. Paige cowered in a corner of the room, shaking violently, pressing a fist to her mouth in an attempt not to scream hysterically. Derek kept trying to comfort her but had no idea how. Tish for her part began searching all around.

"What are you doing?" Derek asked her eventually.

"Trying to find something, a tool, a weapon, anything." Tish answered honestly.

"Tish…" Derek began, not knowing what else to say.

"Der, we both know that trapdoor won't stop Ennis forever…" Tish began.

"Ennis?" Her cousin interrupted her.

"I heard Dad talking about him to Aunt Talia." Tish explained. "One of his wolves was killed, by hunters. That's probably part of what went wrong with the Summit."

"It cannot have been everything."

"No, it cannot, but that's really all I know."

"You think… you think Ennis is… what? Looking for someone else to turn into a wolf?!"

"Not just anyone. Think Derek! If he wanted just anyone… well, it's not like there aren't more than enough people living in this town, and I'm sure more than a few would love to be wolves, regardless of the risks involved. No, it's not just anyone. He wants a new member for his pack, yes, but he wants someone that will be useful, not just as a wolf, but to form better alliances. It's why the Summit even happened at all. All the ones who came, Deucalion, Ennis, Kali… they wanted to form better alliances, not just among themselves, but with the Hale pack. If they were to turn someone who would then mate with a Hale…"

Derek could be so slow sometimes… but eventually he got it. His eyes went immediately to Paige, who was so lost in her own fear she wasn't really paying attention to their conversation. Derek cursed out-loud, self-loathing filling him.

"This is not your fault Derek!" Tish snapped, as if she could know what he was thinking, what he was feeling…

"If it weren't for me he wouldn't be after Paige." Der groaned.

"If not her it would be someone else." Tish retorted evenly. "And we'll make sure Paige will be safe. I promise you."

Derek nodded once, serious. It wouldn't be easy. Matter of fact, she had no idea how they were supposed to do it. Ennis was an alpha, Derek was a beta, while both girls were human. She had taken self-defense classes, and learned a few things from her dad, but she doubted any of it would be enough. The worst part was that they didn't even have a way of calling for help; Tish was just fourteen still, and according to her dad, way too young for a cell-phone, while Derek had left his in the car (not that it would have mattered, as there was no reception in that particular part of the woods, though they didn't know that at the time).

Ennis broke through the trapdoor right then, Paige shrieked in fright, and Tish did the only thing she could think of right then, she called for her dad at the top of her lungs.

A fight broke out, as Derek did his very best to keep Ennis away from the girls, though it seemed impossible that he might last. And through it all Tish kept reaching into every nook and cranny around her, trying to find something, anything. She thought she might have found something, when Paige's next cry pulled her whole attention: Ennis had just gotten the upper hand on Derek, seeking to tear his throat out with his bare teeth, Derek managed to twist just in the nick of time, Ennis tearing into his shoulder instead. It was still enough to make him cry out in pain; which was only made worse when Ennis took hold of him by the opposite arm and threw him across the room and into some shelves.

"Derek!" Both girls cried out in horror.

Paige's reaction was so visceral that she even managed to stand, though she was still shaking like a leaf, not really able to do more than take a couple of hesitant steps.

There was howling then, in the distance, and Tish could almost believe that the pack had heard her somehow, that help was on its way… probably not fast enough though…

Tish saw what was coming next a moment before it happened. She saw Ennis's whole attention turn to Paige, and the moment his muscles flexed, as he prepared to leap. Tish jumped herself a fraction of a second before Ennis did, managing to throw Paige down, covering her with her own body. And then Tish was the one crying out as Ennis's fangs buried viciously into the back of her left shoulder.

There was more howling, and Ennis finally let go of Tish's shoulder, but instead of moving back, he took hold of her… he was still trying to get to Paige! Tish fisted her hands, seeking something, anything that might help, the movement reminded her that she was holding something in her right hand; and good thing it was her right, because her left shoulder hurt and pretty much burned and she doubted she'd be able to move that arm of her own free will.

"Everything will be alright." She managed to whisper into Paige's ear. "I will protect you. I promise you…"

Ennis chuckled darkly above her, probably thinking that she'd just made an impossible promise. He clearly did not know that, wolf or not, Letitia was a Hale, and Hales never surrendered…

The mahogany-haired teen whined in pain as Ennis used his clawed hand to turn her. But instead of fighting, she went with the motion, and when Ennis made to move past her and onto Paige, she took her chance, burying the piece of wood deep into the alpha's chest, from bellow his rib-cage and up, straight into his heart. She didn't know it in that moment, but that wasn't just any piece of wood, it was actually a piece of root that had fallen lose as she sought something, anything, to use. Rowan root, of the very tree the cellar was beneath…

Ennis howled in pain, a tone of disbelief, as if he couldn't believe that a human girl was fighting back. Tish knew it had worked, she could feel the blood gushing from the deep wound, mingling with the blood falling from the claw-slashes on her arm, and especially the bite on the back of her shoulder. When Ennis stumbled back, trying and failing to pull the piece of wood out of his body, Tish knew that, against all odds, she'd succeeded. The last thing she was aware of, was the sound of an enraged growl, one she instinctively knew came from her dad…

xXx

It took exactly fourteen days for Tish to wake up… then again, no one except Peter, Derek and Malia had believed she would. Letitia was a child of blended blood, the human daughter of a wolf… she couldn't be turned, her blood rejected the bite, no matter from whom. And when a human rejected the bite, it killed them. Those were the truths they knew, the truths that had defined many lives… until Letitia Hale was bitten and somehow managed to survive.

She wasn't a wolf, that much became clear the moment she sat up, letting out a wail so loud and so… strong that it seemed like the whole room vibrated with the sound of her voice. She only stopped when someone touched her, Peter. That made her turn, hazel-eyes meeting blue (human blue, rather than the electric one of his wolf), and she calmed down.

Peter took in a lot of things very quickly. There were no claws, no fangs; his daughter's eyes were still the hazel shade they'd always been except… except there was a light in them that hadn't been there before. It reminded him of the moon reflected on a placid lake or… or the light of the stars during a night of new-moon, when the stars were all that illuminated the night-sky.

"Ad… Dad?"

Tish's voice sounded a bit different from ever before, and it wasn't just the dryness in her throat, there was something else, though Peter couldn't quite put his finger on it, not then. Instead he just gave her some ice-chips that had been left there for her.

"I'm here little one…" He reassured her, taking one of her hands in one of his even as he continued feeding her chips.

"D-Der…? Paige?" Tish inquired very quietly, though her voice was getting better.

"They're both alright." Peter assured her. "I just managed to convince Derek to go home, take a shower, eat something, though I'm sure he'll be here the minute he knows you've woken. He's been here every day after school, both he and Paige have. They were so worried about you. Though Paige asked me to thank you, said you saved her life. Talia doesn't like that there's a human who knows about us but she'll get over it." He shrugged at that. "Even Laura agreed that if you all had known what was going on, with Duke, and Ennis, and the Argents, this might not have happened…"

Tish wasn't sure she agreed, but didn't mention it, instead focusing on Paige:

"I promised to protect her." Tish said simply, she knew her dad would understand.

"And you did, love, you did." It looked like Peter was going to say something else, but he hesitated, not sure it was a good idea.

"I killed him, didn't I?" Tish said it for him. "The alpha… Ennis. I killed him."

"Yes, yes you did." Peter nodded soberly, then, not wanting her to feel guilty, hurried to add. "You had to, little one."

"I know." Tish nodded serenely. "He was going after Paige… he hurt Der… I had to protect them. I had to."

"Yes, you did." If there was anyone who could understand her actions, it was Peter.

It was what most didn't understand. They saw Peter's blue eyes and all they thought was that he was a killer. That he'd lost his wolf's innocence by spilling blood. They never stopped to wonder about the blood that had been spilled. The fact that he might have killed, yes, but he'd done so in defense of those he loved, like his beloved sister, the boy she loved, and his pack, the pack that would have become Peter's own…

Tish's eyes might not have changed but… Peter might have been the first one to reach the root-cellar underneath the Nemeton, but he hadn't been alone. Talia, Zachery (her mate) and some of the very best fighters of their pack had been there, and they'd all seen the blood staining Tish's hands, and the piece of rowan root buried in Ennis's chest. Had understood that even if Peter had gone straight at him and pretty much tore him into pieces, he'd been already dead by then. Letitia had killed him. The human girl, the most fragile member of the pack, had killed an alpha… it wasn't easy for the wolves to understand, or accept, that.

The hospital refused to discharge Tish until the end of the week. Though she convinced Derek to get her everything she might need to finish the work, the last thing she wanted was to fail the term (it went against her being a genius and all that). Also, when they finally discharged her, on Saturday, she was pretty insistent on them going to the high-school auditorium, instead of home.

"Tish…" Malia began, worried.

"I promised Paige I would help her with this, I refuse to fail her." Tish said for all answer.

"You cannot possibly fail that girl, you saved her life!" Cora cried out.

She, Malia and Derek were the ones there to take her back home. In the end Derek acquiesced and took a turn towards the high-school instead of the preserve (and their house). They found Peter waiting at the door, holding a garment bag.

"I told Talia you would be coming here." He said for all answer.

"Thanks Papa." Tish embraced him tightly if briefly.

Cora and Malia followed her in a rush into the girls' lockers. She'd showered before leaving the hospital, but still. She changed the yoga pants and tank top the girls had gotten her for a forest-green, thin-strapped dress with white flowers throughout the dress and a white shawl to cover her shoulders if she so chose (and the bite on the back of her left shoulder, which, while healing well, was still red and quite obvious). Her other scars were three deep lines, claw-marks, on her right forearm; they seemed to be healing faster than the bite-mark (which wasn't really that surprising, certainly no more than the wolf-bite healing at all, than Tish healing at all), but they were also healing in a somewhat odd way, leaving a mark in the middle of Tish's arm, almost like a rune of some kind…

Tish was pulled out of her wayward thoughts when Malia handed her the last thing inside the bag: a pair of silvery-white strappy heels. Tish wasn't much of a fan of heels, never had been, but she knew it was important to cause a good impression, so she put them on and made her way to the back-entrance into the auditorium, letting Cora and Malia take her things and join their parents among the public.

Most of it was done already. She and Paige had recorded the audio and video files before the mess with Ennis. What was happening that day was the final step. All those who made it to the final phase had to perform live. Tish was just lucky that she hadn't missed the date completely while she was in the hospital.

By the time she reached the back-stage Paige was already on the stage, and not just that but almost halfway through the song. It was alright, for the most part. They'd made recordings of both her solo, and the two girls together; but they'd agreed the song was better when it was the two of them working together.

Standing there, Tish actually took a moment to admire Paige. She was wearing a short pink dress, with ballet-flats, twirling around the stage like a ballerina, violin in hand. She looked beautiful. And she was so talented… Seeing her, the way she smiled as she danced and played across the stage helped Tish make her choice, as she slipped off her heels. She timed it exactly right, before dropping her shawl to the floor (she had never been one to be ashamed of herself, and that included her scars) stepping onto the stage, feet bare and then she began dancing along the edges of the stage, singing softly, keeping carefully away from the center, from Paige and the spotlight:

"If I break the glass, then I'll have to fly

There's no one to catch me if I take a dive

I'm scared of changing, the days stay the same

The world is spinning but only in gray

If I break the glass, then I'll have to fly

There's no one to catch me if I take a dive

I'm scared of changing, the days stay the same

The world is spinning but only in gray

(Only)"

As the last word echoed around them Tish finally gave the last step, standing right under the same spotlight that illuminated Paige, who smiled so brightly when laying eyes on the younger girl. And then… it was suddenly like they were all alone, like all the times they'd practiced together in the music room, or even right there in the auditorium; there were no judges, no audience, no one but them as they went into the last part of the melody, violin and voice fusing together perfectly.

"Somebody shine a light

I'm frozen by the fear in me

Somebody make me feel alive

And shatter me

So cut me from the line

Dizzy, spinning endlessly

Somebody make me feel alive

And shatter me!

Shatter me!

Somebody make me feel alive

And shatter me!"

Tish and Paige froze as the song came to an end, standing one in front of the other; Paige with the violin still ready, one feet raised, like a ballerina in mid twist; Tish with her arms raised having just finished a twirl, most of her body weight on one foot while the other extended behind her, just enough for someone to possibly notice she was wearing no shoes.

The applause and the cheers were deafening as the two girls smiled wide. They'd done it…

Chapter Text

Crescent Moon

Finding Her was like seeing the Light after an eternity in Darkness.

When Loki first collapsed everyone knew something was wrong. And it wasn't just his groan of pain, or the way he was holding onto his left shoulder despite there being nothing wrong with it (or at least nothing anyone could see) or the way he writhed in pain, first on the floor, and then on his own bed when his brother Thor finally dared pick him up from the hallway floor and carry him to his own quarters. Frigg was by his side, consternation clear on her face as she kept trying to do something, anything to at least alleviate his pain, it was hard to do so when she hadn't the slightest idea what was causing it! Lady Eir, the Goddess of Healing and Head Royal Healer had already been summoned, and Odin Allfather kept giving orders to everyone to find the cause for the prince's ill, but no one had any idea where to even begin to look!

The last thing anyone could have ever expected was the figure running down the halls of the palace, heavy dark velvet cloak brushing the floor behind her. The hood had fallen at some point, revealing eyes of the lightest green, raven-black hair looking more than a little wind-blown, and porcelain skin that on one side looked perfectly smooth and without blemish, while on the other it was covered in dozens, possibly hundreds of small silvery scars. Everyone rushed out of her way the moment they caught sight of her, and soon the whispers were going all around… the Queen of the Dead was walking the halls of the Golden Palace! Queen Hel was in the Realm Eternal!

By the time she reached the door to Loki's quarters everyone knew she was there.

"My lady…" Thor muttered gruffly.

He was standing before the doors, looking like he wanted to stop her from going in, even though he knew he couldn't.

"I'm here for him… but not in the way everyone is probably imagining." She told Thor softly, with a certain kindness Thor would have never expected.

"I… I know I cannot stand before Death and hope to stop it…" Thor began.

He was surprised when the lady laughed, and not just for the action itself, but because of how musical her laughter sounded, how beautiful.

"I may be Queen of the Dead, Prince Thor, but I have no real power over it." She stated serenely. "Beings across the universe live and die as they must, and I can neither grant nor stop one or the other. My duty is to be Keeper of the world where the dead dwell, where they await either the start of another life, or their time to move on. And to make sure that the living and the dead remain in balance."

"If you're not here to take him with you, then why?" Thor inquired, not understanding.

"Tell me something, Prince Thor, do you know who I am?" She asked him in return. "Beyond being Lady Hel, Queen of the Dead. Do you remember who else I am? Who I was before becoming the ruler of Helheim?"

"No, my lady." Thor admitted. "Though now that you mention it, I have a feeling I should."

"You should indeed. After all, I'm your niece."

"M-my niece?! My lady, I…"

"I know you don't remember, and I lay no blame on you for that, Uncle Thor. The point remains, I was Helena Lokidottir, your brother's daughter, his, and his match's. And it's because of them that I am here now."

Thor was still trying to wrap his head around what Helena had just said, even as she walked fully into the room, heading for her father's bedside (on the opposite side from Frigg) when she said something else that shocked him even further:

"Their lives hang by a thread. Something must be done, or we will lose them both, and this time it'll be for good."

Thor's wordless exclamation was drowned by Frigg'd horrified shriek.

"What can be done?" She wanted to know.

The answer came in the last way expected, as two more figures arrived: first a lady with platinum blonde hair, sky-blue eyes, in a pale-blue battle dress and covered with a long crimson-red cloak, and by her side a man with hazel eyes, ebony hair and dressed in black from head to toe. Outside they all suddenly hear shouts from the guard, claims about the 'Demon Wolf' sprinting out of the forest without warning.

Thor's eyes went to the newcomers instantly, his whole body tensing as he prepared to fight, even as a part of him tried to comprehend why the second in command of the Valkyries was standing so close to the monster. Only they were paying no attention to him, only to Helena.

"You told me to bring him." The Valkyrie spoke first.

"I did, Ylva, Fenrir, my parents require a favor from you." Helena stated formally.

"Anything they may need is theirs, and yours, for the taking, princess." The Valkyrie spoke, as they both bowed their heads in respect.

"Lady Ylva…?" Thor spoke, confused like never before.

"My apologies, Prince Thor, but I owe a great deal to your brother and his match, we both do." Ylva told him, respectfully, though most of her attention was still on Helena and the not quite conscious Loki. "It's why we're here."

"Nana has reincarnated." Helena announced straight out. "It happened a few years ago. She's Midgardian. Her mother passed away shortly after her birth and since then she's been raised by her father and his family, his pack."

"Pack…?" Fenrir repeated, his mind working a mile a minute.

"They're like you… well, the Midgardian version, children of the moon." Helena explained. "All was going well, I had no doubt that sooner or later Nana's and Ada's paths would cross, their souls calling to each other…"

"Something happened, didn't it?" Ylva connected the dots. "It's why you came."

"Something did indeed." Helena agreed. "I cannot properly explain it all, time is not on our side. What I can say is this: Nana was attacked, it was bad. A wolf bit her, but being of blended blood, her body cannot take it. It's rejecting the bite, and that rejection is slowly killing her. It's so bad, that Ada is feeling it as well. Now, the fact that he's alive is allowing her to hold onto life, but that will not last forever, sooner or later it'll become too much, and we will lose them both."

"You asked me to bring him, why?" Ylva practically demanded.

"She wants me to bite him." Fenrir told his match, having understood before she did, all his attention turned to the princess then: "You think that once they're balanced they will be able to pull each other out of this mess. They might… if the both of them being bitten doesn't kill them first! We both know his body will reject the bite as well."

"It's a risk we have to take." Helena was trying so hard to appear strong, like she knew exactly what would happen, but her worry was such it was making the facade crack. "It's this or we will lose them both for sure!"

Granted, since they hadn't bound themselves to each other in their current life, it probably wouldn't kill Loki, but it'd certainly kill her and… Helena didn't think her father would be able to endure much longer without her. It had been so long already, almost nine centuries, and while he might not allow it to show, she knew him, better than he knew himself (because she knew not just the man, the shell of a man he was then, but also the man he could be, the man he once was, with his match by his side); Loki was hanging to sanity by a threat, and that thread would snap any day. And when that day came… there would be nothing left of Loki, Silvertongue, Shadow-walker, Skytreader, the man who'd been so loved by an elven princess she was willing to give up not just a crown, but her world, the only life she'd ever known, to be his match and consort.

"Do it." It took everyone by surprise when Frigg spoke up.

"What…?" All eyes turned to the Queen instantly.

"Do it." The Queen of Asgard insisted vehemently. "Anything is better than watching one of my sons in this pain."

"Mother!" Thor couldn't believe it. "He could die!"

"If he loses her again he will be as good as dead anyway." Frigg retorted.

Thor was left speechless at that.

"You remember her…" Helena breathed out, not quite believing it.

"Not quite." Frigg admitted, turning to look at her granddaughter. "I cannot remember what she looked like, sounded like, or even what her name was. But I know she existed, and that Loki loved her, more than his own life… they deserve to have another chance. The Norns have given them another chance, allowing her to be reborn, and we will not take it away from them."

"Where?" Fenrir asked after conceding.

"The back of his left shoulder." Helena instructed, even as she pulled at her father's tunic enough to bare said part of his body.

Fenrir took a deep breath, then allowed himself to change just enough for his fangs to form and truly bite the man he'd always see as his father. He'd just straightened back up when Loki's body seized violently for a moment before he fell limp on the bed.

"Find her…" Helena whispered, holding onto her father's hand tightly. "Find her Ada… make her remember you, the bond you share…"

"Find her…? Where?" Thor asked, completely confused.

"In the mists… in Helheim." Several voices answered at once.

Thor almost roared in disbelief at that, and yet there was nothing he could do. Nothing except wait, wait and hope everything would work out in the end…

xXx

For Loki it was like blinking. One moment he was laying on his bed, fighting against the burning in his shoulder, the next he sat up and found himself standing amid mists. He knew exactly where he was, Helheim, the realm over which his daughter ruled… His daughter… the moment his mind went to Helena, it was as if something inside his mind shattered… or perhaps it was the other way around, something was coming together, after so long, he remembered…

He remembered Alfheim in the Spring, the Ostara Festival, which his mother had been unable to attend last-minute and asked him to go in her place; he remembered the beautiful auburn-haired, hazel eyed, fair-skinned princess in her elegant if heavy gown, sitting on her throne; remembered her also in a simpler, floor-length, thin-strapped pale-lavender dress. Remembered looking into her eyes, the way they shined with the light of the stars, and how he wished he never had to look at anyone else…

"A'maelamin (Beloved)…" Loki breathed out.

His mind spun as he slowly wrapped his mind around everything he'd just remembered. From that day, when he'd first laid eyes on the love of his existence. Who back then had been Princess Lalaith Mirloth, Crown Princess and soon-to-be Queen of Alfheim… until they met and their lives changed forever. For they were a match, an involuntary one (soulmates, as humans would call them), had been together and were meant to be together in every lifetime, until the last star fell from the sky… It hadn't been easy, in Alfheim Queens were meant to see the Realm as their only spouse, every elf as their children, they couldn't have someone, for then how could they be expected to always do their best for their people? Only Lalaith was never meant to be a princess, wasn't born into the role, had only stepped into it when there was no one else, because someone was needed to fill the void and no one knew what else to do… And then there was him, he hadn't known it at the time, but he wasn't Odin's son by birth, he'd been adopted, and the Allfather had had plans regarding the future of Jotunheim (the Realm of his birth). In the end some things just couldn't be denied, and love was one of those…

They'd managed to make it work, and spent the next wonderful, amazing, perfect 95 years blissfully happy. Their lives, like any, had their ups and downs of course. But they were together and they were happy, what else could anyone ask for? He remembered Helena, their first-born, the light of their lives… and he remembered Meril, the child he never got a chance to hold, to so much as see born; for his beloved had gone into the grave with the baby still in her womb. All because one Enchantress was too obsessed with Thor, and wanted revenge on Loki's match for thwarting her plots.

Finally, he remembered her name… not the name she'd been born with, the name she'd had when still a princess in Alfheim, but the one he'd given her, the one she'd chosen to keep as she chose him over her crown, her Realm, the only life she'd ever known… the one that showed her true colors, as the most beautiful voice in all the Realms, as princess of Alfheim and Asgard, and Goddess of Compassion… he remembered the name of Tinúviel…

"Find her… Find her Ada… make her remember you, the bond you share…"

Loki heard his daughter's voice, as if carried by the wind, or by the very mists around him. At first he had no idea what to do. Helheim was different from any other Realm, in that things like time and space meant very little while there. As he was still tethered to his mortal body (technically to more than just his body, which was how Helena knew Fenrir's bite wouldn't kill him, even though his body would reject it; same as they expected was happening with his match) he could feel things in a way the dead couldn't. That didn't mean he'd ever be able to find his way around the mists… And even if he could, how was he supposed to find Tinúviel? Chances were she would not know to look for him, would not remember him. With him… his memories had been blocked for centuries, but still there, buried deep into his mind; but her, she'd been dead and reborn, and as such she didn't carry any memories of lives past, not unless they were brought upon her. Which was probably somehow part of Helena's plan, though it still wouldn't help him in that moment.

For a little while all Loki really did was wander the mists, looking for his match, not knowing how he was supposed to find her. He couldn't exactly call to her, her name wouldn't be the same, and he'd no idea what her name was in her current life. What could he possibly call out that she might understand? The moment that question crossed his mind another memory came to him: once again in Alfheim, the Midsummer Festival, when all elves would sing a song that was at their very cores, hoping it'd bring them to the one the stars had chosen for them. Because it was believed that matches were a gift from the stars, and voices a gift all elves shared; they put their emotions into songs, their very hearts and souls, and it allowed them to communicate more than usual words could. Loki was not an elf, but back then he hadn't known what else to do, how could he begin to explain to the elven princess that he loved her, that he knew they were meant to be together even though it didn't seem possible with their respective positions, their hugely different heritage? So when he saw all the elves stepping into that groove to sing, he didn't think he had anything to lose… it's not like they'd know it was him, they were allowed to wear masks, only taking them off if the one their song called to came to them, and even then, only by them. So he took a chance, conjured an elaborate mask, black with very light details in the darkest green, donned it, and then stepped onto the dais. He could still remember the song he'd sung that day, the very first time he sung for his beloved (for anyone at all) though certainly not the last. And then he knew what he had to do, whatever might have happened, however she might change deep down his beloved would always be his Tinúviel, and songs would always be their best language:

"She stares through my shadow

She sees something more

Believes there's a light in me

She is sure

And her truth makes me stronger

Does she realize

I awake every morning

With her strength by my side"

"I am not a hero

I am not an angel

I am just a man

Man who's trying to love her

Unlike any other

In her eyes I am"

As he sang, the memories became clearer. The love, the bond, had always been there, he just hadn't known what it was. For centuries he'd felt a bond, a deep, ugly hole that nothing could fill, he'd done anything he could think of to fix it and nothing worked. Until the annoyance, the desperation at not being able to fill it drove him to instead try and forget about it. That had worked even less than his first plan! He knew that his Father had done what he did to save his life, they'd already lost two members of his family, they refused to lose a third… but that didn't mean that Loki would soon forget everything he'd suffered. Not just because he'd been pretty much forced to endure going through life alone, but because he'd been left in such a state where he didn't even know something was missing, the other half of him! That lack of knowledge, it was what drove him crazy more than anything else and yet… and yet if going through all that, through the previous nine centuries, meant having her again… perhaps it'd be all worth it.

"This world keeps on spinning

Only she stills my heart

She's my inspiration

She's my northern star

I don't count my possession

All I call mine

I will give her completely

To the end of all time"

"I am not a hero

I am not an angel

I am just a man

Man who's trying to love her

Unlike any other

In her eyes I am"

Seeing her step out of the mists… it was like seeing an angel fall from the sky, or his biggest, most incredible, impossible dream taking form. He might not have known she existed, had ever existed less than an hour before… but in that moment he knew without a doubt he couldn't possibly live another day without her. He couldn't imagine moving on, so much as breathing, without her love… She was truly the other half of his heart and soul, his perfect and only match.

"In her eyes I see the sky and all I'll ever need

In her eyes time passes by and she is with me"

"I am not a hero

I am not an angel

I am just a man

Man who's trying to love her

Unlike any other

In her eyes I am

In her eyes I am"

The song came to an end and for a couple of seconds neither of them said so much as word, as if afraid even that would break the spell, and then the other would vanish, back into the mists, like nothing more than a mirage, or the remains of a dream… then…

"Fintalëharyon (Trick-prince)…" She breathed out quietly, the word seemingly pulled from the very core of her.

He knew that voice! Knew it like he knew his own. The musical tilt to it, almost like she was about to break into song. It didn't matter that her hair was a darker red than her elven self's had been, or straighter, that her skin was a beautiful golden instead of the delicate cream, or that she was several inches taller (yet still as lithe, graceful and beautiful as ever), it was her voice, and the eyes… those were her eyes, and through them he could still see her soul…

"A'maelamin (Beloved)…" He whispered huskily, his own chosen endearment for her like a prayer on his lips.

And then, as if by some silent accord, both of them began speaking the same thing, word by word, in perfect unison:

"From this day on, you will be my only one. I shall look at no other the way I look at you, I shall think of no other the way I think about you, I shall talk to no other the way I talk to you, I shall desire no other the way I desire you, and I shall lay with no other the way I lay with you. I shall be with no other for you are now and forever shall be my one and only; my friend, my lover, my partner, my match…"

And thus, their bond was sealed… again.

xXx

In a place that looked like a mix of several different gardens (though only those who've actually been in those gardens would know that), Loki sat on the peeking roots of a huge white-ash tree, in his green linen tunic and black leather pants, feet bare, waiting. He didn't have to wait for long as Tish appeared seemingly out of nowhere in a violet tank top and gray yoga pants, her feet bare as she stepped on the grass towards Loki. She went straight to him, placing a short but very heartfelt kiss on his lips before dropping beside him and cuddling into his side.

"I missed you…" He whispered, kissing her hair tenderly.

"You see me every night." She pointed out, even as she pressed herself even tighter against him.

"And I miss you every day." He replied easily.

The words were almost a ritual, the same thing they said (or a variation therefore) every night when they met, before talking about their day, whatever might have happened in their lives.

"Paige's not coming back." Tish announced with a sigh.

Loki knew who Paige was, of course he did. Tish had told him everything about her life, once they got off the high of being bound again, just like he told her all about his own life since her passing (he hated it, especially hated seeing the pain in her eyes as she heard how things had been for him without her, but she deserved to know, and letting it out, being honest with her, having her there, it healed something inside him that he never thought would heal…).

Things weren't easy for them. They were a match, their bond had been rekindled… but Tish was still effectively a fourteen-year-old human… mortal, girl. Granted, they were quite sure she wasn't fully human anymore, not since the biting (since surviving) but she was still mortal and, as such, she wasn't allowed in Asgard. And while the Allfather would have probably made an exception for his son's match (Loki had made a point of forcefully tearing apart the enchantment that made everyone forget his beloved the moment he set foot back in the Realm Eternal), Tish had very carefully explained to him that, much as she might love him (and of course she loved him, with all her heart and soul), she wasn't going to leave her family (her dad, her little sis, her cousins…), because she loved them too. And they loved her, of course (and she honestly had no idea what her dad would do were he to lose her, but she knew it wouldn't be pretty). And so they each continued their lives in their respective realms, meeting every night in their dreams. It wasn't easy, but still worth it.

"You knew there was a chance that would happen." Loki reminded her.

"And a big one." Tish agreed. "Paige was so terrified that day… it doesn't really surprise me, or Der really. Still, it's why we've signed up for as many classes as we could get away with. If it all works out we'll be graduating next year. And then we can leave."

"Does your family know what you're planning to do?" Loki was curious.

"Dad knows, Malia and Cora might suspect. They're the only ones who know Paige was more than just a fling to Derek. Aunt Talia doesn't know, and Selene willing, she will not be finding out until we have our acceptance letters to NYU, or ESU, or whatever college we end up getting into and hopefully the plane tickets to NY as well."

"You're not doing this just for your cousin, are you?"

"I… no. I mean, I love Der, don't take me wrong. He's my brother in every way that counts. And Paige is a very dear friend. But it's more than that, it's… the way they look at me. Aunt Talia, Uncle Zach, and all who were with them that night, all who saw me, who know what I did, that it was I who killed Ennis… they look at me like I'm a freak, like… like I'm going to turn on them, any and all of them at any moment. Like I'm a hunter!" A single tear escaped one of her eyes. "They've taken to keeping the children away from me. Even the twins… tried to do the same with Cora until she snapped at them but… they look at me like I'm a monster! Which is absolutely ridiculous. I'm still a Hale! Then again, most of the time they look at Dad the same way, so maybe I shouldn't be that surprised…"

"They don't understand." He exhaled. "It's just… for a pack of werewolves they lead quite sheltered lives, you know? It's what I've always thought about Thor and his friends. They think that because Asgard is a Realm of Warriors that automatically makes them that, makes them strong, and powerful and great, but truth is that they've never been there, they've never fought an actual war. The closest they've come has been some of their insane quests, and we both know they'd all be dead if I hadn't been there." Tish scoffed in agreement and he continued. "The pack… they're like that. They're wolves, they have the strength, the speed, the senses, and they assume that automatically makes them better. But truth is that without training, without actual experience, all that is next to useless. They look down on your dad, on you, for the signs you bear of the battles you've fought, but truth is that, were they to find themselves in a battle for their lives, they'd likely lose, because they'd have no idea what to do."

"It's not like I had much idea…"

"Maybe not. But you knew there was a possibility of fighting, and you were mentally prepared for it. It's why you never stopped looking for anything you might be able to use as a weapon, it's what allowed you to actually do something instead of just freezing up. You might not have trained to fight, but you were ready to do so. Most of your pack probably aren't."

Tish knew he was most likely right. Truth was that, not much had really changed. The pack had already looked at her oddly before. Though originally it had been because of whose daughter she was, or the fact that she was the only human pack-member. And then… and then she became the human who killed an alpha in a rampage… Even hunters had trouble doing that! And maybe before her aunts and uncles hadn't made such a point of trying to keep the cubs away (then again, before the thing with Ennis they'd all seen her as fragile, rather than dangerous). But that wasn't really it in the end. It was… they hadn't accepted her when she was the vulnerable human, and they didn't accept her as a strong human. Which basically meant that they were never going to accept her; regardless of what she did or stopped doing, she would never be 'one of them'. That realization made her accept there was no point in even trying; why work so hard for something she'd never have? And thus, why stay at all where she wasn't wanted? Her dad loved her, of course he did, but she knew he wasn't happy with the way she was treated, he'd want her to take the chance, to try and find a new place to belong (and perhaps she might even convince him to join her, once she'd found the right place).

"In any case." Tish went back to the point. "This isn't about Der, or not just about him in any case. I need to be somewhere else, with people that won't look at me like I'll go nuts and kill them at any moment. I may find that in New York, I may not, but I won't know unless I try…"

"You know I'll always support you, whatever you choose to do my Nightingale." Loki assured her passionately.

Nightingale… it was what he'd taken to calling her. Basically the same as the name he'd given her a lifetime prior, only in English rather than elvish. Though this time she hadn't made it her name, she was still Letitia 'Tish' Hale, that was who she'd always be, but Nightingale worked as an endearment, she liked it.

"And, you know, away from most of the pack you might be able to actually visit me, during the day I mean." She offered.

"You… that's be alright with you?" Loki could hardly believe it.

"Of course it would!" She reassured him immediately. "The only reason I was so against you coming to Beacon Hills was because I knew Aunt Talia would not be nice. She can barely deal with what I did that night, or the fact that I survived a wolf-bite. I don't want to imagine what she might say about you, and the last thing I want is a fight breaking out. But once we're in New York… Derek already knows I'm interested in someone from 'out of town'. I know he'll believe me, once I tell him the truth, and he'll support me. And I'd love if the two of you met. And Fenrir. We could have fun all of us together!"

Because Fenrir was finally free. Tish had no idea how they'd managed it exactly, but Loki had made it work, Fenrir hadn't been imprisoned again after that day. Also, all of Asgard knew that Ylva was his mate, and while some people had taken to looking at her oddly, like they couldn't believe a valkyrie would choose the 'demon wolf', she didn't care. They were a match. Tish really wanted Derek to meet Fenrir, and her dad and sister to meet him too one day. Fenrir had never had a chance to be around other weres like himself and Tish was sure they'd have a lot of fun together.

"Sounds like a plan." Loki agreed.

They spent the night pretty much like that. Sometimes talking about this and that, sometimes just in companionable silence; there were times when she'd hum or even sing. They didn't need to do anything specific, as long as they were together, it was enough.

"So, anything else?" Loki asked her at one point.

"Oh yeah, there was one thing." Tish had almost forgotten. "We made a new friend today."

"Really?" He wasn't expecting that, his love and her cousin didn't make friends easily.

"Yeah, the school has apparently decided to offer French as a language elective this year rather than just Spanish." Tish explained. "Der and I signed up for that class, since we both know Spanish just fine already. Miss Vermeil is the new teacher. She told Derek and I that we have a gift for languages and after hearing that we were trying to graduate early offered to give us private lessons to allow us to move faster through the curriculum."

"Sounds nice." Loki shrugged. "She your new friend then?"

"Yeah, she's really nice, nothing at all like most of our teachers, though that might be because she's a bit young still." Tish shrugged. "Just in her early twenties I think. She even asked us not to call her Miss Vermeil, said it made her feel old or something. Asked us to call her Kathy…"

"She sounds like a good person." Loki smiled, kissing her temple. "I'm glad you're making new friends my Nightingale."

"So am I." Tish agreed.

He had to leave shortly afterwards, as dawn came in Asgard. She stayed in their garden a little longer, until the sound of her alarm broke through, announcing it was time for her to wake up as well. It was a new day, and she still had a life to live.

xXx

It took almost three months for Kathy to trust Derek and Tish enough to reveal to them she was from a Hunter Line, and not just any line but the Argent one. By then the three of them spent so much time together that she wasn't a teacher anymore, she was their friend. Derek was hurt by the realization that Kathy had kept such a huge thing from them, Tish on the other hand, reacted the one way no one could have ever expected:

"Can you train me?" She asked, straight out.

"What…?!" Neither of them had seen that coming.

"Are you insane Tish?" Derek asked her.

"Der, our aunts and uncles already look at me like I'm a freaking Argent myself!" She stated. "Aunt Moira has gone to rather insane lengths to keep the cubs away from me, including the twins. The twins! The same who used to love to have me read them their bedtime stories!"

"They always liked you best, said you were the only ones who ever did the voices right." Derek nodded, a bit nostalgic.

"Exactly, and now they insist on having someone else do it." Tish couldn't fully hide the hurt from her voice. "I have no idea what they've been told but… I hate it."

"And you think actually training like a hunter is going to help how?" That was the part he didn't understand, at all.

"No, but at least I'll feel like I've earned it." It wasn't logical, Tish knew that, but it was still how she felt. "Also… we both know Ennis won't be last one, sooner or later there will be others who will come after me, either because I'm the lone human in a wolf-pack, because I'm a Hale, because of my father, because this is freaking Beacon Hills and insane things have a way of happening in this town or a combination of those."

"Ennis…?" Kathy interrupted them right about then.

They both turned to her for a moment. She'd told them that she wasn't very close to the main line, and she had distanced herself from her family recently, but considering how messy things had gotten with the Summit, and how deeply involved the Argents had been, the Hales did wonder how she could not know. In the end they shrugged and explained what had happened that night, from their near crash, the run across the woods and finishing with what had happened down in that root cellar exactly.

"You killed an alpha?!" Kathy was honestly shocked.

"It's not like I planned it!" Tish didn't whine, she really didn't… much.

"No, I know but… that's a remarkable accomplishment Tish, especially for someone with no formal training." Kathy told her honestly, then sighed. "I did tell you I'm kind of retired from the 'family business' right? There's a reason I chose to become a French Teacher instead. And really being fluent in the language and able to speak like a native is kind of my only qualification for any job that doesn't involve… you know, hunting."

"I'm not asking you to teach me how to hunt, I'm asking you to teach me how to fight." Tish qualified. "So I might be better prepared next time someone tries to kill me, or one of my friends or family. I… I don't want to feel useless."

"You're not useless." Derek assured her vehemently.

"Okay," Kathy agreed. "I'll help you."

It was insane, beyond that even, but while Peter had made sure Tish could protect herself from muggers and the like, he hadn't taught her to actually fight, and she knew that even if he'd tried, he'd have never dared so much as think of hurting her, so it wouldn't really have worked in the long run. Kathy on the other hand, it might have been the huntress in her, but she had no such qualms. She pushed Tish, pushed her until she felt she could go no more, then pushed her a little more. And the thing was… Tish was good at it.

In hand to hand, she was still a bit on the small side, which was completely understandable when one considered she had yet to turn fifteen, but she was strong, fast, ligth on her feet and had lightning quick reflexes. Most of that she'd always had, but all had improved a fraction since her near-death at Ennis's fangs. She had the instincts for it too, not for killing, but certainly for fighting. Weapons were a bit more complicated. Guns were a no-no, mostly because she didn't even want to imagine how Aunt Talia would react were she to smell gun-powder on her hands, or worse, her dad! Crossbows were another no, though in that case it was because she just couldn't find herself with it. And then they tried an actual bow. The mechanical one was a bit of touch and go, she had trouble balancing it correctly, but when Derek went and got her an actual wooden, traditional bow… she was amazing with it (though she never revealed that part of it she owed to memories of another life, that would have been hard to explain). Her second weapon of choice, and the one that actually surprised her (it surprised her to discover how good she was with it) were the knives. All kinds, and sizes from the length of her pinky finger to that of her arm from the tip of her middle-finger to her elbow (those were more like short-swords, but anyway). She even convinced Loki to give her a few tips during their dream-meetings, which made her even better than she already was.

When Kathy revealed that she was interested in Derek, Tish actually did a double-take. It wasn't about their genetics, or their surnames, and Tish was quite aware (painfully so) that in the end age was just a number; and while the relationship might not exactly be legal, it's not like they played by the normal rules 90% of the time anyway.

"So you think I shouldn't do it?" Derek asked her.

Kathy had invited him on a date, an actual date, and Der did what he always did, he consulted it with his cousin.

"I think you need to first ask yourself why you're doing this." Tish answered honestly. "I thought you were still in love with Paige. And I'm not saying you have to be, or that we're not leaving for NY anyway the moment we graduate, whether you're dating Paige, or Kathy. You know I don't care about the age, or her family. What I do care about, is you. You want to go and kiss her, sleep with her because she's hot? Have sex and nothing more? Do it. You want to date her, because you're in love with her. Go ahead. You want to use her as rebound because Paige hasn't called in a while… well, that one wouldn't be fair, on either of you. But anyway, pushing that last one aside. Whichever it is, if you really want it, and you're both on the same page, I say go for it. But know why you're doing it first. I mean, she says she's rebelling from her family's traditions and beliefs, and I think that's awesome, but is she in it simply because we're Hales and what a better way to go against a hunter's doctrine than to befriend, perhaps even date members of a pack? Or is she in it because she cares, truly cares about you, regardless of the wolf and your name?"

The questions actually made Derek stop and think. He'd known from the start that Tish wouldn't judge him. It was why he asked her, rather than anyone else (nevermind that no one else knew the two of them had befriended an Argent, much less that she was training Tish).

In the end Derek and Kathy went on a few dates (always to small places one or two towns over, where they wouldn't be recognized), and always at times where Tish could make herself scarce (to be Derek's alibi, in case it was ever necessary).

It was during one such day that she met the Stilinskis. She knew them well, especially Claudia and Mischief (the kid's name wasn't actually that, but Mieczyslaw, Claudia had been calling him Mischief since he was young, and then they both convinced Tish to do the same). She hadn't seen either of them since the plans for the Summit were finalized, not wanting to risk one of the alphas getting any ideas and going to their place. Especially because she knew Claudia and Mischief were special, not wolves of course, but not fully human either. There was something special about them, even if she hadn't been able to put her finger on what it was just yet. And then she heard the terrible news:

"Cancer…?" She could hardly believe it, Claudia had been just fine the last time they'd met!

"In the brain." Claudia nodded seriously. "It's… the doctors saw no point to giving me anything. It's too advanced. There's nothing they can do. I…"

"It's okay…" Tish hurried to her side, embracing the older woman tightly. "It's okay. I'm here Claudia. You don't have to be strong with me."

And so Claudia cried.

It was insane, Letitia was still so very young… several weeks from her fifteenth birthday. She knew she sometimes acted like someone older, had even before recovering the memories of her old life. What was surprising was the fact that people who knew nothing about that, who only knew her, only knew Tish, treated her like that too. Even Claudia, who had known her since she was a little girl, who'd taught her to swaddle a baby shortly before Malia was born. Tish had helped look after Stiles when in that park, allowing Claudia to run some errands. It was easy for her, especially when she knew Malia and Cora would be the ones playing with Stiles. Tish had even babysat him a few times in the months prior to the Summit.

"I… I'm not afraid to die, you know?" Claudia murmured after she was all cried out (they were thankfully behind a few trees, where the children wouldn't see them). "I… I'm sad about leaving them. Noah and Mischief. I hate knowing that they'll hurt once I'm gone but… beyond that. I'm terrified of what this sickness, this Cancer might do to me before I die. They… the tumor, it's big, and it's already affecting me. Sometimes I forget details of things, nothing big, not yet. But what happens when I begin forgetting the important things? What happens if one day I forget where I live? Or that I left the stove on? Or Mischief? What will I do if I forget my baby?!"

Tish held her tight, already making plans in her head. Three days later she presented Claudia with a little crystal vial filled with a blue-green tinted liquid that smelled oddly of a combination of rosemary and blueberries.

"What is this?" Claudia inquired, confused.

"A little something." Tish shrugged, putting it in her hand. "Two drops in a glass of water every night before you go to bed. It will ensure your memory remains intact. It will not cure you, nothing could possibly do that." Helena herself couldn't have, and even if she could, Tish would not have dared ask, that was one slippery slope to get on. "But it will ensure that the cancer does not affect your memory. You will not forget anything Claudia. Not where you live, or when you turn on the stove, and you certainly will not forget Mischief, or Noah. I promise you."

"I… thank you…" The older woman embraced her tightly.

She didn't ask what was in the vial, how she knew it would work, or how Letitia had even gotten her hands on such a thing. All that was irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was that it could help her, and she wholeheartedly believed it would (and that was the whole point).

So Tish reconnected with the Stilinskis, while Derek went on a few dates with Kathy. As he later told Tish there were a couple of dinners, one time at the cinema, but most of the time they would just go for a drive. They'd kiss, make-out and there was even some heavy petting once or twice but… Kathy didn't like him wolfing out when things were getting hot, and Derek wasn't sure he'd be able to control himself enough, so in the end they didn't really sleep together. They agreed that Derek would focus on getting better control, like it was a goal and his reward would be the sex, but he knew it wasn't that important to him. He and Kathy had agreed that as much as they might enjoy things, neither of them was interested in more. Derek realized that while he loved the rebellion of dating an Argent, she just wasn't the kind of girl he'd introduce to his family, and it had nothing to do with her being a huntress (or former, whatever). He just didn't care about her like that.

Sometime in January things got tricky. Kathy was moody a lot of the time, volatile. She had always been pretty ruthless when training Tish, but then she became vicious, as if she were using the girl's training to pour out all the rage inside her. When things got so back she almost broke Tish's nose, Derek demanded to know what was going on.

"Had a fight with my old man." Kathy finally snapped. "About the… family business." Both Hales could hear the air-quotes on the last two words. "Wasn't pretty." She let out a wordless cry of rage. "The old-man just doesn't get it! It's… argg!"

"You know that whatever might happen, we're here for you, right?" Derek asked, hugging her from one side. "We're your friends Kathy."

"I know." The older woman nodded.

It was then, just for a fraction of a second, that Tish sensed something from her, something she'd never sensed before. It happened so fast, there one moment and gone the next, that a part of her actually wondered if she'd sensed it at all, or had just imagined it. Then again, great as her imagination might be, she just wasn't the kind to imagine that kind of darkness…

xXx

When May came around, the Hales were the ones on edge, enough that Kathy couldn't fail to notice it. Even then, she waited about a week or so before actually bringing up.

"Everything alright?" She asked, curious.

"Yeah," Tish answered straight-out, then seemed to rethink it. "I…"

"It's a pack thing." Derek said dismissively.

"Well, I'm here, you know?" She offered. "I mean, you listened with my old-man and…"

It was Derek who cracked in the end. Then again, that wasn't exactly a new thing. He and Kathy hadn't gone beyond a lot of making out, some pretty heavy petting; and once, oral sex (though that hadn't been so great, and he'd said nothing to Tish about it).

"Laura's off-age now." Derek explained. "She's off-age and… well, following tradition, she'll take her place in the pack, submitting to our mom. That's tradition. But with her, she'll also be recognized as the future Hale Alpha. Which means we will be expected to submit to her, at least symbolically. As a promise that we'll follow her, when the time comes."

"But aren't you… well, too young for that still?" Kathy inquired. "I mean, you're not eighteen yet, you're just sixteen!"

"And Tish is fifteen." Derek added for good measure. "And you're right, usually we'd be too young to participate. But we're graduating high-school too, and leaving for college."

"It's like Aunt Talia wants a guarantee that we're coming back or something." Tish said in an almost drawl.

Really, when her aunt had found out, about the college applications, the acceptance letters… it hadn't been pretty. Never before had a member of the pack gone so far out of their territory for college (Tish was quite sure two generations ago they didn't go to college, period; she knew for a fact that not all of her aunts and uncles had degrees), but Derek and Tish had already accepted, they had good scholarships, Derek in Architecture and Tish in Liberal Studies.

"Would you? Not come back I mean." Kathy sounded quite flabbergasted at that.

Tish just shrugged, and even Derek had no answer for that question. Kathy seemed to decide it was better not to insist.

"So… when's the big day?" She asked instead.

"Next full moon." Derek answered. "The night after the eclipse."

Which meant the eleventh, two days after the end of the school year, and a week or so before the graduation ceremony. The Eclipse hopefully would mean that they wouldn't be getting too rowdy during the full moon itself.

"I'll know not to expect you that day then." Kathy said with a smile.

She was smiling, but what Tish sensed coming from her in that moment… it wasn't happiness. Or maybe it was, but not a good happiness, it wasn't light and airy and… nice. Instead it was heavy and dark and… almost oppressive. Tish didn't like it but then Derek let out a chuckle, the first since they'd both been forced to endure Aunt Talia's very long tirade on college, their choices and their responsibilities, so the girl said nothing about it. Deciding it might be better to wait, to find out what was going on exactly before saying anything.

She had no idea what was coming their way, none of them did.

xXx

There was a moon eclipse the night before the full moon, which meant that all the wolves were more than a little subdued. For the most part, that meant sleeping, which wasn't too bad. Tish herself wasn't really sleeping, though it had nothing to do with the eclipse. She was nervous about the next day, about finally swearing her allegiance to her alpha. It was something that had never been required of her before and, much as she might not admit it out-loud, it just didn't seem right to her. She respected Talia, as leader of their family, but she'd never felt the need to… submit to her. She didn't see her aunt as superior to her, as someone she ought to not just respect but follow her every order. It might be the fact that there was no wolf in her giving her the instincts but… she just didn't feel it. So she wasn't sure how she was supposed to swear fealty to Talia, much less Laura.

The redhead was finally pulled out of her twisting thoughts with the buzzing of her mobile, signaling an incoming text: '911. Need you!'. The text came from Kathy. Tish had no idea what was going on, but she knew that ever since that particular argument back in January, things had gotten progressively worse between Kathy and her dad, the older woman had confessed that she feared her father doing something insane, though they'd never talked about what qualified as insane exactly. In any case, it made Tish worry, so without stopping to think about it she pulled a pair of smoke-gray pants and a long-sleeved black sweat-shirt on top of the black sleeveless tank and panties she'd been planning on sleeping in. She slipped her feet into a pair of equally black ballet flats (the only way to ensure her steps would be completely silent) and, after unplugging her cell-phone from the wall-charger, she rushed out of her room and down the stairs. She vaguely noticed how dark everything was, the eclipse had begun… but paid it no mind, her friend needed her, Tish needed to hurry. Her dark-gray combat boots were just inside the door into the house, so she picked them up; not putting them on, not yet, the last thing she needed was to wake up someone. So, boots in hand, she slipped out of the house. She'd just walked down the porch-steps and was about to sit on them to put her boots on, when a blow to the side of her head made her stumble to a side.

"What the…?!" She snarled, following the momentum down, into a roll and then back onto her feet, swaying only slightly, a bit of blood mating her hair by her left temple.

She'd actually sensed the attack coming in the last second, had managed to move with the blow enough that it didn't knock her out. She still had to blink several times to be sure she was really seeing what she thought she was…

"Kathy…?!" She blurted out, not quite believing it.

It was her friend, only she looked nothing like she ever had before. Instead of her usual blouse and skirt with sensible shoes combo, or even the light-gray pants and blue tank top she'd wear when training Tish (and which Derek loved seeing her in), she was wearing a sleeveless gray top, tight black leather pants, combat boots and a black jacket. What was more, she was armed; Tish could see at least two guns and half a dozen knives on her person, possibly more. And then there was what Tish was feeling, like the things the girl had picked up on from her before, just for brief moment, right then it was right there, for all (or at least all empaths) to notice: the sort-of dark, almost manic, glee…

"Kathy…?!" Derek's cry pulled Tish's attention.

Derek was there, standing at the house's door, staring at Kathy in absolute shock… Tish did a double-take when she realized that it wasn't just that he was standing at the door, but he was pressing against it, against some kind of invisible barrier… Tish's head snapped back to Kathy instantly, as she understood what was going on.

"No…" She breathed out in horror.

"Yes…" Kathy smirked, teeth bared in an awful parody of a wolf. "How does the saying go? Once a Hunter, always a hunter."

"Kathy… what's going on?" Derek insisted, there was so much pain in his voice, a vulnerability that Tish hadn't sensed since the day Paige left.

"She's not Kathy Vermeil anymore, Derek." Tish said, loud enough for everyone to hear her. "I suppose, for all intents and purposes, she never was. She's Kate Argent."

"You figured it out, good." The blonde rolled her shoulders, twisting her head this way and that, as if stretching out. "It was getting tiring, you know? Having to play the part of Kathy, the do-gooder, the innocent, the teacher… It was almost… itchy, in a way. But it was so worth it. Because by the time the night is over, I will be a legend. The huntress that eradicated the Hale pack! I will be the next Argent matriarch!"

"Aha…" Tish rolled her eyes. "And what part am I supposed to play in this charade?"

She focused on sounding as dismissive as possible, knowing it would irk Kate. It was something Tish had understood about her a long time ago. The blonde needed to be admired, to be… almost venerated. It was why she loved training Tish, made her felt like she was superior to the younger girl, like she had power over her. She'd never understood Tish and her motivations at all, but that was okay, Tish always did like being underestimated.

"You, you're my gift." Kate answered as if it were obvious. "My gift to my father, and to the Elders, to all those who doubted I deserved to be the next Matriarch…"

"I see…" And she did, it was so obvious in that moment. "The only human in the Hale pack, becoming a huntress, was that your plan?"

"Newsflah sweetheart, that's what you are now!" Kate snapped. "You're just like me!"

The snarls those words caused almost made Tish curse, were they really so stupid?! Were they going to believe a huntress, an Argent, just like that?!

"I'm nothing like you Kate, wanna know why?" Tish asked, discreetly summoning all her weapons onto her body and then pulling two of the knives from the holsters on her forearms. "I am a protector, not a killer." She made a wild-gesture before calling: "Derek! Get everyone out of the house, now!"

"No!" Kate snarled. "They will die tonight!"

She pulled out a lighter, letting it fall faster than Tish could move. Even then, she couldn't focus on that. Her gesture would have ensured that the mountain ash circle broke (the magic was kind of a recent development, she and Loki were still figuring out what she could do exactly, though the thing with the ash was rather simple and something she'd learned to do shortly after the thing with Ennis), allowing Derek to get everyone out of the house before the fire truly became an issue. They could handle that. Kate was alone, Tish knew that because she couldn't sense anyone else in the premises. She was the only real threat, which meant that Tish had to keep her busy, make sure she wouldn't be attacking the pack.

"You cannot do that!" Kate snarled when she noticed Derek directing the children out of the house. "I won't let you do that!"

"Hey!" Tish called, moving fast enough she grazed Kate's right cheek with one of her knives, if only slightly. "Your fight is with me!"

Kate twisted to dodge the next attack, finally focusing completely on the younger girl.

"You think you can fight me?" She challenged. "Think you stand a chance against me?! I made you what you are!"

"You might have taught me everything you knew…" Tish agreed, before twirling the knives in her hand, shifting her grip on them. "But you didn't teach me everything I know."

"What…?" For a moment Kate was actually confused.

"Oh come on Kathy…" Tish said in a long drawl. "Do you honestly think you're the only one who's taught me anything about fighting?" She bared her teeth at the blonde, letting out a sub-vocal snarl. "Then again, you thought you tricked me, all this time. You honestly think I swallowed your little act…"

"Of course you did!" Kate snapped.

"Maybe at first. I have to commend you for never lying outright. Even with the thing with Derek. You were honest about not being interested in a true relationship with him. He wasn't either, so it wasn't like it hurt anyone, whatever you got up to. And when you trained me, I knew you were happy about it, and that part of it was your narcissism, your desire to prove you were that good, to feel that I'd owe you somehow… I didn't mind, not really. But being thankful to you, doesn't mean you own me, it doesn't mean you get to put a bow on me and give me to someone else like some kind of twisted present, or offering, or whatever. I'm not your slave! I'm also not your brainwashed minion!"

"You're mine!"

"I am Letitia Maia Hale and I'm my own person!"

"They're afraid of you now, you know?" Kate was looking at the wolves, hiding among the trees at the edge of the preserve, as she said that. "They'll never trust you again."

"Oh, they've been afraid of me for a while now. And I don't think they've ever trusted me. Some of it is due to Ennis, I know. But a lot is simply because I'm human." She shrugged. "Not like I can help what I was born as. All I can do is choose what I do with my life. I chose to learn how to fight, just like I choose to use that knowledge to protect. I will not be your minion Kate. I will not hurt the pack, nor will I let you hurt them."

"They don't deserve your loyalty!"

"It's not about deserving. Few people ever truly deserve the things they get, both good and bad. I'm loyal to my family, and I will not let you hurt them!"

The fight was unlike anything any of the spectators could have ever imagined. Incredibly hypnotizing, strangely beautiful and absolutely lethal, all at the same time.

"She's a huntress!" Talia growled quietly, even as she kept an eye on her youngest children, the twins. "She betrayed…"

"Really, Talia, really?" Peter snapped at her. "My daughter is back there, fighting an Argent to protect us, all of us, and you are calling her a betrayer?! Should I tell her not to bother? You clearly aren't interested in her saving you!"

"She trained under an Argent!" Talia growled loudly.

"She did what she had to do to ensure she'd survive next time someone wanted to kill her!" Everyone was beyond shocked when it was Derek who spoke up, practically snarling at his own mother, his defacto alpha. "Next time someone like Ennis goes after her for being a human Hale, or for whatever other stupid reason they might think up. She wanted to be able to protect herself. Because it was made quite clear that none of you would!"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Zach demanded.

They were all out of the house, and between Zach and some of the other adults they'd managed to put out the fire before it spread too much, aside from part of the porch and parts of a side wall (including a couple of windows), the house hadn't been too affected.

"Are you blind Zach?" It was Peter who spoke then. "Have you not noticed the way all adult members of this pack look at my daughter? Like she's going to go crazy and kill them where they stand at any moment! They looked at her like she was a huntress long before she met that Argent woman! Last year, we knew Ennis was still around, we knew he was distraught after losing one of his most precious betas, we knew, and what did we do about it? Nothing. We did nothing to prevent what happened, from happening. And yeah, I fucked up on that one too, I thought that they were all too young, still children, there was no need to worry them. And we've all seen how that turned out. And yet, after that terrible tragedy, instead of pulling the pack together, of making sure they were alright, that Tish would be alright, you pushed her away! You treated her exactly the same way as my old alpha did when I returned from the war in Mexico with blue eyes. Like she was a monster, rather than an innocent, scared, scarred human girl. She is just fifteen years old, you do remember that, right? And you abandoned her! So of course she went looking for some way to ensure her own survival. And yet, do you see her turning against you? No, what you're seeing is her using what she's been taught, to fight for you, for us. And want to know what I think? You sure as hell don't deserve her loyalty."

They were distracted by Tish's sudden cry of pain.

"TISH!" Four voices cried out in unison.

The girl landed on her back, hard, there was blood matting part of her hair. But instead of staying down, of so much as taking a moment to breathe, Tish twisted around, using her own legs to sweep at the huntress's. It wasn't enough to make Kate fall, though she did stumble. It was enough to give Tish a chance to jump back onto her feet, pulling new blades out of the holsters on her thighs (she'd lost the first two at some point, and didn't want to use too much magic as it required more concentration than she could spare in that moment). She was about to leap at Kate again when she noticed from a corner of her eye as some of the weres got ready for the same. That actually made her pause, wondering if they were stupid, the eclipse was still going on! They were in no state to fight! And it wasn't just that they had no superior strength, speed, etc., in that moment (neither did she, for that matter); it was that, as born wolves, they weren't used to being without those abilities, because they'd always had them. They didn't know how to be without them. So how were they expecting to be able to fight anyone, much less a trained hunter, and one in line to be the next matriarch?!

"Stay where you are!" She snapped at them. "Stay back!"

She turned her full attention back to Kate, and to the fight (just in time to throw herself to the side to avoid the woman's next attack before delivering a kick of her own and continuing the combat) too quickly to notice what had happened. The fact that the Hales stopped in their tracks, not because they were suddenly listening to her, they really couldn't move.

"What the hell did she just do?!" One of Talia's brothers, Kenneth, demanded viciously. "What did she do to us?! Why can't I move?"

Peter just turned to look at Talia, eyebrow raised, silently asking her if she saw, if she heard, not just the words, but the tone. Yeah, Tish had done something, and Peter hadn't the slightest idea as to what, or how, but he couldn't go against her order either. The closest he had to compare it to would be an Alpha Command, except that he didn't feel like he was being forced to comply, metaphorically beaten into submission… instead he felt almost compelled to acquiesce. As if he'd had a long talk with someone and they'd convinced him that it was a good idea to do as asked. It came down to the same, obedience, yet it wasn't quite as violent, it didn't hurt.

"She's not an alpha." Zach muttered, clearly trying to understand.

"Of course she's not an alpha, she's not even a wolf." Talia hissed, though it was obvious she found it all quite, unsettling, as well.

"Ever heard the legend of the Luna?" Peter asked, almost conversationally.

"It's what some packs call the alpha mate." Laura answered. "Though it's fallen into disuse in the last decades."

"Yeah, that's true, but do you know why some packs liked to call the alpha-mate Luna?" Peter pressed. "The legend behind the choice of name?"

Laura shook her head.

"It's just an old legend." Talia scoffed.

"Oh sure it is," Peter nodded agreeably, sarcasm underlining his every word. "And if you ask most unimaginative humans they will tell you werewolves are just myths too!"

"What's the legend?" Laura wanted to know.

Peter turned towards Malia instead. It was the girl's favorite legend, and having her tell it would distract her a bit from the insane battle her older sister was involved in.

"Legend says that thousands of years ago, when humans and wolves existed side by side, and packs hunted mostly freely across the land, there was a wolf called Sandulf, who met a girl." Malia narrated. "She seemed human but wasn't, she was a gifted. No one knows what her real name was, but Sandulf called her Luna, he said she was his moon. Because, just like the moon, she could influence him. A single word or touch from her could calm him even at his worst, but if she was ever hurt… he would go berserk. Some say they were blood-siblings, family by choice, others that they were mates. The latter is why in some packs the alpha-mate is still called Luna, because most wolves believe that if anyone should have that kind of power over a wolf, or over a pack, it could only be her." She made a pause, smiling a little. "I always believed it didn't matter. As long as she cared for the pack, as long as she used that power to protect them, that was all that really mattered."

They all turned their attention back to the fight going on in their front-yard then. As Kate went to punch Tish and she caught the woman's fist, twisting her arm so hard she'd probably wrenched something in the elbow or shoulder. Kate groaned but the pain didn't stop her as she kicked at the girl's right knee hard enough her leg folded beneath her, making her fall. The huntress then was upon her so fast Tish only managed to deviate the next attack a bit, rather than stop it, ending with one of the Argent's smaller knives buried deep into her, just above her groin. The redhead couldn't help herself as she let out a strangled scream.

Derek was moving before he quite realized it (not even stopping to notice that he could move, Tish had been so focused in the fight she forgot all about keeping them out). His leap took him practically across half the front-yard in a moment, and then he was pulling Kate off his cousin and throwing the blonde huntress several feet to the side, the move vicious enough to scratch her side deeply in the process.

Even that didn't deter Kate, who rolled to her side and pulled a revolver from her ankle, aiming it at the still downed Tish. Derek was faster than her though, getting there and kicking the gun out of Kate's hands before a single shot could be fired. Growling at the blonde in fury.

"Der…" The huntress called, turning his eyes to him, voice pitched into a purr, her attempt at sounding seductive. "You wouldn't hurt me, would you?"

"Normally I wouldn't." Derek admitted, glaring at her. "I considered you my friend Kathy… but I suppose Kathy never existed, did she?" He shook his head, mostly to himself. "Also, you hurt one of the people I love most, my family, my sister… that I cannot forgive."

Before Kate had a chance to say a word more, Derek slashed her throat open with his claws.

"Damn it De-rek…" He heard someone hiss.

Derek turned in time to see Tish practically limping, knife still buried in the side of her belly; it wasn't bleeding quite so much anymore, but it was still bad.

"Tish!" He cried out, rushing to her.

Tish ignored him. Instead pulled a bit on the magic to call Kate's lighter to her hand, the flicked it on and dropped it on her corpse. As expected, handling whatever fuel she'd used to start the fire on the house made it easier for her own body to catch fire.

"What are you doing?!" Derek was shocked by her actions.

"We cannot let anyone know that you killed her." Tish snapped at him. "What do you think the hunters will do if they find out that a wolf killed a hunter? It won't matter to them that she tried to kill us all first. They'll hunt you down, hunt all of us down."

"What are we supposed to do then?" Derek asked.

"We tell an abbreviated version of the truth." His cousin answered simply. "She was crazy, tried to set our house on fire, something went wrong and she was the one who ended dead. Simple, to the point, and technically true. We're just leaving some details out." Most of which couldn't be said anyway, not if they wanted to hold onto the secrecy of the supernatural's existence. "If worse comes to worst, we'll say I did it. That I killed her."

"The hunters will turn against you."

"Maybe, but I'm human, whatever my surname, I'm still human. Which means the code wasn't broken. That should allow the pack to stay in the clear."

"That might still put you in their crosshairs."

"Maybe, if that happens, I can protect myself."

"No." He stopped, revised. "Well yes, you can protect yourself. But you don't have to, you're not alone. I'm here Tish, I'll always be here. We're family."

"Yes, we are, brother." Tish smiled at him.

She went to hug him, but the motion reminded her she was in a hell of a lot of pain. And while the adrenaline still in her body might have allowed her to stand, Kate burning, being dead, had given her enough relief that she could feel herself crashing already.

"Shit!" Tish cursed as she couldn't help but sway.

"Somebody call 911!" Derek yelled at the others even as he caught Tish before she could fall.

Very carefully he laid her down on the grass, far away enough from Kate to be sure the fire would not touch them. Then he went for the knife. It turned out to be a bad idea, as the moment he touched it the awful burning sensation made him pull his hand back.

"The whole thing's been treated with wolfsbane." Peter hissed as he joined them, kneeling on his daughter's opposite side.

"Daddy…" Tish whispered around a pained whine.

"It's okay little one, just hold on, okay?" Peter held one of her hands in his. "Do it for me."

"Okay." Tish nodded, tears spilling from the corners of her eyes.

She was in a hell of a lot of pain, doing her best to not show it… until Peter concentrated and began pulling the pain from her and into himself. His own pained groan showed, better than anything else could possibly have, how bad it was.

"I'm sorry daddy…" Tish whispered apologetically, though the relief was obvious nonetheless.

"Don't be sorry Tish, you saved us, all of us." Peter assured her. "Now just hold on. The ambulance will be here any minute."

"Okay." Tish nodded, doing her best to keep breathing.

Derek's hiss of pain alerted them that he was doing something. And then they noticed, he was wrapping hid hand around the knife, ignoring the pain, the burning of wolfsbane as he sought the best way to hold it.

"Der… don't do that!" Tish cried out, extremely worried, and yet she wasn't really influencing or 'persuading' him.

Derek stared at her, noticing that detail even before she did, his eyes flashed blue for the first time… Even more tears began falling from Tish's eyes as she, with some effort, raised a hand, running the tips of her fingers just underneath his eyes.

"I'm sorry…" She whispered so very softly.

"This isn't on you Tish." Derek assured her, taking her hand and kissing her fingers. "It was my choice. I don't regret it, and I never will." He put her hand down then, turning to Peter, he had just made another choice. "Uncle Peter, you'll need to hold her down."

He knew that in most circumstances, people would say it was a bad idea to take out the knife, that it could make the injury worse. But wolfsbane did affect Tish, they all knew that. It wasn't quite as bad when it was just a touch, nothing more than a rash that would disappear if she let go. But the knife was putting the wolfsbane inside her body, in her blood! That was too dangerous, and it meant they had to get the knife out. So Derek ignored the pain, the burning in his own hand, and when he was sure that Peter was holding his daughter tightly, he fully closed his hand around the pommel and pulled, hard.

Tish's scream echoed across the clearing, making all the children cry and the adults cringe. Never before had they heard such a sound, so much pain…

Malia stumbled to them a moment later.

"Sissy!" She cried out in horror.

Derek ignored her, throwing the knife onto Kate's still burning corpse. He pulled off his t-shirt, balled it up and then used it to apply pressure to Tish's wound. Not a sound came from her, and it was only then that everyone realized the girl had passed out from the pain, finally.

It was also then that Derek noticed he could see better than a minute earlier, and as his eyes turned upwards he could see the moon beginning to appear. The eclipse was over. Unable to help himself, he howled. Letting out all his heavy emotions in that single, deep sound. Beside him, Peter did the same, and soon enough the pack followed. Moments after the last howl ended, a new sound was breaking the night, sirens, the ambulance was coming…

xXx

Tish was taken straight into emergency surgery. The blood-loss was bad, but surprisingly enough the damage hadn't been as terrible as it could be; except for one thing. As the doctor explained to her, the knife had nicked her small intestine in several spots, though thankfully those cuts could be sealed without her losing pieces of it. What she did lose though, was one of her ovaries, and her uterus had been damaged (for lack of a better word), which put the chances of her ever having a child at bellow 25% of what a healthy woman could expect. That hurt. It reminded her too much of the loss of Meril, a lifetime prior, the knowledge that she might never have that chance again… it wasn't that she didn't love Helena because she did, with her whole heart, she was and always would be the light of her life (and Loki's), but a part of her would never stop hurting at the loss of what might have been, of that little life, that beautiful girl she'd once dreamed, in an off-white dress and with a crown of roses on her head…

The doctors could have let her out of the hospital in three days, but with the still on-going investigation regarding the attempted arson, it wasn't hard for Peter to convince the nurses and doctors to keep the girl a few days more.

The official version of events was pretty much as Tish had told it that night. Kathy Vermeil was the high-school French teacher, she'd been friendly with two of the three Hales attending, had seen them as her most gifted students and even given them private lessons. That much everyone in BH High knew. When asked Derek 'confessed' that she had flirted with him a few times, he'd flirted back, who wouldn't? Yes, they'd kissed a few times, no, they never had sex. They didn't know much about the woman, other than she had family troubles, had argued with her father over the phone several times. She knew a lot of their family would be home that weekend, yes. No one had any idea why she'd tried to set their house on fire. Tish's mobile had been made evidence, everyone knew that she'd gotten a message from the teacher asking for help, which was what had gotten her out of the house; Derek had followed, worried. He saw the older woman trying to knock out his cousin with a blow to the head, and then her attempt at starting the fire… Supposedly the fight outside was what had woken the adults, Derek going back into the house to get his siblings out. Which was why no one was there when Kate stabbed Letitia while the teenager was fighting to stop her from setting fire to the house. They'd all managed to get out of the house and put out the fire before it propagated. And no, if they were being completely honest, none of them had exactly been in a hurry to save their would-be murderer. Their priority had been their relative (no way they could have admitted that it would have been pointless to intervene as Kate was already dead by then).

When emergency services had arrived, their priority had been the bleeding girl too. By the time anyone noticed that what was still burning was in fact a human being it was too late. Not just to 'save' her, but the body had been so badly burned that it was unrecognizable (and, more importantly, they had no way of knowing that she'd been dead beforehand).

The true complication had been with the arrival of the Argents. Gerard Argent refused to believe that a child could have killed his daughter, and went as far as invading her hospital room, intending to 'make her confess' the truth. He hadn't made it three steps in before a knife was buried in his leg. He brought a hand to it automatically, only stopping as a voice spoke:

"That knife is serrated on one side," The quiet yet serious voice of the fifteen-year-old girl stopped him cold. "If you pull it out it will destroy your femoral artery. If that happens you'll be dead in five minutes."

"So you're a little killer then?" Gerard challenged.

"You came here intending to hurt me. So sure that there was no way I could be responsible for the death of your daughter. You were so sure that we'd be the ones dead. All you want right now is an excuse to commit mass-murder. And you came for that excuse, believing me to be a weak, defenseless little girl. I'm not a killer, I'm not you, but I will not regret taking preemptive action to make sure you won't be able to hurt me." She made a pause before adding, completely evenly. "Oh, and if you don't treat that in the next 60 minutes, you'll die anyway. Sooner if you try walking on it for any length of time."

As if on cue, the door opened again, allowing a man in: in his early to mid-thirties, with blue-gray eyes and light-brown cropped-short hair in cargo pants, a wife-beater and a half buttoned long-sleeved button-up.

"Father…?" He asked, clearly not expecting what he found inside the room.

"I suggest you help your father to some medic you both trust, and that you never again come into my room uninvited, or at all." Tish said as coldly as she could.

"Miss Hale?" The man clearly had no idea what to do or say about her.

"I've about had it with Argents trying to kill me." Tish snapped at him, her voice trembling the slightest bit. "I understand that you might have a hard time believing that a fifteen-year-old girl could kill a full grown huntress, especially one who was apparently in line to be your next matriarch. But well… I'm a Hale, and that means I'm not the kind to surrender. And like I told her when she tried to kill me, she might have taught me everything she knew, but she didn't teach me everything I know."

The younger man's eyes narrowed, he clearly understood that in a way Kate hadn't.

"Will you let us leave?" He asked her, taking her far more seriously than either his father, or his sister had.

"I have no problem with you, you are the ones who apparently have a problem with me." Tish insisted. "I did not try to kill Kate, she tried to kill me. I defended myself. Yes, that ended with her dead. But that wasn't on me. You cannot blame me for not being the kind to lay down and die when someone wants me to, and for stupid reasons."

"They're not human! Just monsters! Mutts!" Gerard Argent practically roared (it made Tish wonder briefly how the hell no one had heard him yet).

"The only monsters are those who think it's alright to burn children alive, or to torture a teenager into giving them an excuse to do exactly that." Tish retorted. "I will not give you a reason to start the war you want so much Argent. The Hale Pack hasn't broken the Code… Your daughter intended to do exactly that, and I'm sure you wouldn't have minded if she'd succeeded." She hissed. "But in the end, it wasn't broken. She is dead by her own fault, and if anyone is to be blamed that's me, I was the one who fought her. And as you've seen already, I'm not defenseless. Far from that, in fact."

"We're leaving." The younger Argent announced, taking hold of his father. "We will not be bothering you again Miss Hale."

Tish doubted very much that was true, but she said nothing about it. Just watched while the two Argents left the room. Ten minutes later one of the nurses entered the room as she did her rounds. Tish chose not to ask where everybody had been while two men invaded her room.

xXx

The day Tish was finally discharged was, coincidentally, the day when her generation graduated high-school. She knew because Laura had mentioned it the one time she'd dropped by for a visit (one that hadn't lasted more than fifteen minutes). She said nothing while her dad took her bag and pushed the wheelchair the doctor insisted she use to get to the car. Not a word until they were both in the car, driving down Main Street.

"I'm not going to graduation dad." She told him gently.

"I know." Peter nodded.

"I don't want to go home either." She added, even more quietly.

She really didn't want a repeat of the previous year, with everyone looking at her like she was some kind of monster. And it'd probably be worse, they'd all seen her, they knew she'd trained as a hunter, and under an Argent of all people!

"I know." Peter agreed.

That threw her for a loop. Especially when her dad parked the car in what looked pretty much like the middle of nowhere and she found another car already waiting there, and Derek behind the wheel. Tish was so shocked she said nothing and did nothing while Peter picked her up from the passenger seat of his car and moved her to the one in the other car.

"What's going on?" She finally asked when the move was complete.

"We're leaving, today." Derek announced. "Uncle Peter and Malia already packed all your things. Everyone thinks we went to pick you up and will be meeting at the school for the graduation ceremony. This car is a rental, so no one will be able to track us. By the time anyone realizes we're gone we'll be on a plane, halfway to the East Coast."

"I…" Tish turned to Peter. "Dad…"

"It's okay little one, I understand why you cannot stay." Peter assured her. "I will not force you to. You would be terribly unhappy. I know. So go, go to NY with Derek. Be happy the two of you. Just promise me two things."

"Anything." Tish assured him immediately.

"Promise you'll take care of each other." Peter said first.

"I promise." Not just Tish, but Derek too spoke up.

"And promise me you won't forget us." Peter murmured, more quietly. "I…"

"I could never!" Tish said immediately. "You're my Dad, and Malia is my sister! Them, and Cora and Der… you're all my family, I could never forget you. No matter where I went."

Peter smiled, kissing his daughter's brow before pressing his face into her neck, scenting her.

"I'll miss you, my darling Luna…" The older werewolf whispered, caressing her face one last time before pulling back and closing the card-door. "Go now, before Talia suspects anything."

Derek nodded, starting the car. They were out of there in seconds.

It was insane for them to be leaving Beacon Hills like that, like thieves in the night… escaping as if they feared for their lives. But while it wasn't quite so dramatic, Derek and Tish knew that there was no way they could possibly swear fealty to their alpha and future alpha, not after what had happened the night of the eclipse. Not after the mess with Kate Argent. The worst part was that it wasn't even Argent's fault, her actions, and the things Derek and Tish had been forced to do in return had only served to highlight what was already wrong. Derek may not have said a word about it, but Tish knew that the pack was treating him differently, like there was something wrong with him, just because his wolf's eyes were blue… never mind that they had become like that because he'd killed a deranged psycho who would have killed them all given half the chance! Was it any wonder that Tish didn't want to go back there herself? Regardless of anything Peter and Derek might have said that night, it was clear Talia didn't understand. Tish didn't blame her, it couldn't be easy, being the Hale Alpha, that kind of responsibility… and she surely had never expected having to deal with someone like Letitia, and all the trouble that seemed to follow her (first Ennis, then Kate, and they'd no idea about her other life…).

They'd return to BH one day, there was no doubt about that. They still had family in the town after all. And when that day came they'd have to face the pack, possibly the Argents and, more importantly, themselves. But that time wouldn't come for a while yet. They had a while to be young, carefree, happy… in New York.

Chapter Text

Full Moon

She shone across the Night-Sky, with the Light of every Star.

It wasn't easy. Feeling like there were two people inside her, like she was two people, and neither at the same time. Was she Lalaith, the elven princess who'd given up a throne for love? Or was she Rina, the human girl born into a world divided, fighting to keep her family together? Or perhaps she was truly both, and neither at the same time. She was the former princess who'd vowed to forever love one man; the girl who loved her family so much she'd do anything to protect them. She was the Nightingale…

Derek closed the book with a smile. The cover was a true work of art: a rose garden with a huge white-tree in the middle, a girl sitting at its roots, little birds flitting all around, and a shadowed figure half-peeking out from behind the tree. All of it blurred just enough that it would be impossible to recognize anyone, like a picture slightly out of focus. Across the top the name of the book read: 'Nightingale' and on the bottom, the writer's name: Maia Silva.

The door to the apartment opened and then closed, seconds before his cousin entered the living room, dressed in a knee-length white dress with a golden metallic belt around her waist, hair in a bun at the nape of her neck; she let herself fall onto the closest couch with a grunt. It took her no time to notice the book in Derek's hands.

"Keep that thing away from me!" She exclaimed with forced theatrics. "I cannot look at another book. Not today!"

"Hard day?" Derek asked, a smile playing at the corner of his lips.

"You have no idea…" Tish groaned dramatically. "I swear my hand is going to fall off if I have to sign a single book more!"

"You're the one who thought becoming a writer was a good idea." He reminded her.

"Oh no, technically you're the one who thought it was a good idea." She sat up with some effort. "I wrote the thing, yes. But that was mostly an exercise to get my thoughts in order. I… it was a way of getting it all out, of exorcising my own demons so-to-speak, or at least the demons of a lifetime ago. You were the one who thought I should find myself an editor and publish the damn thing! And look what happened!"

"You didn't exactly disagree. It's not like I forced you or anything."

"No, you didn't." Tish closed her eyes briefly, throwing her head back, against the back of the couch. "I never thought it'd be this way, you know?"

"That you would become rich, famous, a literary phenomenon?"

"Yeah… I mean. Of course the story was important to me. It's my story after all, my life. Or my old life anyway. But it's not like I ever expected anyone else to care."

"They don't know it's true."

"No, they don't. The world isn't ready to know that things like magic, aliens, and other worlds exist. I'm not sure if they'll ever be."

"Well, it was certainly a shock to me, when you told me that the manuscript I'd been reading during the flight over here wasn't just something you dreamed up. That it was real, when you introduced Loki to me… but I handled it, didn't I?"

"Yeah, but you're a werewolf, you already knew there was more to the world, to the universe. Most people would go nuts if they ever discovered that werewolves and magic and such exist in this world, they have a hard enough time with the mutants who are known. Aliens? The Nine Realms? Honest-to-Selene gods?! It'd be pandemonium."

"Maybe, maybe not."

Tish did not insist anymore.

It wasn't the first time the two of them had such a conversation, they'd never agreed, and they probably never would. It didn't matter. One day the world would find out the truth, they'd worry when that day came, and not before.

It was late Spring of 2012, and a lot had happened since Derek and Tish had gotten on that plane to NY, on mid-June of 2006.

They'd made it to the airport in San Francisco just in time to return the rental car and go straight to the gate. As Tish learned, Derek and Peter had made all arrangements during the past few days. And the fact that no one else, not even Talia, had noticed, showed how much the rest of the pack was either ignoring or keeping distance from them. It was a bit of a gamble, giving Derek the notebook she'd been writing in over the past year. It held the story of her life, or rather, of Tinúviel's life. Finishing with her own discovery of being the reincarnation of the elven princess. Derek had been fascinated by the story, and curious as to why she wanted him to read it… until they got off the plane in New York and she introduced him to her match: Loki Odinson (she'd called on him, through their bond).

After getting past the initial shock, Derek made sure to make it pretty clear to Loki that whatever power he might have, whatever their connection, he was still Tish's family, and he'd look after her, always. Loki took no offense to the words, the whole opposite in fact, he was happy, even proud, that his beloved had such a strong supporter and protector. As it turned out, Loki had been making his own preparations. Even if he hadn't known they'd be arriving precisely that day, he knew that Tish was planning on making the trip as soon as possible. He'd gotten them a two floor apartment: the bottom floor being open plan and all the common areas (kitchen, dining room, living room, an open terrace) as well as a bathroom and a couple of offices, the top floor had four bedrooms, each with their own en-suite bathroom. It was much better than dorms or renting an apartment while they attended college. While at first it was just them and Loki; Helena, Ylva and Fenrir joined them before the end of the summer. By then Tish and Loki were sharing a room.

Tish and Loki never hid their relationship. Derek knew, he knew they were together, that they would marry one day (by human and pack customs, as by magical tradition they were married already and had been since pronouncing something they called the Ancient Vows). He also knew they hadn't had sex, and weren't planning to for a while yet, and not only because he'd have smelled it if they had, Tish actually sat him down and explained their relationship. The fact that they were True Mates (it was the term wolves used, and the best one for Derek to understand). They were meant to be together. But Tish was still young and didn't feel quite ready for sex, so for the time being they just slept in the same bed, cuddling and sometimes making out.

In three years Derek and Tish had their Bachelor Degrees (in Architecture and Liberal Arts respectively), a year later, their Masters. In that same time Loki, Helena, Fenrir and Ylva had been able to secure human identities, though only Loki truly changed his name, to Luke, keeping Loki as a sort of nickname. He got a job teaching languages in the same university where the Hales studied. The same where Helena studied Psychology, while Fenrir worked as a security guard and Ylva took some classes in community college to be able to better handle herself in the current world and time.

Derek and Paige reunited shortly after the Hales' arrival to New York. It was a very romantic reunion and they managed to rekindle their relationship almost right away. Derek was completely honest with her about Kate and Paige understood and accepted everything, as well as the fact that the two of them still loved each other. It made them stronger. The two were together for three years before breaking it off. Not for anything bad, they'd just realized that as much as they might love each other they were no longer in love with one another, and they hadn't been for a while.

That was part of what prompted the group to make the road-trip in the summer in between getting their Bachelor Degrees and starting working for their Masters'. They spent the three months of their summer break traveling through Europe. They managed to make friends in most places they went. Though most in the group blamed Tish for it all, saying she was just so gentle and empathic (pun so intended) that people couldn't help but like her. Among the most memorable there was Diana, a museum curator in Paris who turned out to be an actual demigoddess, as well as princess of the Amazons (she taught a few things to all of them, especially the girls); the Maximoff twins in Sokovia, in whom Loki and Tish could both sense the potential for great power, even if none of them had the slightest idea of how or when it might manifest (Loki had promised to help them if/when it did); though perhaps the most important to them was when they met Vivian and Aiden Galvin, the Alphas of the Loup-garou pack.

The loup-garou were the biggest werewolf pack in the world and had been for centuries, with a territory that extended over most of Europe. There were other, smaller packs of course, but it was acknowledged that they had primary rights to the territory. Malia Hale nee Teague, the former Hale Alpha-mate (and, as such, Talia's and Peter's mother) had been part of that pack. As it turned out, Vivian was indirectly related to her. Though perhaps the most shocking part was that her mate, the Alpha-mate of their pack, was human…

The loup-garou pack was like the Hale pack had been before Tish, in that they had no humans, or at least they hadn't before Aiden. But it wasn't just that they didn't want the vulnerabilities that came with accepting humans, most members of that pack actually saw humans as inferior. To the point where the old alpha, Gabriel, had made a tradition of 'human hunting' during certain full moons. He'd been in power for many years, decades even, keeping his power through strength and violence… until Aiden came into the picture. Another difference between them and other packs was that, while in most packs mates were such for life; the loup-garou had a tradition that allowed the Alpha (and those with the highest ranks) to take a new mate every seven years. Gabriel had wanted Vivian for his next mate (she'd been nineteen at the time), she hadn't been interested. Then she met Aiden, a human graphic-novelist researching the legends of the loup-garou for his next work. The two were a match, true mates, even though they hadn't known it at first. Falling in love, willing to die and kill for each other almost from the day they met. Gabriel hadn't liked it. It had ended in a terrible fight where Vivian was forced to kill him, unwittingly setting herself as the new Alpha. Vivian and Aiden had actually left Romania right after the death of Gabriel and a number of his supporters, fearing that the pack might try to kill them. They'd traveled for several years through South and Eastern Europe, until Vivian became pregnant, and then they chose to stop, settling in the outskirts of a small village in Austria. Eventually several loup-garou found them, acknowledging Vivian as their Alpha, Aiden as her mate, and their daughter Nadia as Vivian's heiress.

That had been the longest stop in the road-trip. They all loved spending time with the Galvins, and not just because Vivian and Nadia were wolves (and, as they eventually learned, there were more wolves in town). But also because they were family, a part of it that the Hales had only ever heard about, never imagining meeting. Vivian enjoyed herself a lot too, after the loss of both her parents as well as her siblings to hunters, her aunt hating her for what had happened back in Bucharest, and being at least partially responsible for the death of her cousin during the mess with Gabriel… she never expected to have any more family, no one beyond her husband and daughter. Meeting the Hales healed something that had been hurting for so long…

The trip had been really good to all of them, and then they'd returned to NY to continue their lives. Those attending University finished their studies and eventually got jobs. Loki and Tish were engaged, set to marry soon (though never without her family), Helena was dating a doctor, a famous neurosurgeon from the Metro-General, Fenrir and Ylva were already married and considering trying for children. Derek had gone on a few dates, but could never find anyone he felt like he 'clicked' with. Seeing the other couples together, even Helena with that doctor who had nothing to do with the supernatural… it made Derek want. He didn't want just a wife (or husband, as he'd discovered during his college years, he didn't much care which), he wanted a mate, a match.

"You will get it Der." Tish whispered to him on the day when he returned from his umpteenth failed date and finally told her what he was feeling. "It could be tomorrow, next month, next year. I don't know. No one can know. What I do know, what I believe with all my heart, is that there is a match somewhere out there, waiting for you. Someone who will fit you perfectly, in every possible way. And you will meet when the time is right."

"I want to believe that too." Derek admitted quietly.

"Then believe, believe it and it will come true." She kissed his brow lovingly.

It was during the summer after finally finishing school that Derek somehow managed to convince Tish to take the risk with her novel. She wasn't even sure how he managed that. After graduation they'd spent most of the summer in Austria visiting the Galvins. To the point where they were all considered as 'extended pack' so-to-speak.

Once back in NY they'd gotten jobs, and then Derek got it into his head to convince Tish to try and get her novel published. At first she'd been reticent. She'd written the manuscript in the year following the mess with Ennis in that cellar, a way of putting her thoughts in order, of dealing with everything she'd remembered and what that might mean for her current life. Derek thought it was too good to stay in a drawer forever.

"I know, I know it's personal." Derek told her softly. "It's… it's your life. But that's why I think it's important. I… I don't know how to put it into words, you know words have never been my forte. It just feels like it's important. The way you see life, the world, love… I think you could help people. You love Loki, not because of his looks, or because of what he is, or… you love him because of his soul. And it's the same with him for you. You look nothing like his wife, yet he still knows it's you. That… it goes beyond the kind of love most people know. The idea that where it comes to love the bodies are irrelevant. I think a lot of people could benefit from reading your story. From learning they're not alone…"

It wasn't why she wrote the manuscript, not at all. But how could she listen to her cous say all that and not feel for him? So she took the risk. Aiden had put her in contact with his publisher, and while he didn't do novels, he recommended someone to Tish. Things happened quite fast after that. Tish and Loki met with several Literary Agents until they found one they liked. Gina loved the book from the first time she read it and put her everything into getting it published. Aiden had done the cover for free, a little picture he'd been inspired to do after hearing Tish and Loki tell their story, the first summer the group spent in Europe. The pseudonym was Tish's own idea. The last thing they needed was for a wolf, or worse, a hunter, to find a book written by Letitia Hale. It wasn't like her name wasn't known, everyone who knew anything about weres knew about the first human to be part of the Hale pack. She wanted to keep things simple, hence using her middle-name (her dad's favorite sister's name), and her mother's maiden name, and thus Maia Silva came into being.

At first not much had happened. Gina found her an editor, a publisher and then the book was out. Sold in a few libraries, but mostly online, through Amazon. As Gina explained, it would help sell her book in many countries, rather than just locally. She sold a few, but not too many. The story was nothing like what was 'in' at the time. No brooding vampires, no fallen angels, no tragic loves doomed to fail in death (she did wonder why exactly so many people seemed to think that a romance had to end in death… it made no sense whatsoever to her. While yeah, she'd died in the past, that wasn't the point of her story at all, the point was her life, their love, their eternal love). Then some paparazzi took a picture of the daughter of some famous artist, with the book in hand; apparently there had been some school assignment, they had to read a book and write a report on it, but the teacher had been very insistent that the book be something not in a Best-Seller's list (probably to ensure that they actually read the book and not just copy something from some website or another). The girl, while not exactly famous herself, was the daughter of a very famous person, a Hollywood actor… people followed her in the media, as if doing so would somehow allow them to be closer to the artists they so admired. And just like that, suddenly a lot of people were interested in 'Nightingale'.

It was absolutely insane. Gina loved it of course. She was a relatively new Agent, not even a decade older than Tish herself, with thirst for leaving her mark in the world. She loved the literary world but had never had the inspiration for being a writer herself, so she decided to be an agent instead. To help writers shine. She'd been trying hard for years, but while she always believed in the books and the writers she represented, none of them had ever had the kind of fame that 'Nightingale' and Maia Silva got all of a sudden. Interviews, book presentations, public readings, signings… absolute insanity indeed. There were even rumors that a couple of famous Directors were fighting for the rights to make it into a movie!

"Gina wants me to go to LA, meet with a few people." Tish told Derek.

The white dress felt almost itchy on her, and she'd kicked the heels off the moment she got into the apartment, but it was all part of her public persona. Of Maia Silva. The steps she'd taken to ensure she wouldn't be recognized; it was all about the clothes, the shoes, she spoke with the melodic lilt of her elven self, and had learned an illusion-spell that made her hair look short (not quite brushing her shoulders) and light-blonde. Everything had been prepared and practiced until she could switch from one persona to the other smoothly and without hesitation, no one who'd ever met Letitia Hale could possibly connect her to Maia Silva, and viceversa.

The next morning began like any other day. The little family (some by blood, most by choice) had breakfast together and then took off in different directions for their jobs. In the evening they met in a little in-the-wall Italian place they all liked and had dinner to celebrate what was coming for each of them: Helena had just moved in with Stephen, he'd finally proposed; Loki and Tish had their upcoming trip to LA to meet with those intent on buying the rights to make a movie out of her book; Tish and Derek had been playing with the possibility of dropping by Beacon Hills for a visit, though it made them very nervous, as they hadn't done it since first taking off, the day of the high-school graduation; and finally, Ylva announced she was pregnant, and just entering her second trimester! With twins! (Most of the family had, if not known, at the very least strongly suspected for weeks).

Neither of them could have ever expected what they found upon their return to their apartment, late that night. There was nothing wrong with the place, or at least not inside. The door on the other hand… a symbol had been carved into it, with claws, a symbol the two Hales recognized instantly, and it was enough to make their blood run cold:

"The Alpha Pack…"

xXx

It was the second of June when the little family arrived to San Francisco, California. Peter and Malia were there to receive them. Malia was the first to rush them, seventeen and not an ounce of restraint in her.

"I've missed you so much!" Malia sobbed emotionally as she hugged her older sister, pressing her nose into the crook of the older girl's neck.

"I've missed you too." Tish might not have been a were, but she still pressed her own nose to her little sister's hair and inhaled her scent. "I promise I'll never stay away for so long again."

"You promise?" Malia pressed.

"I promise." Tish confirmed.

It was then that Peter finally joined them. Tish tilting her head enough to show her neck without calling undue attention from the people around them.

"We've missed you, little moon." Peter whispered, kissing her temple and scenting her.

'Little moon', that's what he'd taken to calling her after the eclipse. He and Derek were the only ones who seemed to take her sudden gift for 'ordering the wolves about' in stride.

"I've missed you too Dad, very much." She said in return, kissing his cheek. "Now come on, there's some people you have to meet."

Loki and the others had stayed back with Derek, not wanting to interrupt the family reunion. They said nothing while Tish greeted her father and sister, or when Derek did the same. And then the attention turned onto them. Before a word could be said, Peter arched a brow, of course he could smell his daughter all over the tall black-haired male, both she and Malia could, and he was all over her too. The other two, while not quite as obvious, they were still clearly family (Helena had stayed back in NY, with Stephen, though there were plans for her to visit once things had settled down).

"Dad, sis, this is Loki, he's my true mate." She used his real name, and their own word for it, as a way to show she was being truthful, and just how serious she was.

"Well, well well…" Peter murmured in a drawl. "Isn't this interesting?" He let his eyes flash blue for a moment before he turned all his attention to his daughter. "The Nightingale, I presume?"

Tish opened and closed her mouth once, twice, thrice, she had no idea what to say to that…

"You mean… that's all real?!" Malia practically shrieked.

Tish and the others weren't sure what surprised them more, Peter and Malia being so willing to believe that 'Nightingale' was a true story, or that they weren't even surprised by the fact that Tish had a mate…

"From the moment you told us about the book, I knew it was important." Peter revealed. "You've never been the kind to do things halfway 'little moon'. It didn't matter what name you chose to give the girl in your book, I always knew it was you. There was just too much of you in her for it to be anyone else."

"You don't think it's… well… insane?" Tish had trouble finding the right words (which made her whole being a writer even more ironic).

"What? That there's more to the world than I ever knew? That there's a big universe out there? That we're not the only intelligent life to exist?" Peter enlisted the possible questions. "No on all three accounts. I've always been self-aware enough to know one can never know everything. That we knew things to be a certain way didn't mean they couldn't be different, just that we were not aware of it."

"A difference not many can recognize." Loki stated.

"What can I say? I've always been more open-minded than most would expect." Peter's tone was again a drawl.

And of course he was. It was how he'd chosen to follow his dearest sister to Mexico, into a war his alpha had forbidden them to get involved in, out of love; it was how he'd fallen in love with Letizia despite her being completely human; it was how he'd seen what his daughter was capable of, the gifts of the Luna, and never been afraid of her; it was how he could let her and his nephew go, despite how much it hurt, he'd always known it was the best for them. And to see them return then, tall and strong, with family… it was more than he could have ever asked for.

"What happened?" Peter asked eventually as they all made their way out of the airport.

"The Alpha Pack." Derek answered soberly. "They left us a little calling card on the door of our apartment." He ran a hand through his hair. "When we heard they were coming here…"

And it hadn't even just been from Peter. Actually, it had taken several calls for Peter to admit that they were on their way. But Derek and Tish, even separated from the pack, they weren't without resources, they'd heard the same things from almost half a dozen sources by then: the Alpha Pack was heading to Beacon Hills, they were going into Hale territory. It was never a good thing when one pack entered the territory of another without permission and following all due protocols, usually it meant war; and when the invading pack in question was the Alpha Pack… usually Talia Hale's power and the way almost everyone in the supernatural world held her in such high esteem would have protected them from such a thing. If it wasn't, if the Alphas were still heading towards Beacon Hills… it couldn't be good. The fact that they'd known there were two Hales in NY, and left their calling card on their door, that only made things worse! So there they were, in California, after six long years, praying they were ready for what was coming.

Peter drove them to the motel on the edge of town. Not what they'd have preferred, but it's not like Beacon Hills had ever needed a BestWestern or a Holiday Inn… and with some magic Loki and Tish could ensure that their rooms would be secure enough. They were planning on meeting with their family during the weekend and hopefully make some kind of arrangement before the full moon on Monday. It wasn't easy, they knew that Talia had never sent anyone after them, or put out word denouncing or disavowing them. Officially, Derek and Tish were still part of the Hale pack, and they all had the blessing of the loup-garou.

What they weren't expecting was when, after they returned from going for some dinner, after which Peter and Malia left to return to their own place, an apartment in town, rather than the Hale mansion (a lot had changed in the past six years…), when they began hearing odd noises. Being it so close to the full-moon, Tish's special gifts were close to the surface, enough that she had to fight the instinct screaming at her to go out, right away. And probably the only reason she really did, in the end, was because of the fighting instincts, there was more than one situation taking place in that moment!

In the end, practicalities won. One of the troubles involved wolves, high-ranked wolves, from what she could feel. Her power would be more useful there; the other concerned hunters and young wolves, and while Tish was also the one trained as a huntress, the others were great fighters too, Ylva and Fenrir personally had trained Derek. So they split up. Loki and Tish going into the woods, while Derek and Fenrir ran to the warehouse district (Ylva didn't exactly like being left out of the action, but she knew she'd just be a distraction to her mate, and thus ended agreeing to stay at the motel).

A lot happened that night, very fast. Loki and Tish found a pair or teen-aged weres running through the preserve, running away from something, and seconds away from falling into a trap. Her reaction was automatic as she pulled a handful of small stones from one of the secret pockets in her leather jacket (it had a lot of those). They were runic stones, created by her, she used them as focci when she did magic; because it was technically Loki's magic, not hers, she connected the runes with him, and they allowed her to draw on more power than she usually did. Really, Tish's power that was truly hers was the empathy, and while she could do a lot with that gift, within and beyond her role as 'luna'. She would rather not give herself away just yet though. So she threw the runes, calling on what magic she could use without them to ensure they would form a vague circle around her, then called.

"This way! Come here!" To the two running weres.

They both reacted instinctively to her call, probably due to her gift:

The moment they crossed the line of the rune stones Tish closed her eyes, tracing the right rune in the air with her left index finger, the other raised to the sky and called:

"Algiz!" Her voice was strong but melodic, and she could feel when the runes activated.

"What… what's going on?" The blonde were asked, panting.

"Careful, don't leave the circle." She pointed to the softly glowing runes on the forest floor. "It's all that's keeping the others from finding us."

As if on cue, there was a loud howl, an alpha's howl. Tish shivered, goosebumps running down her back even as the back of her shoulder ached with phantom pain. The scar on her arm didn't bother her as much, probably because her match's mark had taken over that, his love protecting her even in that small, mostly symbolical way.

The howl was cut off, then followed by a whine of pain. It let her know that her beloved had engaged the wolves, from the shadows. It would ensure that they leave, at least for the time being. If they truly were the Alpha Pack, as she suspected, then there was no way they wouldn't be returning, but at least for the time being the young wolves would be safe.

"Who are you?" The other were, a young, though big, African-American boy asked, even as he held onto the blonde protectively.

"My name is Letitia," She told him with her brightest smile. "Letitia Hale."

Things got even more interesting when the four of them got to the motel about an hour later (Tish waited to make sure the Alphas wouldn't jump at them out of somewhere the moment she took down the shield), to find Fenrir and Derek were back too, and they weren't alone either. With them were three other teen-aged wolves and two humans.

Introductions took place the moment they were all inside one of the rooms, wards being raised immediately, both for protection and to prevent eavesdroppers. Erica Reyes and Vernon Boyd were the couple of weres that Tish and Loki had found. They had been captives of Gerard Argent (and the moment she heard that Tish wished she'd done more than throw a knife at the crazy old man that day in the hospital), before eventually being released by Chris Argent. They'd been running through the woods, trying to find someone, anyone, when they'd come across Letitia. As for the other group: Scott McCall, Issac Lahey and Jackson Whittemore were weres too, though Jackson had been a kanima until earlier that same night. Lydia Martin had been bitten but not turned, she was something else, though no one knew what exactly. And the final member of the group was Stiles…

"Mischief!" Tish blurted out in shock the moment she finally recognized him.

"Tish?!" Stiles's eyes widened a lot when he finally realized who she was. "How…? What are you even doing here?!"

"You know each other? / Mischief?" Several of the others asked at the same time.

"It's what… it's what mom used to call me." Stiles murmured very quietly. "Tish has always called me that. She babysat me when I was little."

"I'm really sorry Mis…" Tish cut off, as she suddenly considered something. "Would you rather I call you something else?"

"No." Stiles shook his head. "It feels right. You calling me Mischief. And… and I think mom would have liked it. She cared a lot about you."

"I cared about her too." Tish nodded, then finally allowed her instincts to take over as she embraced Stiles and held him tightly…

The boy's pained whine and flinch was a dead giveaway that something was very, very wrong with him. It made everyone react. In seconds there were almost half a dozen teen wolves snarling around her. Derek reacted instinctively as he raised his head and howled, loudly (it was probably a good thing that the sound-proofing wards were so strong…). Still, the howl had the intended effect, as all the turned wolves shut up and lowered their heads instantly, tilting them slightly, not quite enough to bare their necks, but almost. Even Lydia reacted to the howl, quieting and getting closer to one of the wolves (her mate, from the bonds Tish could sense).

"Who hurt you?" Tish asked, very gently, as she picked up on each individual hurt.

"I… I don't…" Stiles clearly didn't want to talk about it.

"Mischief…" Tish cut him off kindly. "You're not alone. You'll never be alone. We're here. We'll help you. And whoever did this, I promise I..." she cut herself off at the low growl, then revised. "we, I promise we will never let it happen again."

"Argent." Stiles finally revealed. "It was Gerard Argent."

"He's dead!" Tish could have roared right then, instead of that though she let the huntress to the fore, speaking slowly, coldly, calculating. "Next time I see him, I'll put a blade in his heart."

"That's gonna be a tad hard," Fenrir couldn't hold back his rather wolfish (pun intended) smirk as he spoke. "considering he's dead."

"What?!" All the teenagers turned to him instantly.

"Are you sure?" Erica asked, a near desperation in her voice.

"Absolutely sure little cub." Fenrir told her with satisfaction. "Tore him to pieces myself."

All the teenagers seemed to sag at the same time, but especially Erica, Boyd and Stiles, the ones who'd been tortured by the psychotic old man.

Loki managed to distract his beloved from her anger as he passed her a couple of crystal vials.

"Here, drink this." She ordered Stiles.

It was a testament to how much he still trusted her, despite so many years without seeing her, that Stiles didn't even ask what was in the vial, he just took it and swallowed.

"Stiles!" His friends clearly did not agree with his trusting nature.

"What?!" He demanded of them. "It's Tish. She'd never hurt me! She's the closest thing I have to a big sister!"

"I love you too Mischief." She hugged him a bit, carefully, before turning to the others. "He's right, I'd never hurt him." She turned back to the human boy. "Now, take off your shirt."

"What?!" Stiles couldn't help but squeak even as he flushed in embarrassment.

"The elixir will take care of any internal injuries you might have." She showed him the other vial. "This is for the external ones."

Eventually, Stiles complied. Though all the wolves could smell, and Tish could sense his rather obvious reticence. She understood it too. She'd been there, surrounded by wolves with near-perfect bodies and feeling more than a little… inadequate. Of course the training, first from Kate and later on from the others had helped tone her body; but still, she understood.

"No one here will judge you Mischief." She promised him.

When Stiles finally took off his shirt they were gasps all around, a couple of moans, and one whine. It was the last one that almost made Tish react, almost… but she knew that if she did, it would only make the boy feel even more self-conscious, so she pushed the instinct to console her family down and focused on the boy. She uncorked the second vial and began working on taking the dust with her fingers and carefully rubbing it on each of his wounds. First his barely closed cuts, then the burn marks, and finally the bruises. It took the whole vial, but eventually she'd managed to treat most of his wounds, and certainly all the important ones.

"Oh…" Stiles exhaled as she finished. "That's… that's actually quite awesome. Thanks!"

"What was in those vials?" Lydia inquired.

"I'm afraid it's not something you could get your hands on, any of you." Tish told her kindly. "And even if you could, they can only be manipulated by certain people."

"Are you a wolf?!" Scott cried out in shock.

"No, but I am gifted." Tish answered calmly.

"Wait, but I thought all Hales were wolves." Issac spoke up. "That's what they told us."

"Most Hales are wolves." Derek intervened. "Except two. Malia is actually a were-coyote, while Tish is human. This is due to the fact that their mothers weren't wolves."

"So the nature of the mothers defined them?" Lydia sounded extremely interested.

"Why weren't we told any of this, that it was even possible?" Scott wanted to know.

"I have no idea how you even know my family." Derek pointed out evenly. "We only just got here earlier today."

Thus began story time. It seemed that a half-deranged packless Alpha had wandered into Beacon Hills back in January, killed a number of animals, scared everyone, and eventually bitten Scott. It was Stiles who'd connected the dots and realized what his best-friend had become, despite the fact that the boy hadn't actually known the supernatural was real, at the time. It was he who, through a hell of a lot of research and sheer will managed to help Scott learn control. And then he suddenly wasn't the only newly-bitten wolf. Erica, Boyd and Issac were too. And Jackson, except he hadn't turned into a wolf, but a kanima. It was about then that the Hales found them. Talia put Laura in charge of dealing with the newly turned wolves. Which ended up being a mess of epic proportions (Tish wished she were more surprised about that). Laura had no idea how to deal with bitten wolves, or a human who, regardless of warnings and threats refused to back down, refused to abandon his oldest friend. It wasn't that surprising, for Laura humans had always been weak, a liability. And Stiles standing up to her wouldn't have made things any better.

Then there were the Argents. And a hell of a lot of trouble that yet again made Tish wish she'd done more than just injure and threaten Gerard six years prior…

"You're the one who killed his daughter?!" Scott cried out in shock.

"After she tried to kill us all, yes." Tish answered simply.

"What…?" That clearly took all the teenagers by surprise.

So it was Tish's turn to tell the story. Making a split decision, she chose to be completely honest with them. She told them everything, from being born as the first ever human in the Hale pack, her dad, her sister, Derek, all the ways she fit, and all the ways she didn't. Starting high-school at twelve, meeting Paige, the mess with Ennis.

"You killed an Alpha when you were just a child?!" Jackson was beyond shocked by then.

"Derek helped a lot." Tish pointed out. "What I did was pretty much just instinct, and a hell of a lot of luck, really."

"That's why you stopped babysitting, isn't it?" Stiles asked quietly. "To keep them away."

"The last thing I wanted was to have an alpha at your door, you didn't deserve that, Mischief." Tish told him quietly. "Neither did Paige."

"Neither did you." Stiles pointed out.

"Yeah, but I was born into this." Tish shrugged. "I've known the risks my whole life. You knew nothing about it. If they had gone after any of you… I'd have never forgiven myself."

They went back to the story after one more quick hug. From the summer spent studying and keeping away from the pack who looked at her like she was some kind of freak to meeting the new French teacher: Kathy Vermeil, and how she turned out to be Kate Argent…

"But you knew she was a huntress almost from the beginning." Scott pointed out.

"Not exactly from the beginning, but yes." Tish nodded. "I asked her to train me knowing exactly what she was. I just… I didn't want to feel helpless ever again. Dad taught me the basics, he tried to prepare me. But he'd have never hurt me, he couldn't train me to truly fight weres because doing so would require him pushing me, hurting me."

"A dad would never do that." Stiles agreed wholeheartedly.

"I knew from the start that Kathy… Kate, wasn't being totally honest with us." Tish revealed. "I could guess that she paid special attention to Derek and I because… well, we were Hales, and she was a rebellious huntress! What better way to rebel against a hunter family than to befriend two members of one of the better known packs? Even then, I considered her my friend, almost… she was almost like a big sister to me. And she tried to kill my family! She got close to me, to both of us, and then she used everything we told her, all the things we trusted her with, to try and kill our whole family! Do you even know what that means?! Malia and Cora were just eleven back then! Derek has two little brothers, twins, they weren't even seven! And that's just the closest to us. The whole pack was home that night, and Kate knew that! She knew because we told her! Because we thought we could trust her!"

She broke off when she found herself hugged on both sides, by Loki and Derek. It was instinctive for her to press into her match's embrace, even as she bared her throat to her cousin (her brother in every way that truly mattered).

"What Kate did was not on you Tish." Derek whispered quietly. "I trusted her too, I… I thought she cared. Even if she didn't love me, and I didn't love her. I thought she cared. I thought she was the best kind of hunter…"

"And she turned out to be the worst." Loki hissed protectively.

Derek took over the narration then, not wanting Tish to keep hurting herself. He told the teens about the text Tish had received, a call for help. And Tish had responded, because she worried about her friend. Derek had heard her, heard her heart beating wildly and that made him worry in turn. He reached the door just in time to see Tish half fall due to the blow to her head… and then he realized he couldn't step out. He'd been trapped, they all had been trapped.

"If Tish weren't gifted we all would have burned that night." Derek finished quietly. "There's no way any of us could have put out the fire from the inside. And with no way out… But she broke the ash ward, and then she fought Kate to protect us."

"Did you really kill her?" Scott asked, voice small.

"I…" Tish didn't know how to answer, an instinct was telling her she shouldn't lie to the teens, that it was important that they trust her, and that she be honest, but she'd just been holding onto that lie for so long.

"No, she didn't. I did." Derek spoke up. "Kate actually almost killed her. I got there just in time."

"But she said…" Lydia's eyes narrowed.

"It's what we usually say." Derek shrugged a bit. "If the Argents knew that a wolf killed her… it would make the treaty void, and the truce is shaky enough as it is. Tish took the blame, even if she's a Hale, she's also a human, so the treaty wasn't broken, officially. Didn't stop Argent from going to the hospital and threatening her…"

"What?!" They were all horrified by that.

"I stabbed him in the leg for his troubles." Tish deadpanned.

"You're the reason he had that limp!" Stiles blurted out in shock.

Tish's eyes widened. She hadn't been expecting that. The injury she inflicted on the bastard was bad enough to leave him with a limp for six years? While a part of her still wished she'd done more, that she'd spared the group of teenagers standing before her from all the pain they went through over the past few months, a part of her also felt extremely proud, knowing that the bastard was never able to forget her or what she did to him. And he was dead, Fenrir made sure of that. That was all good in her book.

The teens finished their story then. They spoke of the kanima, of how Jackson didn't know it was him, or anything of what was going on. The group asking for help from Laura, and the Hales deciding that they needed to kill the kanima. Laura actually attacking Lydia when she believed her to be the creature. The showdown at the police station, and how Melissa McCall had finally learned the truth about Scott. And she was the only parent who knew, because according to Laura, the parents weren't pack and thus they weren't to be told about the supernatural! It was risky, and dangerous, and she clearly had no idea of the kind of trouble she was causing! She knew how to be an alpha, but not how to be family, and certainly had no idea how to mentor teenagers!

It was Scott's idea to use the Alpha who turned them. By then Gerard had control of the kanima, he'd threatened Melissa directly, and the rest of their families indirectly. Scott had gone to him, when it was clear the Hales wouldn't help him. Then he'd pretended to take the Argents' side, because the bastard wanted the bite! He was very sick and wanted the bite in order to be cured! (there was such a thing as karma, and divine justice, Tish decided). So they arranged for Gerard to get bitten by the alpha; only the bastard didn't turn, because Scott had doctored his pills with mountain ash. The two powers had been fighting inside of him, and in a body already weakened by cancer… chances were he'd have died by the end of the night, even if Fenrir hadn't killed him. With Gerard gone, Lydia had approached the kanima, using their love to bring Jackson back. And that was pretty much what Fenrir and Derek had found when getting to the warehouse earlier. Derek had ripped the last part of the kanima from the boy with his teeth, but instead of dying, he'd lived, as a were.

They all spent the night together in the motel room. Loki doing some magic to make sure there would be space and they'd all be comfortable. In the end all the stories had been told, all but one: that of Tinúviel. But that was something none of them thought the teenagers needed to know; or at least, not yet.

In the morning the Hales insisted on buying them all breakfast. They took over several tables in the back of a mostly empty diner and it was good.

"What now?" Jackson wanted to know.

"Now you call your parents and we arrange a meeting." Tish announced.

"What?!" It was quite clearly none of them were expecting that.

"But Alpha Hale said…" Scott began, hesitantly.

"I know what she said." Tish nodded, not wanting to undermine her aunt, but knowing it was wrong. "But Aunt Talia has rarely ever had bitten wolves before. And then only those who were mates, who joined the pack, leaving everything else behind. You're too young to do that, and should not be expected to give up your families, or to lie to them all the time. It's not right."

"Wouldn't knowing put them in danger?" Stiles asked, afraid.

"Perhaps, but in many ways they're in danger already." Derek told them. "And only once they know can we protect them."

That seemed to convince them. So the group left the diner (only Loki was missing, claiming to go ahead, he'd taken off for Asgard briefly to visit his family and let them know the recent news), they were on their way back to the motel to get the cars, walking through a slightly wooded area (Stiles had offered they have the meeting at his place, to make it easier for all the parents to get there) when there was howling. From one moment to the next they were surrounded. Erica began shaking almost immediately, Boyd held her, while the rest formed a circle around them in defensive positions. Derek and Tish stepped forth, they'd recognized the howling.

"Aunt Talia /Mother." They greeted in unison, tilting their heads to a side just slightly in a show of respect for the Alpha.

Talia stepped out of the trees then, regaining human form, the rest of the pack staying in the shadows, in their beta forms.

"What is happening here?" Talia demanded. "Derek? Letitia? Why are you with them?"

"We're helping." Tish answered simply.

"Helping?!" Laura jumped out of the trees with a howl. "They're traitors! They deserve no help!"

"Really?" Tish challenged her. "Were they traitors before or after you refused to help them when Gerard Argent threatened Scott's mother? Before or after you decided to just kill everyone you suspected of being the kanima instead of doing your best to save an innocent teenager who was being used to murder others?! Before or after that same kanima killed most of the deputies in this town and almost did the same with Sheriff Stilinski and his son, a son who, at the time, was supposed to be a member of your pack?!"

"He's a human." Laura practically whined.

"So am I!" Tish snapped. "We've had this conversation before Laura."

"Yeah, before you ran away, like a coward…" Laura began snarling.

"Enough!" Talia and Derek both ordered at the same time.

Everyone froze where they stood.

"When did you get back?" Talia asked.

"Yesterday." Derek answered with a shrug. "We were planning on dropping by today."

"The more important question should be why you came back." Laura practically spat.

"The Alpha Pack left their calling card right on the door of our apartment, in New York." Derek explained. "It took us a few weeks to make the arrangements. But as soon as it was possible we got on a plane and we came."

"So it was just fear." Laura mocked. "You were afraid the Alphas would get you, so you came to be under the protection of the pack."

"Enough Laura." Talia stopped her before she could go on. "Why are you with them? Scott McCall and the rest of his friends, they turned their backs on the pack."

"Did they?" Derek asked, not challenging, but curious. "Did they turn their backs on the pack, or did you turn your backs on them, forcing them to do whatever they had to in order to keep their own safe?"

"We protect our pack…" Talia began, taking affront to the comment.

"And their parents aren't pack." Tish interrupted without a care. "But it was one of their parents that was being threatened. They needed your help, they needed the pack, and they had no one… They did what they had to. It might not have been the best plan. And clearly, no one taught them why what they were doing was so wrong. They don't know enough about pack, about being pack. They're just children!"

"They should know better." Laura hissed.

"Really? And who has taught them to do so?" Tish challenged her. "It wasn't you Laura. All you did was hurt them and call it training. Put them down and tell them and yourself that you were teaching them to submit! You weren't being their alpha, you were being a bully!"

Laura snapped, throwing herself at Tish, teeth bared and the beginnings of a snarl in her throat. Tish reacted automatically, taking hold of her wrist and twisting, taking her down in a move.

"Enough!" Derek and Talia yelled again, louder and stronger than before.

The reaction was automatic as all those present bared their throats, wolves and humans alike; though what most failed to notice was that not everyone was presenting their throats to the same person, hailing the same alpha…

"They cannot stay here." Laura was almost whining by that point. "They've forsaken the pack."

"You know there's one way they can." Derek reminded her.

Laura realized what was going to happen too late to do anything about it.

"We speak up for them." Tish and Derek pronounced in unison. "Scott McCall, Stiles Stilinski, Erica Reyes, Vernon Boyd, Issac Lahey, Jackson Whittemore and Lydia Martin are, from this moment forward, under our protection."

Talia froze. All the pack did. Scott opened his mouth, probably to ask what that meant, but Stiles covered it with his hand, knowing that it wasn't the time to ask that question.

"Are you sure you want to do that?" Talia asked, very serious.

"It's the right thing to do." Derek said quietly. "They need us mom."

"Very well." Talia agreed after what seemed like forever. "They're yours then."

Talia walked backwards before slipping into the trees, Laura with her. She let out a howl then, which her betas echoed, and then they were gone.

"Yours?" Jackson asked before anyone could stop him. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means you can stay here, but you're our responsibility." Derek informed him evenly. "Now come on. We still need to meet with all your parents."

Tish took hold of his hand briefly as they began walking again, the two taking strength and comfort from the other, neither of them mentioning out-loud the fact that they hadn't been invited for the full moon run with the pack. The choices had been made, and they would have to live with them… all of them.

xXx

The meeting with the parents went well, certainly better than the one with the pack. There were some, like Erica's parents, who were just so thankful when learning that the bite had cured their daughter's epilepsy, for good. Mrs. Reyes was a bit worried about the whole 'wolves' factor of the equation, but hearing Tish telling her, promising her, that Erica would be alright, that they'd all be there for her… Tessa Reyes was a very kind woman, very motherly, and with a bit of an overprotective streak. She'd always wanted lots of children, but Erica being diagnosed at a young age kept her from having them, made her afraid that any child of hers would be epileptic, and she was just so afraid of losing Erica… Knowing that she wouldn't, that Erica was alright and would stay that way, and she was no longer alone (it had hurt, seeing her daughter always alone, so bullied, with no friends; she knew her over-protectiveness did not do much to help, but had had no idea what else to do), that made the blonde woman incredibly happy. Her dad too was happy for the same reason, and had made everyone promise to spend time at their home too, wanting all the teens to consider them family as well.

Natalie Martin cried. She still had no idea what Lydia was exactly, none of them did, but the knowledge that her daughter wouldn't go insane, like her mother-in-law did (and Tish and Loki made a mental note to follow on that, as it might be a clue as to Lydia's own nature), that she had people she could trust. Natalie knew she wasn't the best mother, her ex-husband just had a way of bringing the worst out of her… Natalie hated that, almost as much as she hated the man himself. But knowing that Lydia had people she could trust, she liked that, even if the supernatural was almost too much for her to wrap her head around.

Melissa had already known, she'd actually helped when the story was being told. She was very honest about her initial reaction not being the best, and how much she regretted that. She also promised to be there for the teens, as a part of the family/pack, and as a nurse (because there would be times when they wouldn't feel like they could go to the hospital, but that didn't mean they shouldn't have help).

Boyd had no parents, they'd died in a car crash when he was still young, instead he had his grandmother and a sister a couple of years older than him who was in a wheelchair due to the same accident that had taken their parents' lives (Boyd hadn't been in the car). The old woman had a lot of trouble wrapping her head around the whole supernatural thing. She was such a religious person, a part of her couldn't help but see it in a wrong way and yet… and yet it was her grandson, she'd loved that boy since he was in diapers and she could never think him evil. So in the end she chose to just embrace him and ignore anything else. Alicia found the whole thing absolutely fascinating, wanted to know everything about it; Stiles telling her he'd share all his materials with her made her giddy with delight.

Issac Lahey's family were all dead, he'd been staying with friends, mostly with Scott; it was during that same meeting that Melissa announced she would be filing papers to become his foster-mom in the next few days. Everyone was incredibly happy about that.

The Whittemore's reaction was probably the most emotionally charged of all. At first Mrs. Whittemore, Madeline, had been pretty much in denial, refusing to hear any explanation, refusing to accept any of it. Until Jackson exploded and asked if it was just that they'd finally gotten tired of him and no longer wanted him as their son. Apparently it had been a sore spot for him for a long time, being adopted, and the fact that both his parents refused to talk about it. It was as if a switch had been flipped, as suddenly Maddy was beside her son, holding him tightly, repeating she loved him over and over again. As it turned out, their refusal to talk about the adoption wasn't that they regretted it, but rather that they, especially Maddy, were afraid that he might stop seeing them as his parents. They thought that if they didn't acknowledge it, if they fought to go on as they had before Jackson found his original birth certificate, things would go back to normal eventually. Neither of them realizing how their denials hurt their son. Lydia and the others could only hope that with everything out things would be better for Jackson and for all of them.

The Sheriff's reaction was perhaps the most surprising, when he looked at his son, so much emotion in his eyes and said:

"I had wished you'd never be involved in the supernatural…"

"What?!" Stiles didn't see that one coming.

"You know…" Derek was shocked too.

"Talia… your family isn't quite as secretive as they probably would like to think they are." The man informed Derek. "I've known something was going on for a very long time. After the attack in that cellar, with the wild wolf…" His eyes went from him, to Tish significantly. "I never said anything because it seemed to me that your mother had things under control for the most part. At least until the bodies began piling up the last couple of months. Also, I cannot believe you were all involved and she never even thought about telling any of us what was going on. I understand a bunch of teenagers believing they know better, or like Stiles, thinking they have to protect us," he scoffed at the idea. "But your mother really should have known better."

Derek said nothing, clearly wanting to defend his mother, and yet not knowing how to when a part of him agreed with everything Sheriff Stilinski had just said.

"It's not easy." Tish stepped in gently. "Strictly speaking, I would agree with you Noah." The Stilinskis had long since asked her to use their first-names. "But it's not that simple. You see, before me, there had never been a human in the Hale pack."

"What?" That threw all the parents for a loop.

"We told you my story, our stories." Tish explained. "But some things were left out. Either for expediency, or because they aren't as important. One of those concerns the inclusion of humans in packs. There are some packs, old packs, which nowadays only live in remote corners of the world, who see humans as lesser, as little more than pets and slaves. Then there are others who see them as less, and won't mix with them. A few packs have changed their views, though only one that we know of see humans as equals. And even with them, it's still a new thing and not everyone has adapted to it just yet." She shook her head. "In between all those, there are the packs who, while not seeing the humans as less exactly, do consider them as 'other'. Humans are weaker physically, that makes them vulnerable. Humans in a pack, they are subject to risks both within and without the pack."

"What kind of risks?" Mrs. Boyd was suddenly worried about her granddaughter.

"Well, young wolves are volatile, there's a reason why born wolves are home-schooled." Derek explained calmly. "They aren't allowed to mix with the humans until the alpha is certain they can control themselves. Full moons are a risk unless they've found their anchor. And that's just from within. From outside there are other risks: other packs, hunters, and other supernatural beings. It's why packs are so important. Because packs protect each other."

"The lone wolf dies, the pack survives." Scott quoted something Stiles had found one day.

"Exactly." Tish nodded. "Even then, humans are more vulnerable to all these risks than wolves would be, simply because they aren't as strong, fast, and certainly don't heal the same. It's why many packs would rather not have humans. And well… there's also the possibility of a human betraying them to amoral hunters. It's… it has happened before."

The Reyeses, Mrs. Boyd and Melissa were all absolutely horrified. The Sheriff on the other hand looked at them with understanding. Of course, he'd been the deputy in charge of the investigation concerning 'Kathy Vermeil' and her attempted arson.

"What if a wolf falls in love with a human?" Scott asked worriedly.

"In the Hale pack it's a bit of a long process." Derek explained. "You must get your alpha's permission to court them, then they must present their respects and prove their worth. Prove they bring something to the pact. They must also be willing to submit to the alpha, and cut most of their connections to their human family. This for their safety as much as the pack's. Finally, they must agree to receive the bite, and survive it."

"Survive it?!" Natalie practically squeaked.

"The bite doesn't always take." Derek told her quietly. "No one knows why exactly. But most of the time, when it doesn't, the person bitten dies a very painful death. There are only two known exceptions to this rule: Tish, and now Lydia as well."

"But… you all said that I'm not really immune, that it's all because I'm… something else." Lydia murmured worriedly.

"My case was a bit more complicated." Tish declared. "You need to understand that while it is possible for a wolf to marry and have children with a human, it can be complicated. Not only because of any pack traditions and protocols, but simply because when it comes to a pregnancy, a wolf-babe will require a lot more than a fully human baby would. And that can be extremely hard on a human mother. It killed my mother."

No one had any idea what to say to that. It didn't matter, Letitia had long since made her peace with the fact that her mother had died giving birth to her, that it was the act itself of giving her life that killed her in the end. There was no misplaced sense of guilt, just the truth, and the love a mother had for her child. Tish was self-aware enough to know that if she were ever to become pregnant and someone told her to abort out of risk for her own life, she wouldn't do it, she would never do anything that might hurt any child of hers. It was as simple as that, her mother had loved her, more than her own life. Tish respected that and loved her mother very much as well.

"And it goes beyond that." Tish went on. "As a child of blended blood, which is what the supernatural calls me, I cannot be changed. I have inherited some of what makes a were, though there's no wolf in me and I cannot shift. And I cannot be turned. When Ennis bit me I didn't die, though that was more on my match. My soulmate. Our bond gave me the energy I needed to fight to stay alive, and in the end I changed, though not into a were." She took a deep breath before continuing: "I'm what is known in some myths as a Luna…"

"Wait," Stiles blurted out, unable to help himself. "Isn't that what some call the alpha-mate?"

"Yes, but the legend goes beyond that." Tish nodded. "According to the original myth, a Luna is called so because she can influence the wolves, she has the power to calm them, to incite them. She has power over them, like the moon does. I was born a gifted, probably on my mother's side. I am an empath, have always been. And yet, for most of my life all I got were instincts about how others were feeling, the desire to help, I knew when someone lied, that sort of thing. It all changed after Ennis's bite, now I can influence emotions, and for some reason it works better on wolves. Which essentially has made me into the Luna of legend."

"You mentioned a soulmate…" Scott commented.

"My fiancée, you've met him." She signaled to Loki, sitting by her side. "He's not a wolf, though Fenrir is. And before you ask, no, they're not brothers by birth, though that's irrelevant to us."

All eyes went to Loki, then to Fenrir and Ylva (who had been there all along, yet never saying a word, not having anything to offer to the conversation), no one could miss the fact that Ylva was pregnant, and with what they'd recently learned… yet no one dared comment either.

"Going back to the original conversation." Tish made them all focus again. "The Hale pack had never had a human member before me. They just don't know how to deal with humans. Or with turned wolves that are still in their teens, that still need their human families, most of whom did not even choose to be bitten. It all goes against the Hale traditions and protocols. I have no doubt that Laura's and Aunt Talia's intentions were good when they took the teens in, they just didn't know how to handle them, how to help them. They still don't."

"So you decided to step up." The Sheriff murmured.

"So we decided to step up." Derek agreed wholeheartedly.

There really was nothing more that needed to be said.

xXx

The following months were a bit intense. Knowing there was no way they'd be leaving Beacon Hills, not with the threat of the Alpha Pack still over all of them, and with the responsibility of the pack of young, bitten wolves (and the humans) they began looking into more permanent accommodations immediately. It turned out that Peter had bought an old building in the limits of the warehouse district years prior, the place had been intended to become an apartment building before the project fell through, leaving the lower half (three floors) looking like a warehouse, with labyrinthine walkways above; while the other half had been half-turned into a set of apartments. Derek took the challenge, re-designing the top half into a set of connected suites for all of them (inspired by their NY apartment), including rooms for when the Betas stayed; the lower half was turned into a training space.

Tish and Loki took to teleporting to LA as necessary while the talks for the movie continued; Gina was handling most of it, but still, 'Maia' was needed sometimes. Fenrir had joined the force as a Deputy at Sheriff Stilinski's insistence and they were trying to convince Derek of the same; for the time being he'd made arrangements to continue his work as architect and designer long-distance, though he knew that'd only work short-term. Ylva would be staying home, in part due to her pregnancy, and in part so there would always be someone their new little pack could go to in case of an emergency.

When Julia Baccari entered Beacon County both Loki and Tish felt it; the latter could feel the wrongness in her, while the former could sense the darkness in her magic. They'd been on their way back from a trip to San Francisco (where they met the Halliwells, the most powerful magic-users in California, to ensure no one would see their presence there as them encroaching on anyone else's territory) which they'd actually made by car, as it would have been a bad idea to use magic to get into the territory of witches as powerful as them. The couple was in the middle of one of the smaller roads through the forest, not too far from their building, when they sensed her. There was no need for them to even talk about it, in seconds the car had been parked beside a tree and the two were running, following the trail of wrongness and darkness.

"I know this place…" Tish murmured, mostly to herself, as they came out of the treeline.

It was until they gave a handful of steps more than she recognized the clearing they were in, as her eyes went to the half-destroyed trapdoor leading into a cellar she knew all too well. The place where she, Derek and Paige had almost died seven years prior. And that wasn't all, she'd made a point to research the place after that disastrous night, she knew about the Nemeton.

*We cannot let her reach that tree-stump!* She mind yelled at her match.

Loki was on the move before his beloved even finished the sentence. In the end, no questions were asked, there was no need for them. Whatever she might have said, the woman was an abomination, she shouldn't even be alive! Her mere existence went against the laws of both magic and life, it simply couldn't be allowed. So the moment Loki reached her he buried one of his longer knives, through her back and straight into her heart. It being an asgardian blade meant the knife went through skin, muscle and bone like they were nothing, the creature (she didn't even look human anymore!) was dead before her body hit the ground; not that it ever did actually, turning into dust before it could.

Tish gasped, she understood what that meant. The body shouldn't have been alive, there was no soul left, either because the person died and the body was revived soulless (it had happened before, though always under extreme circumstances, and the results were never good) or the soul had been consumed at some point.

The redhead was about to say something when they both heard a twig break. Their reactions were instinctive. As Loki called on a second knife and spun around, ready to fight. Tish dropped into a defensive stance, a small hunting knife held in a back-handed grip in her right hand, while the other she held before her body, her fingers twisting as she rolled one of her runes in between them in an almost nervous tick. It all came to an end the moment she saw the red-eyed wolf, of a brown so dark it was almost black.

"Alpha Hale…" Loki murmured respectfully.

"Aunt Talia…" Tish whispered at the same time, straightening up and putting both knife and rune away smoothly.

From one moment to the next the wolf shifted into a woman.

"You sensed her." Talia murmured, though it wasn't really a question.

"Yes." Tish nodded. "She was a threat. Soulless and full of dark power, heading for the Nemeton. It wouldn't have gone well, had she reached it."

Talia's eyes strayed to Loki briefly but didn't stay much on him, instead she just turned and walked away, shifting back into her full wolf form just before stepping into the trees. Tish sighed, that hadn't gone well.

"Why was she so put off?" Loki asked quietly as they began the slow trek back to their car. "We did the right thing."

"Yes, we did." Tish nodded. "But she's still the Alpha of this territory. Right as our actions might have been. We did not do so under her orders, or even asked permission."

"Shouldn't initiative be a good thing?" Loki didn't understand.

"Not when it undermines the Alpha's authority." Tish shook her head. "We're already on a bit of shaky ground, taking Mischief and the teens in when Aunt Talia would have exiled them for their actions during the mess with the kanima and the Argents. Now we effectively hunted on their territory, without her so much as knowing what we were doing. And yes, it was a bit of short notice, but that doesn't matter, not when it comes to pack protocols. And we broke them."

"You're part of the pack, shouldn't that give you a certain leeway?"

"It depends on how you look at it. My place in the pack is a bit shaky as well, because I never swore my allegiance to either Alpha. In between the mess with Argent and the revelation of my powers… I didn't want to return to the house, not after that. And then Derek thought it was a good idea for us to just… take off for NY early. And I agreed. And of course you know neither of us ever came back, not even for a visit, in the past six years. We're Hales, and as such we're technically part of the pack, but at the same time not, not without those oaths and…"

She didn't dare say the rest of it out-loud, the fact that she didn't know if she could say the oaths and mean them. That was okay though, her match knew already.

And yet, even with all that, the straw that broke the camel's back was their little pack dropping back the first weekend after starting the new school-year, with news that Cora hadn't been by all week. Tish was on the phone with her dad almost before Stiles finished talking.

"She was taken, by the Alpha Pack." Peter informed her before Tish needed to even ask a single question. "And she wasn't the only one. Jeffrey and Thomas were taken as well."

Jeffrey was a year or so older than Cora, Moira's youngest (Moira being one of Talia's sisters-in-law, her mate had died years earlier in a fight against an invading pack). He was also one of the members of the pack who had trouble learning control and thus he'd been held back from starting high-school. Because of that he ended being older than the rest of his generation. Thomas was a more distant relation, son of a second cousin of Talia's and Peter's who'd fled to Beacon Hills after a coven of witches killed most of his pack; Talia had taken him in.

Tish didn't even ask why they hadn't been told, it was obvious enough, and as much as it hurt, she chose to focus on what was really important.

"We'll find her." She told her dad, no hesitation in her voice.

"It won't be easy." Peter pointed out. "We all tried to follow their scent and it didn't work. Since then it's been more than a month, there's no trace to follow anymore."

"Cora is family, we will find her." Tish insisted.

There was such strength, such conviction in her voice, Peter couldn't help but believe her.

xXx

It took almost two months, but they did find Cora and the two boys. In fact, it was Stiles who was able to deduce where they'd be and how none of them had been able to track them, even after all the wolves and gifted had done patrols around the town and the preserve, and some of them had even gone through the rest of the county!

They were in a highly secure vault in Beacon Hills First National Bank; the place had been abandoned for more than a decade, since shortly after a huge bank robbery that ended in tragedy. But apparently while the owners of the bank had taken everything upon closing, the building was still there, left abandoned (a convenient hideaway for criminals and, in this case, psycho alpha werewolves); as was the vault.

Knowing that the situation was already more than a little tenuous, in the end Tish handed all the information to Derek, who passed it on to his mother. The plan was to let the Hale pack handle the rescue on their own, at least until Stiles (who, unable to accept not knowing something kept researching everything) found out just what the bank vault was made of, and then why the material sounded familiar to him, he'd read about it before:

"It's a trap!" He practically screamed as he left the library/study in the loft and rushed to the training area where most of the others were.

"What…?!" Everyone's attention was instantly on him.

"The rescue, it's a trap!" Stiles was practically hyperventilating.

"Mischief…" Tish knelt before him, doing her best to calm him down without forcing her power on him. "Take a breath. With me. In, 1, 2, 3, 4… out, 1, 2, 3, 4… Again."

It took a little while, but eventually Stiles managed to calm down enough to explain his findings in a mostly-coherent manner. Also by then their whole family had gathered around him, tense, just waiting to have all the information before moving:

"The vault, it's made of hecatolite, more commonly known as moonstone." Stiles explained, hands waving around emphatically. "Which, among its many properties, the one that matters to us is that it absorbs moonlight."

"Absorbs moonlight." Tish finished at the same time as him. "Some spell-weavers have been known to use moonstones as substitute for the moon itself in some spells. They charge them over long periods of time, to allow them to call on the magics of the moon even during the day."

"That's very interesting…" Stiles nodded, half lost in the explanation and its possibilities, before shaking his head almost violently, forcing himself to focus. "Right, and now we have three werewolves who have been trapped inside there for at least three months."

"Three months… inside a place where the moon cannot reach them…" Derek was the first to put it all together.

"And tonight's a full moon." Stiles added helpfully.

"They'll go absolutely feral the moment the moonlight touches them." Derek gasped.

That was really all they needed to know, in seconds they were off. Fenrir in full wolf form, the size of the ancient dire-wolves and dark as the night, Tish sitting astride him. Derek and the bitten wolves ran in their beta forms, with Derek carrying Stiles on his back, the boy had insisted on accompanying them, and as he was the one who'd memorized the bank's plans the rest had reluctantly agreed. Loki was the only one not with them, as he'd been called to Asgard to help resolve a matter, and they really hadn't been expecting anything to happen so suddenly… Lydia was convinced to stay back at the loft with Ylva and the two immediately used their phones to call the Sheriff and warn him to keep his people away from the abandoned bank to prevent any trouble, and Melissa to ask her to go to the loft and be ready, just in case.

The moment they got there Derek ordered Scott, Issac, Jackson, Erica and Boyd to form a perimeter around the building to ensure there would be no surprises (and no innocent humans getting involved), and to raise the alarm if they happened to see someone leaving the building. They were under no circumstances to go against the alphas. Then Stiles lead him, Fenrir and Tish into the place through a small employees-only door, a few yards away from the gate that would have been used by the armored trucks carrying the money to and from the bank, back when it still was in service. They reached the basement at pretty much the same time as two of the Hale wolves finally forced the vault open.

Derek took one moment to realize that the Hales were the only wolves present, though he could pick up another scent, even if he couldn't place it. When everything began happening very fast: three young people half-limped half-stumbled out of the vault.

"No!" Stiles yelled, as he noticed the windows were open, and the moon was already high up in the sky. "Stop them!"

It was too late, the moment the three weres were out of the vault, the moon acted upon them. They went into beta shift and completely feral in an instant. The two older ones threw themselves at the other members of the pack, clawing and biting like crazy. Talia reacted fast enough to stop Cora from doing the same and roared at the girl in the face in an attempt to stop her. It didn't work, on any of them, all three young wolves were too far gone. After too long away from the moon, they had no control. Talia took hold of her daughter and threw her against a wall to keep her away from her.

"Stop it!" Tish yelled, horrified at it all.

She could see Derek and Fenrir at her sides, ready to jump into the fight, and she couldn't allow it. Stiles was practically vibrating with a mix of fear and nervousness beside her, and something else she couldn't lay her finger on; there was something deep inside him, fighting to get out, a great power Tish had never felt before and couldn't have imagined.

"This is so entertaining!" A voice called from the other side.

All eyes turned in that direction then: it was Deucalion, the self-called Demon Wolf (he'd clearly never met Fenrir), his eyes shining with mad glee. Derek blinked in shock as the realization that the alpha could not just disguise his scent, but actually hide it, hit him. And just behind him and to a side was someone else: a dark-skinned woman with long, straight, dark brown hair and dark eyes in plain clothes.

"Wait a sec, that's our counselor Ms. Morrell." Stiles hissed in disbelief. "What the hell dude?! Isn't any of our teachers like normal anymore?"

No one paid much attention to his ranting, though a part of Tish did wonder about that. There was Kate, and Argent Sr. had been the principal, it was becoming a bit of a pattern…

"What will the great Talia Hale do now?" Deucalion challenged, ignoring the human boy. "Will you kill your three betas? Your own daughter? Or will you let them kill you?"

Morrell stepped forward then, throwing a fistful of mountain ash into the air. Tish realized what she intended immediately. She was going to trap the wolves inside a barrier to force Talia's hand one way or the other.

"NO!" Stiles's sudden yell took them by surprise, especially when the ash changed path mid fall, instead forming the barrier around Morrell and Deucalion.

Marin waved a hand, trying to break the circle, but Stiles just stared at her, as if making her fail through his will alone…

Tish's eyes widened as she realized that was exactly what he was doing. Stiles was doing magic. With no tools, no special ingredients, no spells, just his will alone…

"Oh… this is interesting, so very interesting." The crazy alpha actually laughed. "What will you do now, little spark? You may stop Marin from trapping your wolf-friends, but that will not change the fact that they're feral, they need to be stopped."

Things were really going nuts. Cora was on the ground, and Tish could tell she was fighting like hell against her own wolf, fighting to stay away from Talia and the others. Talia kept growling, seeking to ascertain her alpha authority over them all but it was only making things worse. Even with Cora. While some might think that it was Talia's position that had made her stop, Derek was sure it wasn't, it was Cora herself.

One of the older betas whined as Jeffrey buried his claws deep in the other's gut. Thomas's own claws were bloody as he held the other beta down, mouth wide open in a snarl as he moved in for a bite. It was about then that Tish snapped:

"Stop it!" When that proved not to be enough she took a deep breath and stepped forward, straight into the moonlight streaming through one of the broken windows. "I Said STOP!"

Even amidst the scream Tish's voice retained a melodic quality. Though that wasn't really what called the most attention, the fact that every single wolf inside the bank froze in place at her order, certainly did.

Tish was standing there, mahogany-red hair pulled back into a ponytail and dressed in a simple short-sleeved top in shades of blue, dark-blue jeans, calf-high leather boots and her usual black leather jacket (the one with all the secret pockets for her runes and the crystal vials with asgardian healing powder and elixir. She couldn't have known it but in that moment her hazel eyes were almost sparkling with light. And it wasn't just that, her whole body seemed to almost be glowing, as if she were reflecting the moonlight, almost… almost like another moon…

"What is this?" Deucalion asked, more curious than truly angry.

"Luna…" Morrell breathed out in shock. "But it's impossible! That's just an old wives-tale!"

"Not anymore…" Derek murmured quietly.

"Mom…? Der? Tish?" A small, female voice called, it was Cora.

It took a bit longer for Jeffrey and Thomas to go back to themselves, but eventually they did. And as if on cue, right then Tish stopped glowing and relaxed. Standing in place a couple of seconds before she began swaying, Derek managing to catch her just in time. She wasn't unconscious, yet not fully aware either.

Deucalion and Morrell took advantage of the distraction to escape (Tish half-collapsing had called enough of Stiles's attention he stopped focusing on keeping the two trapped).

"Co-ra…?" She called quietly, her voice breaking a bit.

"She's alright, they're all alright, thanks to you." Derek assured her gently. "You can rest now Tish. It's all fine."

They would still have to deal with the Alpha Pack, but that was a matter for another day. For the time being, they'd gotten Cora and the boys back, none of them were hurt. They'd won.

xXx

As it turned out, they weren't the only ones to get some excitement that night, as they learned when seeing Peter and Malia the next day right after school. As Peter explained it, one of the alphas had gone after him. A crazy bitch, Ennis's mate… she'd believed the rumors Peter had started years prior, about him being the one responsible for Ennis's death (much like Tish had taken on the blame for Argent's death so the hunters wouldn't go after them, Peter had claimed responsibility for the death of the crazed alpha to protect his eldest daughter). Deucalion had finally given her leave to go after Peter that night, believing it to be the best chance to both take out Talia's left hand, and deal a serious blow to the Hale pack in general.

Truth was no one knew for sure what the Alpha Pack intended. They'd been known to target certain packs, who had wolves they were interested in, they would help ensure that wolf became alpha, and then they'd persuade them to kill his/her whole pack in order to claim their power, much like they'd all done. And yet, it didn't seem like that's what he intended with Talia (not that he would have succeeded, but still). Peter, Tish and Derek actually believed it might be some kind of revenge. Deucalion held Talia responsible for the mess of the Summit seven years prior, despite the fact that it had not been her idea, and that Gerard Argent had played her as much as anyone else. Though there was the fact that from the packs that had been at that Summit, the Hale one was the only one that hadn't lost a single wolf, not to the Argents, or to Ennis.

In any case, the alpha bitch had seriously underestimated Peter as a person, and especially as a father. She'd thought it to be the perfect kind of torture, taunting Peter about what she'd do to his daughter… she had no idea what happened the last time someone threatened Malia's life (and back then it had been a trained assassin… and the girl's mother). Kali was very much dead. Which meant there were only three alphas left: Deucalion and a pair of twins that had taken to taunting Stiles and the others at school… at least until the teens became confident enough to turn the tables on them.

After dealing with that, Tish turned her attention to the other surprise of the night. The revelation concerning herself had been quite shocking, but it was quickly dealt with, and aside from the fact that all but Stiles and Derek had taken to calling her Luna nothing had really changed. No, the real surprise was Stiles's previously-unknown gift. Tish had sensed something in him, just under his skin, but the magic was so completely different from anything she'd seen or experienced before, she hadn't had the slightest idea! Loki himself had known it was magic, but not what kind, as it happened, Midgard was filled with more than a few groups capable of doing magic, none of which were like any of the others, and certainly none like him (Loki had returned in the morning, and pouted for hours about 'missing all the action', though he was glad they were able to handle things fine on their own all the same).

"Why didn't you tell us you have magic?" Tish asked, curious rather than accusing.

"Because I don't." Even as Stiles said the words they sounded more like a question than answer.

"You certainly do." Fenrir pointed out. "I could feel it and I'm not a spellweaver myself!"

"They're right." Loki nodded. "You know I'm a sorcerer Stiles. You can feel my magic."

"I'm nothing like you!" Stiles eeped, then seemed to rethink what he'd just said. "No offense!"

"I take no offense." Loki assured him calmly. "I know you didn't mean it like that. But see, there are many ways that magic can manifest. Druids call on gods, ancestors, spirits; witches use herbs, crystals and the like; wizards too need tools to focus their power, as do sorcerers, though the latter tend to be able to channel far more power than the former; few can really do magic with just a thought. And those are just a few of them. Also, depending on the place and time, some might switch names around, or use other names: mages, enchanters, casters, etc. I myself am a sorcerer, though where I come from the term spellweaver is used quite often as well. I can do magic without tools, unless I'm doing a particularly powerful spell, and some of them, those I use most often and am most familiar with, I can do even without actual spells. Tish… because we're soul-bound," They knew about the bond, but not the past-life. "she can access my magic too, but she does need something to help guide and anchor her."

"Like what?" Lydia was very interested by that.

For all answer Tish slipped a hand into her jacket and pulled out a handful of small runes.

"Not exactly a traditional tool, aside from some wicca, and perhaps precogs I doubt anyone uses them nowadays, and certainly not the way I do." Tish shrugged. "But all I really need is for them to help me focus the magic."

"That's what you used to protect us that night!" Erica exclaimed in sudden understanding. "In the forest, when the alpha pack tried to take us."

"Yes." Tish nodded. "I'm quite capable of calling a shield on my own, just tracing the algiz rune in the air with my finger, but for an actual dome, one that would shield us from all the five senses of alpha werewolves I decided to stray on the side of caution and use the actual runes." She shook her head. "In any case, this isn't really about me. But about Mischief."

"A few months ago, when we were dealing with the kanima and everything, there was this rave." Stiles did his best to explain. "Deaton gave me a jar full of mountain ash, told me what it did, that I was a spark, and to believe. That was it."

Several mouths dropped open, that was it? How was anyone supposed to manage anything with just that?! Nevermind that Stiles had managed to do exactly that…

"I laid the ash all around the place, until I was left with less than a fistful, and several yards to go." Stiles continued explaining. "It should have been impossible but… well, Deaton told me to believe, so that's what I did. I closed the circle. It worked. Of course, later on I had to break the barrier and it ended up mattering very little but…"

"It worked Stiles." Scott intervened. "However short or long the time, it worked. Why didn't you tell any of us about this?"

"Well, with everything else going on I actually kind of forgot for a little while." Stiles admitted somewhat sheepishly, rubbing the back of her neck. "Then I remembered and I went back to Deaton. My intention was to give him back the mountain ash and ask him about the whole 'spark' business. What else I might be able to do… He told me that my magic was very weak and it was unlikely I'd ever be able to do more than lay mountain ash barriers. He was very kind about it, though at the same time I couldn't help but feel like he was looking down on me somehow. I didn't like it. Wanted to get out of there fast, so much I even forgot to return the mountain ash in the end." He shook his head. "Oh yeah. I managed to call all the ash back to the jar that night. Have no idea how I did it I just…"

"You just believed." Tish finished for him.

"Yeah…" Stiles nodded looking at her, full of curiosity.

"Mischief, what you just described is the most basic, and at the same time the rarest form of magic." Tish explained quietly.

"H-how… that makes no sense at all!" Stiles sputtered.

"It does." Loki insisted. "Consider it like this: we told you witches, wizards, druids and the like do magic. How they use different tools. They need them. But in the end, the only reason they work at all, is because they believe; in the tool, the magic, and themselves. Sorcerers can be the most powerful when they learn to believe in their own magic, even without any assistance. What you do, its very much like that, except you don't even need to believe in magic, just in yourself. And because of that, the only limit to your magic is yourself, what you might imagine, might believe." He made a pause before adding. "Though there is one thing you need to always remember. Magic requires energy. Depending on how you focus, you may use your own energy or channel that of the nature, the earth, the moon, the stars… though even doing that, it will require your own energy to make it work. The stronger the spell, the more energy it requires; too much and you might end up putting your own soul into it, and that's very dangerous…"

Stiles nodded soberly, nothing else needed to be said, really. Still, he'd just learned important things, and it was just the start:

"Teach me." He asked of both Loki and Tish.

He'd already been learning from them, but until then it had been about fighting. Mostly defensive techniques in hand to hand (he wasn't coordinated enough for actual attacks, though they were all sure he'd get better); his weapon of choice was a staff, though he was also learning to use a simple hunting knife in case of an emergency. Now the time had come for him to learn magic too. He would never again be as defenseless as he'd been in that Argent basement, never.

xXx

Alicia was the first to go missing, then Melissa; no one noticed right away because, with the support of the patch-work family the girl had been working on her qualifications for college, while Melissa had been known to cover for other nurses and work extra shifts when necessary. Then Madeline ended in the hospital after a car accident so reminiscent of the one that had killed Jackson's birth-parents that he completely lost it. The breaking point came when they found Lydia curled up in a corner of an abandoned classroom, her hair was a mess, one of the sleeves of her designer top was ripped and there were angry red and already-bruising marks around her neck. She was nearly hysterical and it took a while for Stiles to calm her down (a while for him to get close at all, as Jackson was almost feral, seeing his mate in such a state).

When Lydia finally calmed down enough to talk… none of them were expecting what she had to say: Marin Morrell, the so-called counselor (the emissary for the alpha pack) had just tried to kill her. Claimed Lydia knew too much, and that her status as an emerging banshee made her dangerous (they hadn't even known for sure what the redhead was!). And then the Sheriff had arrived, had saved Lydia, but Morrell had taken him instead.

"Taken, not killed." Tish clarified as her mind went a mile a minute.

"Hostages." Ylva nodded in understanding. "To force your hand. They took Alicia Boyd and Melissa McCall. Probably intended to take one or both Whittemores as well, but the accident complicated things. We managed to close ranks before they took anyone else, but of course Noah insisted on continuing to work…"

"What about Lydia?" Derek asked. "Why try to kill her instead of just kidnapping her?"

"I don't think that was Deucalion's plan." Loki stated. "I think Morrell went off-script for that one. For the very reason she told Lydia. She considers her dangerous."

"Am I?" Lydia wanted to know. "Am I dangerous?"

"You could be, just like I can be." Stiles answered with a calm shrug. "We all can be, with the right motivation. I promise you Lyds we'll research this to hell and back. We'll find out what it means to be a banshee, what your abilities will be and how to control them. For now though, right now we have to go save our family."

Lydia nodded, just once, absolutely serious. Having dealt with that, they all returned to the matter at hand. Stiles had been learning to charm objects, following the idea from a necklace Tish wore, which had been enchanted by Loki. He'd chosen his dad's badge, knowing he always kept it on him. Stiles hadn't been able to do much yet, but it was enough for him to track the badge when the wolves realized that the scent had been erased. And then they were off.

Talia, Zach, Peter and a handful of the best Hale betas arrived to the clearing a few yards away (and downwind) from the distillery at the same time as Derek, Tish and their own did.

"Why did you bring them here?" Talia demanded. "They're just children!"

"Because this is about family." Derek answered evenly before turning to the teens. "Jackson, Issac, Erica, your duty is to go in with us, get Melissa, Noah and Alicia and get them out. Lydia, Scott and Boyd, you'll keep watch out, and when the others join you, you'll take the hostages and return home." Before anyone could complain he continued. "I'm not going to let you go in where your family is, you might lose control and we really don't need that right now. And you will leave the moment the hostages are free. Deucalion and the twins are alphas, you'll never be able to go against them." Once they all finally nodded he went on: "Stiles, you'll be with Jackson and the others. I trust you can keep your head and they might need your magic in case Morrell tries something. Luke and Tish will be with me."

Fenrir wasn't with them. With Ylva ready to give birth at any moment, the wolf's instincts were going haywire and he simply couldn't bring himself to leave his mate. Derek, Tish and Loki had all assured him that was alright. There were enough of them to deal with anything.

Talia ordered most of the betas to form a perimeter around the building, and aid the teens in their escape if necessary, then followed Derek and the others in with Peter.

Things went nuts almost as soon as they entered. As they discovered, Deucalion had been turning people during the previous month, which meant that there were more wolves than anyone expected. Tish cursed loudly in French before pulling out a pair of long daggers and throwing herself into the fight. Loki at her heels with his own blades and magic.

"Well well, well, this is surprising indeed." Morrell commented with sickening, almost childish glee. "The little Hale fights like a huntress."

Peter rolled his eyes, if the woman did not know that his daughter had been trained by Kate Argent she must be stupid. It's not like it was exactly a secret!

Even with the unexpected surprise, things went mostly according to plan. The teens managed to get their family members free and out of the building, while the adults handled the wolves, Stiles keeping an eye on the emissary in case she tried anything. The biggest advantage came when Talia found herself face to face with the huge behemoth of an alpha the twins turned themselves into by combining with each other. She tore them apart. It was sickening, though the real shocker came when, instead of two pieces, the twins were suddenly there, and their eyes were blue… Peter knocked them out almost as an after-thought.

Deucalion roared his denial when he saw what was going on, he went straight at Talia, managing to catch her enough by surprise, he threw her against one of the columns.

"Mom/Talia!" Derek and Peter cried out in unison.

Derek's distraction cost him. As Morrell chose that exact moment to put her 'emergency plan' into action, as she pulled out a gun and shot at the were. Derek's back was to her, and he was just so focused on his mom, he didn't see it coming… someone else did though.

"Mischief!" Tish screamed in horror.

Stiles blinked and looked down, at his own middle and the hands that became covered in blood almost as soon as he pressed against the wound there. He let out a quiet moan of pain as he collapsed into Tish's arms. Loki for his part, went after Morrell, she tried to use his magic to waylay him, but it was nothing against his.

"I don't…" Morrell looked beyond shocked. "I wasn't aiming at him!"

"Should that mean anything to me?" Loki asked in a hiss. "You were still trying to shoot a member of my family. Just like earlier you tried to kill Lydia!"

He didn't give her the chance to say anything more, slashing her throat open with his knife. The druid (probably more of a darach, with her recent actions) was dead before she hit the floor.

Derek and Peter were on Deucalion instantly. The self-proclaimed 'Alpha of Alphas' had no idea what was going on. How could two betas be on his level?! Derek wasn't even a potential alpha! He wasn't the firstborn, and his blue eyes gave away that he'd killed (if one were to believe in the so-called True Alpha legend, which he wasn't sure he did; then again, he hadn't believed the stories of the Luna, and there was Letitia Hale…).

"Mischief, listen to me, you're going to be alright, okay?" Tish began almost babbling as she pulled out a vial and unceremoniously doped its whole contents into Stiles's wound. "I will make sure of that but you need to do your part. You need to hold on."

"No prob…" Stiles gasped, though she could feel the resolve harden inside him.

Neither of them could have known it, but there was a certain desperation driving Derek. A despair that he couldn't quite explain, or perhaps it was just that he refused to acknowledge it. He'd been so busy ever since their return to Beacon Hills, taking charge of a bunch of bitten teenagers, making sure they learned what it meant to be pack, that they actually became one; that each of them had the support they needed, the training, that they all knew they weren't alone… all while dealing with the chasm that seemed to exist between him (and Tish) and the Hales, and the fact that, much as he might not be ready to accept it, their pack no longer felt like his (their) own. Dealing with the adults of the group, who looked to him and Tish (but more to him) to give them answers, to give them security, to ensure the safety of their children. And of course the mess with the Alpha Pack! There was no way that in between all those things he could have fallen in love! And especially not with someone who, for all intents and purposes, was still a child! That was… it was beyond insane, it was deranged! Sick! Impossible! And yet none of that changed the fact that something inside him just hurt at the thought that Stiles was injured, in pain, that he'd taken a bullet meant for Derek…

Derek was so lost in his own thoughts, even as he continued fighting, that he never really noticed when he began moving just a bit faster, his hits becoming just slightly stronger, his reflexes like he could almost predict what Deucalion was going to do. Peter did notice though, and his eyes flashed with glee. He'd always known, from the moment he first took Derek and Tish together to the park, and watched the way the older boy held his daughter's hand and guided her to the swings, keeping careful attention on all the other kids to make sure no one would bother them, but especially not her… he knew Derek had the potential to be something so rarely seen: a True Alpha. The potential for that was lost when he killed Kate Argent, nevermind that the bitch shouldn't qualify as innocent in any sense of the word! But the fact remained that the moment Derek's eyes turned blue he lost the potential to become a True Alpha. Didn't mean he couldn't get there on a more… traditional manner. Which was exactly why, when the moment came to end the fight, Peter pulled back his claws and let his nephew take the kill.

Chapter Text

Waning Moon

There was a Time for War, and also a Time for Peace.

Scott brought Chris and Allison Argent to the 'den' (as most of the teens had taken to calling it) on the second Saturday of December. It had been a little over a week since the confrontation with the remaining Alphas, with Deucalion and Morrell dead and the twins exiled from the territory things were finally at peace. The patch-work family had had a few hectic days, as they returned to find Ylva already in the late stages of labor. The biggest surprise being when she gave birth to three babies rather than two. The two boys, wolves like their dad, had taken so much in the womb that no one was able to notice their little sister (and she really was little, it was a miracle she was even born at all, but the baby-girl was her mother made over and as much of a fighter). Following their traditions, on the ninth day Ylva and Fenrir named the babies and presented them to the rest of the family. The boys were Conan and Faolan, while the girl was Rowan. Everyone loved them the moment they met them.

After the ceremony Fenrir and Ylva had taken the triplets with them deep into the preserve for some private time between the five of them. So the rest of the group had taken off in different directions to do their own thing. Except for Tish, Loki, Derek and Stiles, they were all there to receive Scott and the Argents.

Scott had learned a lot in the months since first meeting Derek and Letitia Hale. He learned the meaning of pack, the importance of the Alpha, learned to embrace his wolf rather than just reluctantly deal with it; learned about wolves, about other supernaturals, about pack dynamics and positions; and he learned about hunters…

It was because of all of that that Scott had the sense to request the meeting, rather than try to force it, or spring it on everyone without warning. Derek hadn't been too keen on the idea, after what Kate had done, and hearing what Gerard, the kanima, Victoria, and even Allison herself had all done to the teenagers. Derek might not have been around at the time, but he was there in that moment, and Scott, Stiles, Jackson and everyone else… they were his pack! He might not have bitten them, might not have planned on things going that way, but he did choose them, from the moment he and Tish told his mom that they spoke for them. And he was not taking it back!

"Mr. Argent, Ms. Argent." Tish greeted them evenly. "Be welcome into our home."

"Ms. Hale, Mr. Hale, Mr. Stilinski… and I'm afraid I don't know you sir." Chris greeted them with the same solemnity before stopping at Loki, then finished. "We are grateful for you opening your doors to us today."

"I am Luke Hvedrungr, Letitia is my fiancee." Loki stated simply.

"If you don't mind my asking, why are we here?" Chris asked quietly.

"To be completely frank, were it up to me I'd never open my door to an Argent." Derek said with absolute honesty. "But Scott is my Head Beta, your daughter is his anchor. We might not have been here last spring but we know things went horribly wrong, mistakes were made. Much as I might not understand it, Scott and Allison have decided to forgive each other, have taken the time to know each other again, and decided they love each other." They did, Scott had explained it all to them when asking for the meeting, when telling them why he hadn't asked for it before. "The only way that's going to work is if Allison is part of this pack, and while she's probably the Matriarch in your branch of the Argents, she's still a minor, which means this concerns you too."

"How do you even know about me being the Matriarch?" Allison blurted out in shock.

"Has your dad, or anyone in your family told you about me?" Tish asked in turn.

"You're a Hale." Allison answered simply. "The only human born to the pack."

"Both true." Tish nodded calmly. "I'm also a trained huntress. Kate trained me."

"What?!" Allison really wasn't expecting that, she turned to her dad in disbelief. "How?"

"I don't know." Chris admitted. "Seven years ago… Kate just told us she'd found some girl, that she was a prodigy. Was planning on inducting her into our family. Our father didn't much care for her, he even accused Kate of becoming too attached to her at some point… I had no idea what any of them were doing I…"

"You didn't know they were planning to set our whole family on fire." Derek deadpanned.

"Though not before getting me out." Tish added for good measure. "To be a gift to your family. A Hale turned huntress! No idea what made them think I'd do anything other than kill them all if they'd gotten away with hurting my family…"

The absolute horror that hit Tish cut off her tirade. Allison looked like she was about to be sick, no matter how much Scott embraced her and tried to comfort her.

"This is not on you Allison, I know that much." Tish admitted with a sigh. "It's not even on your dad." She turned to Chris. "Though I do still think you should have known better. After what Kate did, what she was willing to do… I cannot believe you let Gerard keep on committing all kinds of atrocities. I mean, you do know what he was planning when he invaded my hospital room right after the fight, right? Or do you think I throw knives at just anyone?"

"Knives…?" Allison repeated, her expression changing as she realized something. "You're the reason for my grandfather's limp?!"

Tish really couldn't help the smirk, and the wave of absolute satisfaction when confirming that Gerard had been forced to endure a limp for the rest of his life. It wasn't enough, nothing would ever be enough to make him pay for all his crimes, but it was something. She could only hope that wherever the bastard ended up after dead he was made to suffer, a lot, for the rest of time.

The rest of the conversation went much better. Everything that had happened, good things and bad, were discussed and an agreement was reached. Chris still wasn't sure about the whole 'joining the pack', but he knew as well as Derek and the others did, that Scott and Allison were in love, and willing to fight anything and anyone to stay together; and in the end Chris loved his daughter more than anything else, even more than being a hunter.

"No one said you had to change who you are." Tish told him quietly. "I know your motto: 'We hunt those who hunt us'. It's the right thing to do. It's not your fault if members of your family decided it was better to consider all members of a race as guilty from the get go. And much as I might wish you had done something, deep down Derek and I know there was little you could have done." Gerard probably would have killed him had he tried. "I may not be a true huntress, but that doesn't mean I've forgotten what I was taught, or that I don't use it when necessary. I am a Warrior, by choice. I will fight when I need to, to protect my family. What will you choose?"

Chris seemed to ponder things for a few moments before turning to Allison. While he might be the parent, she was the matriarch; the decision was hers as much as it was his, and Chris would always support his daughter.

"We hunt those who hunt us." Allison declared solemnly, in English rather than the original and traditional French in attention to the Hales. "And protect those who cannot protect themselves."

And so it was sealed.

xXx

From the moment he woke up Stiles knew it was going to be a good day. It was his eighteenth birthday, and unlike the first sixteen in his life, he had more people than just Scott, his dad and Melissa; and unlike his seventeenth birthday he actually had Scott again, and Allison, and his whole pack (and, probably more importantly, he wasn't so lost in fighting and not-dying and the kanima, and Gerard-fucking-Argent, that he completely forgot his birthday until two days later when his dad brought him a little cake from the bakery a block from the station and wished him a happy belated birthday… he honestly had had no idea what day it even was until that moment!).

It all began with an awesome breakfast at the den, his dad even arranged to start his shift later than usual in order to drive them both there and stay for breakfast. Most people might have been surprised, but then again, those same people had never tried Tish's awesome fruit-pancakes, and her even more incredible chocolate-chip pancakes! Stiles was even willing to relax his rules regarding the kind of foods his dad could eat when it came to Tish's pancakes!

Their whole pack was there, and even Peter, Malia and Cora had managed to make it (Stiles had no idea how they managed to get Cora there; Peter was one thing, he and Malia didn't actually live at the Hale house, but Cora did).

In any case, the breakfast was absolutely awesome, as expected. They made plans for meeting again for the actual cake in the evening; after two whole boxes of pancake mix, several pounds of fruits and who-knows how much coffee and hot cocoa there was really no way they'd be able to eat cake too; and Noah had insisted on getting that himself, after Tish and Loki handled breakfast (it was a tradition of theirs, which started in NY, when they'd all been so busy the only meal they could share for sure most of the time was breakfast, at some point Derek had apparently decided that a big enough stack of pancakes worked well enough as a cake-substitute… Stiles was still getting a cake though).

"Well, gotta go now kid." Noah announced when they were finished, he embraced his son once, quick but tight. "Know you have my wholehearted blessing just… whatever you do, don't tell me about it, okay?"

"Wha… what's that supposed to mean?!" It took a moment for Stiles to ask the question, but it was pointless, there was no answer.

He watched his dad leave through the front door, Peter offering him a ride since he'd arrived with Stiles. It was also right about then that he realized everyone had left… or rather almost everyone. There was one single person left in the common area aside from himself, a certain sourwolf… who was looking at him with the same expression of bewilderment, though with a hint of exasperation added for good measure.

"Yes, because this wasn't obvious, at all." The were muttered under his breath.

"What's going on?" Stiles asked, and the way he stuttered (just a little bit!) showed how unsure he was of whether he actually wanted an answer.

"We need to talk Stiles…" Derek murmured, so very quietly…

"Uh-oh…" Stiles hid behind humor and bravado. "No nice conversation ever started with those words sourwolf."

"Stiles…" There was tiredness in Derek's voice and something more… something that could almost be called fear but… it was Derek!

"Fine, let me have it." Stiles sighed and dropped onto the closest couch, resigned, whatever was coming was going to be hell…

"Remember a few months ago, the fight at the distillery?"

"If I… of course I remember! Wasn't that long ago!" He was back on his feet instantly. "You're not still blaming yourself are you? Derek, I chose to step before that bullet, that was not on you!"

"You could have died Stiles!"

"But I didn't! I didn't even need to go to the hospital!"

"Because Tish was there, with her healing powder and her magic. If she hadn't been there even a hospital wouldn't have saved you Stiles! That bullet had the worst kind of wolfsbane ever known in it, if the wound hadn't killed you the poison in your blood certainly would have!"

"It would have killed you too…" Stiles's voice, unlike Derek's, was very quiet, intense.

"Maybe, but it's not right for you to risk your life like that."

"It's my choice to make Derek! And I made it."

"Well you shouldn't have! I'm not worth your life!"

"You so are!" Stiles was so done, and hearing Derek say that… it made him finally let out what had been inside him for so long… "You think you're not worth… anything, and see, that's the problem. You…you don't care about getting hurt. But you know how I'll feel? I'll be devastated. And if you die, I will literally go out of my freakin' mind. You see, death doesn't happen to you, Derek. It happens to everyone around you, okay? To all the people left standing at your funeral, trying to figure out how they're gonna live the rest of their lives now without you in it! You think you can just go and fight and die, and that'll be it, you'll be done, but what about us? What about the rest of us left here, mourning you, feeling a void inside our hearts because we lost you?!"

"And what do you think I would have felt Stiles?! If you had died that day, died saving me? Do you think I could have lived with that?! Knowing that I was the cause of you being gone?!"

"You're a strong wolf…"

"I'm nothing without you…"

Stiles… he had no words with which to reply to that, none at all. He was left just staring at Derek, trying to convince himself that he'd really heard what he just thought he had.

"Der…" The teenager couldn't find a single word…

"You're my anchor Stiles…" Derek admitted, so very quietly. "You're everything…"

"But… but… Tish!"

"She's my cousin, as good as my sister, but she's not my anchor Stiles, she hasn't been for months! Not… not since you saved me…"

It was a bit of a joke among the pack. Fenrir and Loki had deduced that, even having become a wolf, Jackson would be able to call on some aspects of the kanima too. So they focused on that for several training sessions. It worked. What they could have never expected was when Jackson accidentally paralyzed Derek, and in his attempt to get away, the were ended falling into an abandoned well. Loki and Tish hadn't been there for that particular session. And the walls of the well were too smooth for any of the wolves to climb either up or down; with Derek paralyzed there was no way he could have survived… and then Stiles ordered the other teens to find rope, a lot of rope, just one moment before kicking off his sneakers and jumping down the well. He'd held the wolf up for over an hour, until the pack had enough rope and managed to device a system to pull first Derek and then Stiles out without one of them going down the well. It hadn't been easy, but Stiles hadn't hesitated, not even for a second.

"I… why didn't you say anything…?" Stiles didn't understand.

"Stiles… you were seventeen…" Derek began.

"And I'm eighteen now, it's not that much of a difference, Der…"

"… and you're the son of the sheriff." The wolf continued. "You love your dad, and we both know he'd have never agreed with you being involved with me as a minor. And the last thing I wanted was to make things harder for you, or worse, for you to end up keeping secrets or lying to your dad again. You would have hated that…"

The worst part was that Derek was right, and they both knew it.

"Wait so… my dad knows about this?!" Stiles couldn't help the squeak.

"He knows what you are to me, and that I wanted to talk to you about it." Derek answered. "He knows I hope you'll give me a chance?"

Stiles was completely at a loss in that moment, couldn't think of a single thing to say as the two were left standing there, face to face, so close Stiles could feel Derek's breath on his face, it was making him a little crazy(er).

"What kind of chance?" He asked, very quiet, like he feared any louder would break the magic keeping them there, so close they were almost touching each other.

"How about we start with a date?" Derek proposed.

"How about we start with a kiss?" Stiles offered in return.

He inched that little bit closer to Derek, who responded by cupping the teenager's face between his hands, before slotting their lips together. They fit together like two puzzle pieces, it was absolute perfection. And when Derek drew back, just a bit, to take a breath, Stiles couldn't hold the whimper at the back of his throat; Derek's eyes flashed for a fraction of a second before he snaked his arms around Stiles, pulling the boy's body against his own, the kiss deepening.

Eventually they had to pull back, both still needing oxygen, but they kept their foreheads together, their breaths mingling.

"Mine…" Derek whispered under his breath, voice deep and husky, more wolf than man, despite his looks, in that very moment.

Stiles didn't even hesitate when giving his response:

"Yours."

xXx

Letitia Hale had known for a while that sooner or later something would have to give. Probably all the way since she'd fought back against an alpha and miraculously managed to kill him, then somehow ended becoming something that was believed to be a legend: a Luna… or maybe it was since she was forced to reveal before the whole pack her huntress training, while fighting her own teacher to save her family's lives… or when she and Derek left Beacon Hills like thieves in the night and no one ever tried to get them back until they returned on their own, six years later… perhaps when they did return, and found themselves being kept at arms-length from those who were supposed to be their pack! The last piece though, came that night, at the end of the fight in the distillery, when Deucalion fell, dead, and Derek's eyes flashed red for the very first time.

Talia willfully ignored what to a few of them was obvious, but then again she'd been doing the same with Peter and his own alpha status following his killing of Kali a month earlier. It wasn't a matter of it being impossible for there to be three alphas in the same territory, even in the same pack… it was the fact that they weren't pack.

"What do you mean we're not pack?!" Talia demanded hotly.

It was the full moon and they were all there. By accident in fact. For the smaller pack (the Luna pack, as some had taken to calling it to differentiate themselves from the Hales), usually made a point of staying on the other side of town from the preserve which, while technically still Hale territory, tended to be far enough for the packs not to meet. Derek and Tish had known it would not be good if they did.

The prediction came true just as they expected. Kaela (Moira's daughter) who was a bit of a snob, had tried to bully Stiles for being human and 'running' with wolves, not expecting it when the rest of his pack rallied around him, Erica going as far as taking hold of the other girl's hair and pulling, sending her sprawling to the ground.

Several Hales had begun growling and a fight was about to break out when Stiles pulled out what looked like a bubble of mountain ash from a pocket and threw it into the air; a second later the Hales found themselves trapped behind a barrier.

The howling had brought the adults to the clearing, where Moira immediately began screaming at Stiles to break the barrier, and when he said no, she went to attack him, only to find herself blocked, by Peter. Then Talia was there, ordering everyone to calm down, demanding to know what was going on. Which turned into a screaming match until Tish yelled for everyone to shut up (hard to tell if it was her power or just the shock of her actually yelling but everyone obeyed instantly). Stiles also acquiesced immediately when she requested he dismiss the ash circle. They all witnessed Stiles calling the ash back to his hand, and putting it away inside a pocket of his dark-red hoodie (it was a bit of a running joke among the group, what with little-red-riding-hood and the 'big bag wolf'; Fenrir had laughed himself sick about that and could hardly wait for the chance to show off his own red-riding-hood…).

The real problem though, came when Talia howled, expecting everyone to submit, but only about half of those in the clearing did. Of course because Peter was a little shit at the best of times he told his sister the truth in the most provocative, obnoxious way possible.

"What do you mean we're not pack?!" Talia growled. "You're mine!"

"Oh, but are we?" Peter drawled. "Tell me sister, when was the last time any of us were really yours? Some never have been!"

"Peter…" Talia snarled.

"Your problem Talia, is that you think that growling, and using your Alpha voice, will make everyone submit but that's not how it works." Peter continued. "And here's the proof."

"How long have you known this was a thing?" Zach asked, curious.

"At least since Derek and Tish came back." Peter answered honestly. "Did you not notice that they never went to the house? Never joined you on runs during the full moon? Did you never wonder why that was?"

"We weren't invited." Tish said simply as she stepped forward. "You were angry about Scott and the others, angry that we took responsibility for them. And then you walked away. You never invited us to follow, not even to say hi. If you were trying to push us away, guess what? You managed it, but then again, you'd already done that years ago!"

"That's enough!" Laura snarled. "Submit to your alpha!"

"Haven't you gotten it through your thick head yet Laura?" Tish demanded, standing toe to toe with her. "She's not my alpha! She's never truly been my alpha!" She turned back to Talia. "It wasn't that I didn't want to. I tried, with the moon as my witness that I tried… but how could I want to be yours, when you never wanted me? How could I want to be pack when you were never interested in making me pack?"

"She's right." Peter agreed. "Don't think I've forgotten Talia. The night she was born… you would have taken her from me, even made me forget all about her if you could have. Why do you think I insisted on getting her registered before we even left the hospital? I needed to make things official, and I needed witnesses, it was the only way I'd get to keep my daughter!"

"You really think she would have…" Cora was horrified at the mere thought.

"You didn't tell me you were having a child until practically the moment she was born!" Talia snapped. "You gave me no time to think about…"

"What did you have to think about?!" Peter cut her off. "She was my child, not yours. All you needed to do was be there for me! You're supposed to be my family!"

"I am your family…" Talia began.

"No, you're not." Peter shook his head. "You might have been my alpha, but you're not my family. I don't think you've ever been."

"You needed to trust me Peter…" The alpha began.

"Trust is a two way street Talia, and you never trusted me." Peter retorted. "You cannot just demand another's trust, that's not how it works. You must earn it. Tell me, why did you never tell anyone the truth about my blue eyes? Why let them think I was evil? A monster? And then you let them do the exact same thing with Derek! Tish didn't even need blue eyes, you made her less anyway. You're the ones that made us monsters, not our eyes."

"You went against your alpha's orders." Laura hissed.

"Is that what you've been told?" Peter asked, almost conversationally. "And tell me Laura, my dearest niece, has anyone told you what those orders were?" He turned to Talia. "Does anyone know that our old alpha abandoned his own daughter and an allied pack? That he'd rather they be slaughtered than answer the call for help."

"That alpha was your father, Peter…" Talia tried to make him reconsider.

"Perhaps, when he abandoned Maia I knew I'd never see him as family again." Peter spat. "Maia, the sweetest, kindest… the best of us all, and he condemned her to death as surely as if he'd shot the bullet that killed her!"

"She chose to go to Mexico…"

"Of course she went it was her mate's life on the line! And at least I loved her enough to follow. Even if I couldn't save her life, at least I made sure that those who took her paid with their own. Every single one of them."

No words were said to that. It was true that they all knew about the fight between the jaguar pack and the Calaveras (or at least, one branch of that particular hunter family). They knew it was where almost half of Talia's siblings had died, where Peter got his blue eyes, but none of the younger generations had ever been told why the war happened in the first place. It was quite the shocking revelation. It made more than a few wonder why it had been kept from them. And if one thing had been kept from them, what else might they not know?

"You know what I remember most clearly from my return?" Peter asked, voice deadly quiet. "You convinced our Alpha to let me return, but you never asked me how I was. Never asked what had become of our siblings. It's like you just wrote us all off the moment we left for Mexico. I know that the only reason you chose me as Enforcer was because my eyes were already blue, there would be no need for another wolf to lose their innocence!"

"No… I…" Talia seemed honestly shocked. "That wasn't why! Peter, from all of us, you were always the best fighter. Even before the mess in Mexico."

"Then why not say that?" Peter challenged. "And beyond that, why let the pack think that having blue eyes made me a monster? You cannot tell me you never heard them saying it. It's not like they hid it! Especially Moira! Or what about when she began saying the same kind of bullshit about my daughter?! And why? Because she fought tooth and nail and managed to kill an alpha, even though it almost cost her her life? Have you never wondered why she and Derek left?!"

"What does it matter why?" Laura scoffed. "It was cowardice. And it's the same thing that made them come back!"

Tish laughed, and unlike any time before, it wasn't a nice laugh.

"Are you really that foolish Laura?" Peter asked her straight out. "Lets revise, shall we? In the time since they returned, Letitia, Derek and their pack have dealt with a darach or two, a bunch of betas, and two of the Alpha pack. Oh, and lets not forget that it was Stiles who found the place where they were keeping Cora and the two brats. And they were also the ones who kept three feral wolves from going hunting and probably killing innocents. Does that sound to you like the actions of cowards?!"

"We didn't come back because the Alpha pack threatened us." Tish clarified. "In fact, that wasn't even when we made the choice to do so. It was when we called Peter and he told us the Alpha Pack was coming here. We came back to help you!" She exhaled. "It was probably a good thing, considering that just the day we arrived we found them about to capture Erica and Boyd, nevermind the mess the rest of them had gotten themselves into."

"You're the ones who wanted to take them in!" Laura said dismissively.

"Yes, because they needed help, and you clearly weren't going to give it." Tish retorted.

"What are you implying?!" Laura snarled.

"I'm not implying anything, I'm stating." Tish said evenly. "They put you in charge of a bunch of bitten wolves and humans and you failed, abysmally! You cursed them, said they betrayed you by going to the one who turned them, but did it ever occur to you to wonder why?! We're back to the matter of trust."

"They never trusted me!" Laura was practically whining at that point.

"No, they didn't." Tish agreed calmly. "But tell me something Laura, when did you ever give them reason to? When you beat them up supposedly to train them? When you humiliated them for not knowing things you never bothered to explain to them? When you and your mother gave them the order to keep the secret, without considering the kind of strain that would put on their families? Or when they came to you, worried about those same families, and you ignored all their concerns because, who cared? They weren't pack anyway!" She waved a hand to cut off Laura before the older girl could even open her mouth. "The simple truth is, you just had no idea what to do Laura. Aunt Talia might be training you, but she's training you to be alpha of the Hale pack. You have no idea how to deal with a pack of bitten wolves. And for that matter, neither does she."

"They aren't the first bitten wolves in the pack." Zach pointed out evenly. "Patrick was born human, as was Kim."

"Maybe not, but tell me one thing, Uncle Zach," Tish replied calmly. "When was the last time they visited their families? Do those families even know any of the Hales? They might have been born human, but now they're Hales, and nothing else. Aunt Talia made sure of that."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Talia demanded.

"Oh come on Talia!" Peter actually groaned. "Did you really never wonder why I never brought Letty to you? Why I never told you about her at all?" He shook his head, not really waiting for an answer. "Truth is, you'd have ruined her. Letty loved me, deeply, completely, as much as I loved her. I will never love another woman like I loved her. She knew about me being a wolf, knew about all of you. And I know that had I but asked, she'd have done anything to be worthy of the pack. She'd have given up her dreams, given up her future, would have done anything you asked of her to earn the bite and join the pack. And in doing so, she'd have destroyed herself. She wouldn't have been my Letty anymore, not the bright, incredible, perfect, human, woman I fell in love with. She'd have been whatever you made her into. Because you care more about having a pack that submits, than having a family that loves." He exhaled, tired. "I was going to leave, you know? We had everything planned. As soon as she'd recovered from giving birth to the baby. She had that offer from the Orchestra in Portland, she'd already said yes, and I was going to go with them. I had been in touch with the local alpha and he agreed to let me remain on my own. Letty was my anchor and I knew I could handle things with just her and our daughter. And then she died… she died and I knew my baby needed more than just me, so I stayed. I decided to give the pack one last chance to be what I needed, what we needed. But you never were. From the start, you never looked at my daughter and saw your niece, you just saw a liability, saw her humanity as a curse rather than the gift it was."

"You've never wanted us, so why is it so hard to just accept we're not yours anymore?" Tish finally got to the core of things.

Because Talia was an alpha, and as such she didn't take losing nicely.

"Who's your alpha then?!" Laura demanded. "Who's so great that you would rather choose him above us? Peter?!"

"Oh… I am an alpha, but I'm not this pack's alpha, no." Peter was almost cackling madly, like the villain in a teen melodrama.

The rest of the teenagers just looked at Laura in disbelief, wondering if she really didn't know. How could she, how could any of them not see?

Tish took a step back at the same time as Derek and Stiles gave a step forward, the three of them ending up pretty much on the same level, looking straight at Talia and Laura, with Zach and Peter at the sides, their packs behind each of them. Derek took a deep breath and then let loose; the part of himself he'd been keeping carefully in check for months… blue-green eyes flashed, going red; the rest of his body didn't change, it didn't need to, the eyes were enough.

"I'm the Alpha." He proclaimed, simply and to the point.

The response was immediate, as every single member of his pack tilted their heads to the side, baring their necks symbolically to him.

"We'll be leaving the territory after graduation." Stiles announced simply.

It wasn't quite as sudden or crazy as some might have thought, hearing it just then. Truth was that they'd known, from the moment Derek first allowed his eyes to go red in the safety of their den, that they wouldn't be able to stay in Beacon Hills forever. While some territories might have more than one pack, and packs more than one alpha, Derek always knew that would never be possible in their case. Laura would never stand for her 'little brother' being alpha, especially before her; and much as he might hate to admit it, he wouldn't submit to her, or even to his mom, not just for himself, but because he couldn't trust them with his pack, they had already proven they couldn't deal with them. They hadn't even tried!

So they had all been planning, since the beginning of December. Thus far the plan was to move somewhere where the teens could all go to college; the adults could find jobs there. Of the adults, only Melissa, Noah and Chris would be going with them. Natalie had been planning on moving to Europe, do some traveling, secure in the knowledge that Lydia would be safe and happy. While the Whittemores… David had a very good job offer from London, and Madeline had always wanted to live there. As for Erica's and Boyd's families, while they did love their children, they were also of the belief that they were at an age where they had to make their own lives; and it's not like they couldn't visit each other in the future. Melissa, Noah and Chris… it wasn't that they loved their children more, or the lives they had less than any of the others; it was simply that they'd each weighed their options and come to a decision, separately, and the pack was happy to have them, always.

"Is that your final word on this?" Talia asked after what seemed like forever.

"It is." Derek nodded stoically, before softening a bit. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry mom."

Sorry he was hurting her, but not sorry enough to take it back. How could he when he already loved his little crazy pack, his family, so very much?

Talia said nothing, she just turned her back on him and walked away, losing herself among the trees soon enough.

"She… you know we'll always be your family, right Derek?" Zach asked very quietly.

Derek nodded but said nothing at all, hoping the lack of words would be enough to hide the half-lie. Because truth was, they didn't have the same concept of family. For his dad, family and pack were the same thing. That was how most of them saw it. But Derek… he could still remember a conversation with Peter, so long ago, when he'd asked Peter why he treated Tish so differently from how Derek's own mom treated him and his sisters; could still remember when he'd asked Peter if he could be their family too… He'd never regretted it, in fact, he was quite sure that whatever else might happen, he never would.

Derek was pulled out of his thoughts when he felt Stiles entwining their hands together. There was no need for either of them to say a word, they both understood how hard that had been. How hard leaving would be. But they'd still do it, because it was the right thing to do. And really, as long as they had each other, as long as they had the pack, everything would be alright.

xXx

Tish didn't know whose idea it was exactly. But apparently there was at least one person who remembered hers and Paige's performance all those years before. When the principal asked her to sing something for the graduation ceremony, Tish thought it was absolutely nuts. Really, it was one thing for someone successful to give a speech at graduation, but… it wasn't like she was a professional singer or anything! And while she was a writer, no one knew she was Maia Silva. And yet… there was so much inside her, in both her mind and heart. She and the rest of the pack, they were leaving the day after graduation, and she couldn't help but think there were still things left unsaid, things she wanted (needed) to say before they took off. So she said yes.

The teachers seemed a bit surprised when they saw her arrive in dark jeans, a gray and blue stripped top, black-leather calf-high boots and her beloved black-leather jacket; her dark red hair curled slightly and falling around her shoulders freely and just light makeup on her face. They'd probably been expecting something a little more elegant, like the dress she'd worn during the presentation with Paige… but she was trying to make a point. She was showing them (the school, the pack, everyone) who she was.

A piano had been placed in the middle of the stage, at her request, while the school's music group took formation in a half circle at the back of it. She waited for the Music teacher to introduce her (flushing a bit at being called the most beautiful voice to grace the school's halls in generations). But she pushed all that aside and, loosening the leash on a bit of herself, stepped onto the stage. Her walk was sure, smooth, somewhere between a predator's (a hunter, or maybe a wolf) stalk and a dancer's (or an elf's) glide. It was who she was, and she was very proud of it.

"Good evening everyone." She spoke into the microphone, allowing just a bit of the musicality so natural of her voice through. "We're here tonight to celebrate Beacon Hills High, generation of 2013. I was asked to do something special and for the longest time I had no idea what. How can one possibly put into words that which I'm sure everyone must be feeling right now? The fear, the excitement, the nervousness, the dreams, the hopes, the expectations, the terror, the friendship, the love, the grief, the loss… so many emotions, all balled up together in such a way that many might not even be able to make heads or tails out of them! And I'm here to tell you it's all fine. Whatever you might be feeling, whatever you might be thinking, it's all right. We all handle things differently, and have a right to our emotions, our thoughts, our dreams and our fears. I'm not here to tell any of you how you are supposed to react. I'm here to tell you it's all just fine. And that I feel it all too. I wish you all the very best in whatever life might have for you next. Wherever you might go, whatever you might do and be, don't forget. You're not alone, you're never truly alone…"

She could have said more, but she left it at that. Instead she shifted a bit on the bench to be more comfortable, placed her fingers on the keys and began playing. A few notes was all she needed and at the same time the musicians took on the melody, she closed her eyes, inhaled, and sang:

"I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time

Know there was something that, meant something that I left behind

When I leave this world, I'll leave no regrets

Leave something to remember, so they won't forget"

"I was here

I lived, I loved

I was here

I did, I've done everything that I wanted

And it was more than I thought it would be

I will leave my mark so everyone will know

I was here"

All eyes were on her, she knew that much, she could feel them, just like she could feel in the shift of emotions the way everyone reacted to the song. Some more so than others, but then she'd been expecting that. And she was just getting started! She could tell that no one had been expecting what was happening. They probably thought she'd sing something generic, a hymn, or one of the more classic songs for graduation; then again, Tish had never been a 'classics' kind of girl. She was her own person and proud of that. Of who and what she was, of what she was doing with her life; as Letitia Maia, as a Silva, a Hale, as an Empath, as the Luna, as a writer, as part of a pack, as Loki's match. It was all part of her and she was very proud of every single piece that made her.

"I wanna say I lived each day, until I die

And know that I meant something in somebody's life

The hearts I have touched will be the proof that I leave

That I made a difference, and this world will see"

"I was here

I lived, I loved

I was here

I did, I've done everything that I wanted

And it was more than I thought it would be

I will leave my mark so everyone will know"

It took her a bit by surprise, when her beloved joined her on the stage, sat beside her on the piano bench, though it probably shouldn't have. He wasn't just sensing the emotions she was letting out through the song, he was also feeling her, and he knew she wanted to do more, to sing, to move… so he was there to open that possibility for her. It didn't matter if he wasn't ex-alumni, (he wasn't even human!) she just let him take over ever so slowly and then slid to sit on the edge of the piano bench, turning to face the audience, resting her back ever so slightly against her match's body, drawing strength from his presence. The song was taking more out of her than she ever expected, but she was too invested, too into it, she wasn't going to stop, not until she was done:

"I was here

I lived, I loved

I was here

I did, I've done everything that I wanted

And it was more than I thought it would be

I will leave my mark so everyone will know

I was here"

"I just want them to know

That I gave my all, did my best

Brought someone some happiness

Left this world a little better just because

I was here"

At some point, she didn't exactly plan it, she just slipped off her jacket. The top she had chosen that day was ¾, which meant her forearms were bare. She knew no one except her family had seen her arms in a long time, and in that moment she was exposing them, exposing herself to everyone. Because that too was a part of who she was. The scar on her right forearm, of Ennis's claws, which had changed during her sort-of spirit-walk with her beloved, twisted into what looked almost like a double eternity. And then she'd purposefully gone and gotten a tattoo right there, of her beloved's rune. Her way of reclaiming herself. On the other arm she had a more elaborate one: the Hale trisquele in black, with a silver moon, a ruby-red wolf-head and a golden human hand placed each beneath one of the swirls. The moon, the wolf and humanity, the pieces that made her who she was, all pulled together by the Hale symbol, because in the end it didn't matter how her name might change one day, didn't matter that she was purposefully choosing not to be part of the Hale pack, deep down, at her core, she would always be Letitia Maia Hale…

The melody reached a crescendo right then and Tish didn't even stop to think about it, she stood, letting her jacket fall on the bench and began moving across the stage as she continued singing:

"I was here

I lived, I loved

I was here

I did, I've done everything that I wanted

And it was more than I thought it would be

I wanna leave my mark so everyone will know"

"I was here

I lived (I lived), I loved

I was here

I did (I did), I've done

I was here

I lived (I lived), I loved (I loved)

I was here (oh)

I did, I've done

I was here"

For a couple of seconds there was nothing, not a word, you could hardly even hear the people in the auditorium breathing. And then, as if they'd all needed that long to make sure it was really over, the applause began, and then the cheering, and Tish was sure that had she been anyone else, had she been the slightest bit shy or self-conscious she might have fainted right then and there.

The rest of the ceremony didn't take long (not like she could have known, considering Tish missed her own and all that). But sooner than anyone could have expected they were left standing in the parking lot. They had plans for dinner, each little family on their own, as for some of them it'd be the last time in at least a while they'd be together, and they deserved to celebrate their children's graduation. They'd be leaving in the morning, everything was ready.

None of them were expecting it when Cora walked straight to them. The rest of the Hales were already inside their cars, except for Talia and Zach, standing beside theirs, watching them in silence, as if waiting for something:

"Cora, is everything alright?" Derek asked, worriedly.

He'd already congratulated his sister on her graduation, so he didn't understand what was going on. What happened next though… it was the kind of thing he wouldn't have expected even in his wildest dreams. As Cora stepped right in front of him, tilting her head to a side, using her hand to pull her hair away for good measure, baring her neck to him. It took all of Derek's strength of will not to let out a nonverbal yell at that, or flinch or… something.

"I, Cora Hale, daughter of Alpha Talia Hale, request admittance into the Luna Pack." She stated in a very formal tone.

The pack shifted, quickly and smoothly. Tish and Stiles flanking Derek and Stiles placing his hand in one of Derek's own, showing a united front, as well as how seriously they were taking Cora's petition:

"Are you sure about this Cora?" Derek asked very, very quietly.

"Very sure." Cora answered confidently. "I already talked about it with mom and dad, Laura knows too. This is my choice Der, I just hope you'll support it, support me."

"You know we're not staying here…" Stiles murmured, not wanting to dissuade her, but still.

For all answer Cora fished a folded piece of paper from the back pocket of her jeans and offered it to him. Stiles took it. It was an acceptance letter, for Boston University, specifically the College of Arts and Sciences. The fact that Cora had that acceptance letter, that she had even applied… it not only meant that her request wasn't a 'spur of the moment' reckless thing, it also meant that she had known, at least to some degree, that they were leaving, before even Talia did. She'd known and she'd planned for it.

Everyone could see (feel or smell) Cora's nervousness rising. She still hadn't shifted from her position, but she was losing her confidence. Before she could stand back, Derek finally pushed aside his prevailing insecurities and reacted. He didn't say a word, he just stepped forward, embraced his sister, and placed a kiss on the side of her neck, right on her pulse point.

"Welcome to the Luna Pack!" Stiles said cheerfully. "I hope you'll be happy with us."

"I know I will." Cora nodded, her certainty restored.

It was still a bit of a surprise when she turned around and began walking to her parents, giving just a few steps before looking over her shoulder back at them.

"Come on Derek, we're going for dinner and then for a run." She stated.

Derek blinked, as if not quite able to process the invitation. He wondered at it, then turned to look at Talia, and while she didn't say a word, the way she was looking at him, she was waiting too…

"And bring your mate too!" Cora added for good measure.

"Go," Tish told him before he could over-think it anymore. "Go, we'll see you in the morning."

Stiles took Derek's hand again, his silent way of showing support. And after a quick look at his dad (it wasn't an apology, it wasn't like they were saying goodbye, or anything, Noah would be going with them after all), they went.

xXx

Cora was greatly surprised when, instead of going straight to Boston, their whole group took a plane to New York, where they spent a night in Derek's and Tish's old apartment (the adults taking the bedrooms, while the teenagers camped out in the huge living room). Then they took their bags again and got on another plane, to Europe. They only really had clothes and essentials with them. Anything else regarding the move, they had hired a company to get their things to Boston, where they already had a fully furnished place (Loki, with all the trips he'd made to Midgard, had acquired some throughout the years; the apartment in NY was technically his, just like he also had a condo in San Francisco, a flat in London, a villa somewhere in Southern Italy, among a number of other properties). Tish was sure they were all going to flip when they saw it. Thus far it hadn't occurred to anyone, other than Noah, that it wouldn't be easy to have all of them living together. Tish herself didn't even know when her beloved had bought that place, or even why, but it was gorgeous.

"Where are we?" Cora asked when they got off the plane.

"Bucharest, Romania." Derek answered.

The surprise only grew (for most at least) when they found a small bus waiting for them outside the airport. A man inclining his head respectfully and calling him Mr. Hale.

And so the Luna Pack met the leaders of the loup-garou. Vivian, Aiden and Nadia had moved back to Bucharest after the passing of Vivian's aunt. Someone needed to handle the chocolate factory and store that had been in the family for generations, and Vivian knew how to do it. Also, by then she no longer feared that someone might turn on her, intending to usurp her position as alpha or hurt her human husband, or her hybrid daughter.

The teens were fascinated, the Hales were beyond shocked. Of course they knew about the loup-garou pack, but while there had been rumors about there being a young new alpha, a female one, who'd married a human and had a daughter with him, not many had believed them. Not when Gabriel had been in power for so long; and when never before had anyone in their pack mated with someone not a wolf. It had seemed impossible, until they met Vivian, until they saw her with Aiden, with Nadia.

They spent a month in Romania. Learning how to be a pack, even if they were a rather strange one (four born wolves -Fenrir counted-, a coyote, five bitten wolves, the legendary Luna, a Spark, two hunters, a banshee, a sorcerer, a warrior-lady, three hybrid children and a couple of other humans). Tish and Loki also finally tied the knot while there, in a ceremony that was a mix of hand-fasting, wolf-mating, and just enough of a civil ceremony to actually make it legal! More than once Melissa, Noah and even Chris couldn't help but wonder what exactly they'd gotten into; yet seeing their children together, so happy, they knew it had been the right decision.

It was also during their time there that Tish, Loki, Fenrir and Ylva finally came out to the family (they counted Vivian, Aiden and Nadia as such, even if they were a different pack). There were some shocked exclamations, disbelief, confusion, before Stiles and Lydia began asking all sorts of questions. Which only got all the more insane when 'Nightingale' was mentioned, and how true most of the story in the book was (all but the epilogue, really). Then there was also the shock they all felt at discovering that Tish was Maia Silva… all the girls loved her book, and Stiles too had read it (back when he'd thought all girls loved that sort of thing, and that if he read it, it might gain him some points or something) and liked it more than he'd dare admit.

Eventually the vacation had to end, and the pack got on a plane to New York, and from there to Boston where, just as expected, they all flipped the moment they saw their new home:

It was a compound in the outskirts of Boston. The main-house, which they expected would become the 'pack-house' was a five-floor building with 15 bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom (each couple would share, leaving Cora, Malia, Peter and Issac with their own rooms, and the triplets sharing one); and of course there were the common areas like living room, dining room, movie-room, kitchen, a solarium, several offices, half-bathrooms, a gym, a library, a second-floor terrace, a back-porch and a bare basement that could easily be made into a training room! On the back of the property was a sort-of guest-house with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and the basic common areas; there each of the adults that accompanied them would take one of the rooms, leaving the other one as a guestroom in case they ever had visits. The last building was a huge garage that could accommodate up to 10 cars (the movers had gotten Stiles's Jeep, Derek's Camaro, Jackson's Porsche, Lydia's Prius, Melissa's Honda, Chris's Rav4, Peter's Camry and Scott's bike to Boston). Finishing up were the Olympic sized pool and the huge garden that covered at least half the remaining yard between the buildings.

"How do you even own a place like this?" Noah just couldn't hold back his shock.

"Real estate is a good investment." Loki said in his most bland tone, and at the continued looks of disbelief from everyone, elaborated. "You know now who and what I am. Unlike most in Asgard, I've always been aware that humans weren't quite as primitive as most Aesir would choose to believe. I've always loved your world, the… chaos, suits me. At first it was easy enough to come and go, never actually spending the night. But time passes, things change. There were times when I made friends, wanted to stay longer, it was easier having somewhere to go than staying in a hotel all the time. At first I saw it as a necessary evil, until I realized how useful it could be. I have at least a dozen properties around the world. Also, keep in mind that I bought over half of them during times when things didn't cost what they do now. The first ones I didn't actually use any official currency to buy, but gold!"

"It doesn't feel right, taking advantage of your generosity like this." Melissa murmured.

"I bought this property shortly after the end of the civil war." Loki explained. "Its owner was an old widow who had lost her husband to sickness and all her sons to the war. She had neither the means nor the desire to handle the upkeep of a place as big as this, especially when it was only her left. I paid a fair price for it, and ensured she was well-cared for, for the rest of her life. She thought I was a deserter, seeking a place where to live with my new family. I never actually lived here but… I liked the place and it felt… right. Felt like one day I'd find a use for it. And I was right. Here we are now. Tell me, where else do you think we all would have managed to fit? Even the biggest manors in Boston don't have enough rooms for us, eight rooms at most, and nowhere near enough space for all the vehicles (and the ones that might yet come, Noah had left his patrol car behind of course, and he might at some point decide to acquire one for himself, so might one of the teens that didn't yet have a vehicle, or one of the Aesir).

They all adapted to their new lives easily enough. Noah joined the Boston PD, Melissa got a job as a nurse at the Massachusetts General Hospital; Chris got a job giving shooting lessons and conducting the tests for carrying-permits; Peter, for all intents and purposes, still had his own law-firm, he'd just had a change in address, he rented an office downtown and began working from there. Once the school-year started Lydia and Jackson began attending Harvard; Stiles, Cora and Malia went to Boston University; Allison to MIT, while Scott surprised everyone by getting a scholarship to study Nursing at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Issac too had gotten a scholarship, only for the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Erica and Boyd for their part would be taking some classes at the closest Community College, though weren't too interested in anything more formal than that. Finally, Derek had at last resigned from his old job in NY, but left in good enough terms to get a recommendation which helped him quickly find a new job with a local company, Loki became a private languages instructor, Fenrir a security guard in a bank, while Ylva chose to be a stay-at-home mom, at least until the triplets were older; Tish divided her time between traveling to New Hampshire to keep an eye on the shooting of the 4 part mini-series of Nightingale (at some point the producers found out she had a beautiful voice and somehow convinced her to sing the theme-song, they were convinced it'd add to the mystique of the show, especially since she had composed the song herself), and writing her next novel.

Said novel was called 'Blood and Chocolate' and it was, essentially, Vivian's story, focusing especially on her and Aiden's romance. Of course the names had been changed, and everything happened in a fictional city, in an unnamed country. She had their permission to do all that, and when the book was published and the time came for the first interviews, she openly spoke about her dear friends from Romania on whom the main characters of her novel had been based. How their love had inspired her. According to what Vivian told her the next time they skyped, the interview had gotten them a lot of new customers at the Chocolate Store, with many people curious about who could have inspired a story like 'Blood and Chocolate'. The best part was that even the loup-garou pack did not know how true or not it might be, as Tish had changed the things they'd know for certain just enough not to anger them, and no one alive other than Vivian and Aiden themselves would know the rest.

Because of how many universities and the like were in Boston and the surrounding area, there was no official pack in the area, the territory didn't really belong to anyone. Instead wolves and other supernaturals came and went as they chose, some alone, some in groups, and as long as no one caused trouble, they each kept to their own. The Lunas knew they were probably the biggest pack in the area, yet they followed the others' example and kept to themselves for the most part. It's not like they were interested in claiming a territory, all they wanted was to live their lives.

The happiest moment for the Luna Pack came perhaps when they got a new member. On the Spring Equinox, in 2014, Rose Alfdis Hale was born to Tish and Loki Hale (Loki had chosen to change his own name, rather than the other way around, knowing how important the Hale name was for those who had it).

Other things changed too in the ensuing years: Boyd and Erica got married, though they were choosing to wait a while before having children of their own; Stiles and Derek too got married, same as Lydia and Jackson, with Allison and Scott engaged and set to marry once they'd both graduated from College. Issac and Cora had an on-again, off-again kind of relationship that no one really understood but seemed to be working for them, so they said nothing about it, while Malia dated a few people, nothing truly serious; at least not until a new member joined their pack: Kira (a kitsune who ran away from her family after a huge fight with her mother, who had not told her daughter a word about their heritage until Kira had a rather 'explosive' revelation of her powers at age twenty). Melissa moved into Chris's room a couple of years into their lives in Boston; they weren't interested in marrying, but then again, marriage hadn't proven exactly satisfactory for them in the past, in the end, being together was more than enough. The part that shocked everyone the most was when Peter moved into the second house, and began spending a lot of time with Noah… they didn't seem to be interested in making anything official, but all those with supernatural senses knew there was something there, still, they were respectful enough of the two men's privacy not to say anything about it (Stiles had a small freak-out but in the end decided that Peter was a good man, and his dad deserved to be happy; both had loved their wives too much to ever consider finding another, but if what they had, whatever it might be, worked for them, then all was well).

The world seemed to go nuts in May of 2015 when, after a hell of a mess in London, it became widely known that Earth was far from the only planet with life, and humans far from the only sentient beings in the universe. Things had been messy enough since, with his announcement of 'I am Iron Man' back in 2010, Tony Stark had made the world open their eyes to the reality of super-heroes. Then had come the rising of mutants; in between some politicians attempting to pass a Registration Act, a black-ops team invading a mutant school/sanctuary, among other things, mutants had become known across the world, as had their two leaders, whom had allied in the name of their people: Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr or, as they were better known: Professor X and Magneto. And then there had been the huge green rage monster in Harlem, the return of Captain America, the appearance of Spider-Man, the Goblin, the Devil of Hell's Kitchen and so many others… the events of London had, in many ways, been the last straw.

Despite everything, Derek and Tish managed to keep their pack away from it all. While mutants, metas and various other gifted had become known, and there were even open whispers about magic-wielding humans, the packs were still secure in their obscurity. Tish and Loki, with Rose in tow, had gone to visit Thor, were there for his wedding to Lady Jane Foster, a human scientist whom he'd met during the Convergence, they were a match. Lady Frigg was saddened about Loki and his family refusing to stay in Asgard, but the pack were their family and they wouldn't desert them. Not for anything.

And life moved on. Stiles and the rest graduated, most of them managing to be among the best in their graduating class. Scott and Allison married and had a daughter whom they named Victoria (Vika for short); Erica and Boyd had a son they called Aaron; Cora and Issac finally settled down and married, right in time for their own son: Zach, to be born; Malia and Kira were mated even if not married (and she'd finally called her parents, though she refused to go back to them after all the lies). Lydia for her part discovered that she could have no children, and while a part of her grieved, another thought it might be for the best, not wanting to force any daughter of hers to deal with the voices of the dead the way she had to (the pack anchored her, and Stiles's quite powerful magic protected her from the worst of it, but she was still a banshee and had to deal with it, with the voices and the screams). Jackson promised her that they'd adopt, once they were both ready for it, they'd find the right child and adopt, Lydia agreed. Stiles and Derek had considered it themselves, but in the end decided they were happy enough being uncles and godfathers to the rest of the children on the pack (a part of them, of Derek especially, was afraid of making the same mistake her mother had made, and putting the pack before any child of his or, in an attempt of avoiding that, end up doing the opposite and ruining things anyway).

SHIELD had been very interested in some of them, like Stiles, who absorbed knowledge related to mythology, history, folklore and the occult like no one else; or Lydia, who was a genius in Chemistry and had been getting medals and plaudits since before she even got her bachelors! Jackson might not have been as well-known, but the fact that he'd gone straight from Harvard Law to being Peter Hale's associate, even turning down offers from some of the best buffets in the country, called a hell of a lot of attention in certain circles. Then SHIELD crashed and burned in a most epic fashion, and while that didn't really touch them, Noah noticed when a couple of cops got arrested unexpectedly and the FBI dropped by to conduct an investigation. He kept his head down and made sure not to call attention on himself or the pack, but saw enough to realize things were much bigger than an internal conflict (then again, considering the kind of things SHIELD had done, it would have been foolish to expect any problem of theirs to be small).

'Blood and Chocolate' got made into a movie (it was decided that, with the story being somewhat simpler than Nightingale's, they didn't need more than that to tell it). Tish enjoyed it, and enjoyed even more when they decided to film it in Romania, a few scenes even in Vivian's and Aiden's Chocolate Store, which gave them even more publicity. Naida had even become a little actress, for a single scene, acting the part of Ninian (the name she'd given Vivian in the novel). A while later, after much consideration, and even a few arguments with a few others, Tish finally wrote and published her third and final novel (final because, according to her, she had no more stories that needed to be told). It was called 'Moonlight'. Most of it was actually a romantic fantasy based on the legend of the Luna she knew, but with very little of reality. Though in the end she was convinced to add an epilogue with vague references to the idea of a new Luna rising in the present/future, being a symbol not just for one pack but all packs. She hadn't been too sure of that last one, but Stiles managed to convince her:

"One day the world will know about us, all of us." Stiles told her one day, very seriously. "It may not be today, or tomorrow, or at any point this year, but it will definitely happen one day. It's part of that mantra, remember? Of the trisquele. 'Three things cannot be hidden: the sun, the moon, the truth…' The truth will come out one day. And would you rather people discover wolves and compare them to the bloodthirsty creatures in all those teen-horror movies? Or worse, the lovesick puppies from some cartoons? Or would you rather influence at least a few people into seeing them as the strong, powerful, gallant, honorable beings they are?"

"I wouldn't call dad exactly gallant…" Tish drawled.

Stiles snorted, but he knew that the message had been received. The book was published.

Great was the surprise the pack felt the first time newcomers approached one of them simply to introduce themselves. It wasn't the last. Like Noah taught Stiles: once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern… and that same thing happened far more than thrice. It was until one of the small, local packs (who lived there, and had been for longer than them) visited, that they finally got their explanation:

"You're the most powerful pack any of us has seen… well, basically ever." Alpha Rowles told them. "And you have the Luna…" She bowed her head respectfully at Tish. "There are those who believe that the Luna only appears when times of great change are coming. The last time it was the establishment of the official territories and packs, back before the United States was even a country! A Luna appearing now? It means something is coming, something big. And the fact that she's surrounded herself with such a pack…"

"What is that supposed to mean?" Scott asked, he could tell she meant no insult, but he grew tired of having to defend his marriage just because his wife was an Argent! And he'd chosen to take her name and give it to their daughter so the name would be carried on (not like he cared that much for the McCall name, or the one who'd given it to him…).

"Nothing bad I assure you, it's just…" Rowles made a pause, as if trying to find the right words. "I know you think you're absolutely unique, and in many ways you are, but you're not the first. There hadn't been a pack that held weres of different species, magicals, hunters and even other supernaturals, in over a thousand years, but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened before. Seeing it happen again… it makes me happy, and it gives me hope."

They'd eventually learn that Alpha Rowles was a retired social worker, she'd several children, all adopted, and not all of them were weres, or even supernatural in any way. It was one of the reasons why her pack had never been too important. She wasn't a particularly powerful alpha, and half of her pack weren't actually weres. Not many took her seriously (which was just fine with her, it meant it was less likely that they'd be attacked).

"I thought Boston wasn't considered a territory." Stiles murmured.

"Not quite." Rowles shook her head. "Big cities aren't considered as 'territories', because you're unlikely to find a pack willing to establish themselves there, to truly tie themselves to that land. Wolves, and most were creatures need more freedom and peace than any big city could offer. Also, it can be hell on the senses unless you have impeccable control… or very little power."

In which case they wouldn't be able to tie themselves to the land… that part went unsaid but it was obvious enough to most of the pack.

"So what, the packs who've come, they think this is our territory? They want us to make it our territory?" Lydia was trying to understand.

It was particularly important that she did, seeing how she was the Luna Pack Emissary… it was something they'd all debated long and hard about. Unlike what some had come to believe, due to Deaton, the Emissary didn't need to be independent of the pack; however, he or she did need to be capable of being reasonable and objective. Which automatically disqualified Stiles, as Alpha-mate, he couldn't be either of those; also, an Emissary could be expected to travel to meet other packs at times, something that would be too dangerous for the alpha-mate to do (and would drive the alpha crazy), which was probably the more important reason. The latter was the same reason why Tish wasn't an option; while she wasn't an alpha-mate, being a Luna made her one of the leaders of their pack too (also, her match being who he was meant that they might need to leave abruptly one day, and she didn't want to leave her pack without such an important member as an Emissary). With Stiles and Tish out of the run, Lydia had volunteered. She was part of the pack, she'd trained enough, both in her banshee-powers and in combat that she could protect herself, and she was capable of a little magic (just enough to help protect herself even more).

"Oh my dear… this is already your territory." Rowles told her in a motherly, though not condescending, tone. "The land knows you and it has accepted you. We can all feel it. It's why they come to you. It's only proper, after all, for newcomers to introduce themselves to the local Alphas and recognize their authority."

And that was that. The pack never set out to make Boston and its vicinity into their territory, it just kinda happened. And yet it was something they took very seriously. After learning the truth from Rowles, and confirming it with a little magic, they set out to learning more about their new territory, securing it as much as possible, and letting all supernaturals in it know they were there in case they were ever needed. Even if not planned, they were going to do things right.

Chapter Text

Black Moon

Even when Unseen, the Moon is always there, ready, watching, guarding…

The first (attempt at an) alien invasion happened on late spring of 2023, Tish was 32 years old, Derek 33, with Stiles and his generation being 28 or thereabout; of the younger generation, the triplets were 10½, Rosie had recently turned nine, Aaron was about to turn seven, while Vika and Zach weren't even five yet. Lydia and Jackson were in talks with the St. Agnes Orphanage to adopt a child, Amelia Rowles had put them in touch with a nun who knew about the existence of the supernatural so she could direct them to children who were more likely to adapt to the pack. Malia and Kira were considering in-vitro, sperm donors, to have children of their own, at least one each, but hadn't made up their minds yet. They'd all long since settled into their pack, their territory, their lives.

The Rowles pack had just been the first to present their respect to them. Other packs that lived in Boston, and later on Massachusetts in general had done the same, and while they remained their own packs, they also saw the Luna pack as their superiors (Derek couldn't help but think that they were ever so slowly becoming like an American equivalent of Vivian's pack, and it made him a bit hysterical to think so, not sure that they, that he, was ready for that).

And then aliens became a thing. The first attack wasn't that bad, aside from giving a hell of a scare to people all around the world. The fight had been contained and won in a matter of hours. The real trouble came when people realized that, that invasion, it was only the beginning.

Eighteen months, and almost half a dozen attacks later it became obvious that they'd been dealing with either scouts, or small teams thus far, the brunt of it, the full army, was much, much bigger, and still on its way. By then though the governments of the world hadn't been idle. The US, the UK, Russia, China, Japan and a few others had prepared systems that would enable them to fire their best weapons at the invading force before they got past the moon. Wakanda and SI had gone into a never-before-seen and completely unexpected alliance as they worked on finding the best way to shield the planet itself from as much of the enemy force as they could; and if that failed, specific cities where the civilians would be taking refuge, combining the Wakandan's vibranium and Stark's arc-reactor technology. And if that weren't shocking enough, the magicals had stepped forward next: lead by the Sorcerer Supreme of the Mystic Order: Stephen Strange (former neurosurgeon, and Helena's husband and match), the eldest of the three most powerful white witches: Piper Halliwell, and one of the members of the triumvirate that lead the Secret Circle, and from there a number of other covens: Cassie Blake-Conant, better known as Muse. They all promised to do their best to aid in the defense of their world.

The Luna Pack wasn't idle then. Stiles and Lydia had worked with all the emissaries and magic-users in the area to try and shield as much of it as they could. At some point though, they had to make a choice, they could either focus on creating the most powerful wards they could (the kind of wards that would require all of them working together, none of them moving from their positions, and might kill them if held too long), or just do their best to protect as many as they could, and go out themselves and fight, hoping they'd be able to survive the battle, and take down the enemy before too many innocents died. Neither option was exactly what any of them would call stellar, and then Cora spoke up:

"We cannot do this alone…" She whispered, so very, very quietly.

The thought was in everyone's heads, had been almost from the moment it became obvious that the chitauri would never stop trying, never stop attacking, not until they were all gone, or the humans were defeated.

"I mean, we're incredibly powerful, yes." Cora went on. "Especially Stiles, and Loki and Tish can do things I have trouble wrapping my head around sometimes… but we're still just one pack. We cannot protect the whole world."

"No, we cannot." Stiles agreed soberly, turning to his mate and husband.

Not a word was spoken, they didn't need to, they both knew what needed to be done.

The Summit was arranged for the night after the Wolf Moon. The place chosen to have it was the Olympic National Park. There were many Indian Reservations in the State of Washington, especially in the Northwestern quarter. A number of them had weres as part of their tribes; and while they were separate packs (as they were separate tribes) they had an alliance that meant they all saw one particular pack as the superior one. That was the Quileute tribe, and its alpha pair were Jacob Smith and Leah Johnson. They were unlike any alpha pair before them, because they each had been born to lead their respective packs, yet they'd fallen in love and chosen to marry; it was the reason why they'd been chosen to not just lead their packs, but the territory as a whole. And the reason why, once the leaders of the most prominent packs agreed on a Summit, they were requested to be the hosts.

Derek could remember a time when his mother was spoken of like that, there was a reason she'd been asked to host the Summit the last time one had taken place. Back then it had been about a possible peace treaty with the hunters (which Gerard Argent had purposefully ruined, and then the mess with Ennis and… everything else had taken place). They all knew what the latest one was about, the alien invasions, the coming threat; though, while Derek, Stiles and Lydia had gotten the 'ball rolling', they weren't claiming any kind of leadership or particular power. It wasn't about power for them, it was about the survival of those they loved…

Because it was a summit of leaders, and because there was no way they could leave the territory unprotected, the pack took a few days to decide who all would go. Loki had long since promised Thor that if the Mad Titan ever made an appearance, he and his match would be there in seconds to help; otherwise, he'd be staying with the pack. Thor agreed. He knew that the pack was as important to his little brother as the Avengers were to Thor himself. And it wasn't like they wouldn't all be fighting the same enemy. In the end Derek, Stiles, Tish, Loki, Lydia and Jackson were the ones who went as Alpha pair, Luna, Mage, Emissary and Negotiator of the Pack; while Scott and Peter were left in charge of the rest (them being the right and left hands; second in command and enforcer of the pack).

Derek and his pack were among the last to arrive to the camping grounds where the summit was taking place. Lydia took point, as was expected of an Emissary:

"Greetings, and may the moon bless us tonight." She spoke one of the ceremonial phrases she and Stiles had researched. "I am Lydia Martin-Whittemore, Emissary of the Luna Pack from Boston, and this is my mate and the Negotiator for the Luna Pack: Jackson Whittemore."

"May the moon always watch over you and your pack." The Emissary that received them seemed honestly shocked by the use of the ceremonial phrase, but responded accordingly. "And be welcome to this Summit. I am Lulu Begaye, Emissary in charge of this Summit."

"Our alpha pair." Lydia continued the introductions. "Derek Hale and Stiles Stilinski-Hale; our Luna: Letitia Hale, and her match and our Mage: Luke Hale."

Lulu blinked again and Lydia knew why. It wasn't exactly normal to have two males leading a pack. Not that there was anything wrong with it but she knew that alphas had a drive for pack, and part of it focused on reproduction. In a pinch, turning others would do, but in most packs, blood helped tie the betas tighter to their alpha. Of course, they weren't exactly a normal pack, but they'd already known that.

"No heirs?" That was the other part that surprised Lulu.

"The children are too young yet." Stiles offered.

"And we've decided that, once they're old enough, it will be up to them who will inherit the title of alpha of our pack." Derek added for good measure. "All will be treated equally until then. And if some tragedy were to befall me and my mate before them, my second would take over. He is even now in charge, back in Boston."

That was another abnormality, he knew, not many alphas would trust their second in command to truly be in charge, out of fear of being betrayed. Most of the alphas present there would have either left their mates or their heirs in charge, or given percentages of power to several betas to ensure that none had enough power to overthrow them in their absence.

The Summit began as the moon rose. With their pack being still so young, so new, the Lunas did not have anywhere near the power or influence to present their case, to speak up without being asked. But Rosie had promised them they would have their chance. Rosie was a very gifted girl, unlike either her parents, or her older sister she wasn't a spellweaver; she was a precog. She was not all-seeing, but then again, she wasn't even ten yet! Sometimes she had dreams, or waking-visions, sometimes she just knew things. She told them they'd see friends and family in the summit (probably the Hales), that they'd have to defend their pack and their choices more than once, but it'd be worth it; and the more important part, that they'd have their chance to make their case (which was the whole reason they moved to have the summit in the first place!).

Important news were shared by the most important packs, some old alliances renewed, and as night settled food was brought out and shared among all. A moment came when the whole thing seemed like some huge party where everyone sought to make contacts, little groups having each their own conversations. Tish had been to a hell of a lot of those as Maia Silva. Especially with all the prizes first the 'Nightingale' miniseries and later on the 'Blood and Chocolate' movie had earned (they were still debating regarding 'Moonlight', as she had two separate offers, from good Directors and Producers, one for a series, and the other for a movie, she wasn't quite sure there was enough material for a full-length series, but the one wanting a movie didn't have a concrete enough proposal for her tastes).

In any case, that was how an alpha from Texas: Billy Carson, ended approaching them.

"The Luna pack, huh?" He asked, looking at them all up and down. "Never heard the name. Never knew Boston to be a claimed territory either."

"Hadn't been claimed before us." Lydia said with a shrug, carefully toeing the line between being respectful of the alpha for his position, and letting her displeasure, and the fact that he wasn't her alpha, show. "Boston is our territory now."

"Now Hale, that's a name I do know." He went on, seemingly ignoring Lydia completely, he turned to Loki. "Had never heard of you, though. Whose son are you?"

"I'm not Hale by birth, Alpha Carson." Loki told him evenly.

"I am." Tish stepped forward. "Letitia Maia Hale, Peter Hale is my father."

"You're human." Carson blurted out, like he couldn't quite believe it.

"Was born human." Tish corrected him calmly. "Nowadays I'm the Luna of my pack."

"That's a myth!" Carson's mate, Adele Carson snorted.

Tish said nothing, there was no point; they'd see the truth eventually, or they wouldn't. It was the same to her in the end.

"You're the wolf-daughter turned huntress…" Another hissed.

Lunas and the Carsons all turned to her. Tish recognized her, her name was Satomi Ito. She was an alpha, the one closest to the Hale pack. In fact, for all intents and purposes, she lived in their territory, but had an independent pack, all who recognized the Hales as above them, but not directly pack (kind of how some had begun treating Derek and the Lunas recently).

"I'm the girl willing to do anything and everything to protect her pack, her family." Tish stated in a strong voice, not lowering her head an inch.

"Spoken like a true pack-member, and a true Luna…" A new voice stated.

The eyes of everyone in the camp turned in the direction of the voice instantly:

"Aiden! Vivian!" Stiles exclaimed, being the first to recognize not just the brunette man standing right there, but also the blonde woman by his side.

"Excuse me, who are you?" The young Emissary of the Willowbrook pack blurted out in shock.

"I am Vivian Galvin, Alpha of the Loup-garou pack in Europe, beside me is my husband and mate: Aiden Galvin." Vivian introduced the both of them calmly. "You'll forgive us I hope for the late hour and the lack of an Emissary, our pack hasn't had anyone who held that position in many generations, and the one person I'd have offered the post to seems to have had a better offer." She winked at Tish briefly. "I hope we're not too late."

"Be welcome to this summit Alpha Galvin." Emissary Lulu greeted her. "And our apologies for lack of a better reception, we were unaware that you were coming."

"It was a rather last minute decision." Vivian admitted calmly. "We didn't want to be seen as trying to influence the American packs. We have no intention to take territory here. Europe is quite enough for our pack. But family asked us to come as a favor, so here we are."

"Family?" Someone in the crowd asked, intrigued.

"Derek Hale, Stiles Stilinski-Hale, Letitia Hale and their pack are all considered family by us." Aiden explained with a smile. "Especially Vivian and I."

Everyone understood what that meant. They considered the Luna pack as good as their own, even if with their own authority and on an entirely different territory. And just like that, suddenly Derek's pack had power they hadn't just an hour earlier.

"We wish to bring something to the attention of those at this Summit." Derek spoke up when he finally had the chance. "We are all aware of what's happening. The forces that threaten us all in this world. Not just us as packs, but all who live on this planet. We know war is coming, and I'm sure we all know we'll have to fight in it. That cannot be avoided. The question is whether we'll fight the coming war from the shadows, like children who are slipping where they know they ought not to, or criminals doing wrong; or if we'll step out into the light, as the proud, powerful and honorable warriors we're meant to be?"

It was a simple question, at least to him and his pack, it should have had a simple answer… they still spent the rest of the night discussing it. As the hour grew late, Alpha Leah proposed that those who wanted offered their opinion, and they would submit it all to a vote afterwards. Few alphas chose to speak up, but those who did had rather predictable arguments. From the long years of traditions, of being in the shadow, in secrecy, to the concerns of safety for their packs, for civilians, the possibilities of rejection. The real surprise came when Talia Hale chose to speak:

"We've all heard the phrase 'adapt or die', sounds simple enough. And yet, how many of us have truly practiced those words? Not many. We hear them, we claim to agree, and then we continue to rule our lives by precepts laid down thousands of years ago by our ancestors. They were good rules once, they served the alphas and packs before us well, but the times have changed, in ways both seen and unseen; and unless we do the same, the time will come when we'll be left behind. We're seeing it right now. The mutants, the metas, the inhumans, the magic-wielders; tribes upon tribes of 'Others' that used to live in the shadows the same as us, who have stepped into the light, have chosen to show the world who they are, and have aligned themselves as protectors of this planet, of both their own, and the rest of humanity. Will we be like them? Will we stand tall and proud, side by side, be as Mother Moon intended us to be; or will we remain in the shadows, cowering, hiding?"

Just like that, everything changed. The challenge had been thrown. A challenge that wouldn't, couldn't be ignored. In the end, the words weren't that different from the ones being said by Derek, but the fact of who'd said them: Talia Hale, the Alpha of one of the biggest and most respected packs in the States, with connections to the loup-garou pack (which was the oldest, biggest and strongest pack in the world), that made all the difference. It was something that rankled the Lunas, just a bit; but they understood the necessity of putting aside their pride. As long as their objective was achieved, who cared who really made things change?

Several decisions were made that night, simple and to the point: they'd all join the battle closest to their territory when the time came, they'd do so openly; they'd seek to protect their territories, not just their packs, but all who lived in them, human and were, and whoever else; finally, the proposed the Luna pack be considered their connection to the rest of the world.

"Are we now all supposed to be Emissaries then?" Stiles asked Derek, not quite grasping what it was supposed to mean.

"Of a sort." Derek agreed.

"It's for the best." Lydia offered. "We've been told, repeatedly, that we're a rather unique and unorthodox pack. That puts us in the best position to speak not just for weres, but also for hunters, magicals, and many others. It will also allow us to understand humans better than most other packs would."

She didn't mention the fact that aside from Aiden, there was no other 'pure human' present (none of the Emissaries were wolves, but those who weren't other supernatural beings like her, were at least magicals, like Stiles, Tish and Loki, so not purely human in the end). Aiden really was the sole exception, and the fact that he stood there, right beside Vivian, as her mate, her equal… it said a lot to every wolf present.

"We'll make it work out." Tish agreed.

So it was decided. A part of Stiles still thought the whole thing was insane, for them to have the responsibility of being the face of the 'werewolf nation' before humans and others… it was a daunting prospect. But then again, none of them had ever been the kind to back down from a challenge, it was part of what made them exactly who they were. It was what had allowed Tish to kill Ennis, to survive his bite, to become a huntress, it had allowed Derek to grow, to become an alpha, had allowed every single member of the pack to become the best they could be, to become the kind of person they truly wanted to be (personally, professionally, and in the pack). Who knew? Perhaps the world they left their children might be better than the one they lived in.

At sunrise some of the local wolves revived the bonfires, while others got some coffee and tea done, enough for everyone. The Emissaries returning from wherever they'd gone (probably a bakery nearby) with baskets full of bread, enough to offer breakfast to everyone. It was simple fare, but quite tasty and everyone enjoyed it while small conversations began taking place here and there. Much like how the night had begun, except for how the matters had been resolved.

Not everyone noticed it at first. While the Luna pack had certainly gained notoriety during the course of the night, especially due to their connections to both the Hale and the Loup-garou packs. Most of those who looked at Letitia still saw her as simply a hybrid, a human capable of magic, not many believed that she could truly be the legendary Luna because she wasn't a wolf… and then she began singing… Tish herself didn't even notice she was doing it, singing was just the way she let out her emotions when she was having trouble handling them, and with all that had happened… From the moment the Summit was proposed, she'd been on edge, not entirely surprising, considering how the last summit had ended with Ennis attacking her, Derek and Paige. It wasn't that she feared another attack (and even if there had been one, Tish knew she could take care of herself, they all could); she had just been stressed out, worried about the way the other packs would react to theirs. She knew that many had a hard time dealing with her own oddities, with the idea that they had a banshee, a kitsune, magicals and humans in their pack, that Jackson had been a kanima, nevermind the Argents, or the fact that Derek's own second, Scott, had chosen to take the Argent name, and give it to his daughter to carry on! But things had gone well, better even than she'd imagined when first setting out to Washington. She could finally relax… but to do that, first she needed to let it all out. All her stress, her nervousness, her fear, all her courage, her defiance, her loyalty, her love… and what better way to do that than singing?

"Out of the shade

Out of the shadows

Out of the haze

I'm comin' out of"

"Out of the ashes I rise

You can run but you can't hide

Breath on your skin, I've arrived"

"Here I am

Here I am"

Derek and Stiles were the first to turn their attention to Tish (aside from Loki, but as he was, as always, by his match's side, that was to be expected). They loved hearing Tish sing, and while the song in that moment might be very different, it didn't lessen their enjoyment any. They were so focused on that that they didn't notice Talia approaching, until she began talking to them:

"I always thought she'd be the Hale Emissary one day." The Hale Alpha said, apropos of nothing.

"What?" Stiles asked the question running through both their minds, as Derek was too shocked, trying to wrap his head around the words.

"She would be the Emissary, closer to us than Deaton could ever be, a part of our pack. And you would be the Negotiator, or perhaps Laura's second in command." Talia went on. "It would have suited you well."

"It would never have worked." Derek shook his head quietly. "Laura… she would have needed to trust us for that to work, and she never did. Not me, and certainly not Tish. The first time either of us disagreed with her course of action would have ended in bloodshed."

Talia didn't even try to disagree with him. That was perhaps the most shocking part. It hit Stiles then, the fact that the Alpha was no longer trying to deny the truth, or disguise it as anything other than what it was. Something had happened, something that made her see the whole truth, finally.

"I am untamed

You cannot fathom

Get in my way

lethal assassin"

"I bring the pain

You can't imagine

Nothing but flames

This is what happens"

"Out of the ashes I rise

You can run but you can't hide

Breath on your skin, I've arrived

Here I am"

"It took me a very long time to understand where I went wrong." Talia admitted soberly. "Peter wasn't exactly wrong when he compared me to our father. But you see, I'm older than I look. I was raised in a different way, in a different time. We weres, we live longer than humans, it's one of the reasons why I never promoted mating with humans unless they took the bite beforehand. Though I've no doubt that you have considered this already, found a way to make it work."

They had, Stiles was powerful, incredibly so, and with the Ancient Vows… he and Derek would be together, in life and death.

"My father was a good Alpha." Talia went on. "His word was law in our pack. Those that went against that law… well, it's no secret what happened to Maia, Thomas, Matt, Kendra and Joshua. That Peter was the only one to come back from Mexico. And back then the focus was on the fact that they went against their alpha's orders, that was what got them killed."

Instead of focusing on the fact that Alpha Hale turned his back on his allies, and when some of his children chose otherwise, chose to be loyal, to be brave, it cost them their lives.

"I was raised to believe that the word of an Alpha was law." Talia continued. "An Alpha made the decisions that needed to be made, both easy and hard, for the best of their pack. The Betas were to follow the law, not question it. Peter was always questioning everything, but aside from the battle in Mexico, he never did go against the orders, so it was easy to put up with that. An alpha gave orders, and there was no need for him or her to explain their reasons. The Betas were just supposed to follow. So I chose Peter as my left-hand, knowing he was the right person for the job, yet it never occurred to me to explain what led me to that choice. That it was his being a good fighter, and not his blue eyes that made me choose him. I saw my pack following my orders and thought it was enough. Rumors were just useless words, why should I pay any attention to them? They changed nothing in the end… they changed everything, but I was too blind to see."

Stiles exhaled, closing his eyes briefly, he could see with almost painful clarity where it was all going. By the way his mate held on tighter onto their clasped hands, it was clear so did he.

"Here I am

A force to be reckoned with

A blade you been messin' with

Ooh"

"Here I am

A game you won't ever win

It's your grave, hear it beckoning'

Ooh

Here I am"

"Oooh here I am,

Oooh here I am, here I am

Oooh

Oooh here I am"

"You were so young, you know?" Talia murmured very quietly. "Just sixteen years old, Letitia was even younger than that. I thought there was time… Time to get the two of you trained. Time for Laura to mature and learn to work with you. Time for our pack to become all it could be… I failed to see that age is just a number and that the two of you were already more than I ever expected you to be. You became your own people and I wasn't there to see it… I found it all too convenient. All the time you spent with Peter. You were learning things from him, good things, you got along so well with Letitia… and that gave me the chance to watch over your siblings and to continue Laura's training. I didn't realize how I was losing you little by little." She made a pause before adding. "Zachery told me, about your hesitation regarding us being family. I thought he had to be mistaken, how could you not know we're family? But I suppose I didn't do even that right… for me pack has always been family. It's all I've known, but I know that's not how Peter did it with his daughters, or with you, or even Cora."

"We didn't leave because we didn't love you." Derek murmured, not knowing how to better explain all the things going through his mind.

"No, you left because you loved something, or rather someone, else more." Talia replied calmly, she turned a bit towards Stiles. "I never expected you, you know? Your friends were one thing. Wolves and hunters I could understand, much as I thought it was all insane. But you… you were human, and you didn't even have Letitia's excuse to be involved with everything. You were human and yet you had all the loyalty and courage and stubbornness of a wolf… I suppose Peter and the rest of you were right when you said I didn't know how to deal with bitten wolves and humans in my pack. And yet… I don't think I can regret it."

That definitely made both young adults turn their whole attention to her. Tish's song had come to an end, she and Loki were already quite close to them, obviously hearing everything, and they were just as shocked by Talia's last words.

"I know what you've done, what you've become in the last twelve years." Talia explained. "You wouldn't have managed even half of that, had you stayed in Beacon Hills, had you remained a part of my pack. You've become exactly what and who you were meant to be. And I find I cannot regret that, no matter how it might have come about. I just hope you might be willing to see us, to see me, as family again."

"You've always been family mom…" Derek assured her after a moment of pause.

Talia's smile at those words (and Zach's, as he'd been standing a few yards away all along, close enough to be a silent support, but not so much to interrupt) was almost blinding. It seemed there might be some hope for their extended family after all.

Tish said nothing at all, she just ran the few yards keeping her away, threw her arms around her aunt's neck and embraced her with all the strength her (mostly) human body was capable of; like she never had before (like she'd always secretly dreamed of…).

xXx

The next battle happened before the end of the month. As planned, the packs fought directly, in full view of all; as expected, representatives from various intelligence agencies sought them out in the days following the fight; and also as planned, all sent the various men and women the same way: to the Luna Pack in Boston, Massachusetts.

Peter and Jackson were the ones who ended dealing with them first, which was no surprise, as they were the members of the pack easiest to find. With Scott and Melissa working different shifts at the hospital, Stiles and Noah at the Boston PD, Chris at the shooting range, Fenrir at the bank, Ylva as counselor at the school, Loki going to different places for his private classes, and the rest of them mostly working from home. The law-firm offices were the easiest place, public, but with less people than any of the others, easily found, and it wasn't just the two of them, as Malia was an accountant, Kira their secretary and Cora sometimes did work for them as an IT (she was freelance).

"I am Phil Coulson, from SHIELD, I'd like to talk to someone from the Luna Pack?" From his tone it was obvious he had no idea about the supernatural, as he hesitated about using the term pack, unsure if it was right.

Peter turned to look at Jackson. Lydia and him were the ones meant to deal with outsiders, and Lydia in that moment would be in her lab, working on some crazy experiment the rest of the pack would rather not know about. The kind of things she did for the most part tended to go right over their heads, Stiles being the only one capable of following her line of thought, and even then only 90% of the time. And ever since Stiles and Derek had made her her own lab in the basement of the garage (with enough spells to ensure if anything went wrong there would be no casualties) Lydia loved getting lost in her own little projects.

"I am Jackson Whittemore, Negotiator for the Luna Pack." The young man stated with all the strength and confidence he was capable of. "Who pointed you our way exactly?"

"Who didn't?" A second voice scoffed, a young woman who entered the office behind Coulson. "Darcy Lewis-Coulson, also from SHIELD. And every single… person? Wolf? Werewolf? In this continent who participated in the last skirmish and we asked about their involvement directed us this way, your way, so… yeah, here we are. Hoping you'll be able to give some answers because I've hacked things to kingdom come and the answers I get just keep getting crazier and…"

She trailed off as Malia broke into giggles.

"Mal?" Kira asked, confused about her mate's reaction.

"She's babbling more than Stiles!" Malia exclaimed before giggling again. "I didn't even think such a thing was possible!"

Even Jackson snorted at that.

After the laughter subsided, and making sure they had no appointments for the rest of the day, they all picked their things and closed the office. It was until they began climbing onto their cars that the agents seemed to realize it wasn't just the two lawyers, but the gals were part of it as well. The agents were in a red convertible and followed the cars of the others, all the way to the compound, which had Darcy whistling in appreciation.

"Now these are some digs." She blurted out. "You must have a hell of a lot of money."

"That, and a need to find a place that can fit twenty-eight people." Peter answered calmly. "Probably more soon."

Having finally attained her life-long goal of earning a Fields Medal, Lydia was happy and felt ready to take a step back, to dedicate herself a little more to family, so she and Jackson had been working towards that. They'd just been approved as foster-parents before the summit and were set to begin meeting potential children soon. And of course, there were Malia and Kira's own plans for having children.

"Twenty-eight people?!" Darcy was shocked.

"Packs like living together." Malia explained with a shrug. "It's not easy in a city. But this place worked well for all of us."

"Though if we keep growing we'll have to either build an extension to the house, or find another place that's really close." Kira added thoughtfully.

She knew most would prefer the first option. While there were certainly a lot of them, and they knew humans would have begun feeling trapped a while ago, they were a pack, being together most of the time made them both stronger and happier. And it wasn't like they didn't take the time for themselves, or for the smaller family units inside the pack, as needed. They all took separate vacations once a year, if only for a few days. Things worked well for them.

Jackson and Peter lead the group onto the second floor of the garage. The whole room had nothing but mats on the floor, some blankets and pillows piled in the corners. It worked well for meeting with other packs, and it'd serve them well with outsiders too.

"These are Phil Coulson and Darcy Lewis-Coulson, from SHIELD." Jackson informed the Alpha pair. "They were directed here by the rest of the packs."

"So, you really are a pack then?" Darcy asked, really curious.

"We really are a pack." Stiles answered easily. "Werewolves."

"That's impossible." Phil shook his head. "Werewolves aren't real."

"You deal with mutants, sorcerers and even aliens, but werewolves are too much for you?" Loki couldn't help but scoff.

Beside him Tish raised a hand to her mouth to try and stifle her giggles (with little success).

"Hey!" Darcy cried out unexpectedly. "I've seen you before!"

"I hoped you'd remember me Miss Lewis… though I suppose it's Mrs. Coulson now." Loki's face showed a chesire grin as he spoke.

"Lokes!" Darcy cried out excitedly. "What are you doing here man?"

"I live here." Loki answered simply enough. "This is my family, my pack."

It hit Phil then, as his eyes widened:

"How much does Thor know? Dr. Foster? The Avengers?" Phil asked.

The pack weren't sure if the part that unsettled him the most was that he hadn't known that weres existed, or that others he knew had, and hadn't shared that information with him.

"Thor knows things, he's my brother after all." Loki replied. "Nothing about pack secrets, but enough. Same with regards to Jane, and their kids. The Avengers know nothing. We have met a couple of them at different times, but for the most part our lives and theirs do not really intersect. We are from different worlds, pun entirely intended."

Most of the pack chuckled at the comment, knowing the double meaning to it (after all, if someone came from a different world, it was him; and Fenrir and Ylva).

In the end the meeting with SHIELD went well, better than any of them could have expected. The agents had some trouble wrapping their heads around the whole idea of the supernatural. And when the pack actually went and introduced themselves, revealing there weren't just wolves, but coyote, kitsune, banshee, spark, hunters… it was a hell of a shock. Also, the disbelieving look Darcy threw them all when Scott introduced himself and his wife, followed by a little history on the Argents told them what she thought about that.

"So, you'll fight to protect your territories." Phil summarized at the end.

"We will." Derek confirmed. "Most of us cannot really do much more than that. And if you have any questions, or you require anything from the packs, you are to come to us. Or the loup-garou if it concerns Europe. The rest of the packs will not speak with you directly."

"Something you need to understand is that until now, until this very day, the packs have existed in the shadows." Stiles did his best to explain that part. "There was safety in secrecy. A balance between wolves, hunters and other supernaturals. And it was safer for everyone involved if the average humans did not know about us. But just like other beings, like mutants, and metas and inhumans, couldn't remain in hiding forever, we knew the same was true for us. Unlike some of them, we decided we'd rather the revelation of our existence happen in our own terms." He looked straight at the Director. "We're not your enemies Director Coulson. Not yours, or SHIELD's, or the humans' in general. We follow the Codes: 'We hunt those who hunt us' and 'We protect those who cannot protect themselves'. The chitauri are enemies to us all, they've hunted us, so we hunt them. Humans, civilians, cannot protect themselves, so we'll protect them. That's it. We have no interest in power, no interest in war, not on starting any, or in fighting yours. For us it's all about protection."

The Codes… the original Hunter Code, and the one Allison had proposed after most of her family broke the first one so spectacularly… one that had become the code of their little pack, even before they'd become the Luna Pack… the rules they all lived by.

Phil could respect that. He also knew that a lot of what he and Darcy had just heard would be kept between the two of them, no reports written, no registries made. As much as they might be trying their best to make their new SHIELD one that was better than the last one, there were still things they thought should be protected. The Luna pack, and the other packs, they were doing a lot to help, Phil wouldn't pay them back by putting them under scrutiny, especially of people who wouldn't understand individuals having the kind of power they did and not seeking to use it. The last thing they needed was a repeat of the mess with the mutants and Kelly's Registration Act. While it had never happened, tensions had gotten really bad for a while there. A repeat with another supernatural minority, one that could be compared with wolves… Phil had once thought that nothing could be worse than Magneto on a rampage, he was no longer so sure. While Derek Hale and Stiles Stilinski-Hale had been perfectly amicable, he couldn't help but feel the undercurrent of 'you mess with us and you'll pay'. Also, he was sure that the Codes they lived by could quite easily be used against SHIELD, and anyone, if they gave them a reason.

"That was awesome…" Darcy murmured with a grin as they were leaving. "Freaking scary, but also awesome, you know?"

He did know, so he nodded.

"You know." His wife murmured, voice suddenly quiet as they began driving away. "This is perhaps the first time since the first attack happened that I actually believe we might win this war in the end. I… I don't even know why I feel like this, why now, I just… I do."

Phil wasn't sure what to say to that. Truth was that he'd been so busy trying to wrap his head around everything they'd learned since arriving to the compound, that he hadn't stopped to think about the implications all their new information had with the war against the Mad Titan and his forces as a whole. And yet, after hearing his beloved say those words he couldn't help but feel the exact same way. And just like her, he hadn't the slightest idea why… it was as if some kind of external force had put the idea into his head, the belief that everything would be alright now, somehow… weres couldn't do that, could they? (No they couldn't, but a little Goddess of Chaos and Faith just might…).

xXx

The news came at the beginning of June, delivered by Helena herself. NASA had detected the bulk of Thanos's army, they'd reach the Earth before the end of the month; the Mad Titan itself was with them, which meant that the next battle would the biggest… and the last. On the positive side, the Mystic Order had found a way to mix the astral shield they created through the Sanctum Sanctorums with what Stark and Wakanda were working on to create a global shield. It wouldn't be complete, but it didn't need to be. The plan was to use it to force Thanos to lead the attack to a specific location, where all those who could be gathered to fight him would go. The most important part perhaps was that the shield would only hold for twelve hours.

"It would be different if they were using a portal or something." Helena explained. "Then they'd be coming at the planet from a specific point. But that's not the case right now. They'll be right there, beyond our atmosphere. And I've no doubt that they'll do their best to bring down the shield. As it is it will take Stephen's whole Order and myself to keep the shield up that long without one or more of us ending up dead… or worse."

And that was certainly saying something. While most of the pack had only met her briefly, they knew that being Loki's daughter, she had to be really powerful. It put into perspective how much power the Mad Titan must have.

Tish and Loki knew why a portal wasn't being used. In some ways it was their fault. Back in 2011 they had been in Arizona for a book presentation in one of the Barnes & Noble, when Loki sensed the Tesseract. It had been kind of an abrupt decision. Him slipping into that SHIELD base and 'relieving them' of the Cube. Loki had made sure to place it in a very secure, very secret pocket dimension. They had no doubt that if the Tesseract had stayed where it was, with the SHIELD scientists playing with it so irresponsibly, sooner or later the Cube would have activated and… the results wouldn't have been good. Really, things had been insane enough when the Aether was activated. They'd retrieved that one too but, sadly, not before the mess had happened (when Loki heard how close his mother was to death… he'd almost snapped).

"So, let me see if I understand this correctly." Stiles spoke up. "The alien war to end all alien wars, at least on this planet, will be taking place before the month ends. The sorcerers have gotten us a huge boon, ensuring the enemy will attack a specific place. Which means that unlike all the fights in the past, this battle will be fought in only one front… we also need to end it before twelve hours have passed."

"Basically it's do or die." Peter quipped with a half-maniac grin.

"And we're so bad at dying…" Jackson said in a drawl.

"I will tell Uncle Thor you'll be there, then?" Helena asked.

She was looking at her dad, but he wasn't the only one who answered her, the whole pack did:

"Oh, we will."

xXx

The Luna Pack made a striking picture as they crossed the portal a sorceress from the NY Sanctum: Sachiko Mordo, had created for them, and straight onto the open area behind a mostly abandoned SHIELD facility somewhere in northern Arizona. Stiles and Derek were at the front, walking together, side by side; Lydia and Jackson on their left, Tish and Loki on their right; on a second sort-of line were Scott and Allison, flanked by Erica and Boyd on one side, and Fenrir and Ylva on the other; the third line held Cora, Issac, Malia, Kira, Peter, Noah, Chris and Melissa in a loser formation (the children were back in the compound, being looked after by Alpha Rowles for the time being).

They were all dressed in their preferred clothes for fighting, topped by leather jackets (they had become kind of their signature; even if the styles varied some). Some were a bit more shocking than others: like Ylva with her pale-blue battle dress underneath her somewhat short leather jacket… or Lydia's own choice of short dress, leggings and knee-high boots with a knee-length leather jacket (the jacket was, in fact, longer than the dress). There were also those that shocked others most due to their weapons: Allison being the most obvious: with the bow on her back, along with a quiver of arrows (spelled so she'd never run out of arrows), collapsible crossbow on her hip and over a dozen knives strapped to her person; Noah and Chris had a couple of handguns each, with Noah also carrying a military-grade sniper rifle and Chris a belt with grenades and other nasty surprises (it wasn't easy, to get used to ammo that hadn't been specifically prepared to fight werewolves or other supernaturals, but they managed in the end). The rest weren't quite as obvious, either because their only weapons were the teeth and claws of their wolves, or because they kept their weapons better concealed, either inside their clothes, or by magic.

"Who the hell are you all?" Tony Stark demanded, loudly.

"Really dude?" Stiles couldn't help but blurt out. "We come here to help save your asses and that's what you say to us?"

There were quite a few chuckles, especially from his pack, then again, they knew Stiles. Lydia threw a glare at him, but the force of it was lessened with the hint of a smirk dancing on her lips.

"Save us?!" Stark snorted, loudly.

"We're the Luna pack." Lydia announced strongly. "We were called here."

"Called? By who?" Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton asked practically in unison.

"Brother!" Thor's exclamation seemed to call right on cue as he rushed to Loki and embraced him tightly.

"Brother?!" Several of the Avengers and their companions called at the same time.

"Really Thor?" Loki chastised him. "You didn't tell your comrades that we were coming? What if one or more of them had arrived as wolves? If one of them had so much as thought about taking a shot, about attacking them in any way… you know exactly what would have happened!"

Yes, he did, basically because it had already happened. The first time Thor had dropped by for a visit in Boston he'd done so unannounced and, coincidentally, on a night of a full moon. He'd found Loki and Tish surrounded by rough-housing wolves, saw them as a threat and thought he ought to get involved. He'd thrown one of them (Jackson as it turned out), next thing he knew bottles were being thrown at him, breaking on impact and there was fire all over him. Being Aesir the first few didn't do much. But the last one had been a special potion Lydia had been working on… it was probably a good thing that Loki stopped laughing like crazy and finally intervened before the purple fire that came from that did more than burn part of Thor's red cape and sing his arm and hair a little.

Thor cringed at the memory. And he had no idea that his brother's pack had become much stronger and fearsome in the years since then.

"The kids?" He asked quietly at some point.

"Back home." Allison answered stoically. "A battlefield is no place for them, they aren't even teenagers yet. It's one thing for them to know the realities of the world we live in, and what we do… but they will not be getting involved in any fights before they're off-age unless it's over our dead bodies!"

It was the balance they'd all decided on. Allison didn't want to raise the children in lies and secrets, the way she'd been raised; but at the same time she understood her parents' desire to keep her away from the dark things in the world when she was still a child. So they'd all come to an agreement. The kids all knew the truth, had always known it. They'd been trained since a young age, but always in things they liked, in ways that allowed them to have fun, so they'd never see it as an obligation, or something to endure. Once they were fifteen or sixteen each of the young ones would decide whether they wanted to be fully trained to do the kind of thing their parents did, or just enough to be able to protect themselves in case of an emergency. And they wouldn't get involved in any of it at all before they were at the very least eighteen, unless it was a matter of life or death!

It began shortly before dawn. A shrill alarm coming from several devices woke up everyone in the camp. The Mad Titan's army had just passed moon orbit. The army would be landing soon. That also meant that the shield would be rising before that could happen.

"We'll be fighting in the day…" Scott muttered as he slipped off his jacket and kicked off his shoes, ending in simple maroon track pants and a white wife-beater.

"Actually, the moon is rising right about now." Allison pointed out as she pulled her long black braid into a bun at the nape of her neck.

"Yeah, but it being the new moon will not help us." Jackson muttered.

"Oh Jackson, Jackson…" Tish murmured, almost singsonged with a little smile. "Haven't you learned yet? Even when you cannot see it, even when it's not shining, the moon is always there, watching, guarding…"

As she spoke, Tish's eyes began glowing, and it didn't stop there. Suddenly her whole body seemed to gain some kind of aura. She'd already taken off her own leather jacket, and even the ¾ sleeved blue top she favored, leaving her in a black tank, charcoal-gray pants and calf-high boots. All the Avengers though were left shocked when they noticed the tattoos on her arms and the scars on one of her arms and the back of a shoulder. It only got better when they saw her pull a bow and a quiver of arrows seemingly out of nowhere, followed by at least a dozen of knives which she proceeded to strap to her person.

They were distracted from asking any questions when Derek stole all attention as he kicked off his shoes and took off not just his jacket but his shirt as well, leaving his top-half bare. Peter of course couldn't be left behind and did the same. Stiles and Noah just rolled their eyes at all the eyes that suddenly couldn't seem to leave their mates' bodies. It's not like they were being exhibitionists, not really, both Derek and Peter were planning on using the alpha-form, and it was better to take off what clothes would end up shredded otherwise.

They all took off their jackets before the fight began. Really, much as they might love them, they weren't the best thing to be wearing in the middle of a fight for their lives, they tended to be a bit restrictive and in a fight to the death everything counted.

Noah, Chris and Allison went with Hawkeye and the Winter Soldier, who seemed to be the long-distance fighters from the Avengers and managed to find the best spot for each of them.

"Shouldn't your other friend be joining us?" Clint asked the hunters as he'd noticed Tish's own bow on her back.

"No, she fights with Loki." Allison said simply.

Melissa for her part took off her thin jacket (thinner than anyone else's) and changed it for a lab-coat before heading for one of the few agents she knew: Phil.

"Hey, I'm a fairly good shot, all things told, but I'm also a nurse." She informed him. "And I have a feeling that you're going to need a nurse more than you're going to need another gun so. Where should I go?"

"You're right, we could use help in the infirmary." Phil began leading her to a tent. "Here we have Dr. Palmer, she's from Metro General in NY and volunteered to help us today. Same with Dr. Murphy from San Jose Hospital in California. Agents Tripplet and FitzSimmons aren't exactly medical personnel, but they have training and wanted to help here. Aside from them we have a handful of nurses helping us, but that's it."

Two doctors, three agents with medical training and less than six nurses… Melissa could have cried. While it was true that most of the fighters were superhuman in one way or another… if things went bad, they wouldn't be able to handle it on their own.

"So, you're a nurse?" Dr. Palmer inquired. "I'm Christine Palmer."

"Melissa McCall." She answered promptly. "And yes, fifteen years working as nurse at Beacon Hills Memorial and a further twelve at Massachusetts General, where I'm head nurse. I also know how to treat werewolves."

"Anyone else from your group know anything about healing?" One of the nurses inquired, voice brimming with curiosity.

"My son is a nurse as well as a paramedic." Because Scott had graduated as a nurse, but in the end decided his wolf gave him an edge and he'd be able to help more people as a paramedic so he got certified and ended working as that. His boss knew too, being married to a witch had the man in the know and that had helped a few times. "Aside from that, Chris and Allison both know first-aid, Noah was a certified paramedic back in Beacon Hills, and while his license might not be current, he still knows what to do; Lydia knows how to treat weres, but not humans, same as Ylva, and Tish is a healer."

"Wow… that's… that's good." Christine decided. "Once the fight is over some like Dr. Banner, Dr. Grey and Dr. McCoy might be able to help us… your team… pack, pack is the right term, right? You're quite well rounded."

"Before this war happened, and the decision was made of revealing the existence of the weres to the world we existed in the shadows." Melissa tried her best to explain. "We all needed to be able to survive without outside help for the most part. Couldn't exactly go to a hospital and then try to explain to a doctor why his patient was vomiting black blood, or why he was healing too fast, or a myriad of other things that may happen when the supernatural is involved."

"If you don't mind my asking, how did you get involved ma'am?" Jemma FitzSimmons inquired, her boundless curiosity there for all to see.

"My son was bitten by a rogue were, along with several of his friends." Melissa explained as best she could. "Eventually they were all taken in by Derek and Tish, who taught them about being wolves, being pack. It took almost a whole year, but they grew and matured and became their own pack. And when they decided they could no longer stay in Beacon Hills, Noah, Chris and I chose to follow them to Boston. Make new lives there."

"It must not have been easy." Leo FitzSimmons (Jemma's husband) commented.

"No, it wasn't." Melissa admitted. "But Scott is my son, he was all I had, back then, before Chris and I became a thing. With him gone I'd have had nothing left. That's basically the same reason why Noah and Chris did the same. Our children were all we had. And the pack… we might be human, but we're also pack, and we like it. We're family, maybe not the most conventional one, but that's what we are."

"I think it's awesome." Jemma decided.

She and her husband, they knew all about unconventional families, they were part of one after all. And after all the shit they'd been through since their team had first been formed, and especially since the… rather explosive fall of SHIELD back in 2016… both FitzSimmons were sure they wouldn't have survived if they hadn't had each other.

The battle started with a bang… literally. Those with any kind of magic at all (which included the weres) could see the hole in the sky, the point where the slightly-shimmery film ended. They could see the chitauri pouring through it like water through a faucet. The moment two of the leviathans got down low enough chitauri came pouring off them. Meanwhile all the fighters waited by the buildings, waited until there were enough enemies on the ground and then…

There was a screech, an inhuman wail… All eyes turned to the redhead in the dress and leggings, her hair seemed to almost be shining. Her scream was enough to take down several of the fliers, and even one of the leviathans lost control. And right as she began swaying from all the energy she'd expelled in that one attack, she slipped a hand onto her belt and pressed a button there. And then there was the bang (or more like a boom), as one of her special cocktails, which had been carefully hidden in the rocky ground, exploded, kick-starting a domino reaction that saw nearly a dozen similar explosions. Several dozen chitauri and one leviathan fell, dead, from her attack a second leviathan badly burnt, easy pickings for the fighters.

"Now that's a hell of an opening move." Stark commented through the comms. "Lets go guys!"

"Avengers Assemble!" Captain America called what was the usual battle cry for the team.

The leaders of the other important teams, like the X-Men, the Justice League and the Fantastic Four, did basically the same before throwing themselves into the fight. And soon the whole place had become a battlefield.

There were a few moments during the battle that would end up burned behind the retinas of those who witnessed them. Like the moment when Fenrir shifted into a huge wolf, bigger than a horse, and Ylva jumped onto his back, stiletto daggers held carefully between her fingers, and the two together began taking down chitauri like they were nothing. Or when one of the big-ass bipedal wolves, Peter, went down on one knee as one of the chitauri damaged his leg, but no aliens managed to take advantage of it as suddenly they all began falling to very accurate shots, all coming from the rooftop of one of the nearby buildings. The other wolf, Derek, had it worse, he got skewered by one of the chitauri at that point, and what came out of his husband's throat… it was the closest a human could get to howling, and enough to chill any human's blood in their veins; especially when the young man then went at the chitauri with a blade in each hand and wild abandon, performing a dance of death like none any of the others had seen before, even the Black Widow couldn't help but admire his skill and determination (and sheer viciousness).

There was also the moment where Tony Stark decided that Jonah was a good inspiration and flew straight into one of the leviathans to take it down from the inside. Or when the two leaders of the Mutant Community: Professor X and Magneto, synced and together brought down three leviathans before the power became too much and they were forced to stop (both with blood running down their noses and the Professor half-limp on his wheelchair, while Magneto was holding onto him in order to stay up). Wolverine was so lucky he was basically immortal, with the way several chitauri tore into him; and while he didn't actually die, his heart did stop for a handful of seconds, which was enough to send his mate: Rogue, into a feral frenzy that had her turning her own blades on anything that moved (which was why the rest of their team made a point of keeping away until the two recovered).

Allison cursed, loudly and colorfully as her bow broke when one of the chitauri got dangerously close and she was forced to use it as a blunt weapon. Clint, who was posted on the same rooftop as her and had been resting a bit (he'd shot so many arrows his fingers were beginning to go numb and he'd no idea how the young woman could handle it).

"You should head inside, away from the battle, since you're done." Clint told her calmly.

"Who says I'm done?" Allison asked, a hint of challenge in her eyes.

Then she turned towards the fight and howled. It was something the rest had to get used to quickly, as everyone in the pack seemed to use howls as signals of some sort, and not just the wolves. They had no idea what each different howl meant, but the pack clearly did. For right then there was an answer to Allison's.

"Don't worry about me." She told Clint before she climbed onto the ledge of the rooftop and then jumped off.

Clint couldn't help himself, he ran to the edge of the roof, a non-verbal exclamation escaping him. They were five floors off the ground, the highest building closest to the thick of the battle, the woman was going to end up dead… the Avenger made it to the edge in time to see one of the wolves (not one of the huge ones, he in fact was just like a slightly bigger, way hairier man with fangs and claws) somersault off a long abandoned car, onto a second-floor windowsill, and then into the air, where he caught the falling Allison and threw her onto his back just before landing on a half-destroyed brick fence.

Scott put Allison down the moment they were back on the ground and she smiled at him toothily before snapping her one-handed crossbow open and beginning to shoot bolts at the incoming chitauri. Each having been treated with the worst, strongest poisons known to man, and with magic to ensure one would be enough to kill the chitauri no matter where she hit it. When the fight got too close-quarters for that she pulled out her Chinese ring knives (they were her favorite) and began fighting with those, never going too far from her mate. The two of them fighting back to back in a way only mated pairs could. Always perfectly aware of the other, never interfering but always guarding each other's backs.

"Are they altogether human?" One of the agents blurted out at some point.

"No, they aren't." Phil shook his head even as he kept shooting his gun. "I think that's precisely the point, agent."

Yes it was, they'd all seen the young adults as they divested themselves of clothes in one way or another. All had seen the scars, some more noticeable than others. Like the huge bite on the back of Letitia Hale's shoulder. Some were so bad even Phil with all his experience had no idea how the pack had survived some of those…

"The Mad Titan is on the ground!" Darcy announced all of a sudden. "I repeat. The Mad Titan is on the ground!"

"This is it…" It was hard to tell who all said that, they were certainly all thinking it.

The battle had reached its most crucial point; either they won, or everyone died.

Things got really insane, really fast. With bolts and knives and bullets and energy blasts flying every which way; blades and claws and all kinds of weapons clashing together. There was blood, so much blood everywhere…

Letitia was the one who seemed to be shocking everyone the most. First because she hadn't stopped glowing throughout the whole battle. And second because she never stopped moving. She fought side by side with her husband, her mate, same as most of the pack did. Only she was a mix of weapons and magic. She always had a blade in hand and either used them in close combat or threw them depending of what was necessary; and with the other hand she kept throwing magic around: shields, blasts, sometimes just telekinetically moving things around.

And then it happened, the tide changed. There was another wail, only it wasn't like the first one the redhead, Lydia (the Banshee) had let out, the one she'd used to attack the first line of chitauri and to activate all those cocktails of hers (and some agents actually wondered how she managed to keep so many glass phials on her and not burn herself because the girl just kept pulling more and more from pockets of her jacket and throwing them like little homemade bombs and grenades, whenever she wasn't sending energy out of her hands or shooting her own crossbow). No, that wail was darker, harder…

"STILES!" The roar came from Derek, and it was followed by a deep howl, which was echoed by every single member of the pack.

All eyes turned in that direction, and they could see it, Stiles's broken body, laying at Thanos's feet. Derek was at his side, completely ignoring his own broken arm as he did his best to hold his mate against him, not caring in the slightest about the monster standing practically above them.

Thor reacted automatically, using Mjolnir to push Thanos back, Loki joining in to help, giving the pack the chance to join their alphas; though both brothers knew they'd only be able to do so much. The Mad Titan was extremely powerful, and the battle had already lasted so long… they were tiring incredibly fast.

"Stiles… don't leave me…" Derek cried, holding his beloved tight against him.

"Mischief…" Tish dropped to her knees before Derek, not knowing what else to do.

Jackson was there, with Lydia in his arms, just seconds later. She was crying, but even that didn't stop her from getting as close as she could without encroaching on the others.

"He's… he's dead…" She sobbed. "He's dead but… but I can still hear him."

"What?!" All eyes turned to her instantly.

"A banshee doesn't just wail, she's a bridge between the living and the dead." Allison murmured.

"Stiles says he isn't dead, not completely, not yet." Lydia's next words definitely had everyone in the pack paying attention.

"But… how?" Derek couldn't quite believe it.

His husband's heart wasn't beating, he knew that because he couldn't hear it, couldn't hear him breathing either, then how?

"It's because of you." Tish made the connection. "You insisted on using the Ancient Vows when you mated, remember? Well, you're bound, till the last star falls out of the sky, as the saying goes. That also means that, at least for now, you're keeping him tethered." Her voice turned even quieter as she confessed: "It's how I survived Ennis's bite. Even if Loki and I hadn't met yet in this life, we were still a match. And him still being alive allowed me to hold on, gave me the will to fight and find my way back."

"We still have a limited time." Scott offered. "An average of 4 to 6 minutes before his brain cells begin to die for lack of blood-flow."

"And why aren't we reviving him now?" Allison demanded.

"Because Stiles has a plan." Lydia informed them. "If it works, we'll defeat Thanos."

"And if it doesn't?" Malia really didn't like the current odds.

"We all die." Lydia answered grimly.

Really, no different from what they'd been a few minutes, or a few hours, earlier.

"So… what's the plan?" Scott asked, straightening up, he was the second after all.

"Stiles says Buffy 2-14… what the hell is that supposed to mean?" Lydia asked, turning to Stiles's limp body as if looking for an answer there, and she seemed to get one, one that disgusted her. "Ew! Stiles!"

"Hey, I remember that episode!" Cora cried out. "It's the one with the Judge, right? The blue ugly guy that supposedly couldn't be killed. Had to be torn into pieces…"

"If it couldn't be killed then how…?" Kira clearly wasn't a Buffy fan, didn't understand the point of the conversation. Weren't they trying to save the world?

"Well, Buffy used a rocket-launcher which, when it exploded, tore him into pieces." Issac offered while scratching the back of his head.

"We don't exactly have a rocket-launcher lying around!" Jackson growled.

"Nor do we need one." Lydia and Allison said at the same time.

"Erica, Boyd, Kira, Malia, Issac, Cora, stay here and protect Derek and Stiles's body." Lydia ordered. "The rest, follow me. We have a freaky alien to tear into pieces."

"How are we going to do this exactly?" Scott asked even as he followed.

"Tish and I will immobilize him for as long as we can." Lydia informed them. "The slicing and dicing will be up to you."

"Think the kanima venom will help?" Jackson suggested unexpectedly.

"No idea." His mate answered honestly. "It certainly cannot hurt."

Jackson nodded and took a deep breath, focusing on shifting in just the right way to have access to the venom… it wasn't an easy thing to do.

Tish warned her match of what was coming just in time for him to take Thor and teleport away, a fraction of a second before it all began. Lydia stopped a few feet away from Thanos, as close as she dared get, braced herself, took a deep breath, raised her hands, palms open and then screamed as loud and as strongly as she possibly could, focusing her energy into her mouth and both of her hands. Tish teleported just at the exact moment to land on the other side of Thanos, using her magic to reflect the banshee scream back at the Mad Titan, trapping him inside the loop of sound and magic. Also, unknown to all but Lydia who could still hear him (and, to a degree, Tish and Loki, who could sense the magic) Stiles took the third position, around the Titan and just let himself believe…

Thanos roared in fury when he found himself trapped. But as hard as he tried, it was like trying to move through jello (not that he'd have actually known what that was like). Which was only made worse when Jackson jumped on him and injected as much venom as he could into the Titan, as fast as possible; mentally thanking the fact that Lydia being his mate meant that her scream didn't hurt him at all.

"Now!" Jackson yelled even as he jumped off the Titan. "I don't know how long they can keep him immobile!"

Peter was the first to get on with the program as he howled, loudly, and went at the Titan with his claws, leaving a deep gouge in the being's back.

"Forget about injuring him, tear him into pieces!" Scott ordered.

"How are they even managing this?" Captain America asked, absolutely shocked.

"Lydia's scream, reflected by Tish, and they both have Stiles's backing." Chris summarized, he might have still been on the rooftop, but he knew all that was going on, they all did.

"Isn't Stiles well… dead?" Stark asked, trying and failing to find a more tactful way to say it.

"Yes, and no." Erica said, even as she kept fighting the chitauri that dare try and get close to her alphas. "Stiles and Derek are bound in ways you cannot begin to comprehend. As long as Derek is alive, Stiles is tethered to life."

"Also, we need to be careful with the time." Boyd reminded everyone.

"Which is why you all need to hurry and finish this!" Scott yelled.

It had taken him and Allison working together, with claws and knives, to cut off one of the Titan's arms. On the opposite side, and thanks to his own alpha powers Peter had managed the same all on his own. It was a gruesome job, but it was necessary, so they did it. Iron Man got into it too then, using his best lasers to cut off a limb, while Thor dealt with another. Fenrir for his part had no compunction about biting off a head.

"Oh, this is gross!" Someone cried out in the distance.

Then Loki proceeded to conjure several chests and placed each severed member inside one. Which he then proceeded to seal with the strongest spells he could think of.

Lydia's scream changed pitch right about then, just for a second, before she called out:

"STILES!"

Everyone was on the move instantly. Jackson caught his mate when she collapsed, while Tish teleported back to Derek's and Stiles's sides, placing her hands over Stiles's limp body and pushing as much of her healing magic into him as she could. She hadn't healed him before because apparently Stiles needed to be dead in order to really be able to use his magic and help Lydia hold Thanos in place (she had no idea what kind of fucked up logic that was, and would rather not know). They had passed the four minutes, the six minutes, and were dangerously close to ten! And she was not going to lose Mischief! She might not have been able to do anything for Claudia other than ensure the cancer wouldn't make her lose her mind, make her forget everyone she loved, but she could definitely do something for Stiles!

"Call to him Derek…" Tish whispered even as she kept pouring magic into him. "Feel for the bond and call him back to you…"

It was insane, pushing so much magic into him, insane and dangerous. She had already exhausted herself physically, and while her injuries weren't that bad (a few cuts and a lot of bruises for the most part), her energy levels were so low she knew she was going to crash any moment.

No one seemed to breathe for the longest time, not until a pair of amber eyes snapped open abruptly, immediately searching a pair of blue-green ones.

"Love you…" Was the first thing Stiles whispered, voice a bit hoarse.

"Never… never do that to me again!" Derek practically growled, burying his face in his mate's neck, scenting him. "Do you hear me? Never!"

"I hear you Der…" Stiles whispered, holding him as tight as he could. "Never."

"Love you too…" Derek eventually whispered.

It was also about then that everyone noticed the battle was well and truly over, the remaining chitauri having fallen at some point, like puppets with their strings cut. It was done, they'd won.

Tish smiled, inhaling and feeling as if all the love and the happiness filled her lungs, her heart… then her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she collapsed. Stiles and Derek reacting just in the nick of time to catch her.

On the other side of the battlefield Loki dropped seemingly without reason. Thor barely noticing in time to keep his brother from hitting the gory ground.

"What the hell just happened?!" Clint demanded, clearly not liking not knowing.

"They're drained." Thor said calmly. "My brother and sister have used too much energy helping us win this battle, and ensuring their pack-mate lived."

"What are we going to do with those?" Black Widow asked, not daring to get too close to the six chests that held Thanos's body parts.

"We will split them up, hide them away, as far apart as possible." Phil Coulson announced. "And the least people who know where any of them are, the better."

"And then?" Stark asked, managing to sound like a spoiled child.

"Then we go back to our homes, to live our lives." Noah said with a small smile.

It was hard not to be happy. They'd won against all odds. His son and son-in-law were both alright, even when for a few minutes there it had seemed like he might lose them both. Peter too was just fine, as well as the rest of the pack. A few injuries, but nothing worse than any previous fight. They'd probably rest for a while, wait for Loki, Tish and Lydia to wake up and then they'd be finding their way back home… he could do with a bit of their boring routines…

"Live our lives… that sounds really nice." More than one person agreed with that.

And really, the pack had arrived to things late. They couldn't begin to imagine what the Avengers and the others must have felt. Having been at war almost two years, never knowing how it might go, always fearing that the day might come when they'd lose…

"Very nice." Noah just smiled as he heard Peter suddenly beside him. "How do you feel about taking a long relaxing vacation? Perhaps on an island in the Caribbean?"

"That sounds perfect." Noah agreed wholeheartedly.

He had some vacations days pending… or he could always retire. He'd never considered it before, as he wasn't sure what he'd do if he wasn't a sheriff/cop… but it's not like he needed to do it, to work, and going on vacation with Peter sounded really nice right about then…

"I think we all deserve a vacation." Scott decided.

The rest of the pack just nodded their agreement. Most of them were covered in blood, a few in gore… their injuries though were healing (not quite as fast as they had been, what with it being the new moon, and their Luna being unconscious and drained, but it'd be alright), so that was good. They had no idea how long it might take for Lydia, Tish and Loki to wake up, but Melissa had already confirmed they were just sleeping, so there was nothing to really worry about. They could finally relax…

xXx

It was dawn of the next day when they were all recovered enough to come together. Sachiko Mordo had dropped by with food enough for everyone, and reporting that everything had gone well with the sorcerers. The Sorcerer Supreme and his match joining them for the breakfast itself (which gave another surprise to the Avengers and SHIELD Agents as they learned the wife in question was Loki's eldest daughter).

It got even more interesting when they didn't arrive alone, eight children were with them.

"Are you babysitting or something?" Clint Barton asked, more than a little surprised.

Helena just laughed, at the same time as the children ran to their parents. Leaving all the heroes and agents present even more confused.

"Rosie called me." Helena explained with a shrug. "Said they needed to be here."

"And you, what? You brought a bunch of children here because a child asked you to?" Natasha Romanoff was clearly having trouble wrapping her head around that one.

"Rosie is a precog." Helena said simply. "If she said they had to be here they had to."

Before anyone else could ask or complain, or anything else, there was a rush of wind and suddenly Pietro was there, standing less than five feet away from Tish, Loki and Rosie, and looking at them… or no, not them, at the girl, like she was the sun, the moon and every single star in the sky… Tish understood it in an instant.

"She's your mate… your match…" She whispered in fascination.

The pack's eyes widened, but neither of them said a word. Just waiting.

"I… I've dreamed about you, been waiting for you, searching for you my whole life…" Pietro whispered, so very softly, as he went on one knee before the eleven-year-old girl.

"I know." Rosie said simply. "I've been waiting. You're almost late."

The pack actually laughed at that. Only Rosie Hale could have a man over twice her age, looking at her like that, and treat it as if it was a perfectly normal occurrence; beyond that.

"What does that mean?" Phil asked, intrigued.

"It means they're soulmates." Loki answered calmly. "Rosie has known about Pietro since she first woke up as a precog, when she was five. And from the sound of it, Pietro has known about her too. They're destined."

"Isn't that…" Jean Grey was clearly having trouble grasping it. "Well, isn't she a bit young for a husband and all that?"

"Who said anything about a husband?" Allison scoffed. "Not at all."

"Not yet." Lydia agreed.

"Tell me something Dr. Grey, how old were you when you met your husband?" Loki asked her quite unexpectedly.

"Fifteen, maybe sixteen?" Jean asked, confused. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Did you look at him and think, I'm going to marry this man, this boy, one day?" Loki asked.

"Of course not!" Jean was horrified by the idea. "I was a child!"

"Exactly." Tish agreed. "Rosie is too young right now to think about having a husband, about being married. Right now when she thinks about love, it's all about family, about friends. That's what Pietro is to her right now. He'll be a dear friend, family, pack… they'll be close, learn to trust each other. And one day, when they're both ready… It'll be up to them, of course. Being a match means that they're connected, but in the end it's always up to them."

In the end none of the others insisted, it was clear they didn't understand. Rosie sat beside her parents on the nest of blankets and cushions where the pack had settled, the children having long since joined their parents. Pietro taking a seat beside her, with Wanda and Vision on his other side. It was then the conversation finally turned to other topics, like the pack:

"How did we not know about you all?" Tony Stark wanted to know. "Before all this, I mean."

Surprisingly enough, it wasn't anyone from the pack who answered that, but one of Phil's team: Daisy Johnson (adopted daughter of Phil Coulson, wife of Agent Grant Johnson, and who was both a high-ranked Agent of SHIELD, as well as the Queen of the Inhumans, known by the codename of Quake).

"For the same reason you didn't know about mutants, or inhumans, or any other gifted." She said serenely. "This world is rarely kind to those who're different from the norm. Many tend to fear that which is different, and what they fear…"

"They seek to destroy." Phil finished for her. "Which becomes really problematic when the people doing that are those in positions of power."

"Cuba, 1963…" Professor X and Magneto spoke at the same time.

"The Cuban Missile Crisis?" Several asked, confused.

"Oh… a lot more was going on back then than just a mere 'crisis'." Mystique scoffed.

"A mutant called Sebastian Shaw wanted nuclear war, believing for some insane reason that it'd destroy humans and leave only mutants." Charles Xavier explained. "Absolutely ridiculous, but then again, the man was beyond demented. He manipulated powerful men in both the US and Russia towards that goal. Erik, Raven and I… we got involved with the CIA. It's a bit of a long story but the short of it is that we recruited a team of young mutants to fight Shaw. We lost people along the way, and the last fight took place in a Cuban beach, while the Russian and American fleets held their standoff. We managed to defeat Shaw, and when it should all have ended…"

"The humans turned against us." Erik Lehnsherr finished for him. "They, who'd been enemies just minutes earlier, suddenly allied and turned their weapons against us. It did not end well. Not for any of us."

No, it did not, it had been the beginning of a decades-long enmity between a group that had been a team… a family. No one really knew what had brought them together again exactly, none but Charles and Erik themselves, and perhaps Raven. Though the whole mutant Community was thankful that they had. For together those two could and had achieved things that had seemed impossible while apart. It was thanks to them that mutants had gained rights equal to those of baseline humans. And that had paved the way for the inhumans, metas, and all other gifted to get the same as well.

"It hasn't gone well in the past, when humans would find out about the supernatural." Derek explained. "For the longest time it was easier to exist in the shadows. Easier for everyone." He made a pause before adding. "We're a bit of an odd pack actually. Most packs are all wolves, or all whatever-specific-animal they might be. They might have a few humans, and magic users, but such packs are rare. Many see humans either as weak, or a vulnerable point in the pack. And we… we have wolves, a coyote, a fox, a banshee, magic-users, hunters, humans…" He chuckled. "Most packs don't understand how we work at all."

"Sounds much like us actually." Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, commented with a smile.

That really made the Avengers smile.

"There's one thing that really bothers me." Darcy said seriously, looking straight at Derek and Stiles. "Why did you wait so long to heal him?"

"Because I needed to be mostly dead in order to be able to use my magic and help Lydia." Stiles answered straight out, not wanting anyone to feel guilty, or worse.

"What's that supposed to mean?" No one understood that.

"Lydia's a banshee." Tish did her best to explain. "Her power is rooted in darkness and in death. Stiles needed to be on the same plane as her power for his magic to really mesh with hers..." She shook her head. "It's not the kind of thing we would have ever done ourselves, would have ever planned for… but Stiles was already in that position…"

They'd have never risked Stiles, but once he was there, it was his choice, and all the rest of them could do was follow and hope they were fast enough.

"How the hell does your magic work anyway?" Stark wanted to know. "I never heard any spells, or words, never saw you using anything. Not like any of the others."

"I'm a Spark." Stiles answered, as if that explained everything, then he sighed. "It's hard to explain actually. It's… okay, lets put it this way, making a scale on magic users according to what they have to believe in: on the most basic level, at level zero, we have those who cannot actually do any magic. Have no magic of their own. They believe in it, and they pray, and live their lives a certain way… but they have no real power themselves. So they believe in external forces that may answer their prayers. These are the wiccas, the paganists, and the practitioners of many small religions and cults. Then, on the first level, we have those who have a little power and need tools to make things work: like crystals, and herbs, wands, etc. They put their belief in those tools, that they will make the magic work. These are the witches, the druids, the magicians, and so many more. They can do things, but there's a limit depending on the tool they use. Then, on the next level, you have those who have so much power that they don't actually need the tools. Oh, they may use them, especially for big works, they also tend to favor stronger tools than those in the lower level: staves, special crystals, and the like. They can do a lot of things, and all they need to do is believe in magic. Just that. The magic is in them and they have to believe that, and they make things work for them. These are the mages, the sorcerers, the enchanters. As you can see, as we go up the belief gets more basic, more simple, but also harder to do."

"What could be above believing just in magic?" Steve Rogers inquired, not understanding at all.

"Believing in yourself." Several members of the pack answered at the same time.

"It's the most simple, and at the same time, the hardest thing for anyone to do." Stiles said softly but powerfully. "It's like… lets say you believe that if you're in a Church you're safe from monsters. And you run there in an emergency, and the monsters cannot follow you in. And you know you're safe… Now lets say I tell you it's not the Church, it's you. It's your belief, your faith that you're safe that is making that happen. Would that help you be safe anywhere, or would you end up being in danger no matter where you are?" That question was met with silence and worry, as no one really had an answer. "It's not easy, believing in yourself. As for me… I always had magic, I've always been a spark. But as a kid I couldn't do anything, because I didn't know I could. And then everything changed…" His voice trembled a bit. "My mom got sick, really sick. cancer, in the brain. It was inoperable, and as the tumor grew, she began to forget things. It was small things at first, like the time when she had to pick me up from Scott's home, or going to buy the meat to make dad's favorite dish… We knew it was going to get worse, much worse. And then… and then someone gave mom a vial with some liquid, told her to add a few drops to a glass of water every day… and to believe she wouldn't forget things. She told me, said it was better to have two people believing rather than just one." He swallowed through the knot in his throat. "And it worked. The doctors never understood it. Mom died months later, from an aneurysm, but the thing is… she never forgot. Not a single thing. As big as the tumor got, as bad as the pain and all the other symptoms got, she never forgot anything."

"How…?" Steve Rogers was beyond shocked at that.

"I gave it to her." Tish offered. "It was a potion, meant to help with her memory. It… I didn't actually expect it to work so well. I knew it'd ensure Claudia wouldn't forget the important things, like her family, those she loved. But for it to work like it did… I didn't know back then the kind of power Stiles had, none of us did."

Not even Stiles. But he'd believed, because his mom asked him to, and he really didn't want her to forget him or his dad…

"And just like I believed back then that mom wouldn't forget anything, yesterday I believed that Lydia's banshee cry would be strong enough to immobilize Thanos." Stiles added for good measure. "That we'd be able to stop him. And it worked."

He'd believed it'd work, because there simply was no other option. He'd never accept losing, would never accept anything that might end with the loss of his loved ones. So they had to win, the plan had to work.

"Wait so… you're stronger than Reindeer Games?!" Tony cried out, flabbergasted.

"What?!" Stiles almost jumped back at that. "What the…?! That's ridiculous! How the hell did you come to that conclusion?!"

"He's a Sorcerer, you're a Spark." Phil pointed out. "According to your own classification…"

"He's also thousand-plus year old demi-god with more experience and power than I'll ever have!" Stiles retorted. "Yes, as long as I believe in it and in myself I can do pretty much anything I can imagine, that gives me a hell of a lot of possibilities… but magic isn't free. I still need to have the energy to pull it off. And magic, especially the kind of magic a Spark can do, that has no rules, no limits… it's not cheap." He shook his head. "What I did yesterday was specially dangerous because if I had run out of energy before being healed I might have ended up trapped. Not quite dead, not really alive." He exhaled. "I have a bit of an advantage in that, as alpha-mate I have a bond to the pack, I can draw energy from them, and from our territory, which allows me to do bigger, stronger things without having to expend all my personal energy. Tish also helps a lot too. As our Luna… but there's still a limit, and I came very close (too close) to reaching it yesterday morning."

Derek's hold on him tightened at the reminder of how close he came to losing his mate.

The talk turned to the chests then.

"How strong are those?" Phil Coulson wanted to know. "I mean, how sure are we that they can safeguard the pieces of the Titan?"

"Very." Loki answered seriously, and after some contemplation elaborated. "You are aware that your Cube is missing, yes?"

That called everyone's attention.

"What do you know about the Cube?" Maria Hill, the once Deputy Director of SHIELD, and the contact between the New SHIELD and the Avengers, demanded.

"I know it's called the Tesseract." Loki began enlisting. "That's it more than just a Cube, or an energy source. It's a relic that many would claim hails from Asgard yet is in fact much older than that, older than any of the Realms. It holds inside one of the six Infinity Stones, the Space Gem. I became aware of its existence back in 2011. Understood the consequences of you humans playing with it in a way you didn't, that you still don't."

"Really?" Maria didn't like Loki's tone.

"If I hadn't taken the Tesseract when I did and sealed it away, you would have faced the chitauri less than twelve months afterwards." Loki finally snapped at her. "Thanos would have been able to sense the Stone, touch its power enough to force a portal open. You… we could barely handle the invasion now. What do you think would have happened if it had taken place 14 years ago?!"

No one had an answer to that.

"You dealt with the Aether too, didn't you?" Jane asked suddenly.

Loki just nodded. There was no need to elaborate.

"The first chests I created for the stones." Loki finally got to the point. "These ones are even better, made of white ash wood." Yggdrasil's wood… "The inside is lined with dragon-hide, yes, real dragon hide. The closures are of mithril and vibranium." The most powerful materials of each Realm. "I locked them using all the spells I could think of, in a very specific combination, one only I know of. For any time someone tries to open it and does it wrong, it will take the power that individual uses and re-channel it into a new seal." Which meant that for every person that tried to open it, they'd just end up securing it further. "I've talked with the mutants and Magneto and Polaris have agreed on working together to fuse the metals in the chests, making them even harder to open. Stiles, Helena and my Nightingale have added their own protections as well, faith, death and moon magic. Those chests are as secure as it's possible to make them."

"We'll be splitting them up." Thor announced his own part of the plan. "One in each Realm, to be hidden away in a place as few people as possible will know about it. I certainly will not know where any of them will be."

Layers upon layers of protections, it was the best they could do. They could only hope it'd be enough. That the Mad Titan may stay in pieces, sealed in those chests to the end of the worlds, to eventually be mostly forgotten, becoming nothing more than an old horror story…

The conversation/interrogation eased off after that and shortly after lunch they were all ready to take off and return to their respective homes. With help from the Foster Window they'd all already talked to representatives of the other Realms. And they all witnessed as Thor and Jane traveled to each Realm carrying one chest, leaving it in the custody of trusted individuals there before departing, never asking any questions about how it'd be secured. It was better if they didn't know. The second to last was taken to Asgard, Thor and Jane warning them that they'd have to stay there for a while. Though they promised to drop by Boston sometime soon.

The last chest was the one meant to be hidden in the Earth and Phil handed it over to Daisy without hesitation. She was in fact more surprised than him:

"Why?" Was all she dared to ask.

"SHIELD has already fallen once." Phil explained calmly. "The Sorcerers have other duties and other enemies. The mutants already helped seal the chests. You… you understand when secrets must be revealed, and when they must stay secret. You know what kind this one is, and I have no doubt your powers will help ensure it's never found."

Daisy hesitated for a handful of seconds, before her husband's hand on her shoulder, the trust and love coming from him helped her settle.

"It'll never be found." She said, solemnly.

The couple left then, they had a chest to hide away…

No goodbyes were said that day, there was no need for them. The X-Men got in their jet, same as the other teams into their own aircraft. Stephen and Helena opened the portal to return the pack to Boston (The Maximoff twins, especially Pietro, promised they'd be visiting soon, but for the time being they went with their team). They even agreed to visit for the rest of the day (they couldn't stay longer than that, not with Stephen's obligations as Sorcerer Supreme, but they'd never forget they were family).

Everyone smiled when they stepped out of the portal to see the garden of their compound.

"It's good to be home…" Stiles whispered out-loud what they were all thinking.

"Yeah, it is." Derek agreed, pressing his lips to the back of his mate's neck, that word had a bit of a different connotation for him. "Home…"

xXx

Not much changed in the days, weeks and months following the battle in Arizona. The pack returned to Boston, to their jobs, their lives there. Noah and Peter went on their vacation, one week in a cabin with a private beach in the middle of the Caribbean. They both finally retired from their respective jobs a month after returning, only to leave on vacation again as soon as all the papers were signed; to the Mediterranean that time. And that was just the beginning.

Pietro and Wanda, along with Vision (her match) dropped by for the first time a few days after the war was won, and afterwards made a point of spending at least a few hours every week at the Compound, with Pietro visiting at least every other day, even if only to say hi and bring small flowers, trinkets and candy to Rosie. The wolves found it very cute, and age-appropriate, they would tease and gently mock the speedster every so often, until the day Vika asked if she could have her own Pietro too… that left Scott sputtering and Allison looking more than a little worried (though that might have been more due to Rosie's mischievous little smile than to her daughter's actual question…).

Helena and Stephen also made a point of dropping by more often. Even taking the time to teach Stiles a few tricks to better use his magic. He also became really good friends with Sachiko Mordo somehow, something that seemed to fascinate and horrify her husband: Master Karl Mordo of the NY Sanctum in turns, for reasons only he could truly comprehend.

Amelia Rowles went to see Lydia and Jackson about a month after the battle to let them know that a new girl had just arrived to St. Agnes and she was a perfect fit for them, if a little older than they'd planned on adopting. She wasn't a baby or a toddler, but instead a seven year old girl who'd lost her whole family very recently. It hadn't even been related to the battles, instead a fire caused by an electrical malfunction. The complication? The girl was from the Dusha Lineage, more commonly known as Ghost Whisperers, the most powerful kind of médiums there were. The talent usually skipped a generation. Meaning of course that the girl had gotten it from her grandmother, who'd passed away before she could teach the child anything about their gifts. Also, while Dushas commonly were able to see spirits their whole lives with no problem, they needed to learn to differentiate the dead from the living, and that could be less than easy for some of them, especially if they didn't know they were doing anything at all.

"Just how powerful is she?" Jackson wanted to know.

"The only reason she didn't die in that fire was because the ghost of the neighbor woke her up and guided her out." Amelia answered softly. "Alma followed the kind old man out, never realizing that she was the only one who could see him, or that her parents had no idea of the fire. She got out just in time too, by the time the fire-fighters arrived there was nothing they could do to rescue the parents. The problem is that now Alma blames herself, she doesn't understand that it's not her fault…"

"She still feels she failed her parents." Jackson finished for her, in a tone that made it obvious that he understood the situation all too well.

"When can we meet her?" Lydia asked immediately.

They left right away. Driving to the orphanage, where the girl kept to herself. As Sister Millerna explained to them, she never talked to anyone, didn't want to play, hardly ate…

"She's afraid to follow someone else and have them turn out to be a ghost." Lydia realized.

She could also tell that it wasn't an unfair assumption to make. Even without tapping into her banshee gifts she could sense the souls floating around the place, of both adults and children. It was something she'd always hated about being a banshee, feeling that anywhere she went all she could hear was death. When not the souls of the people, the impressions of those who'd died, the traces of their last moments… she couldn't imagine living in New York, or LA, or any place with a particularly high mortality rate. It was only thanks to the pack, to the fact that she was bound to them, anchored, that she didn't go crazy as it was! (Her grandmother had gone crazy, it was how she'd ended in Eichen House…).

"Hello little one…" Lydia greeted her when they arrived, kneeling on the floor to be on the same level as the girl sitting in a corner, half hiding behind a curtain.

There was no answer, instead all Alma did was curl even tighter, as if trying to disappear… it pained Lydia to see her like that.

"My name is Lydia." She went on. "I know you're afraid, because you don't know if I'm real or not. If I'm alive or dead."

Sister Millerna's eyes widened. While she knew about the supernatural she clearly hadn't been expecting it to be addressed so candidly.

"I know." Lydia went on. "I may not be able to see them like you do, but I can hear them, I know they're there."

"You can?" That last part had really called the girl's attention.

"I can." Lydia confirmed.

"Are you like me?" Alma wanted to know.

"No." Lydia shook her head. "I'm a banshee. I can hear the dead, can communicate with them, but I cannot see them. I can also do other things, but they're not as important."

"Is that why you're here?"

"A bit." Lydia twisted a bit and gestured Jackson to kneel beside her. "This is Jackson, he's my husband. And we're here because we'd like you to be part of our family."

"Why?" Alma's eyes narrowed.

"I cannot have children." Lydia had already decided not to lie to the girl. "But we really want to have them, so we decided to adopt. And we were told that you might be interested. Though you must know a few things before you decide."

"What things?" Alma was intrigued.

Jackson was quite sure that wasn't how meeting with future-foster-children or adopted children was supposed to go… but then again, Lydia had always been the kind to make her own rules, they all were. And he was happy enough to follow where she lead…

"Jackson here is a wolf. And I'm both a banshee and a witch. We're part of the local werewolf pack. The Luna pack."

"Pack? Like the one who helped fight off the aliens? I heard some of the kids talking about that. Said they were heroes!"

"We were there." Jackson nodded.

"Really?" Alma finally uncurled, staring at Jackson in fascination. "Were you afraid?"

"Very much. But I knew that I needed to help, so I went and did it anyway. And you know what? I've discovered that as long as I have Lydia, as long as I have our pack with me, I don't need to be afraid of anything."

"I wouldn't need to be afraid either?" The child's voice was so small, it brought tears to all three adults in the room.

"No, you wouldn't." Jackson had known where they were going. "So, what do you say? Will you give us a chance? See if you'd like to be part of our pack? Of our family?"

Alma didn't say a word, but the way she threw herself into Jackson's arms the moment he opened them, offering her a hug, was answer enough.

It was a good thing Jackson was such a good lawyer, and had all the best kind of contacts (some because of him, others thanks to Peter, and his dad), because Lydia refused to wait any longer than absolutely necessary to have the little girl be her daughter. In the end it took two weeks for the girl to be officially moved in to the Compound and just under three months for all papers to be signed and her name to be officially Alma Martin-Whittemore.

xXx

Everyone in the pack loved Alma from the moment they met her. She was such a lovely child. At first she was hesitant, nervous, but when she realized that she really wasn't the only one who could either see or hear the dead (aside from Lydia, Stiles and Tish could both sense them due to their NDEs, and of course there was Helena, the Queen of the Dead), and that no one looked at her oddly when she reacted to someone others couldn't see, it went a long way to healing her emotional wounds.

As it happened, Jackson totally loved being a father. It was as if he'd been meant for that all along. He took such joy from teaching Alma things, looking after her, playing with her… the only thing he failed at was being strict with her. When punishment was necessary he'd rather leave it to Lydia, who only laughed at him but still did what was necessary. Soon enough a moment came when they just couldn't imagine not having the little girl in their lives…

Kira and Malia finally went ahead and got pregnant through in-vitro. And somehow (they never confessed how they managed it) they convinced Derek and Stiles to be the donors. The women would be the ones to raise the babies, they understood Derek's fear of not being able to be a dad and an alpha at the same time, and they were happy with the men being uncles rather than fathers. But they truly believed that the two were too great for their family lines to end with them, and they'd rather give birth to children of men they knew and trusted, than of a stranger. Hana Yukimura-Hale and Anka Stilinski-Hale were born in early summer of 2026 less than 24 hours apart (which had made things quite interesting, and driven the pack more than a little crazy(er)).

At some point (no one knew exactly when or how) the pack managed to convince Tish to not give up on her writing. And not just that, but they even convinced her to take their experiences (Scott insisted on calling them adventures, and on ignoring the fact that they hadn't had the slightest idea what the hell they were doing more than half the time, or how close they all came to getting killed every other week!) from their first year and a half as wolves and use it as a basis for her next novel, which somehow ended turning into a series of novels instead of a single book. It was absolutely insane; especially because Tish made sure to mix just enough fact and fiction that those not part of the community would find it impossible to tell which was which (also, in turn, lessening the danger to the packs, something that remained very real even with the general knowledge and acceptance of them all since the war against Thanos and the chitauri).

Teen Wolf (they all laughed at that one, though the title was actually Gina's idea, as Tish just couldn't make up her mind) was an absolute hit. That, coupled with the success of the 'Luna' mini-series turned 'Maia Silva' into one of the most sold authors before the end of the decade.

And time kept passing, and the pack continued their lives as normal…

A phone rang unexpectedly, a request for a video-call, which Tish answered, unable to help her curiosity at what exactly might have made Tony Stark of all people call her:

"Is any of this real?!" He was waving the hard-cover version of the first Teen Wolf book around as he asked the question.

"What…?!" It took Tish a moment to process the question.

"I know you're Maia Silva." Tony waved his hand dismissively. "Duh! That part was obvious, moving on. Is any of this book real? I really wanna know!"

"And why do you want to know exactly?" Tish couldn't help her defensiveness. "It's not like it concerns you Stark. You're not a wolf, or part of a pack…"

"That's debatable." The billionaire replied, completely blasé. "Have you seen some of my team before their first cup of coffee? Absolute wolves I tell you! And the name is Tony."

Tish said nothing, just narrowed her brow in a gesture she'd learned from Derek.

"Come on!" Tony insisted. "I need to know! For science!"

Tish rolled her eyes, and then hung up on Tony's flabbergasted face, unable to keep from laughing to herself. She knew that she'd end up answering his questions eventually… or at least some of them. Didn't mean she had to make things easy for him. Also, she couldn't help but be intrigued at how much he might be able to guess. The man might not be a wolf, but he was a genius after all…

And perhaps writing books on wolves, and having to travel to different countries every other week to promote her books and their adaptations, and deal with fifty-plus year-old billionaire geniuses who loved to act like they were younger than her youngest niece wasn't exactly the kind of thing she had in mind when she was planning out her life, planning out what her routines would be, her normal… but normal had always been overrated anyway!

xXx

In the end, it was Teen Wolf that got made into a tv-show. Something everyone in the pack got a kick out of. They had more than one playful argument regarding how right or wrong the actors chosen to play them were. Jackson insisted that his mate was far more beautiful than the actress they'd chosen to play her part, Derek insisted he didn't look like that all that time (all while scowling, which only made his mate laugh), Melissa got flustered when Chris assured her she was far prettier than her actress too, while Allison wouldn't stop pointing out all the ways her character's stunts were wrong (the girl playing her clearly knew nothing about archery or knife-fighting). Names had been changed, and enough fiction had been mixed in with the truth that only those already in the know would be able to tell the difference.

After the huge success of the first season of the show, and the signing of a contract that said that the remaining books would be turned into more seasons, 'Maia Silva' was convinced to do an interview for some famous talk show in NY. They even made a pack vacation out of it, all of them traveling to NY, staying in a floor Tony Stark had long since prepared for them, in case they were ever to visit (and that one had truly taken them all by surprise). They did the touristy part, and when the day came, they were all at the studio, where the interview would be done live. Most were actually in the audience, except for Loki, who was waiting in the sidelines (Derek and Stiles were on first row, the rest scattered among the public, though no one knew they were more than family and close friends). The interview was supposed to be about the Teen Wolf show, and perhaps the books, and yet:

"There's one question I've been dying to ask, if you don't mind?" The host commented.

They'd already gone through the important points about the books (the second book was already breaking sales-records, and the third was programmed to come out in less than a year), what people could expect from the upcoming seasons of the show; Tish had even had a chance to mention her previous works and promote them. The next question was probably going to be the last as they were running out of time, and since the host had been so nice till then, she didn't see why not, the question still took her by surprise:

"What's the relation between the Luna in the book, and the Luna pack?" The host asked.

Tish actually froze at that.

"It's all over the media, of course." The host went on. "Werewolves are real! Packs of wolves and other creatures helped fight the aliens trying to invade us, for which we're all thankful of course. But whenever someone's tried to interview someone known to belong to a pack, they always direct us to the Luna pack. Director Coulson of SHIELD also made an official statement back in the summer of 2025 stating that the Luna pack was part of the alliance of heroes that helped defeat the aliens and end their threat against our world, once and for all." He made a pause. "We've been trying to arrange for an interview with someone in the pack for the last year but apparently they're all too busy to pencil us in… but we'd really like to know, is it real? What's written in your books? And how do you know?"

"Well, that's a lot more than one question." Tish commented with her best smile, even as her mind rushed, trying to find the best way to handle things.

There were several ways she could handle things, she knew: she could answer with easy platitudes and not reveal anything, she could admit to a connection with the pack without really taking responsibility for anything, she could ignore the question entirely and wait for the Director to end the interview (she hadn't been warned about it, so she wasn't actually obligated to give an answer, any answer) or… her eyes strayed from the host and towards the public without her quite planning it, though it wasn't really surprising when she ended staring straight at Derek and Stiles. Not a word was said, not out-loud, but the two men flashed their eyes, alpha-red and magic-gold at her, before they stood. At the same time as most of the pack did the same in their respective spots around the audience. Tish didn't even notice she'd stood until she turned back to see the host looking up at her.

The host opened his mouth to say something else, when something else called his attention: all the people walking away from the audience and towards the stage. Tish reacted automatically when Loki himself stepped out from the backstage and offered her his hand, the two of them joining the rest at the center of the stage (the host at some point stood and walked several steps to a side to be able to look at everyone), the cameras following them silently, waiting for what might happen next. Loki and Tish took their position, at Derek and Stiles's right automatically, Lydia and Jackson on their left, the rest in a loose formation behind them. Yet it was Tish who spoke up, rather than their Emissary:

"I am Letitia Maia Silva Hale." She announced serenely as she undid the glamour on her hair, switching her clothes at the same time to her more preferred attire of jeans, top and leather jacket. "Luna of the Luna pack."

She was ready… They were ready, it was time for the world to really know them…