“Are you sure this isn’t a job for Luna and Neville?” Harry gestures to the greater area behind the Beacon Hills sign where he can see that the land has been poisoned and the magic twisted.
“They will be needed later, yes. But we have work to do to prepare the way for them. Otherwise, their work will be undone.”
Death’s current visage is a petite goth in flowing Victorian-style skirts and holding a parasol, but no matter their form their voice always resonates deep within the hearer’s soul. Harry is fairly sure that Pratchett must have met Death at some point because his portrayal of the entity is pretty spot on. He wouldn’t be surprised if the man is a lesser priest of many of the gods. He certainly conveys the realities of things a lot better than most.
Harry shakes his head and returns his focus to the town that lay ahead of them. There is the taste of ash on the back of his tongue, as well as a putrid, oily taste that reminds him of Voldemort and those who try to cheat death. And underneath that, there is a faint scent that reminds him of home and family, or at least the home and family he had found in the past decade or so. There is also a pull to find the source of that smell as well as deal with those trying to outsmart Death, which is always a bloody stupid idea.
“Ah, I see what you mean now. Though I suspect you’ve got secondary reasons for asking me to deal with this as well, busybody that you are.” Harry side-eyes his god, who is currently sitting on the ground weaving a crown of golden poppies. Really, the Master of Death is such a misnomer. Turns out it’s really just the title given to Death’s avatar on the mortal plane.
“I do wonder what those hide-bound idiots would say if they knew that not only were you a very real being but that you were also the biggest mother hen in all of existence.”
“You cannot fault me for wanting my avatars to be happy and well cared for.” Death huffs, “Not many wish to spend any particular length of time in my presence, so of course I care for those who not only acknowledge me but honor me in their own ways.”
Death stands up and walks over to set the wreath of golden poppies on his head. They pat his shoulder and lean in to kiss his cheek.
“Now, go and find the miscreants trying to evade my call, and reassure the cute werewolf that I’m not mad about his return. Wasn’t his time anyway.”
And with that bizarre statement, Death fades away leaving behind only a faint scent of pomegranates and freshly turned earth.
“Bloody gods and their cryptic ways. Probably off to see their honeys and gossip about their various chosen.”
Harry follows the strongest of the oily presences he can sense in the area, finding himself standing outside of a warehouse with a large hole in one wall. He is layered in disillusionment charms and privacy spells, so he isn’t worried about being noticed. He steps through the hole that was most likely created by the blue jeep now sitting in the middle of the warehouse.
There is a flurry of activity near the jeep, and the wrongness that he sensed is slowly moving away from the center of the action. He can easily track it and deal with it later though. Instead, he focuses on the young man standing near the jeep who smells very much like the family and pack he’d come to call home, particularly his mentor’s mate. The young man also carries both Magic’s and Death’s touch with the barest hint of Earth’s touch as well, and the scent of blood and pain coming from him has Harry’s wolf growling in ire. Someone had hurt this pup that smelled like Harry’s chosen family and they would pay. He would also be calling Kaïs to let him know of the situation. He had a feeling that Celeste and Kaïs would want to know, and that he might need the help straightening this town out.
Harry’s attention wanders to the other two who smell like home. Two wolves both clearly marked by Death and Death’s consorts, much the same as the young man by the jeep. They are standing over another young man. The scent of lizard skin and lingering feel of magical coercion indicate the young man had been a kanima. Harry’s connection to death shows that they’ve ‘killed’ the kanima’s connection to its former master. He’s not terribly surprised to see that connection had the same oily feel as the abomination he’d be tracking down shortly. Those who seek to cheat death are usually the same ones who are happy to use others in their search for power and immortality.
There is another flurry of movement when the former kanima revives. Harry’s eyes narrow in on the newly awakened banshee who is so focused on the young man in her arms she does not sense him at all. He supposes he should be thankful that she is untaught, otherwise, he’d have to try to explain his presence when he’d much rather go and deal with the death-dodger than sit here trying to answer questions.
He shakes his head and moves to follow the trail of darkness and rot that leads out of the warehouse. Best to get that taken care of before someone else steps in and tries to help the dodger. It doesn’t take him long to find a weakened old man who should already be dead from bite rejection, but somehow is still holding onto life.
“Well, aren’t you a sorry sight,” Harry looks down at the gasping man. He taps into Death’s energy and lets it reach out to the man before him. “You’ve been a very naughty man, haven’t you, Gerard?”
The man sneers up at him, “You would say that ridding the world of monsters like you was ‘naughty.’” Of course, the power of the statement is lessened by the coughing fit he dissolves into.
Harry leans down, lets free his claws, and tilts Gerard’s head up to look him in the eyes. “You know, It’s always fascinated me that men like you claim their actions are done for the greater good, but you never say whose greater good you work for. Wouldn’t do for the masses to figure out that you only mean your own greater good. After all, why would a hunter who has always encouraged his followers to commit suicide rather than become that which they hunt actively seek out the bite? Men like you sicken me. But you should know that Death doesn’t appreciate those who seek to evade her grasp. Isn’t that right, boss?
“You are most correct, my hand,” Death has shed the cute goth look and stands as a towering skeletal figure, robes billowing around them and black wings spread wide absorbing light as if they were made of pure shadow. Their Scythe glints in the moonlight and from their waist swings an hourglass whose top half is empty, though a few grains of sand are sluggishly trying to flow backward into the top.
“My hand will figure out whose spell work has slowed both your cancer and your current poisoning, but, in the end, their work will matter little. All come to me when their time comes.” They look at the hourglass and back at the gasping man on the ground. “Your time is overdue.”
Harry swiftly breaks the man’s neck, then steps back, retrieves his phone, and takes several pictures as both the Hales and the Council would need proof of death. The photos combined with his properly preserved memory of the event would be enough to do just that. Once that is done, he focuses his magic. He erects a shield around the body and then calls forth a blast of fiendfyre to destroy the corpse. No resurrections will be allowed for this particular soul. Said soul shudders painfully as Death grips his shoulder, and they disappear in a swirl of shadows.
“Good riddance to bad rubbish.” Harry sighs. Time to find a hotel room and make some phone calls.
Harry checks into a nice hotel downtown, knowing he could have just set up a tent in the preserve, but wanting to have a location that mundanes could find as well. He has a feeling he will be sticking around for a bit. And this hotel will make a decent base of operations for him and the rest of the Gajos pack. Because he knows that Celeste and Kaïs will want to come once he tells them about the young wizard who smelled so much like a Gajos.
He sets his luggage on the bed, having spelled it back to full size before he checked in. Since it would look strange for someone to check into a hotel with no luggage at all. And it wouldn’t do to get the sort of attention that would bring him.
Pulling his cell phone out of his pocket, he wastes no time in calling Celeste. Thankfully she’s an early riser, so this call isn’t likely to wake her up. Though she’d likely forgive him if it had.
“Harry? Is everything, all right? You don’t usually call so soon after leaving for one of your missions.” Celeste’s voice was full of concern, and Harry takes a moment to thank the gods for putting the Gajos family in his path. He’d have been thankful to them solely for helping him find his feet as a newly bitten alpha, but the fact that they’d all but adopted him still flummoxed him.
“I’ve an odd question for you, Celeste. You wouldn’t happen to have any family in a small Californian town called Beacon Hills, perchance?”
“Your mission is in Beacon Hills?” Celeste goes from concerned older sister to Hunter matriarch in a matter of seconds.
“I take it you know the place?” Harry’s voice is desert dry.
“One could say that. My father and older sister moved there after my parents divorced. I had visited a few times prior to my sister’s death. Though my sister had chosen to live a mundane life, so we tried to keep our presence quiet when we did visit. Let’s just say it could make visits awkward and leave it at that.”
“And are you aware of the clusterfuck that Beacon Hills seems to be right now? The earth and magic of the place have been poisoned. And well, Death doesn’t ask me to visit places on their behalf if everything’s all sunshine and roses.”
“There have been murmurs throughout the supernatural community that something is off in the States. But since it is considered Argent territory by the Council, I’ve always had to be very careful when visiting, and, after my sister’s death, it became even harder to visit. Augustine Argent made it clear that it would be far better if we encouraged my nephew to visit us in Poland.”
“Ah, that explains why he smelled like family, he was your nephew,” Harry murmurs softly, though not softly enough for Celeste to miss.
“You’ve met Stiles?!? Please tell me he isn’t mixed up in whatever mission you’re on?”
“I wish I could tell you that, I really do. But he’s the reason I’m calling. He’s definitely in the middle of this mess, and worse, he’s been right bollocksed up by someone recently. He smelled of his own blood and pain. Took everything I had not to fully wolf out and slaughter everyone I suspected of hurting a packmate, a pup at that, even if he isn’t aware that he’s pack. I did, however, have the pleasure of ending the one who smelled the most like his pain and blood. The arsehole was also one of the reasons I’d been sent to the town. A true abomination that I was happy to send on to his just desserts. I think you will be quite interested in his identity as well.”
“Oh? Do tell.” Celeste’s cold voice is every bit the pissed off predator, even if she herself is not a ‘wolf. Harry suspects she picked up a good many of her husband’s traits over the years.
“One Gerard Argent.” Harry’s eyes lit up alpha red, “And Matriarch Gajos, I, Harry Potter, Hand of Death and current member of the Gajos pack, formally declare the Argents oathbreakers. I request a full Tribunal investigation of the situation here in Beacon Hills, as well as my alpha’s and matriarch’s presences.”
“We’re on our way. We’ll pack for an extended stay as well.” Despite the distance between them, Harry could feel Celeste’s anger at her nephew being hurt as well as her satisfaction at being formally asked to come since no Argent would be able to charge her with interference in front of the Tribunal. In fact, the Argents may very well find themselves the ones standing trial before that august entity.
Stiles leans against his bedroom door, beyond tired. The adrenaline rushes of the day have long since worn off and everything hurts, including his heart. Part of him thinks he should change clothes, or try to shower, but the thought of moving anymore is just too much. His bed is just a few more steps away, though he’s not sure how he can sleep given how much he hurts.
He’s not even fully sure how he made it back to the house or up the stairs. He should probably be thankful that he didn’t get into another, less planned, accident in his jeep. He’s thankful his dad had to go back to the station and so isn’t there to worry over him or see the damage to the jeep. He’ll have to deal with his dad’s disappointment and questions he can’t answer tomorrow.
It’s not likely that Scott will be there to help explain anything since Scott hadn’t even asked him if he was okay or helped him get home. No one had really. Scott had largely focused on Isaac and Allison. Jackson and Lydia were absolutely focused on each other, so he’s not surprised they paid him no attention despite him giving them a ride back to his house so Lydia could get her car.
Ultimately, they’d all gone their own ways, though Derek and Peter had given him some worried glances before they headed out. And wasn’t that a hell of a shock, seeing Peter Hale alive and remarkably well. He figured they had gone hunting for Gerard, and he didn’t blame them one bit for wanting to find him before Chris did. Stiles kind of wanted to be sure the man was dead too.
Chris had at least paused by Stiles and mumbled a soft “I let them go” before rounding up the other teenagers and leaving. He’d say he was surprised that no one asked him about that comment, but he’s not. Not really. Stiles could only hope that Erica and Boyd had gone back to Derek, but, in the end, it wasn’t anything he could change. He hadn’t been able to free them, hadn’t been able to free himself either.
He’s barely aware of how shaky he is at this point. The bed seems like it’s miles away, and he’s so very done. He lets his eyes close and starts to slide down against the wall, feeling almost as if his strings have been cut. He’s tried so hard to keep going, but he’s so tired. Maybe it’s time to just open his mouth and let the water in.
“Stiles!? Shit, I told Derek he was more hurt than he was letting on. Hang on, sweetheart, I know you’re tougher than you look, but even you have your limits.”
The voice was familiar, but Stiles couldn't help flinching a bit as arms gently lifted him. “Easy pup, not gonna hurt you.”
Stiles squints at the person who is gently laying him on his bed, “P’ter? Not dead?”
One hand smooths over his hair before settling under his neck, and wow, whatever Peter is doing is better than any pain killer Stiles has had before.
“What can I say, death didn’t agree with me. Let’s make sure it doesn’t agree with you either. Now we should see how badly you are hurt--”
Stiles jerks a bit, and he glares at Peter “No hospital! I’m fine!”
Peter’s brow quirks in response, “Sweetheart you are anything but fine, but if you are adamant that we avoid the hospital, I will do my best. But neither Derek nor I are willing to let you die because you are too stubborn to get medical attention.”
“Why? Why do you care? Just a squishy human. Not pack.” Stiles struggles to stay awake and focus on getting words out. Now that he’s no longer as aware of his pain, his fatigue is catching up to him.
“Nonsense, silly boy, humans can be just as much a part of the pack as ‘wolves. And you’ve been acting more as pack than most of the actual ‘wolves. So if you don’t want us, you’ll have to outright reject us like my idiot of a beta did. And well, I’m hoping that you choose not to do that. Now, will you let me take a look at your injuries?”
Stiles takes a good look at the ‘wolf sitting by his side, so very different from the terrifying alpha that had terrorized them just a few months ago. The feral madness that he recalled so well was gone, and he could see genuine worry etched onto the man’s face. Stiles’ instincts when it came to people were usually good, and right now they were saying he could trust this man. And well, if he were wrong, then hopefully he’d be dead and it wouldn’t be his problem. So he nods and cooperates as Peter helps him sit up and gently helps him get his t-shirt off.
Peter’s eyes rake over the bruises that Stiles is certain are littering his torso. Between being pushed down the stairs and taking steel-toed kicks to his ribs and abdomen, he knows he’s gonna have some spectacular ones. He’s fairly sure his ribs managed to avoid being cracked, and he thanks the stars that he has always been pretty fucking durable otherwise his clumsiness would have resulted in way more broken bones and hospital bills than they needed.
Peter whistles as he takes in the damage. “Damn, sweetheart. They sure did a number on you. I’m so sorry we didn’t realize that you’d been taken. We were rather focused on preventing the kanima from reaching alpha status, which is something I hope we never ever see. Moon above, talk about nightmare fuel.”
Peter shudders and goes back to carefully palpating Stiles' torso. Stiles gives him a confused look, trying to figure out why a born werewolf would know anything about first aid.
“It’s all right. I didn’t expect Derek to notice me missing. Why would he? And how do you know what you’re doing?”
“Not all my nieces and nephews were ‘wolves, darling, nor were all my siblings. And as the youngest of my generation, I was often roped into babysitting duties. So a few first aid courses were deemed wise. And well, knowing about anatomy helped in my role as Left Hand and enforcer. It doesn’t feel like you’ve cracked any ribs, but you really would need an x-ray to determine that for sure. Regardless you’re going to be stiff and sore for a while. I’ll have to set up a schedule with Derek for somewhat regular pain drains to help keep the pain manageable as I doubt over-the-counter meds will do you much good in this instance.”
Stiles opens his mouth, though he’s not sure if it’s to protest the pain drain or that Derek would be willing to help him. However, Peter interrupts him before he can even utter a word.
“Hush, Derek will absolutely want to help you. The only reason he’s not here right now is that he is doing a last patrol to see if he can find his missing betas. They may have told him they were leaving his pack, but he smelled traces of both their terror and pain and yours on the bastard Argent regent when he was forced to bite him. And despite everything, he can’t help but worry since he’s the one who brought them into this world in the first place. We both heard Christopher’s comment to you on his way out. Since the betas wouldn’t know me from Adam, we figured it would be best for me to check on you while he searched for them. He’ll be by when he’s finished his patrol, hopefully with the errant betas, but if not then with an idea of where the scent goes missing. Now, where do you keep your sleep shirts?”
Stiles indicates the dresser and mumbles “top drawer,” and Peter fetches an oversized and well-worn shirt to help Stiles into.
“Might as well get you comfortable and see if you can get some much-needed rest, and don’t worry I have no plans on leaving, though Derek and I may have to hide when your father gets home and comes in to check on you. Though he may be at the station for quite some time considering Jackson’s body went missing from the morgue. Who knows when Jackson and Lydia will deign to make the rest of the world aware of the ‘practical joke gone wrong’ or whatever excuse they come up with to cover that, not to mention that I’m sure the disappearance of the school principal will garner some attention.”
Peter chuckles a bit at that, his smile entirely predatory. “Which reminds me, that geriatric bigot will not be able to hurt you or any of us ever again. I may not have been the one to end it, but based on the amount of blood, the smell of his terror, and the intense layer of ash that I found when following his trail, someone hastened his death and ensured his end was permanent.”
Stiles can’t help but slump in relief at that news. He knows it’s not the end of things. The remaining Argents could still decide to continue Gerard’s personal war, though Chris at least seems less likely to do so. Stiles isn’t so sure about Allison anymore. The sweet and funny girl he’d met at the start of the semester had gone off the rails quickly, and, while he could understand the reasons behind it, he’s not sure if he’ll ever trust her again.
He does wonder who ended Gerard though, as he doubts that Chris would have had the heart to do so. He could have sworn he felt another presence at the warehouse, one that felt both familiar and otherworldly. He ponders just that, “Think I felt someone else at the warehouse, felt like we were watched. Wonder if they did it, or if I’m just imagining things.”
“You’ve always been perceptive, Stiles, so I doubt you were imagining things. I also felt like there was another watching us at one point, and could have sworn I smell lilies at one point. Maybe Death herself decided to come and take care of things. Now let’s get you settled.”
Peter arranges pillows and helps Stiles get settled back in bed as comfortably as he can, taking up a protective position next to Stiles while keeping close contact with the younger man. Stiles probably should have found that weird and creepy, but it was honestly nice to have someone care about him. A hand pets his hair and a soft voice soothes him to sleep. He barely registers the second voice joins the first and another warm body settles carefully on the bed. He lets their conversation wash over him.
“No, their scent trail just stops in the middle of the preserve. It was weird.”
“Hmm, there aren’t many things that can hide scents or cause them to disappear like that. No rain tonight, so it would have to have been something artificial. Probably magic, which means either Deaton is interfering, or we have another player on the scene.”
“How is he?”
“Pretty well worked over, but doesn’t seem to have any broken bones. We are going to have to address his lack of care for his own life though. I’ve not forgotten how he all but challenged me to kill him when I was crazed and feral. And he was muttering something about just letting go when I found him practically collapsed from exhaustion and pain.”
Whatever was said in response is lost to Stiles though, as consciousness faded completely into blissful nothingness.
Harry stands before the remains of the Hale house; the smell of hunters has his hackles up. He is pissed that the Argents have been using the hollow shell of a once-proud home, one that they helped destroy according to the magic and death currents that surround it. And judging by the marking on the door, he’s not the only one who thought to start here as a point of contact. The jagged Triskellion indicated the presence of an Alpha Pack, or one claiming to be such. There hadn’t been a Council recognized Alpha Pack in several centuries, but there were often those who tried to pass a perverted version off as such. Looks like the Gajoses were going to have even more reason to be here. The rumors of a rogue Alpha Pack had been building for years, but the Argents and Calaveras had assured the Council they had it well in hand.
Well, trying to leave a calling card here for the Hales would be pointless as it would just add to the mess of aggression and present entirely the wrong idea. Normally one would simply call ahead to ask permission, but that was rather hard with packs that were in hiding for one reason or another. And while howling at the edge of a territory's border was once the accepted method, it tended to bring the wrong kind of attention in modern times as howls could easily get the mundane population worked up. Protocol these days was to leave a calling card, usually a more literal one that included a means of contacting the inquiring party, in the heart of the pack’s territory along with a gift if one had friendly intentions. But while this would have been the heart of Hale territory, he could not leave his gift and calling card here.
He pulls out his phone and takes a picture of the marking on the front door. The Hales will need to be informed of it just as much as his own chosen alpha would. Once that is done he casts a locator spell that will show him an alternative place to leave both gift and card. The spell leads him to a charming house in a residential neighborhood close to the preserve. His magic and senses tell him this is where the young Gajos wizard lives. His senses also tell him that the two Hales are present in the house, as is another adult currently sleeping upstairs. He assumes that is Celeste’s brother-in-law. As far as he knows the man is unaware of the supernatural, though that would change shortly. With his son being not only part of a pack but clearly magical, he would have to be informed.
Harry retreats from the house to a reasonable distance, one that he could expect the Hales to pick up on a foreign wolf approaching, and drops the various spells hiding his presence from others. He then pulls out and unshrinks the box containing his gifts, silently thanking Lady Magic and Luna for the unexpected and welcome owl that had brought the box to him last night. He’d have been hard-pressed to put together a fitting hospitality gift on such short notice. Once that is done he approaches the house at a sedate walk. As he approaches he talks normally, acting like he’s on a hands-free phone call.
“Good morning, Alpha Hale. My name is Harry Potter, and I am a junior alpha of the Gajos pack of Poland. I am in the area on business and request permission for myself to remain in the area. Additionally, my alpha and his mate have requested that I seek permission for them to visit their nephew, whose home you are currently in. I come bearing a hospitality gift and my formal calling card. I am currently staying at the Hyatt downtown, and my cell number is listed on the card. With your permission, I shall leave the gift on the porch and return to my hotel to await your response.”
He heard the swift intake of breath when he announced his pack affiliation, and the younger of the Hales confusion when he asked, “I thought the Gajoses were hunters?”
“They are, but not all hunters abhor shifters or other supernaturals, nor do they all believe that becoming a shifter requires death. The current matriarch fell in love with and married an alpha from France, who merged his pack with her clan. They are considered honorable and are a well-respected pack. I’m certain Talia had no idea that a member of that family lived here, or if she did, then she withheld that information from me. But I can say this, we should consider this overture, and, if it is sincere, we should accept their presence and request a treaty. We are sorely short on useful allies at the moment and with the state of things we could use them.”
There was a soft sound of agreement, followed by another question, “Wait, did he say ‘junior alpha?’”
“He did, it’s not a common ranking, but some packs will take in alphas who are either the last of their pack, those who are newly bitten and find themselves alphas by pure bad luck, or otherwise newly created alphas who need a bit of training and help before they’re ready to start their own packs. Kaïs Gajos has a good reputation for helping those who need it, and I cannot say I am surprised that he has at least one junior alpha in his ranks.”
“Thanks, Peter. Let’s see if I can remember the formal phrasing for this.”
“I’ve no doubt you’ll do fine.”
“Alpha Potter of the Gajos Pack, we accept your overture and will be in touch once we have reviewed it and have a response to provide.”
“Thank you, Alpha Hale. May the moon brighten your path and kindness find your doorstep.”
Harry sets the box down on the porch before turning and walking back to a good apparition point.
When they can no longer hear the other werewolf’s fading steps or heartbeat, Derek nods at his uncle and glances towards the window before shaking his head and glancing towards Stiles’ bedroom door. While it’s early enough that he doubts anyone would notice either of them coming or going from Stiles’ window, he’s not sure they should take that risk. He can hear the Sheriff snoring in his bedroom and he knows that Peter is more than capable of quietly moving about a space. So it shouldn’t be hard for him to go down and grab the package on the porch.
He can’t help but flashback to the night of Peter’s resurrection. For all that it was only a few days prior, so much had happened that it felt like weeks had passed. He remembers laying on the floor of his old home, drugged by whatever wolfsbane concoction Lydia had hit him with and watching as his once-beloved Uncle crawled from the floorboards. He’d laid there and waited for the killing blow, sure that Peter would want the alpha power back to finish healing.
But that blow never came. Instead, he heard his Uncle thanking Lydia and essentially dismissing the terrified girl.
“You know, I’m going to have to come up with one hell of an apology gift for traumatizing that poor girl. There was no way around it, unfortunately, needs must and all that. But still.”
His uncle had carefully settled next to him, and Derek had been surprised that under the scent of earth and ozone, was the smell of pine and sandalwood that he’d always associated with Peter -- with family and pack -- and not the stench of rotting flesh and death that he had expected. He hadn’t been able to keep himself from tensing, sure his end really was coming now.
“Easy, pup.” Peter had gently pulled Derek up and settled him against him, “You should get full control back shortly. In the meantime, I’m hoping you’ll hear my apology. Death offers a strange amount of perspective, and while I can’t really regret taking the lives of those who killed our family, I do regret killing Laura and I regret creating the situation that meant you had to kill me.”
Derek remembers the whine he’d let out at that. Laura had never quite settled into her Alpha powers, refusing to have any betas other than Derek and burning hot and cold in her interactions with her younger brother. But she was all he’d had left, as he had been certain they’d never get Peter back. He’d wanted to at least take Peter with them, but that hadn’t seemed possible at the time. And Laura had always had good reasons that they couldn’t move him closer to them after they’d resettled in New York. Derek knows that Peter is capable of lying to another werewolf, but it’s harder when they are leaning against you. Lies and deceit came across in more than just heartbeats and body language. There are chemosignals that can signal deceit as well. None of those signs had been present that night.
Instead, Peter had held him and talked, explaining things from his perspective while Derek’s strength returned. As he’d wound down his explanation, Peter had sighed, “I do regret the messiness of my plan B, but I can’t regret getting a chance to make things right nor giving you an option to have a trained and capable Left Hand should you want one. I’ll also understand if you cannot forgive me and decide to put me back in that ground I just crawled out of. And if you want to just beat the shit out of me, well that’s understandable too.”
The last couple of days in all their craziness had backed up Peter’s statements as well. He’d backed Derek in his decisions, offered a sounding board when appropriate, and helped him research the Kanima and how to stop it. He couldn’t deny that this Peter was more like the uncle that lived in his memories. The feral angry man that he had killed was gone. He was still a bit of an asshole, but, to be honest, that seemed to be a Hale trait. Even his youngest siblings had their moments of sass and sarcasm.
Peter comes back into the room carrying a wooden box that was roughly the same width as a laptop and a somewhat mystified look on his face. His scent is happy though, so whatever put that look on his face is probably a good thing. He carefully moves from his spot by Stiles, hoping not to wake him. He’d had a restless night as it was, and they’d soothed him through several nightmares. They were honestly lucky that the Sheriff was a heavy sleeper when exhausted because otherwise they would have been caught in his teenage son’s room. And wouldn’t that have been a fun conversation? He knew they’d need to wake Stiles up to talk a bit and figure out what to do next, but he had hoped to let him sleep a bit longer. But, apparently, their earlier conversation and movement had already started to rouse the sleeping teenager.
“Easy, Stiles, we’re still here and everything's fine. We just had an unexpected visitor--”
Stiles jerks and starts to sit up hurriedly, heart beating like a drum. Derek kicks himself for his poor choice of words and he and his uncle rush to reassure Stiles. Though Peter manages to get words out a bit quicker than Derek.
“It’s all right, sweet boy, for once the unexpected player seems like it might be a good thing for us. We’ll explain it all in just a second. Just keep in mind that your dad is sleeping across the hall, so we should try to be quiet in our discussion.”
Stiles nods and they help him get comfortable, propping him up with some pillows and blankets and making sure he has water nearby. Derek settles back next to Stiles. Peter sets the box he’s holding on the bed before sitting in Stiles’ desk chair which had been moved next to his bed. Peter takes up the explanation, clearly enjoying the opportunity to explain some of their lore and history, explaining the protocols for visiting werewolves and packs while Stiles’ curious gaze examines the box.
“A hospitality gift is given by either those seeking permission to visit a territory, or by a pack inviting another to visit their territory. The contents are usually symbolic of intentions and a message in and of themselves. The most traditional offerings were usually bread, often as an invitation to “break bread” with one another, and salt, which at one point in time was quite rare and expensive. Salt also has known purification and protection properties when it comes to the supernatural and mystical side of life. Now, let us see what this particular gift holds, shall we?”
The box itself is beautifully made, though simple in design. The top bears an intricate Celtic knot, created with insets of different colored woods. Based on its scent Derek would guess the main box was made of cedar. It reminds him of the intricately carved chest that had pride of place in his parents’ room, the one that had held their heirloom quilts and other family memories. His mom had always called it her hope chest. Derek can only hope that this smaller box brings tidings of hope as well.
With the lid opened, the box lid is facing both him and Stiles and Stiles reaches out to trace the symbol.
“I know this symbol…” Stiles breathes out, “My Uncle Kaïs has a tattoo of it.”
“The serch bythol.” Peter nods, “Like the triskele we use to represent our family, this particular family has long been associated with this symbol. But before we get into who, precisely, we are dealing with, let’s see what they have gifted us.”
Peter pulls out something that has been carefully wrapped in some sort of waxy cloth and unwraps it. The smells of fresh bread, rosemary, and lavender fill Derek’s nose.
“I see we have the traditional loaf of bread, with a twist. Rosemary, while commonly associated with remembrance thanks to Shakespeare, also indicates loyalty and even love. And lavender, with its known ability to promote calmness and reduce stress, is often used to indicate peaceful intentions. All in all a promising and rather delicious-smelling offering. Let’s see what else is here.”
He sets the bread down on the bed and pulls out the next item. This one is an old fashioned glass jar and tightly fitting stopper, filled with what Derek would bet are high-quality salt crystals, though they have a light green sheen that indicates they’ve been infused with something. That’s confirmed when Peter carefully opens the jar and the scent of basil fills the air.
“Basil and salt, both symbolizing protection and prosperity. Also very tasty when used as a seasoning.” Peter winks and smirks as he sets that aside.
Peter pulls the last two items out together. The first appears to be a business card and the second is a beautifully carved wolf made of some kind of dark blue stone. Peter inspects the wolf.
“Interesting, I’m fairly sure this is carved lapis lazuli, sometimes known as the stone of friendship. All in all a quite promising indication of intent,” he hands the card to Derek, “especially considering that it’s from a well-respected pack.”
“Who also happen to be hunters,” Derek notes while he inspects the card. Like the box, one side bears the serch bythol, the other looks like a standard business card with name and contact information.
“Wait, what?!” Stiles’ voice starts to climb, and both Peter and Derek indicate that he should lower his voice. Though Peter is the one who responds to Stiles' question and the underlying worry.
“Not all hunters are like the Argents. There are those who regularly intermarry with members of the supernatural world. These particular hunters tend to actually keep to the sort of code that the Argents profess to, yet seem to keep only when it suits them. They hunt only those members of the supernatural community who become feral or go rogue. Whenever possible they help those they come across. This particular group has an impeccable reputation. Sadly they do not spend much time in the U.S., so requesting their assistance with the Argents would never have occurred to me.”
“And that brings me to the more delicate part of this conversation. Stiles, you mentioned that your Uncle Kaïs had this as a tattoo?”
Stiles nods, confusion clear on his face.
“His last name wouldn’t happen to be Gajos would it?”
“Yeah, but what…” Derek watches Stiles’ face as he puts everything together. Derek will never cease to be amazed at just how quick Stiles is.
“Clever boy, you’ve made the connection, haven’t you?”
“My aunt and uncle are werewolves!?” Stiles whisper is strained, and it’s clear he’d had to throttle down his response for fear of waking his dad.
“Close. Your aunt is the Matriarch of the Gajos hunting clan, and your uncle is the Alpha of their pack. They make quite the formidable pair from all accounts though I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting them myself. Apparently, they would like to visit, and I imagine that they are aware that you are in the know since their beta, or junior alpha in this case, clearly knows Derek and I are here.”
Derek feels Stiles tense and reads the worry on his face. “It’ll be all right. They’ve got a good rep, and I can’t see them turning their backs on family. And you’ve got us if you want us. I know things haven’t exactly been great, and I haven’t exactly inspired great confidence...”
“Not like I’ve been a paragon of virtue and good deeds either, Sourwolf.” Stiles pats Derek’s shoulder, “I think that’s the most I’ve heard you say without a threat involving your bunny teeth and my throat.”
Derek growls playfully at Stiles, who grins at him before his face sombers a bit and he glances in the direction of his dad’s bedroom.
“We’ll help you explain things to him.” Derek can’t stand the heartbroken look on Stiles. The younger man had quickly gotten under his skin, first as an annoyance and then as a steadfast ally. He still can’t believe the wiry teen had held him up in 8 feet of water for two hours when he could have easily let him drown and tread water on his own until help arrived. He’d been angry the previous night, sure that Stiles must have come up with the plan Scott used. But then he’d smelled pain, fear, and blood on Stiles all covered with Argent stench. He’d seen the worry under the pain and fatigue and it was directed at all of them, not just Scott and the other teens. He’d also seen Stiles’ face fall when Scott barely looked at him and seemed not to notice even the obvious injuries that were visible on Stiles’ face. It made him think of Stiles’ plans and ideas, and while subterfuge was something he was capable of, he also went for more practical and direct solutions when necessary. His gut insisted then and now that Stiles would have brought him in on the plan rather than let Scott force him to bite Gerard while thinking he was giving the gift to a man who wanted nothing more than to kill him and all those like him. He’s broken out of his musing by Stiles’ broken whisper.
“He’s going to hate me. More than he already does. God, I’m such a disappointment to him, and now he’s going to find out that not only have I been at crime scenes and kidnapped Jackson, but that I got Scott bitten, helped kill a man, and...and…”
Stiles’ breathing becomes more erratic and panicked as he talks and tears spill down his cheeks. Derek can’t resist pulling him into a hug. Peter moves to sit on the edge of the bed and pulls them both into a hug unable to resist offering comfort to pack. Derek feels choked for words, wondering how long Stiles has been carrying around this level of guilt. Thankfully, Peter has words when Derek struggles to find them.
“Shh, little one. Breath with us. In...two...three...four, exhale...two...three...four.” Peter continues with that until Stiles’ breathing calms down, and Derek grabs the box of tissues on the nightstand, handing a few to Stiles before putting it down.
Neither gives Stiles a chance to pull away, keeping him safely between them, and Derek lets loose a soothing rumble reminiscent of the one his mom would use to try to comfort them when they were upset.
“Let’s unpack some of those statements, sweetheart. Did you force Scott to go with you to the woods that night? Hold him by gunpoint perhaps? As stubborn as he’s proven to be, surely he could have said no?”
“He could have, but it was my stupid idea and I did pester him into going with me. And I told him to run and hide when I knew we were about to get caught by my dad and his deputies.”
“Again, he had some choices there as well. You both chose to do something stupid and paid for it, and I cannot tell you how much I regret my choice of a bite that night. My only excuse is that I wasn’t in my right mind. As for you helping to kill me, darling, I didn’t leave the lot of you much choice. I can see now that even though I was more coherent than when I first awoke, I was nowhere near sane and I wouldn’t have given up my bloodlust for vengeance even after it should have been sated. You did what was necessary to protect your friends and the town itself, and we will try to help your father understand that. Thankfully, my death wasn’t permanent and was, in fact, rather restorative.”
Derek and Stiles both roll their eyes at that line, Derek going so far as to lightly cuff his Uncle on the shoulder while shaking his head at him. Thankfully, it had gotten Stiles to laugh, which was probably his Uncle’s intention.
“Now, your father will likely be waking up soon, and we need to decide how to handle things before he does wake up. As I doubt him finding two grown men in your bed would be the best way to start this explanation.”
Stiles laughs some more at that. “Truer words, Uncle Creeper, truer words.”
“Hmm, I will call Junior Alpha Potter back and tell him we accept the hospitality gift and overture and that we will be glad to meet with him and his alpha and matriarch when they arrive. I’ll also confirm that they are more than welcome to visit their nephew,” here Derek squeezes Stiles slightly, having never let go from their previous hug.
“I have to admit, the hugs beat the hell out of being shoved into walls. I’m gonna have to get used to touchy feely werewolves, aren’t I?”
Peter and Derek both chuckle, and Peter blatantly scents them both, a soft smile on his face. “I’m afraid you most certainly will. Our pack may be a bit uncertain at the moment, but, hopefully, we’ll find Derek’s wayward betas. Maybe this Mr. Potter will be able to help us. I’m fairly certain he may have been the one we sensed at the warehouse last night, and possibly even the one who dispatched the Argent regent. The box bears the same traces of lilies, freshly turned earth, and ozone that I smelled at his death site. If so, we’ve found a formidable ally, indeed. Now I can hear your father stirring, so my delightful nephew and I shall have to take our leave, dear boy. At least for now.”
“Where’s your phone? I’ll put in my number, and we’ll text you with Peter’s as soon as we get him a phone.”
“You mean you have one? Didn’t just steal Scott’s again?”
Derek is glad to see the shit-eating grin on Stiles’ face, even if it was a bit forced. He very gently pushes Stiles away from him with a mock growl, before getting up and making his way over to the window with Peter. Hopefully, no one will note them leaving.
“Rest. We’ll be in touch later with any news.”
“Aye aye, Alpha-mine.”
Derek’s eyes flared red in response and he felt the thin bond between him and Stiles solidify.
Stiles hears his dad moving around his room, and carefully curls up with his back to the door, purposely slowing his breathing and focusing on relaxing his body as much as he can so that when his dad comes in to check on him it will appear that he’s still sleeping. It took a bit of time to perfect, but he’s had this particular skill down for a while. He should probably feel guilty for yet another way he lies to his dad. But in the past, it had been a way to hear his father’s more unguarded responses, and this morning it was a way to avoid seeing the disappointment and frustration in his dad’s eyes for a little while longer.
He hears his door open and focuses on keeping his breathing slow and even and his shoulders relaxed, though his comforter also hides much of his body and body language.
He can hear his father’s heavy steps as he crosses the room, and is thankful he’s been known to sleep through just about anything, as his dad sits gently on the edge of his bed. His father just sits there for a moment, and Stiles keeps a steady mantra of “breath, two, three, four, exhale, two, three, four” in his mind.
“I’ve often wished Claudia were still here, and not just because I miss her every single day. I just feel like she would know how to get you to open up, where I just seem to keep fucking up with you. I feel as though I’m losing you, and the more I try to reach you the further you get from me.” There is a deep sigh, “Somehow we’ll get through this son, I just have to believe that.”
A gentle hand settles on his back and he can feel his father shifting as he leans over and presses a kiss to the top of Stiles’ head, which is about the only thing not covered by his comforter.
“What was it your mom used to say? As long as we don’t give up on each other, we can survive anything. Thankfully, we Stilinskis are a stubborn lot.” His dad pats Stiles on his shoulder and stands. “You really can sleep through anything, can’t you? Maybe the smell of coffee and breakfast will lure you from slumber. Lord knows I could use a whole pot of coffee right now.”
He listens as his dad leaves his room and heads downstairs, tears soaking into his pillow. He wants so badly to tell his dad everything, but it feels like he’s lost his chance to do so. His dad may love him, but he doesn’t trust him and Stiles isn’t sure he’d believe him if he was honest. Doesn’t help that the truth is pretty damn unbelievable, even if he had ready proof of it to show his dad.
Maybe he can just hide in bed all day. Surely sleeping off his injuries is a good excuse, right?
Peter looks around the industrial loft that he had procured for Derek and their small pack. It badly needed some TLC, but would be a marvelous space once they did some work. While he would have preferred something closer to the preserve, retrofitting an old industrial building for the pack house is something that hunters wouldn’t generally expect and offered more protection than a house out in the preserve would at the moment. He and Derek will likely end up turning the entire complex into condos and apartments, which could be used by pack members later or allow them to sell the building for a tidy profit should they eventually choose to relocate to the preserve.
But for now, it would serve as a good meeting place and home base for their little pack. His own condo downtown is where he and Derek would be staying in the meantime, as Peter refuses to let his nephew continue squatting in abandoned places. When the loft and some of the other apartments are completely done, they’d move in and keep Peter’s condo as a safe-house for the pack. Hopefully, Stiles could help him get it through Derek’s skull that he wasn’t to blame for the death of their family and help Derek stop with the constant self-flagellation.
Peter glances over to where Derek is getting Stiles settled on the couch, which, along with a few chairs and tables, amounts to the only furniture in the place at the moment. Derek would probably put a bed in eventually, but Peter had managed to convince him that Peter’s condo was a better choice for sleeping right now. Peter had managed to get some lovely trays of appetizers and finger foods from a local cafe that also did catering orders, along with putting together a small offering using both the bread and salt present in the Gajos hospitality gift. Traditionally, the pack that was approached would show their appreciation of the hospitality gift and meet it with their own offering during the first official meeting.
Between the food items and the selection of both warm and cold beverages, they were set to offer proper hospitality to their soon-to-arrive guest. They were dressed in what Peter would refer to as smart casual, nice jeans and non-plaid button-down shirts. He’d had to bribe Stiles into wearing the outfit he’d bought for him, but the softness of the dark blue shirt had helped win him over as well as the books of pack lore and history that Peter had brought him.
He is pulled from his musing by the sounds of their guest approaching and the elevator engaging. He fusses with the trays and makes sure the water is hot and ready for tea should their guess want any. Derek looks just as nervous in his own way. When the knock rings from the steel sliding door that serves as the entrance to the loft, he nods at Peter to open it and stands to greet their guest. All traces of worry smoothed from his face, though it was impossible to rid them from his scent. Thankfully hope was woven just as tightly into all their scents. So it is unlikely that their guest would be offended.
He is eager to get a look at the man, having so far only spoken with him briefly by phone when he called to set up this meeting. They’d not seen him when he’d left the package that morning, as Stiles’ window did not face the front of the house. He knows that the visiting werewolf smells amazing though, a base scent of petrichor and spice, layered with a hint of lilies. While it wouldn’t strike many as a good combination, it works remarkably well. And combined with the lovely baritone voice and British accent, he is curious to see what the ‘wolf looked like. He is not one iota disappointed as their guest steps through the door. Their guest is indeed a very handsome man, one close to Peter in age if his guess is right. Like Stiles, his build is on the slimmer and sleeker side, though Peter suspects the close-fitting black slacks and plum button down hide a good bit of muscle. His slightly unruly dark hair and short beard manage to bring his delightful cheekbones and gorgeous eyes out even more. He radiates power along with a hint of otherworldliness, which Peter will admit he finds ridiculously attractive on its own. Combined with the rest of the package, well Peter and his wolf are both very interested.
“Welcome, Junior Alpha Potter. It is a pleasure to meet you in person. I’m Alpha Derek Hale. You’ve already spoken with my Left Hand, Beta Peter Hale, and my current Second, Beta Mieczysław Stilinski, though he prefers Stiles.”
Peter holds back his smile. It had taken them some time to get Stiles’ first name out of him, and a good deal more time to get Derek able to pronounce it correctly. But after explaining the importance of names and titles in formal pack interactions, Stiles had cooperated. It helped that he knew it would probably come out anyway, what with his aunt and uncle in route.
Peter watches as the visiting werewolf nods deferentially at Derek, before holding out his hand.
“The pleasure is mine, Alpha Hale, and please call me Harry. And that goes for all of you,” Harry nods at Peter and Stiles.
“Derek, then.” The two alphas shake hands and Derek gestures Harry towards the refreshments.
“I’m afraid we’re not able to offer the same level of hospitality we once were, but we hope that you will enjoy what we have managed to put together.”
“It looks quite lovely, and I see one of you is a tea drinker. Excellent, I could go for a good strong cuppa.”
They all get settled in with plates of food and drinks before Peter feels it is safe to broach the topic on all of their minds.
“You mentioned in your visitation request that you were in town on business? Might I be so bold as to ask what business has brought you to our fair hamlet? Because if I’m not mistaken, I smelled something quite like your scent near the site of one Gerard Argent’s end. At least I hope it was his end, the world would be better off with him gone, after all.”
“Wait, I know why you feel familiar! You were who I felt at the warehouse the other night!”
Harry’s laugh is a wonderful sound, “I can’t say I’m surprised you felt me, despite the numerous spells I had covering my presence. You might be untrained, but you’ve got quite a bit of magical power, which is definitely something I’d like to talk with you all about as training will be rather important. Your aunt is going to be furious she didn’t realize you were magical, as she would have arranged a tutor for you. My guess is that she assumed that since neither your mom nor she had inherited magic that you wouldn’t either. But that’s a conversation for another time.”
Harry sits his tea on the table, before straightening up and looking at Derek. “I would apologize for not requesting permission before that night, Alpha Hale, but I’m afraid my mission was rather urgent.”
“Mission? I didn’t think the Gajos had rights to hunt here in America, let alone to go after the Argents, which I’m assuming is what you’re talking about.” Peter can’t help but question the situation despite being thankful for anyone wanting to go after Gerard.
“You would be correct. However, my place in the Gajos pack is more as family than hunter. Kaïs found me shortly after I’d been bitten, Celeste had just taken out the rogue and feral alpha that bit me.”
“Which meant you acquired the alpha spark as you were the nearest and possibly only beta. Damn.”
“Exactly. Thankfully, Kaïs and Celeste had plans in place for just such an event and enfolded me into their pack forthwith. However, my previous job was unaffected by me becoming an alpha werewolf.” Harry’s voice is filled with amusement, “Even if the bite had caused me to lose my magic, my boss wouldn’t have batted an eye. They just thought my becoming a ‘wolf made me even more perfect for the position.”
“Well, that is rather forward-thinking of them. But I’m still rather curious what job would have you hunting Gerard Argent. Unless you already worked for the Council?” Peter murmurs the last piece, more to himself than anyone else, “But that doesn’t make sense, since as far as I’m aware no formal charges have been made against any Argents.”
“That’s quite true until my arrival and observations there had been no formal charges even pending before the Council. That will be changing, as I called for a full investigation when I contacted my matriarch and alpha. My job can be a bit hard to wrap one’s head around. I’m not sure how much your pack lore covered the Powers of the universe--those entities that are representative of certain aspects and constants of the universe and are most commonly referred to as gods?”
Peter can feel his eyebrows rise at that bizarre non-sequitur, and he can see Derek and Stiles are equally confused. Derek’s quick glance towards Peter indicates that he has no idea how to respond to that, so Peter responds.
“Talia was fairly sure that the tales were all superstitious nonsense, which I thought was fairly foolish of her considering not just our own existence but all the other types of supernatural and magical creatures around the world. It’s not a huge stretch to think that gods might be real as well. Though I have no idea how their existence is pertinent to this conversation.”
“They are indeed real. Most Powers are known by many names, and they have numerous followers and priests under their various incarnations. However, they have limitations when it comes to their powers and interactions with the mortal, or physical, plane, and so they tend to pick at least one being to act as their Hand here.”
Peter can’t help but be intrigued as he jumps to the obvious conclusion, “And which “Power” are you the Hand for?”
“Hopefully, it won’t cause you to run for the hills.” Harry reaches up to scratch the nape of his neck, “I’m the Hand of Death. I was sent to deal with a few that were trying to avoid their end date, but I promise you, I’m not here for any of you! Death, in fact, wanted me to tell you that it wasn’t your time, Peter, so she was perfectly okay with your resurrection. Gerard, however, had been prolonging both his life and that of his daughter, with some very dark magic in hopes that he could get the bite and then help his daughter who was already changing. She was spelled to be in stasis until he was an alpha. Let’s just say that my boss was not pleased by that, nor were their partners pleased by the other goings-on around here. Mother Earth and Lady Magic are quite pissed at the poisoning of both magic and land that has happened here, and as far as I can tell, it ties back to the Argents and the darachs they were working with.”
Derek and Stiles both look like they’re fighting off panic attacks, and Peter can feel his own claws peeking out. His voice is strangled as he asks “Kate isn’t dead?!”
“Oh, sorry!” Harry looks a bit abashed, “She is now. As is Gerard. Here, I have proof for you.”
Harry pulls out his phone and fiddles with it for a bit before handing it to Peter, “Feel free to scroll through the next few pictures. I put them in an album for this purpose.”
Peter looks down at the phone to see a photo of a very dead Kate Argent, one where her head had been separated from the rest of her. It was clear that she had started to change, and that whatever type of shifter she was turning into, it wasn’t a wolf. He would guess Jaguar from the markings. It takes a lot for him not to crush the phone because he’s furious that his claws had not done their job but had in fact turned the raving bitch who killed his family.
“It wasn’t your fault, Peter,” Harry offers from his spot, “Gerard had always had contingency plans in place for him and his daughter. He had no intention of giving up their power and felt their code was worthless.”
Peter looks up, shocked. “How?”
“Being Death’s Hand gives me access to a good bit of information that others would never have. And that includes a knowledge of the lives of those I’m personally sent to reap.”
Peter nods and glances back down at the phone, scrolling through the photos that show both Kate’s and Gerard’s bodies and the ashes of their destruction. He hands the phone to Derek next, and Stiles wraps himself around Derek’s back and looks over his shoulder as Derek looks through the photos.
“Thank you for showing us proof of their death, Harry.” Derek looks both relieved and haunted and Stiles doesn’t look much better.
“I wish I could have been called to deal with them sooner, but until recently they were out of my purview.”
Peter closes his eyes and breathes deeply. Even if they had been stopped earlier, there is no guarantee that his family would have been saved. So he would be thankful for this surprising ally and the gift that he had granted them, even if it was not an intentional gift.
“And now that your mission is done, will you be leaving town? Or do you have more work to do?” Peter is pleased that his voice does not give away his turbulent emotions. Sure his scent would indicate how conflicted he was, but at least he hadn’t lost his control completely.
“My main mission is done, yes, but I would like to stick around. For one, the darachs are still out there and Death and their partners would like me to sort that out, or at least get started on sorting it, before they send the Hands of Magic and Earth to help heal things. Knowing their hands, they will probably show up to help with the sorting. There is also the matter of an unsanctioned Alpha Pack that appears to have left a calling card at your former home.” Harry handed over his phone with the photo of the jagged triskelion.
“I would like to be handy to back up the other Gajos’ hunters as they investigate both the existence of an Alpha pack that we’ve only heard nasty rumors of and the remaining Argents. Additionally, young Stiles could use training in his magic and I would be most honored to help with that if you would allow me to do so. I can’t help but admit I feel rather drawn to all three of you. I have to admit that I’m not surprised that both Stiles and Peter seemed to feel me last night, despite all the spells hiding me. Nor would I be surprised if you felt me some as well, Derek. I’m not entirely sure what this all means, but I’d like to try to figure it out with you if you are game.”
Peter looks over at Derek and quirks a brow. He would be quite happy for the other werewolf to stick around. The man is good looking, powerful, and absolutely fascinating. What’s not to like? Derek smirks at him in return, before turning to quirk his own eyebrow at Stiles who is still draped over Derek’s shoulder.
“Seems like a good idea to me, Der. Lord knows we could use a knowledgeable source on magic that isn’t super cryptic on the rare times he decides to be helpful. And from what you guys told me about the events of the warehouse before I arrived, Deaton had to be the one to help Scott come up with that plan. Because that level of subterfuge is not something Scott is good at. He can be clever and good at manipulation in the moment, but long term plans are not his strong point. Maybe see what my aunt and uncle have to say when they get here? But, I’ve got to say it seems like a really good idea to me. And it does feel like he’s supposed to be here; like he’s supposed to be a part of this.”
Derek rumbled his assent and turned to look at Harry. “You are welcome in our territory and we would be happy to have your assistance. Now that we’ve gotten the most serious business out of the way, let’s enjoy ourselves a bit. There’s still plenty of food and drink to enjoy, and then we can work on plans for the arrival of the Gajoses, not to mention my missing betas and how to inform the Sheriff of things.”
Here Stiles starts to protest, but Derek cuts him off, “You deserve to be able to tell your father the truth, Stiles, just as he deserves to know that his son is a wonderful young man that he should be proud of.”
Stiles deflates and Derek pulls him around to sit with him, “Now, which of these things should we try first?”
Derek indicates the plate in front of them, and Peter starts to relax a bit. They’ve got a good bit of work in front of them, but they will figure things out. And it looks like they might actually have some allies in doing just that.
Stiles paces the loft fidgeting with the hem of his flannel and glancing occasionally at the door, only stopping when he walks into the immovable object that is his alpha. Derek wraps his arms around Stiles and gently scents him, nuzzling his neck and rumbling soothingly.
“It’s going to be okay, Stiles.”
“You don’t know that, sourwolf. It’s been years since I’ve seen my aunt and uncle, and now I find out they’re hunters...well werewolves and hunters. And sure, it sounds like they’re the good guys, but it’s not like we’ve had the best of luck.”
Stiles’ fingers twist the hem of his flannel even tighter. Derek hugs him close, Stiles’ back pressed along Derek’s front.
“I don’t know about that. Given that we’re both very much alive when we should probably be dead, I’d say we’ve got at least as much good luck as bad. Now, you want to tell me what’s really bugging you?”
“You’ve sure gotten chatty lately, bossy wolf. Not sure if I can handle you communicating with your words as well as your eyebrows and growls.”
“Stiles.” Derek’s growl in his ear is more playful than annoyed.
“Pushy, pushy.” Stiles sighs, “What if I’m just a disappointment to them? I don’t think I can handle being a disappointment to my entire family. It’s bad enough that I’m such a disappointment to my dad.”
“If they are disappointed by you, then I’ll have to rethink any alliances with them because, clearly, they’re too blind to work with us.”
Stiles snorts at that, “I don’t think we’re in any position to turn down allies, Der.”
“Maybe not, but if they can’t see you for the brilliant and loyal young man you are, then we’ll manage without them. But I have a feeling you have nothing to worry about. And no matter what, you’ve got me and Peter. Now, why don’t we go set out the last of the food items? I can hear Peter’s car turning into the lot now.”
Stiles cuddles into Derek briefly. He’s always been a tactile person, and he has to admit he loves how tactile his ‘wolves are. They move to finish setting things up, and Stiles reminds himself to breathe through his worries.
Finally, the door to the loft slides open, and Peter’s “Honey, we’re home” makes Stiles giggle. Derek rolls his eyes.
“Hilarious, Uncle Peter.”
Derek tugs Stiles along with him as they move back into the open area of the loft to greet their guests.
“Welcome Alpha Gajos, Matriarch Gajos. The Hale pack is honored to have you in Beacon Hills, we hope that you will accept our hospitality as we have accepted yours. You’ve already met my Left Hand, Peter, and I believe you know my Second, Mieczysław Stilinski?”
Stiles’ aunt laughs, “Well done, Alpha Hale, not many manage our Mischief’s name that smoothly even with practice. And thank you for the warm welcome, we look forward to working more closely with you and your pack. I was deeply saddened to hear about the loss of your family and deeply frustrated by the fact that we couldn’t investigate the loss of such a large and long-standing pack. I wish I had pushed harder back then, but we know what they say about wishes.”
“That they’re generally a bad idea and asking for trouble?”
“Not quite what I was going for Mietek, but no less true. Now are you going to come give your aunt a hug, or do I have to come to you?” Celeste’s smile is open and welcoming as she opens her arms and Stiles races forward to hug her.
She’s taller than his mom was, but it’s so close to being hugged by his mom that Stiles feels his eyes misting over. She steps back slightly and gently examines the injuries on his face, her own eyes suspiciously wet.
“Harry healed up most of my injuries, Ciotka, but it would have been suspicious if these disappeared since Dad and others have already seen them.”
“And I understand Harry has already taken care of the main culprit behind those injuries as well. I’ll owe him some of his favorite chocolates and a few crates of firewhiskey as well.”
And really, Stiles should not have been surprised that his uncle is an alpha werewolf given his commanding presence and deep rumbling voice that always sounded a bit growly. Despite the slight smirk his uncle threw towards Harry, which seriously makes him wonder if smirking a werewolf trait or just a by-product of being that damn confident, the man also has the same look of relief and worry that his Aunt had a few seconds ago. Stiles launches at his uncle, who gave hugs like his Dad--solid and grounding with just the right amount of gentle pressure.
“It is good to see you, little Mischief. Though you’re not so little anymore. You’ve grown quite a bit since our last visit.” A gentle hand scruffs his hair and Stiles can’t resist rolling his eyes.
“That does tend to happen when one hits puberty, Wujek. Growth spurts and all that jazz. And you know, you could just call me Stiles.”
“We could, but what would be the fun in that, dear cousin? Now, my parents’ have gotten their hugs, so where’s mine?”
Stiles grins at his eldest cousin and leans in to hug her, surprised to find that he is actually now a few inches taller than her.
“Does this mean I can call you short stack now?” The last time he’d seen her, Helena had ruffled his hair and called him just that. Granted he’d been about 8 to her 18 at the time, so the size difference was to be expected. She looks just as bad-ass now as she had then, though he’s fairly sure she’s gotten more ink in the intervening years.
“Very cute, Mischief.” She reaches up and rubs his buzzcut, laughing. “You should grow your hair back out, you look about 12 with the buzz cut.”
“Eh, it’s easier and cheaper to buzz it myself than have to deal with trying to tame it. Plus I’m pretty sure I’d still look twelve even with longer hair. Let’s face it, I’m probably never going to look super macho.” Stiles rolls his eyes and waves his hand indicating his body. He’s heard more than enough about being a spaz and awkward twig. He’s accepted that he was never going to be the heart-throb.
His cousin scoffs and gives him the best deadpan “you’ve got to be kidding me look” he’s seen outside of Derek’s. “You’ve never given yourself enough credit, Mieczysław. Hopefully, your ‘wolves will help me pull your head out of your ass. Maybe even get you to stop hiding under all those layers.” She pokes his side, “But I know to pick my battles. Now are you going to introduce me to your ‘wolves, or what? I promised Robbie and Adam that I’d make sure you were in good hands.”
“Fine, fine. Just stop poking me already. Sheesh.” He grabs her hand and pulls her over to where Derek and Peter were quietly talking with his aunt and uncle.
“Derek, Peter, meet my cousin, Helena Gajos. Hellcat, meet my alpha, Derek Hale, and his reformed but still creepy when he wants to be uncle, Peter Hale.” Looking directly at Derek and Peter he adds, “Just be glad you only have to deal with one of my cousins and not all three at once. They’re stupidly overprotective.”
Helena hooks her chin on his shoulder and tickles him, “That’s 'cause you’re the baby of the family.”
He elbows her, though there isn’t much force behind it.
Peter’s voice interrupts their antics, his tone filled with a wistful fondness, “Looking after one another is the prerogative of family, and they clearly know they have something precious and worthwhile to protect. We can certainly agree with them on that.”
Peter gently squeezes his shoulder and runs his hand down Stiles' arm, scenting him. And Derek murmurs his agreement as well and, seeing that Stiles was about to object, adds, “And before you say anything, we know you can take care of yourself. But there’s no shame in letting your pack and family support you and look after you. Especially, since you are just as protective of those you consider yours. Now, come eat something and help us figure out what our next step should be.”
Stiles lets himself be tugged into a comfortable position sitting between Peter and Derek with a plate of goodies sitting on his lap. Harry perches on the arm of the couch by Peter and his aunt, uncle, and cousin making themselves comfortable as well. There is an easy camaraderie flowing through the loft and he basks in the moment. Everything could come crashing down when they tell his dad, but, for now, he has his pack and family with him. Hope can be a dangerous thing, but maybe this time everything really will be okay.
Harry glances around the Sheriff’s station as he follows Kaïs with bags of food. It’s impossible not to notice the damage, clearly the aftermath of the attack on the station that Stiles had mentioned. Stiles had also tried to take some of the blame for it, saying that if Matt hadn’t realized they knew he was the Kanima’s master then he wouldn’t have attacked the station. It was definitely going to take some time to break the kid of the habit of blaming himself for things well outside of his control. Harry couldn’t deny that he was already protective of the kid. Hell, he had felt drawn to Stiles and the two Hales since he first saw them, and he can already feel light bonds to each of them forming. But that was a bridge to cross at a later time. They needed to focus on some of the more pressing issues first.
After a great deal of discussion, it was decided that reading the Sheriff in on the situation was probably the priority. And while Stiles had been more than willing to take the brunt of his father’s disbelief and anger, as he was sure that would be Noah’s first reaction, Kaïs and Celeste had firmly informed him that they were adults and could handle anything Noah threw at them.
Harry had been chosen to accompany Kaïs for the reveal, Celeste clearly hoping that Harry could help Kaïs keep his temper. Harry didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was likely to be the other way around. Even if Harry wasn’t connected to death, he knew full well what someone struggling with passive suicidal ideation looked like, and while he knew that recent events had not helped, he suspected that there were much deeper issues at play as well. Stiles was too quick to denigrate himself and accept blame even when it wasn’t due. He covered things well with quick wit and sarcasm, but there was a wariness in his eyes that reminded Harry of his younger self -- like he was just waiting for them to decide he wasn’t worth the trouble either. It was hard not to be angry at a man who should have seen that his son was struggling, though Harry reminds himself that he only has parts of the story.
Conversations with the Hales, as well as some light snooping around town and his own observations indicated that Noah does indeed love his son, but that he worked too hard and wasn’t always sure how to handle being a single dad. He knows Kaïs and Celeste are kicking themselves for not fighting harder to stay in touch and be there for the Stilinskis after Claudia’s death. But all they can do now is pick up the pieces and if things truly can’t be fixed, then make sure that Stiles knows he is not alone.
Their cover story was simple. They were in the region for a security job that had just finished up and decided to stop by and surprise Noah and Stiles. They’d called the house to see if anyone was home and found out that Stiles was home from school healing and so they’d stopped by there first to check on him. Stiles had mentioned wanting to bring his dad lunch, but not feeling up to it. So Kaïs and Harry had offered to bring the food because Celeste wanted some time to catch up with her nephew privately.
So here they were with bags of hearty but healthy food from a local restaurant, along with some cookies and other treats that could go in the break room for the deputies to enjoy.
“Well, shit. Talk about a welcome surprise. It’s damn good to see you, old man. Who’s this with you.”
“If I’m an old man, what does that make you, Noah?” Kaïs chuckled, “We aren’t that far apart in age if memory serves.”
“Ugh, don’t remind me. I feel every bit of my age these days.” Noah runs a hand through his hair, exhaustion written in every line of his face. He shakes his head and holds out his hand towards Harry with a tired smile.
“Noah Stilinski, this ridiculous gentleman happens to be my brother-in-law. Forgive our rudeness, it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other.”
“It’s not a problem, Sheriff, I’m mostly here to carry things.” Harry lifts the bags in his hand.
“Nonsense.” Kaïs grips his shoulder briefly. “Noah, this is Harry, one of our most recent adopted strays. He was kind enough to help Celeste and me out on this job since our other children were busy.”
“Pleasure to meet another nephew. Stiles and I have been meaning to get out to Poland for a visit, but something always seems to come up.” He shakes his head, “But that’s neither here nor there. Let me tidy up my office a bit and you two can join me for dinner since I’m assuming Stiles sent you with food to distract me from getting diner take-out again. I’m guessing none of those containers hold a burger and fries?”
“Afraid not, but I think you’ll like what we brought. Now go hide the things you don’t need us seeing and we can catch up over dinner.”
As Noah turns to do just that, Kaïs winks at the pretty deputy and holds out the one bag he’d been holding.
“Tara, right? We brought some goodies for the deputies as well. From what Stiles said, things have been rough around here, so we figured a treat would be appreciated.”
She grins right back at him and tucks the bag behind the front desk. “You’ve got a good memory, sir. It’s been a while since we met. But thank you for the treats. I’ll stick them in the breakroom once you guys are settled in the Sheriff’s office. If you keep his attention long enough, the most unhealthy options should be gone by the time he sees them.”
“It’s Kaïs. And I see Stiles has roped you all into helping him monitor his dad’s health. He’s quite convincing when he gets going, isn’t he?”
Tara laughs, “He’s a good kid, if a bit energetic. And he cares deeply for those in his circle. He has been known to nag all of us about our health since, as he puts it, this ‘job is stressful and will take years off your life and there’s no need to help it along by eating crap all the time.’ He means well, and if it eases his worry a bit, well we’re happy to do that.”
Her gaze gets a bit distant and she frowns clearly worried about something, “I just wish he’d open up to us about whatever he’s going through right now. Noah’s not the only one who’s worried.”
Before either Harry or Kaïs can respond, Noah is back and ushering them back to his office. They get settled and the food, drinks, and utensils get handed out. Noah lets out a huge sigh and looks up from the box of food in front of him.
“I was actually trying to work up the nerve to call you and Celeste, so you showing up here is practically a sign from the heavens.”
Kaïs arches an eyebrow at him but patiently waits for Noah to continue.
“My boy has gotten mixed up in something and I’m at my wits end on how to handle it. He’s always gotten into little bits of mischief, but it was usually harmless pranks and typical kid shenanigans. He’s lied to me in the past, but usually just playfully testing boundaries and kidding around. But these past few months he’s been lying to me about everything, showing up at crime scenes, skipping school and games, even stealing police property and kidnapping one of his classmates! Now he’s come home completely beaten up and I know it wasn’t the rival lacrosse team pissed off that he scored the winning shot. And I just don’t know what to do, short of asking you and Celeste to take him in for a while.”
Noah’s hands are clenched and his eyes full of pain and worry. “Maybe getting him out of town would get him away from whatever he’s gotten mixed up in, I don’t know. Maybe he’ll trust you since it’s clear he doesn’t trust me. I just feel like I’m losing him, and I can’t...” His voice is choked, “I can’t lose him, Kaïs .”
Noah’s clear agony over the situation helps quell some of the rage Harry has been feeling. He’s still fully planning on giving the man what-for should it be necessary, and knows Kaïs and Celeste won’t hold back either despite their own fondness for the man.
Kaïs’ voice is incredibly gentle when he responds, “I don’t think it’s about trust as much as it’s about wanting to protect you.”
Kaïs holds up a hand and forestalls whatever Noah is about to say. “And before you argue that it is your job to protect him and not the other way around, for whatever reason Stiles doesn’t fully see it that way. I’m not sure entirely what happened in the years after Claudia’s death, and both Celeste and I regret not trying harder to remain in more regular contact with you both rather than calls at holidays and rare visits during the summer months. But whatever happened, Stiles has clearly grown up thinking that he is just as responsible for you as you are for him.”
That hand goes back up, “Aaa, let me talk for a moment, Noah, before you get all defensive. It’s not uncommon in single-parent households at all, and I mean no disparagement. I’m simply pointing out what I’ve observed after talking with Stiles over the past few days. And yes, we’ve been in town a bit longer than you thought, and I will explain it all in due course.”
Noah huffs and settles back in his chair, clearly not happy with the direction the conversation has taken, but seemingly willing to listen at this moment.
“Stiles loves you wholeheartedly, but you’re right he doesn’t trust you.”
Noah outright flinches as Kaïs continues, “One of the biggest reasons for that is that you don’t trust him. The other is he’s terrified of disappointing you more than he already has,” Kaïs’ hand goes back up, “His words not mine. He’s got this idea that you got stuck with a rotten deal--a hyperactive kid with no filter and an interest in the most obscure things rather than a diligent son who is interested in sports and other “normal” boy things. I doubt that’s what you really think, but that’s the idea he’s carrying around.”
Kaïs’ gaze goes super sharp, “He’s pretty sure you’d rather his friend Scott was your son, something about you trusting Scott over him. He followed it up with a comment that everyone else did, so why should his own father be different. So there is clearly something going on there as well, but that’s something we can dig into another time.”
“I did say something like that to him. I was joking, but, clearly, he took it more to heart than I thought.” Noah slumps over and runs a hand down his face, “God, what else has he taken to heart that I said in jest?”
“Self-realization is all well and good, but don’t spend so much time beating yourself up that you fail to fix the situation.” Harry can’t help but speak up. He’s glad Noah gets that he’s screwed up, but sitting and wallowing in shame will do no one good. Plus shame smells rather foul, and he would like to eat the food they’ve got in front of them at some point. At least he had the foresight to spell the containers so the food would stay at the perfect temperature for eating regardless of whether it was a dish best served hot or cold.
“I apologize if I’ve overstepped.” Harry’s voice made it clear he was being polite and wasn’t actually the least bit sorry for his statement, “I’ve only just started getting to know Stiles, but I’m already quite fond of him, and I’d hate to see him hurt any more than he already has been.”
“Harry’s quite right. Celeste and I may have kept our distance thinking it was for the best, but it's obvious that we were wrong. We are here to help now, and, hopefully, you will let us. You were willing to send Stiles to us to save him, but will you allow us to stay and help you both?”
Noah pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs, “You two don’t pull punches do you?”
“Would you rather we pussyfoot around the issues at hand? You always hated it when people didn’t get right to the point.”
Noah snorts, “You know me too well. I’ll take all the help I can get, even if I reserve the right to grumble about it from time to time. Hell, if you can get my kid to talk to you, I won’t even grumble.”
“Then you’re going to have to hold in the grumbling. Though to be fair, we had an advantage of already knowing something about what was going on, we just didn’t realize that Stiles was mixed up in it.”
Noah’s eyebrows rose quite high before he got a steely look, and he leaned forward all business.
“You mean to tell me that you knew something was going on in my town and didn’t tell me?”
Kaïs gives him a completely unamused look, “What we’re about to discuss with you is much bigger than Beacon Hills, Noah, and deals with global secrets older than all of us combined. A great deal of it defies what you know to be the rules of reality and we do not tell people of this world lightly.”
Kaïs leans forward every inch the alpha of one of the most powerful packs in the world even if he wasn’t shining his red eyes at the moment.
“I need you to listen, Noah, and trust that I would never be so cruel as to lie to you about something like this. I also need you to trust that we had good reasons for not telling you.”
At this point, Noah looks more confused than anything, though worry is creeping back into his expression as well.
“Kaïs, what the hell are you talking about?”
Kaïs doesn’t look at him, but Harry knows what he wants. “On it, boss.”
Harry rarely uses his wand for casting these days and is fully capable of casting privacy spells without a single indication to observers that such spells have been cast. However, in this instance, visible signs of magic and the supernatural will be helpful. So he pulls his wand and focuses on adding some visual embellishments as he casts a strong privacy ward. The look of utter shock on Noah’s face as light flows from his wand and settles into shimmering sheets of light that almost look like they are part of the walls, ceiling, and floor. Kaïs rolls his eyes at Harry.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you cast something this showy, Harry.”
“I figured more visible proof of magic could only help with this conversation.” Harry shrugs.
Meanwhile, Noah has gotten up and is poking at the wall.
“What in the world…” his voice is a weird blend of wonder and confusion as he turns around to face them, “Magic?”
He glances at the still closed containers of food and then back at you. “Well, it can’t be hallucinogens in my food considering we haven’t eaten yet. And I can’t imagine you releasing an aerosol hallucinogen in a Sheriff’s station. So please explain what the fuck I’m seeing, Kaïs, in small words. And tell me how in the hell it relates to what’s been going on in my town.”
“To misquote an old television show that I know Claudia loved, ‘The world is stranger than you know.’”
Noah snorts at this and some of the tension in the room eases.
“Magic exists and has always existed, as have those that many would deem magical or supernatural creatures. While the myths and folktales aren’t necessarily accurate, they often have nuggets of truth contained within them.”
“So what, you’re all witches? Was Claudia afraid I’d leave her if I knew?”
Kaïs is gentle in his response to Noah’s worry, “No, Claudia and Celeste are both human though magic does often appear in their family. Claudia wanted what she called a normal life, and was determined to keep you and Stiles away from all things supernatural. Celeste and I respected her wishes, though now we wish we’d spoken up sooner. But such thoughts are pointless, we are where we are and cannot go back and change things, so we must move forward.”
“So time travel isn’t a real thing.”
Noah looks so relieved that Harry hates to burst that bubble, “Unfortunately, time travel is a very real thing. But it has steep consequences and is usually ill-advised, even if one is powerful enough to pull it off without using a magical artifact. And those are heavily guarded and have their own limitations built-in. And to answer your earlier question, I’m a magic-user but tend to use the term mage rather than witch. There are a lot of distinctions and terms for magic users. To be perfectly honest, the distinctions are usually culturally based and complete bullshit, but that’s people for you.”
Harry takes a moment to dig in his pocket and pull out a miniaturized thermos, which he restores to size. He transfigures two paperclips and a pen into coffee mugs and pours three cups before handing one to Noah and one to Kaïs. Noah watches everything avidly, his fascination clear.
“How…” He shakes his head and mutters something under his breath about saving his curiosity for later, “Nevermind, let’s keep going. So, you’re a...mage, was it?”
Harry nods, “Among other things. But we can get into that in more detail later.”
“Right. And you, Kaïs? Are you a mage as well?”
Kaïs chuckles, “No. I’m something rather more...primal one could say. And while it is possible for those like me to also be able to wield magic, I’m not so gifted.”
Noah didn’t look all that pleased at the non-answer and gave a “well go on” gesture, “Stop teasing and just tell me what’s going on. Maybe we can get to the point where we can eat before the food is completely cold.”
“Oh, you needn’t worry about that, Harry’s magic will keep the food the right temperature.” Kaïs continued on, seeing that Noah was at his limit, “Remember how I mentioned that many myths have a grain of truth?”
Noah nods and Kaïs goes on, “Well, that includes those with the natural ability to shapeshift and tap into a more primal...animalistic side as well.”
Noah gives him a flat look.
“You’re saying that werewolves are real,” Noah’s brow quirks up and he levels quite the “are you shitting me” look at Kaïs, “That you are a werewolf? And you were, what, born that way?”
If Harry had any doubts that Stiles was Noah’s son, that look and deadpan statement alone would have soothed them. Stiles clearly got his sass from both sides of the family.
“I was, indeed, born that way. Just remember that I am the same man you’ve known for decades now.”
And with that statement, Kaïs let the beta shift flow over him, sitting calmly and letting the reality of things settle in for Noah.
Noah only resembles a stunned deer for a few seconds before curiosity takes over and he leans forward, “How on earth...and where did your eyebrows go? Do all werewolves lose their eyebrows when they shift? Does the body reabsorb the hair so it can sprout elsewhere? If I took a hair sample right now, would it register as human or wolf, I wonder. And you can just sprout claws and fangs whenever you want? I know you can’t all lose control at the full moon because you were at my wedding to Claudia and we got married under a full moon. So you clearly have control, but maybe not everyone can?”
Noah tilts his head, “Is that what’s been going on around here? An out of control werewolf? That would certainly explain the increase in animal attacks that otherwise make no sense. What happens when a werewolf loses control? I’m guessing you have some way of handling that or the world would know about the supernatural already.”
“You do realize we can only answer one question at a time, right?” Kaïs smirks, “You may control your energy and curiosity better, but it’s times like this I know you’re Stiles’ father.”
“Oh god, Stiles knows about this world and is involved somehow. There is no way he’d let this sort of thing go until he had all the answers.”
“Before you jump to too many wrong conclusions. Why don’t we start with the basics and go from there? We may as well eat while we do it, as it may take a while. Now to answer one of your questions, yes, a ‘wolf can lose control -- though, usually, it is only those without packs that struggle to control their wolves. And yes, there are those who police the supernatural. They are usually referred to as Hunters. And though many Hunters would hate to admit it, they are not so different from werewolf packs. You see, Hunters tend to be family groups with each generation raised to take over from the last. New additions to the line are carefully selected, and alliances formed between different families with similar philosophies.”
Kaïs takes a deep breath, “And just like mundane law enforcement, you get a mix of those who are honorable and truly wish to keep the peace and those who are just as monstrous as those they hunt. In the hunting community, the latter tend to be extremists who believe that anything not “human” in their eyes deserves to be destroyed regardless of whether they have harmed a soul or not. And while there is a loose governing council for the Supernatural world, some of the hunting families do not fully recognize the authority of that agency. They toe the line publicly, while outright destroying it privately. Unfortunately, they are usually good at covering their tracks, which makes it hard to prove and thus hard to bring them to justice.”
Kaïs pauses and sips his coffee, clearly gathering his thoughts. Noah seems content to sit quietly for now, more than likely synthesizing what he’s learned so far.
“One thing that you are really going to struggle with, Noah, is that justice in this world tends to be much harsher than you are used to. We do not have the resources to jail malcontents, and secrecy is a must. Having the supernatural revealed to the world as a whole would more than likely lead to a full out war and both sides would be decimated. We cannot risk it. You are being read in because your son is involved, and since it seems he has inherited magic, most likely from the Gajos side, there is no way he wouldn’t have been involved eventually. I’d have likely decided to read you in since it’s clear that your station has been caught in the middle of a supernatural mess and because I know you are both level-headed and ultimately a kind man who believes in protecting all of the citizens in your county. But Stiles having magic definitely gave me a push. The fact that he is determined to protect you and would likely have kept lying to you to do so, thus destroying your relationship further and breaking his own heart in the process. Well, that was even more of a reason. You’re both family, and we’d hate to lose either of you. So I’m asking that you listen, ask your questions, and do your best to wrap your head around it, for Stiles’ sake if nothing else.”
“It sounds like there are those who act as judge, jury, and executioner, and I can’t say that sits well with me. But I’m willing to listen and try to understand. Why don’t we start with why you’re leading with the Hunters and not the possible feral werewolves in my town?”
“Because the two are rather entwined. Perhaps we should start with the history of the town itself.”
The three settle in for a long discussion. The privacy wards would keep the deputies from wondering about the visit and why it was going so long but would allow them to approach the Sheriff’s door and knock should an actual emergency arise. He’s sure that there will be some points where Kaïs and he have to calm the Sheriff’s temper, especially when they get into more recent events. But he was listening with an open mind and hadn’t thrown a fit and demanded they leave his town and stay away from his son. So Harry is willing to be cautiously optimistic for the moment.
“My nephew speaks quite highly of you.”
Derek would love to say he didn’t tense up as Celeste approaches him, but he doesn’t feel too bad about his reaction. If someone told them they weren’t intimidated by the renowned hunter, then they were either stupid or lying, possibly both. He tries not to tense too much, though, and continues to prep the tea, coffee, and snacks he had offered to prepare while everyone else caught the Sheriff up on where precisely everything stood now that he was aware of the supernatural world and what had been going on in his town recently.
“He’s also quite enamored of you.”
“Easy, Derek, in just the short time we’ve had to observe you together it’s clear that you are equally enamored of him and that both of you are worried about not hurting the other. It would appear that you are both good for one another, so I have no plans on stepping between you. Of course, that doesn’t mean you get out of the obligatory shovel speech.”
She gives him a wicked grin and wink that reminds him a lot of Stiles, before putting on an exaggerated serious face.
“You break his heart and I’ll break you.”
“I’d expect nothing less, ma’am, and you’d be welcome to do it.”
Derek can’t help but be utterly serious in his response. He doesn’t yet know fully what he feels for Stiles. He’d found him cute but annoying when they first met. But then he’d continued to help Derek even when he was scared witless, and Derek slowly started to trust him more. The fact that Stiles had helped get Erica to him after they were attacked by the kanima in the library, despite having been threatened and hurt by Erica and his other betas said a lot about the young man. He puts up a show of being a bastard, but when the chips are down he goes out of his way to help others. And he is just as fierce as any ‘wolf that Derek’s met.
“Oh god, you’ve got it just as bad as he does.” Celeste leans on the counter laughing, while Derek scowls at her. He can feel the tip of his ears burning.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He decides to carry the two carafes, one of hot water for tea and one of coffee, into the dining room. He’s not sure if Peter brought the carafes and other serving items over, or if they’re leftover from a time when the Stilinskis did more entertaining. But he’s glad they have them, it makes this sort of thing much easier.
Celeste gets her laughter under control and carries the tray with sugar, cream, and assorted teas out. She passes Derek on his way back into the kitchen.
“I meant no offense, Derek.”
Her eyes are warm and kind, and so much like Stiles’. Derek nods at her, accepting her sort of apology and moving to grab the tray of finger sandwiches. Between the two of them, they get things moved into the dining room, which will let people grab snacks and move around their planning area which has spread throughout the dining room and living room.
He glances over and sees Stiles huddled together with Helena, Harry, and Peter. He concentrates his hearing a bit and finds they are discussing spells and magical options of tracing the missing betas. Stiles had been adamant that they had planned on returning to Derek after being freed from Argent but they’d never shown up. And even if they had changed their minds and left Beacon Hills, Derek just wants to know they’re all right.
He knows he wasn’t the best alpha. He’s never been great with words and had relied on the techniques his parents had used to control them before they gained proper control. But he didn’t explain that to them, not that it would have necessarily helped. But he could have tried.
He shakes his head, puts together two cups of tea, and walks over to hand them to Stiles and Peter. All he can do now is try to do better. His efforts get him a brilliant smile from Stiles along with a “Thanks, Sourwolf,” and a gentle smile and brief scenting from his uncle.
“Can I get you guys anything?” Derek asks Helena and Harry.
“Mmm, coffee for me, please,” Helena requests with a smile, “cream, no sugar. Thanks.”
Harry’s nose twitches, “Tea would be brilliant. That the same blend you made the other day? Some sort of variant of earl grey?”
“Earl grey blended with rose. Fell in love with it in college, and was delighted to find someone still makes it. I take it meets your approval?”
“Mmm, quite. You’ve got excellent taste, mate.”
Peter’s eyes light up and it’s clear that he’s happy that one of his offerings has pleased their guest. It’s impossible not to pick up on the pheromones both he and Harry have been putting out. He hopes that Harry does decide to stick around. He brings out a side of his uncle that Derek hasn’t seen in a long time, and, well, they could all use some happiness.
He snags a cup of coffee for Helena and makes Harry’s tea and then goes back to observing everyone else for a bit. Happy to simply be with his pack and their allies. Stiles excitement and contentment curls around him, a delightful scent that he’s very happy to be surrounded by. Especially since Stiles had been so worried that his dad wouldn’t handle the reveal well; that he would be mad enough to disown Stiles. Derek couldn’t see that happening, not with what he’d seen of their relationship. But he also knows that fears and worries are often illogical.
It had taken everything he had not to run with Stiles when the Sheriff came home with Harry and Kaïs. Not because he thought the Sheriff would hurt Stiles, but because he hated the smell of rank fear that came off Stiles at that moment. Thankfully, he was able to control that urge and the scent was short-lived. The Sheriff, or Noah, as he kept insisting, had immediately gathered Stiles in his arms.
Everyone else had retreated to another room to give the two at least the illusion of privacy. Though Derek knows he’s not the only one who kept an ear on the situation just to be on the safe side. He’d been relieved to hear Noah offer sincere apologies to Stiles for not listening when Stiles did try to tell him, and for making Stiles think that Noah didn’t trust him. For making Stiles feel like Noah would rather have Scott as a son and not the brilliant young man that he did have. It would take time to fix all the things broken between them, but he and the others would do what they could to help.
Meanwhile, Noah, Kaïs, and a few of the other Gajos hunters were pouring over all the evidence that the Argents had obliterated their code and putting together a case for the council, which they would have a trusted pack member courier to the council as soon as it was put together. Kaïs had suggested waiting until other council representatives could be present before confronting the few remaining Argents. Apparently, neither he nor Celeste trusted themselves not to take their anger out on the remaining Argents even if they’d not been directly involved in the kidnapping and brutal beating of their nephew. Not that Derek blamed them. He was sorely tempted to take out his own anger on them but knew it would get them nothing but trouble right now.
So for now his focus was on finding his missing betas and dealing with the Alpha Pack. Isaac seems to have thrown his lot in with Scott, which Derek completely understands. Scott and Melissa could offer Isaac a great deal more stability than he could right now. He’ll have to figure out some solution for the two of them. He won’t ever be able to trust Scott again, certainly not enough to ever consider making him pack. And while he wanted to act like an alpha, Scott wasn’t one. Not really. But he wants them to be safe from becoming omegas, if only for Isaac’s sake. Maybe Kaïs will have some ideas.
Peter watches utterly engrossed as Harry walks Stiles through the spell that they decided would be the best for finding the missing betas. It had been fascinating to learn that there was a subset of magic users that chose to live completely separate from the rest of the supernatural world as well as from the mundane world.
“Most magical children are given a focus object around their eleventh birthday to help them train their magic. It’s useful but can become a crutch if one isn’t careful. Somehow I don’t think we have to worry too much about you not stretching yourself though, so we’ll start with a focus object and build from there.”
Harry pulls out a jar of rowan ash, “Now traditionally the focus object is a wand, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be anything that the wielder believes focuses and enhances their own magic. You mentioned that you’ve already worked with rowan ash, even managing to make a tiny bit last long enough to close a circle around an entire building, which is no small feat. Now, hold out your hands, cupped just so.”
Harry demonstrates what he was looking for, then pours some of the rowan ash into Stiles' hands, and then positioning the hands so that the ash was primarily cupped in one palm and covered with the other.
“Now I want you to close your eyes and focus on your strongest memories of Erica and Boyd. Think of what makes them who they are, how their wolves have enhanced and changed that, and focus on the tie that enduring horrible things together forges. You know them, and while you weren’t necessarily friends with them, you could be. You want to be. But to do that, we must find them. Feel each grain of ash in your hands. Take a deep breath and repeat after me while picturing the ash circling their location on the map. ‘The ash is the connection, with it I will find my friends, with it I will find my pack.’”
Even with his eyes closed, it’s clear that Stiles is focused on his task. The smell of petrichor and ozone grows stronger and it starts to feel as if the very air is charged with each repetition of the phrase Harry had given Stiles. When it felt like all his hair was standing on end, Harry ordered Stiles to release the ash, which then flowed across the large detailed map of Beacon County they’d set up on the dining room floor for this task. They all watched with bated breath as it circled a particular block, then tightened until it was closer to encircling a small set of buildings.
“Huh, I guess an abandoned bank with a still working vault would be a good place to stash prisoners.”
Stiles is leaning over the map, “I mean of all the buildings in that block the old First National Bank makes the most sense. Wait, it worked. The spell worked.”
Stiles’ grin is blinding when he looks back towards those watching. “I can do magic!”
“I mean, from what I’ve heard, you’d done magic before, kiddo.” Noah’s voice is amused and proud.
“Yeah, but I didn’t know if that was a fluke. A sort of one-off. This,” He gestures at the map and the ash, “this shows that it wasn’t a fluke.”
“Definitely not a fluke,” Harry leans over and squeezes Stiles’ shoulder, “you’ve got a good well of magic in you. And once we’ve got all this sorted out you and I will be sitting down and coming up with a proper schedule for your training. Untrained magic like yours is dangerous, both for you and those around you. It can leave you open and vulnerable to far too many things for one. So I’d like you to wear that protective amulet I gave you. Do not take it off, you hear me? I can assure you that it will hold up to showers and baths just fine.”
Stiles nods and his hand goes to the necklace he’d been given.
“Hopefully, you’ll let me sit in on some of these future lessons,” Peter can’t help but hunger for more knowledge, and this is a type of magic he’d never dreamed of. Even if it’s beyond his ability to perform, he wants to know all that he can.
Harry gives him a considering look, then grins, “That will depend on Stiles, I think. I’m fine with an audience, but he may not be.”
Stiles snorts, “Nah, by this point I’m used to Curiouswolf over there and wouldn’t dream of denying him knowledge. Are you sure you aren’t part cat, Peter?”
“What’s the saying, sweetheart? Takes one to know one?”
There are assorted snorts and chuckles around the room before Kaïs focuses their attention back on the matter at hand.
“So what do we know about this bank? And is there a way we can confirm that this is where they are being held?”
Derek settles onto the Stilinskis’ couch with a weary sigh. Harry had reviewed the layout of the bank carefully with Noah, who was able to get the building schematics from the station since the bank had been robbed during the short three months it was in operation. Harry had gone to check out the bank on his own, though Celeste had insisted on being nearby with a team just in case. But it was unlikely Harry would need help, given his ability to avoid detection completely thanks to both his personal magic and the divine magic he was graced with as the Hand of Death.
He shakes his head as he marvels over that. He had been raised to believe in older gods rather than any of the Judeo-Christian variants, though his family had always been careful about how open they were with their beliefs. When you’re already different in a way that could lead to your death if discovered, it pays to blend in with mainstream culture as much as possible. But even having been raised believing in the old gods, he’d never once thought he’d meet an avatar for one of them. Maybe one of their higher priests sure, but avatars, well, they’d been considered little more than overhyped legends of high priests.
He probably would have thought that was the case with Harry had he not met Death themself that night with Paige so long ago. They’d appeared as an older person dressed for hiking in the woods with weather-worn, darkly tanned skin and long white hair hanging in a long braid against their back. If it weren’t for the star-filled eyes and the clinging scents of flowers and earth that he associated with the local graveyard, not to mention the overwhelmingly otherworldly presence, he’d have simply thought they were a hiker who’d stumbled upon the scene and thought to offer aid. But he’d heard no one approaching him before he felt the well-worn hand land on his shoulder. He remembers looking up in startled fury only to freeze as he took in their face.
“There is no shame in offering mercy to those suffering, Derek. I cannot give her back to you, as her time here is done. Fate is a fickle thing, and more fluid than many believe, but no one can avoid death forever and when it’s someone’s time, well, all we can do is make it as comfortable as possible.”
The hand squeezed his shoulder, “I hope one day you will find peace with this day and know that what happened here, while a tragedy, isn’t your fault. Just try to remember that there is no shame in your actions today, nor is there shame in seeking comfort from your pack.”
There had been a cold swirl of air, and a feeling of pressure building around him. Then with a pop, it was gone, as was the being who’d been talking to him. Their final words echoing in Derek’s mind, “Be well, young Hale, I do not intend to meet you again for some time.”
That same sense of power and the scents he associated with that memory were deeply entwined with Harry’s own scent, which reminded him of molasses cookies, the smell of earth after rain, and honeycomb. He’d chatted with both Peter and Stiles about it after they’d officially met with Harry, and both had similar thoughts as well as their own memories of meeting Death. Though Stiles could not offer the scent similarities, he did offer that Harry felt very much like the woman he’d thought he’d hallucinated as a kid after an incident with his mom and the bathtub. The very incident that had resulted in her being hospitalized for her illness. Derek’s heart had broken when he’d read between the lines of what Stiles was saying and realized he’d met Death because his mother had drowned him. Derek is thankful that someone must have revived Stiles, though he didn’t want to ask any other questions, trusting Stiles to talk about it in more detail if he ever felt comfortable to do so. He had pulled the teen into a hug and was quickly joined by Peter for a pack cuddle session though.
He’s thankful that they’d managed to convince Stiles to go lay down for a bit. The spell work from earlier had worn him out more than he’d realized at first, but once he came down off the adrenaline rush of successfully casting, he’d started to visibly droop. He probably would have just fallen asleep in the chair and thought nothing of it had Noah not ushered him up to his actual bed.
Harry had promised them that as he practiced he’d get more skilled at pouring the right amount of power into each spell, and thus be less likely to exhaust himself from one major spell. He’d also noted that one side benefit of Stiles overpowering this particular spell was that it would have likely overcome any spells that were being used to hide the betas. Stiles would sleep a bit, then they’d make sure he ate some more food, and he’d be good to go. Though knowing that doesn’t keep Derek from keeping an ear on his second as he sleeps.
“Penny for your thoughts? Well, a coffee for your thoughts?”
Derek blinks and focuses on Kaïs, who is standing near the couch holding two cups of coffee, one clearly meant for Derek.
“Probably not worth even that much, honestly.” Derek gives a half-smile as he accepts the coffee, “Mostly just wool-gathering, as my grandmother would say. What’s up?”
Derek takes a sip of the coffee, not at all surprised that it’s made the way he likes with just a touch of sugar. They’d all been spending quite a bit of time around each other since the Gajoses had arrived, pretty much getting straight into war planning mode and essentially circling the wagons. Derek had thought it would feel weird to have another pack on his territory and working so closely with them, but Celeste and Kaïs treated them more like long lost family than a second, completely separate pack.
Kaïs sits down on the sturdy coffee table facing Derek, “I wanted to chat for a minute, just us. I only met your mother a few times, mostly at council events. And I will say that I respected the hell out of her, though I didn’t always agree with her decisions, nor she with mine. She never did understand why I was willing to take in strays and teach them, especially new alphas. She always told me that my arrogance in thinking I could tame new ‘wolves would be my downfall. And well, I never agreed with her position on not teaching her children the ins and outs of supernatural politics as soon as they were old enough to start learning. In my family, we all learn about the various roles that can be held within a pack from a fairly early age, because birth order doesn’t really factor into how well-suited one is for one role or another. Nor can one easily predict what harm might befall a pack and who might inherit the spark as a result. So we learn about all the roles and duties, at least generally, just to be on the safe side. When we start showing affinities for one role or another we might get more specialized training. As we grow older, we also learn more about some of the other supernatural races as well as how to function in the mundane world.”
Kaïs pauses to take a drink of his coffee, and Derek sits forward fascinated by both an outsider’s perspective on his mom and by the knowledge of how other packs raised their kids.
“Your mom decided early on that Laura would be her heir, and it was clear that she focused all her training on Laura from that moment on. Which, in my opinion, did you and your other siblings a disservice.”
Derek frowns, “You can just say I’m a shitty alpha, Kaïs. It’s the truth.”
“Hmph, now that I’m going to have to disagree with you on. No, don’t sass me back on that just yet.” Kaïs’ glare makes Derek feel like he’s been called into the principal’s office, “You’ve been handed a truly shitty set of cards, my friend. You were not trained to be anything other than a beta within a pack. You weren’t even given any training that you might need for being an alpha’s right or left hand, despite it being most likely that you would fill one of those roles for your sister. One can only assume that your mother wanted to wait until you were all older for that training, but we will likely never know that. So we have a beta with only his own memories of how his pack ran and how he and his siblings were trained. That beta suddenly becomes an alpha. You knew you needed at least three betas to stabilize your power and your own spark since you did not have the option of being enfolded into another pack as a junior alpha. So you picked three people that you felt most needed a pack and tried to help them. Did you make mistakes? Yes.”
Kaïs leans forward and sets a hand on Derek’s knee while maintaining eye contact, “But Derek, we all make mistakes. It’s part of living. Outside of divine entities, not a damn one of us is perfect. And I have a feeling the divine beings would point out that they fuck up from time to time too.”
Kaïs shrugs at that. “But to tell you the truth, I’ve no desire to ask a god about their fuck-ups. Seems like a good way to meet one’s end, right?”
Derek chuckles and nods. He really does appreciate Kaïs’ down-to-earth, no bullshit approach to things.
“But you want to know what both Harry and I have noticed?”
Kaïs pauses and waits for Derek to acknowledge the question. Derek is almost afraid to ask but eventually settles with a simple, “What?”
“You’re actively trying to improve. You’ve been working on fixing the relationships with your remaining pack members, and you are willing to seek help to find the missing ones. Hell, you even asked me to think about ways to help Scott despite his actions, and I know it’s not only because your beta, Isaac, seems to have thrown his lot in with him. You’re trying. It’s clear you aren’t sure you’ll succeed, and equally clear that you aren't sure you deserve to succeed. But I’ll tell you the same thing I told Harry years ago. You’ve been shit on by the universe, but that doesn’t mean you’re shit. Just means you need a bit of help cleaning up. And that’s what Celeste and I would like to offer. And I won’t be surprised if Harry makes an offer as well.”
Derek blinks, refusing to admit to any mistiness in his eyes.
“Celeste and I will likely be sticking around for a few months at the very least to help sort things out, as well as reconnect some more with Noah and Stiles. If you’re willing I’d like to train you as an alpha, or at least get the training started. Harry seems quite taken with your uncle, as well as with you and Stiles, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he asked for permission to stay even longer. He’s more than ready to pass on his own knowledge about packs and being an alpha. Also, we’d like to help you get your betas settled again. And yes, if they are still unsure if they want you as their alpha when all is said and done, then we will help find them packs to join.”
“Why?” Derek chokes out.
“Even if you weren’t practically family already, you’re a good kid who’s been dealt a seriously bad hand. You deserve some kindness for once. Now, what do you say? Willing to start Alpha School after we get this mess sorted? It won’t be easy, and my nephew is probably one of the few who thinks this much intensive learning is fun, but I promise not to make it too painful.”
“I’d be honored, sir.”
“Excellent. Now, why don’t we go see what everyone else is up to?”
Harry watches from the roof of the bank as Celeste gets her team settled in a surveillance van not quite a block away. The shadows around him stretching in the afternoon sun. There are more active businesses on that side of the street and no one would bat an eye at a security firm doing work in that area. There had been enough suspicious activity in town lately that no one would be thrown by a corporation hiring a team to investigate the safety of the area before making an offer on the abandoned Bank and surrounding property.
Several team members would be talking with a few business owners while Harry moved into the bank and got a sense of how many were inside. He’d then pop back to the roof to give an update to Celeste on whether her team should move on to the bank. He’d cast layered disillusionment and muffling charms on himself before apparating to the roof of the bank. It was decided that afternoon would be the best time to check everything out. The Alpha Pack most likely still thought that the Hales were a scattered and broken little pack and would not dare to investigate things in broad daylight.
Plus he can feel the light traces of magic on the building. Had it been anyone other than himself or Stiles, the spell would likely have worked and encouraged him to look elsewhere. He mentioned it to Celeste, as just knowing that such a spell was in place could help people fight it. But it definitely appears that the Alpha Pack at least had an emissary of some sort.
Though the flavor of magic had a more ritualistic feel, so they weren’t a wizarding world trained magic-user. Possibly a druid or a hedge witch. The tainted flavor to the magic suggested that this was likely at least one of the beings responsible for the twisted magic in the area, though the taint in this person’s magic was not as dark as he expected based on the poisoned earth, which definitely supports his theory that they had multiple darachs on their hands.
While there are those who would argue that to be a darach, one had to be a druidic magic-user specifically, honestly, that is a bunch of hogwash. Magic is magic. It exists throughout the universe and in all things, even the most mundane of humans. Some had larger personal wells of magic than others, but anyone could technically learn to tap into it. Those with very small personal wells would not be able to do much without large rituals and tools to help them focus the natural magic of the world, but they could still use it. The designations weren’t about what type of magic the person wielded, but rather how they learned to access it and wield it.
Some would argue until they were blue in the face that there were differences in the magic itself; that there were right and wrong ways to cast. They were usually the same ones who thought that all spells should be classified as light or dark when in reality all spells were tools. And like all tools, it is what the user does with them that makes it light, dark, or grey. But those sorts would eventually learn how very wrong they were. Death loved watching such spirits face Lady Magic herself. And Harry didn’t blame them, the lectures could be quite entertaining.
Once Harry gets word from Celeste that everything is in place, he unlocks the rooftop access door with a wordless spell and moves into the building pausing to let his eyes adjust to the darkness inside and to listen carefully. He’s glad that they went through the trial and error portion of figuring out comms that would work with his magic active and not be fried. He knows that as soon as he indicated that he was going in, his dedicated channel would go radio silent so that they wouldn’t give him away to anyone with enhanced hearing.
As he moves down towards the ground floor, he notes the scents of at least four alphas, possibly five, plus the scent of the magic-user he’d already noted. Two of the scents are very similar, but there is enough difference that he suspects two different alphas that are very closely related. Those two scents are the freshest ones, and likely match the two heartbeats he can hear as well. As he gets closer to them, he can actually hear arguing.
“This wasn’t what we signed up for.”
“What, you thought everything would be fun and games after Deucalion ‘rescued’ us? We’re only alive because of our ability to merge and the extra power that grants him. Do you honestly think he’d just let us walk away? At least this way we have power of our own.”
“Do we? Sure, we aren’t the whipping boys of a pack anymore, at least not as long as Deucalion is happy with us. But the only thing keeping us safe is keeping him happy. He’s turned us into his perfect attack dogs. That’s not power, Aiden.”
“So what, you think we should run? How well do you think that would work out for us? Huh?”
There was a deep sigh, “I know, I just--”
“You’re just a soft-hearted idiot, Ethan, I know. But at least right now we can sneak our prisoners some extra water and power bars from time to time without pissing the others off.”
Another sigh, “Look, if you can come up with a plan that gets us out without us losing our lives, then I’m all ears. But right now we’ve got prisoners to feed.”
By this point, Harry is close enough to see the arguing duo, a pair of identical twins. He follows them as they move to open the vault and toss water bottles and power bars over a rowan ash line. As soon as the vault door opens, Harry can hear three heartbeats inside, along with three tired growls. He could have sworn there were only two missing betas. Of course, that doesn’t mean they hadn’t grabbed a beta from another pack for some reason or another. Groups like this one were power-hungry, which makes them incredibly dangerous.
As he gets ready to move away so that he can apparate back to the roof and fill Celeste in, his eye catches on the stone the vault is made of and makes him pause. That isn’t marble or granite. Neither of those stones would have a rainbow sheen if hit just right by light. A quick and silent spell confirms his worries. Moonstone.
Making an executive decision, he casts two strong stunners followed by two binding charms. Once the twins are secured, he alerts Celeste to his change of plans.
“Boss, you need to go ahead and move towards the bank. We’ll come up with an addendum on the cover story if we need to, but we’re getting the betas out now. The vault is made of moonstone, and, while it’s only been a few days that they’ve been in the vault and, therefore, they should all be fine, I refuse to leave them cut off from the moon’s influence any longer than they have been.”
“Understood. We were almost to the bank anyway, so it won’t be too weird for us to make our way inside to check things out. And of course, we’ll surprise the group of runaways that have decided to bunk down in the bank. And well, we just couldn’t leave them there, especially since they’re my nephew’s age.”
“As good a cover story as any I could think up on the fly. I was just going to use magic to get everyone out if I had to.”
“We might still do that, but let’s see if it’s necessary first.”
“Got it. The twins are down and bound tightly. But we should hurry since your entering the bank is likely going to trip the protection spells on the place and we don’t know how far away the other alphas might be.”
Harry moves to the still open vault door. The three ‘wolves inside had gone quiet when the twins went down, and clearly had been listening to him talk to Celeste. Two of them match the pictures he’d been shown of the missing betas, and the third bears a striking resemblance to the other Hales. And under the odors of anger and fear, the scent is similar to the other Hales as well.
“Celeste, is Peter with you still?”
“Ask him if it’s possible that any other Hales survived the fire.” When the third betas eyes widen at that question, Harry is reasonably sure he’s right.
“He says he wouldn’t have thought so, but his memory of everything is so twisted that anything is possible. We’re entering the building now and will be with you momentarily.”
Harry nods, pulls his wand, and casts a wind charm to displace the ash barrier. He then moves into the vault to release the betas from the chains they’d been bound with.
“Hello, my name is Harry Potter. I’m with the Gajos pack and friends with the Hales. We’re here to rescue you and take you home. Sorry, it took us a few days to track you down.”
Erica and Boyd still look uncertain, as if they can’t believe rescue is at hand. The third prisoner is looking past Harry, face stunned and hopeful.
When Harry turns he sees an equally stunned Peter Hale.
“Cora? Lil Bit, is that really you?” Harry doesn’t think he’s ever heard Peter sound so choked up. Granted they’ve only known each other for a few days, but it’s clear the man is usually tough to rattle.
Cora shoots past Harry the moment she’s released and Peter meets her halfway. Harry continues to help the other two, casting some quick healing charms on them as well, after explaining to them what he wanted to do and getting their permission. As soon as all three teens were free, they moved the three out of the bank and back to the van. Celeste and others loudly talking about helping the runaways and letting them know that bank vaults were really dangerous places to squat because the vaults were often airtight. Harry had cast a very slight variation of a “notice-me-not” charm as well that would keep people from paying close attention to the situation.
He stayed behind and fashioned a quick portkey to use to transport himself and the twins back to the Sheriff’s house. They’d designated the basement as a good apparition/portkey stop and it would also be a perfectly fine place to house these two for now as well.
Even with the advanced warning, Derek can’t help the whine he releases as soon as he sees the three rescued betas. It’s one thing to be told your little sister is alive, but to see her and smell her...it makes it so much more real. He is also insanely relieved to see his two betas. Cora makes a break for Derek as soon as she sees him, but the other two hold back a bit. Derek isn’t sure if it’s out of respect for him being reunited with a long thought dead sister, or if they’re worried about their welcome. A bit of both if his nose is correct.
Thankfully, Stiles is right there and hugging the stuffing out of his two betas and Derek can pick up the softly whispered assurances he’s giving them along with the return murmurs of relief that Stiles is okay. So Derek is able to focus for a few moments on the sister in his arms. Completely unconcerned about the tears running down his face.
“I’m so sorry, Cor, I had no idea you were still alive. Laura was so adamant that everyone else was dead and the bonds were such a mess. I’m so sorry we didn’t look for you.”
“I thought I’d lost everyone, Der. I couldn’t feel any bonds anymore. So I ran. But then I heard rumors of a Hale alpha in Beacon Hills and I just had to find out if it was true. If someone had survived. Those assholes caught me on the way into town.”
Cora pulls back a bit, her expression a mix of fearful and intensely angry, “They’re insane, Der. They fully intended to drive us feral and let us loose, knowing you would likely have to kill us to stop us. Or at least hoping for that. Something about the power rush being so intense that you would have no trouble then killing the rest of your pack and joining them.”
“Well that’s fucked up,” Stiles’ voice cuts through the silence that statement had engendered.
“You’re not wrong, Mietek,” Kaïs looks appalled at the very thought, “That is a perversion of all that it is to be an alpha. And the fact that they are seeking to force others to join them in that way is beyond horrifying. How has this not come to the council’s attention already?”
“They’ve got a magic-user, possibly druidic in training. Definitely on the path to being a darach based on the tainted feel of the magic. My guess is that they’ve been using rituals to hide their actions from the council. Thankfully, there are some things that you just can’t hide from.” Harry’s smirk is pure satisfaction.
“They’ve probably also gone after packs that were already small or fractured. Ones that were least likely to be missed should anything happen to them. Considering everything, well, we would, at first glance, appear to be just such a pack. Thankfully, they aren’t aware of our recent good fortune when it comes to acquiring allies.”
Derek would have to be scent blind to miss the curl of affection and interest coming from his Uncle, but he is polite enough not to tease him about his crush just yet. He’s noted similar signs of interest from Harry and hopes that Harry does stick around when all this is done. Cora gives him a bit of a curious look but doesn’t say anything.
“We’ve got a lot to catch you up on, but let me introduce you to my...our...pack. I mean it's yours if you want, otherwise, we can help you find a place somewhere. That is if you don’t already have one.” Derek pauses a bit at that.
“I don’t, actually. Well, there are packs that let me stay with them and sheltered me, and at least one of them would probably take me back if I asked. But it’s not home.”
“Well, if you still want to stay after you’ve heard everything, you’re more than welcome. You already know Uncle Peter,” that earns him a sharp elbow to the gut which just makes him grin as he tugs her over to where Stiles is still standing and cuddling with Erica and Boyd.
“This is my second, Stiles Stilinski.” Stiles grins and waves but doesn’t let go of the two betas who are looking at Derek with worry in their eyes, “And I’m guessing you know my betas, Erica Reyes and Vernon Boyd. It’s really good to have you guys home safe. I’m really sorry I haven’t been the alpha you needed and I promise that I’m going to do better from here on out.”
Stiles winks at Derek and whisper shouts, “He even agreed to alpha lessons from my Uncle Kaïs.” Stiles indicates his uncle with a jerk of his head. “Turns out, I’m not quite as mundane human as we all thought. But we’ll get you all caught up on what’s been happening. What do you say, you willing to give us a second chance?”
Erica’s eyes are wide, “Us, give you a second chance? I think you’ve got that backward, Batman. We ran away, abandoned you all because we were afraid. And you tried to warn us that there wasn’t another pack nearby, but we didn’t listen. You’d take us back?”
The last two sentences were said looking straight at Derek, and he couldn’t hold back from pulling them both into hugs.
“Absolutely. You had good reason to be afraid, and I don’t blame you for hoping to find another more stable pack out there. But things are different now. We’ve got some support we didn’t have, support I never would have even thought to look for.”
“Just the fact that you’ve named Stilinski your second tells me that.” Boyd’s clearly trying to go for dry humor, but there is an intense quality under it that shows Erica’s not alone in her worries and fears. “He’s a solid choice.”
“You guys don’t blame me for leaving you in the murder basement?”
Stiles looks absolutely horrified that the words came out of his mouth, but Erica and Boyd are quick to reassure him. Derek just pulls Stiles into the hug. He glances over to where Noah and the others are, clearly trying to give them all some privacy but also keeping an eye on things.
“I know we’re going to have to get Erica and Boyd home to their families, but do you think that maybe we could all stay here tonight? The pack time would be good for us all.”
“I think that is very doable. We can always adjust the cover story a bit as we need to. But that’s a bridge to cross later. Right now, why don’t we finish the introductions, get some food into everyone, and you all can get some much-needed rest.”
Derek nods his thanks and is relieved when Stiles decides to take over the introductions. It makes sense for Stiles to do it since it’s his family, but mostly Derek is relieved because it gives him a moment to just bask in the fact that his pack is safe with him. He can already feel the bonds with Erica and Boyd stabilizing and growing stronger. Not to mention the weak bond already forming with Cora. He’s okay with it being weak for now; they’ve all been through so much. He can’t blame her for being wary when it comes to bonds, and they have time for that bond to deepen and grow as well. He closes his eyes for just a moment and thanks the universe for this second chance.
“Your friend is not terribly good at stealth, is he?” Kaïs’ dryly asks.
Stiles is glad he’s kept up with his Polish since it makes having covert conversations easier. While one of the Alphas might speak Polish, it’s not terribly likely. And he knows that neither Scott nor Isaac speak it, so, even with wolfy hearing, they won’t have a clue what he and his uncle are discussing.
“He really isn’t.” Stiles’ voice is rueful. “I suppose we should try to give him a chance to talk to me, as it appears he isn’t going to give up stalking us until he does.”
Stiles glances down at his list, before saying a bit more loudly and in English, “Oh man, we forgot the hazelnut creamer. I’m gonna run back and get that Wujek. Wouldn’t want to risk Hellcat’s ire for forgetting her special creamer.”
His uncle rolls his eyes and responds in English as well, “Lord forbid my daughter not have her preferred sugary confection to add to her coffee. Go on and I’ll finish getting what we need in this section.”
Stiles starts an internal countdown as he walks away from his uncle, and is almost to one when he hears Scott’s hissed, “Stiles!”
He glances over and sees Scott frantically waving him over, Isaac standing slightly behind him and looking mostly disinterested. Stiles resists rolling his eyes again, if only just barely, and walks over to them.
“Hey, Scottie, what’s up?”
Stiles isn’t prepared for Scott to grab his arm and start towing him towards the exit. But he digs his feet in and hisses at Scott.
“Scott, man, what the fuck?! Let me go!”
“No Stiles, this is for your own good. That man you were with is a ‘wolf, and Deaton warned us that there were other wolves in the area and that we were in danger. I can’t let you stay near him. He’s probably just using you to get to me, like Derek. Besides I need to talk to you.”
“And you couldn’t use the fucking phone?! I know for a fact you haven’t tried once to call me since Friday. Not even a “hey man, you okay?” text, despite my obviously battered face and the fact that I’ve not been in school since last Friday. Or did you even notice that I’ve not been in class? If you are so worried about me, why haven’t you given me a heads up about possible danger? Huh? Tell me something, if you hadn’t happened to come in to get snacks or something this afternoon and seen me, would you have thought of me at all?”
Stiles stares dumbfounded at his friend and tries to control the urge to throttle him. Scott blinks at him and stammers but doesn’t respond, so Stiles marches on. He’s sure his voice is rising and he tries to get it back under control.
“I just can’t believe you. Using me to get to you?!” Stiles leans forward and pokes Scott in the chest emphasizing his words, “You’re not that important in the grand scheme of things, Scott, and it’s not always about you. That man happens to be my Uncle Kaïs, not some random stranger I just decided to go grocery shopping with. Do you ever use that brain of yours? Why on earth would I be out happily shopping with some random dude? Kidnappers don’t usually take their victims to buy creamer and steaks. They tend to prefer throwing their victims in murder basements in my experience, not that you would know anything about that.”
Scott throws him puppy dog eyes, “Aw, man, don’t be like that. I’ve been busy. I meant to call but figured you’d let me know if you needed anything. Besides, it’s the truth, why else would Derek want you around if wasn’t to try to get me in his pack? It’s not like humans can really be pack, and if they could then you’d be in mine, not his.”
Scott takes a deep breath and lets out a growl, “You really should stay away from him Stiles, he’s just using you. Why can’t you see that?”
“Projecting much, Scott. He and Peter were the ones to check on me that night, and have been more supportive of me in the days since than you’ve been for a while. And I don’t know where you are getting your knowledge of packs, but humans can in fact be pack. And you may have delusions of being your own alpha, but you aren’t one Scottie. If you had a lick of sense in your head you’d apologize to Derek for your actions and ask to be taken back into his pack.”
Stiles was doing his best to keep his voice to a hissed whisper and is praying that the aisle they’re on remains deserted for a while. This is really not the place for this conversation, but he wasn’t about to let Scott drag him out of here either. He isn’t quite sure what Deaton’s game is, but he knows the man knows way more than he lets on.
Scott’s eyes flash and he growls reaching out to grip Stiles’ arm, “He will never be my alpha. I don’t know what bullshit story they’ve been feeding you, or why you think this strange wolf is your uncle. You don’t look anything alike. But we’ll get you free of them, buddy. I’m sure Deaton will have some ideas. Now come on.”
Scott starts to drag Stiles with him but is brought up short by the tall intimidating figure blocking now blocking the aisle.
“I’d appreciate it if you released my nephew, young man.” Kaïs doesn’t need to flash his eyes or pull his wolf to the front to be a powerhouse of a figure, and Stiles wastes no time pulling free from Scott.
“And he is indeed my nephew considering I am married to his mother’s sister. It’s not been easy to visit often since we live in Poland, but we have tried to keep in touch.”
“Then why hasn’t he ever mentioned you?!”
“Oh my god, seriously, Scott? I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned them at least once. But who am I kidding, you don’t really listen to me when I talk, do you?”
Stiles throws his hands up, shaking his head at Scott when Scott goes to say something more, “Don’t, Scott, just don’t. I know that I talk a lot and that it can be annoying. And yeah, I can be an asshole, but find me a teenager who isn’t a jerk sometimes. But I thought that you were my friend. Obviously, you were just putting up with me 'til you could find something better. Whatever, man.”
Stiles looks over at Isaac who’d been weirdly quiet this whole time. “I hope that he is a better friend to you, man. ‘Cause no one deserves to be treated like they matter only when they’re useful for something. You should also know that we’ve found Erica and Boyd and they’re alright. Derek doesn’t hold you any ill will and if you want to come visit them, you’re welcome to. He’s learning to be a better alpha, but he understands if you aren’t comfortable with him.”
Stiles’ eyes cut back to Scott before returning to Isaac, “You both may think you’re okay with it just being the two of you. But no matter that Scott thinks he’s an alpha, he’s not. And, eventually, you both will run the risk of becoming Omegas. Derek and my uncle are more than happy to help you try to find a better-suited pack if you aren’t comfortable joining Derek’s.” Stiles throws up a hand to forestall Scott’s protests, though he keeps his eyes locked with Isaac’s.
“Just think about it okay. There’s a lot you don’t know, a lot none of us really knew. But we’re figuring things out.”
Stiles takes a deep breath and turns back to Scott, unlike many he’s fully aware of how manipulative Scott can be when he wants, “And before you think of running off to tell my dad about the strange company I’m keeping these days, you should know he’s been read in and is fully aware of what is going on. And unlike you, he can see that the Hales are not the root of the problem or the cause of everything that has gone wrong in Beacon Hills.”
Stiles knows rage and hurt must be pouring off of him by this point, and he’s absolutely ready to be done with this conversation. He feels his uncle step closer and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. He reaches up and grips it, soaking in his uncle’s calm strength.
“Thanks, Wujek. Let’s go finish the shopping, we’ve got a bunch of hungry ‘wolves to feed after all.”
Together they turn and leave, and Stiles refuses to look back even when he hears Scott’s “Stiles!” and Isaac’s softer “Come on, man, I think we should go.”
“You look rather deep in thought. I figured you might want another cup of tea.”
Harry glances up at the man whose presence has been teasing his senses since they met and smiles, “Mmm, I could do at that. Thanks, mate.”
“Absolutely my pleasure, sweetheart.” Peter winks at him and settles on the other end of the couch, turning to face Harry. They were in the calm before the storm at the moment. The Sheriff and Derek had taken the three runaways to the station to call parents and get various paperwork sorted out. Stiles was in the kitchen with his aunt, uncle, and cousin making dinner. The remaining Gajos hunters were either out patrolling or keeping an eye on the twins in the basement. They had hashed out a basic plan and would work on finalizing said plan after dinner. For now, it was just time to rest a bit, to sit and breathe, and enjoy one another’s company. And Harry is quite content to enjoy more of this particular person’s company. He shifts so he’s facing Peter a bit more as the man continues speaking.
“I’m fully aware that you mean that word in the friend sense rather than the romantic sense, and that we have...things that need to be settled before we could discuss any other possibilities. But I must say that I do hope you stick around long enough to test the waters romantically. That is if you aren’t already taken?”
“Surprisingly enough, not too many are interested in dating Death’s Hand. And even before I fully embraced that position, most of the folks who showed interest were more interested in my family name and money, and, even more ridiculously, the fame I got for surviving something that should have killed me as a baby. They weren’t particularly interested in me, if you know what I mean.”
“I do actually. There were definitely some who were interested in becoming a Hale and having access to our name and fortune, and as the Alpha’s youngest brother I was often pursued quite heavily, at least until they realized my position as Left Hand. A few even tried to convince me to step down from that role, as if there were something shameful in being the protector of a pack. Let’s just say they were shown the door rather quickly.”
“Ah yes, the “you would be perfect if you would just…” type. I know it well. I fled Britain to get away from that shite. Though once I was turned, the bigots of my home country wouldn’t have been horrified to be associated with me any further. Not that I have ever given them a chance to air their ridiculous opinions. I’m just fortunate that my travels brought me to Kaïs and his pack. I will admit that I’ve been a great deal happier since then.”
“You’ve not stayed in touch with anyone from Britain then?”
“Not really. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve stayed in touch with the two friends who really have proven themselves to be in my corner, but they’re pretty much it. And considering they’re both Hands themselves, well, it’s not terribly surprising we’ve stayed close.”
“Really?” Peter sounds incredibly intrigued at that, “How many Hands are there?”
“To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. I know these two best since they’re the Hands of Death’s spouses. Talk about things that make your worldview shift. Learning that Death not only exists but is married to both Magic and Earth was a hell of a discovery.”
He watches Peter’s face as he works through that tidbit of information, blinking and finally shaking his head before uttering a soft “Huh, yeah that would shift one’s worldview.”
Harry smiles into his tea, “You’ll probably meet Neville and Luna, Earth’s and Magic’s Hands, respectfully. I have no doubt they’ll be coming along to help heal the damage done by the darachs.”
“It would be nice to meet your friends,” Peter smiles at him. “You never did say if you would be open to going on a date when all this is done, though.”
Harry laughs, “I didn’t, did I? Yes, you silly ‘wolf, I would be delighted to go on a date or several once we get things settled.”
Harry stretches a foot out so that it rests against Peter’s thigh, and Peter lays his hand on his foot.
“Excellent. I know of several amazing places I’d like to take you to.”
“I shall look forward to that.”
They’re pulled from further conversation but a knock at the front door. A knock that repeats in an odd pattern, one that makes Harry grin.
“Speak of the devil.” Harry chuckles and gets up to answer the door, calling a reassurance out to the rest of the house.
“It’s all good! Looks like Luna and Neville decided to show up earlier than I expected.”
“Oh, the Double Ls are here?” Helena’s voice is excited, “You’ll love them, Stiles. Luna is a hoot and Neville is such a sweetheart and knows the coolest things about plants.”
By this point, Harry is opening the door to see his two oldest friends standing on the porch of the Stilinski house.
“‘Lo, Harry, hope you don’t mind us crashing the party?” Neville gives him a cheeky grin.
“The soot sprites were terribly excited about you meeting your Hallows, and we just couldn’t wait to meet them ourselves. Plus, it’s not fair for you to have all the fun.”
Past Harry might have been tempted to point out that he’d met the Hallows years ago, but he has a feeling that the three physical objects are not what Luna is referring to here. So he waves them in and sets about introducing them.
“Everyone, may I introduce Luna and Neville Longbottom-Lovegood. Luna, Neville, you know Celeste, Kaïs, and Helena. This is Stiles Stilinski, Second of the Hale Pack, and over here we have Peter Hale, Left Hand of the Hale Pack. Their alpha should be back soon and I can introduce you then.”
“Oh my, it’s probably just as well that the nemeton cloaked your spark from the American magic schools.” Luna pats Stiles' hand, which she had taken when he was introduced. “They’d just have limited your spark, and probably would have prevented you from being here where you clearly needed to be. You’ll find you’ve got an affinity for Elder as well as Rowan.”
Luna leans up and kisses his cheek, offering a “Welcome to the family” before moving on to greet Peter. Neville pats Stiles on the shoulder.
“Don’t worry, that’s normal for her. Being the Hand of Magic she sees a good deal more than most of us. But we’ll all be happy to help you get your magic sorted.”
Meanwhile, Luna was on her tiptoes planting a kiss on each of Peter’s cheeks before stepping back and giving him a dreamy smile.
“Two resurrected ‘wolves, both fiercely devoted to those they consider family. A good match indeed. Come, Nev, look at how pretty his aura is. All shimmering shadow colors, much like our Harry’s.”
“That it is, love. Pleasure to meet you, mate. We’re going to trust you to look after our Harry.”
The implied “or else” made Harry roll his eyes, “Have you both forgotten I can look after myself?”
“Of course not, Harry, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to have others looking after you as well.” Luna gives him a sweet smile, “You deserve your own Neville after all, and since you only feel brotherly affection for him I can’t share him with you. But now you’ve found your own, so all’s right with the world.”
Harry can’t help but laugh and pull them both into a hug. Luna and Neville had been very open to the idea of adding him to their relationship, but, in the end, he sees them more like siblings and dear friends than romantic partners. He wouldn’t be surprised if they’d put Death up to a bit of match-making, they had both been worried he’d get too lonely on his own.
“You two are something else.”
“Face it, Harry, you’d be bored without us,” Neville grins and elbows him.
“That I would, mate, that I would. Well, since you’re here, you can help us plan a trap for the darachs who’ve done so much damage. We’re already got a basic plan for dealing with the rogue Alpha Pack. Their leader is arrogant enough to be utterly pissed off that we’ve rescued the Hale betas and managed to steal two of his pack. So we’ve no doubt that he will show up to the meeting we requested tomorrow. Most likely with their darach in tow. We’re not sure yet what the other two darachs are up to just yet.”
Luna’s eyes go distant as she taps into her tether to Lady Magic, “One is laying webs of power and preparing to hunt, but thinks she has more time to prepare. The other is harder to note but feels like an old spider sitting in a web waiting to see how things play out. Both of those have forced tethers to the nemeton. Oh, the spider has a sister who spun her web with the alphas.”
“Well, that certainly gives us a good way to draw them out and trap them, at least the two with connections to the nemeton. If they think they’ve lost that connection, they’ll come out to investigate. The question is when to spring the trap.”
“Well, why don’t we think about that while we eat. We can talk it out after dinner, that way everyone will be here. Noah and Derek should be back any minute, now. Thankfully, we have more than enough to feed to extras. It is good to see you both, again.”
Celeste grins and starts ushering folks into the dining area where the food is being set up.
Harry grins and follows. It’s nice to have most of his friends and family, both old and new, together in one place.
Peter glances around the open ground floor space of the warehouse building that Derek’s loft was in. They ultimately decided that this was the best place for their “meeting” with Deucalion and his remaining pack. It was in a less populated area of the city, so the noise they are likely to generate shouldn’t garner any attention. To be on the safe side, Noah is back on duty at the station and would keep an ear out for any calls that might come in.
Stiles was spending time with Erica, Boyd, and Helena. They were prepared to deal with any injuries that might result from today’s outings. It had taken some work to convince the three that staying back to prepare for casualties was a sound strategy and not a lesser task given to them because they were younger or weaker. It had taken some work smoothing things over with the beta’s families, but they’d managed to convince them that, for now, they were best off in the Sheriff’s protective custody.
They’d spun a story for Boyd’s and Erica’s families about the kids seeing Stiles kidnapped and that it had scared them badly enough that, not knowing who to trust, they’d run away. Thankfully they’d not run far though, and when they’d heard that Stiles was back with his dad they contacted him to make sure he was okay. Stiles had convinced them to talk to his dad and that it was safe to go home. And wasn’t it fortunate that Stiles’ aunt and uncle, who just so happened to run a private security company were in town so they could help protect the three while everything was sorted out? Peter must say he is quite delighted by the creative bullshit that had been spun in the past few days as they netted out cover stories to deal with this whole mess without revealing anything supernatural.
Several of the Gajos hunters would be keeping an eye on the Sheriff’s house, while a few others would be keeping Neville and Luna company as they laid their trap for the darachs. They were all fairly sure it wouldn’t prevent Deucalion’s magic-user from showing up to this tête-à-tête, but it didn’t hurt to try.
The rest of the Gajos hunters, along with Celeste and Kaïs are stationed in convenient spots throughout the meeting space, all hidden by Harry’s magic. The plan was to let the wolves take care of the Alpha Pack, with the hunters taking shots only if they felt it necessary. While the Sheriff had argued that it made more sense to take out the three alphas with sniper shots, Celeste and the others had explained that the Hales, in particular, would need to fight things out. This was an incursion into their territory and their wolves would not let them stand back while hunters took out the threat. So Celeste and the other human hunters were stationed to take shots should it appear that any of the Alpha Pack would escape.
Harry had set up very specific wards that would let him know if the Alpha Pack tried to sneak in before the meeting. Remarkably, there had been none. Deucalion’s arrogance is truly astounding.
At the moment, Peter, Derek, and Cora are the only ones visible. There is also an incredibly detailed illusion, right down to including scent, of the twins being held captive in a mountain ash circle. Harry, Luna, and Neville had cast that themselves before Luna and Neville had gone to set their own traps. Having the Hand of Magic help with the casting certainly adds oomph to an already powerful spell. The twins themselves were still being held in the Stilinski basement and had been happy to provide all the information they could on Deucalion’s merry band of murderers. They would stand trial before the Council, but their cooperation would likely ensure that they lived, though they would forfeit their alpha spark.
Celeste had already spoken with the Council about the rest of the Alpha Pack, and the verdict was that they were wanted “dead or alive” for their crimes. And to be fair, it was well understood that the likelihood of the remaining three being captured alive was slim to none as they were not likely to come quietly.
Peter is happy that he can feel Harry, even if he can’t see him. He should be surprised that they can already sense one another, but this whole week has been one surprise after another. So he might as well roll with the weird as Stiles would say.
“They’re here.” Harry’s words are softly spoken into his ear, “And they’ve got their pet darach with them.”
Peter let the others know with a nod of his head towards the door. They didn’t have to wait long before their guests made themselves known either.
“I must say that I am reluctantly impressed. From all reports, your pack is a small and fragile one, yet somehow you’ve managed to track down your betas and take two of mine. Surely you wouldn’t have stooped so low as to seek the help of the family that destroyed yours?”
Derek snorts but keeps his face impassive. Peter must admit Derek’s developed a fantastic resting bitch face over the years. Whoever would have thought the kid with the bunny teeth would glower so effectively.
“What do you want, Deucalion?”
“Straight to the chase, eh, Derek? No exchange of pleasantries, no hospitality offering?”
“You were the one who broke the rules of hospitality to begin with, so get to the point or get out.”
“Tsk, tsk. So grumpy. Very well, I want you to join my pack.”
“No. Now leave.”
“Oh, I wasn’t asking, dear boy. The Hale spark will be mine one way or another. You will join me or you will die.”
Peter’s ears pop as a mountain ash barrier goes up. So that’s what their darach is up to. She’s probably also hoping to sneak close enough to let the twins out. She’ll be in for a big surprise when she does.
“Do you honestly think that you and two betas can take on three alphas?”
“Do you really think we came alone?”
“Even if you’ve managed to hide hunters in the rafters, which I doubt as I can hear and smell only you three, you do not stand a chance of stopping us. You’ve no idea the power we hold. Join us or die.”
“What you hold is madness. A perversion of all that it means to be an alpha.”
None of the Hales are quite able to hide their disgust, the twins had been very clear about what these alphas had done to their packs, all in the name of power.
“You fool. I am the Alpha of Alphas, the apex of apex predators, I am Death, Destroyer of Worlds. I am the Demon Wolf!”
“What you are is a right prat and an overly pretentious one at that. And if you think your little pet darach is going to do you any good, you’re foolishly mistaken. Also, the Council has declared you wanted criminals. Please do say you won’t come quietly.”
Peter grins as Harry drops his disillusionment spells and lets himself and the other Gajos pack members be seen and smelled.
Deucalion growls, “Kill them all.”
“I was so hoping you’d say that,” Harry’s grin is sharp and he rushes forward to take Deucalion on himself.
Derek and Cora move to take on Ennis, while Peter and Kaïs go after Kali. The world descends into chaos as Peter focuses on avoiding Kali’s claws and teeth. He does catch glimpses of the rest of the fight, including when the person he presumes is Deucalion’s emissary attempts to free the twins and subsequently disappears along with the illusion. The brief flash of light and slight scream the woman had let out was enough to distract Kali long enough for Peter to his claws wrapped around her neck, dig deep, twist, and pull.
He feels the rush of the alpha spark as it flows into his system and he takes a moment to thank the gods that Harry, Luna, and Neville had worked together to create purifying amulets for each of the ‘wolves on the off chance that they ended up with one of the corrupted sparks. He can feel the amulet against his chest heating up as it purifies the spark, divesting it of the majority of its energy and sending the excess back into the earth. He’s glad that Kaïs is there to watch his back because he cannot focus on anything else right now.
Peter roars as he feels the alpha spark settle and knows his eyes are now red again. He hears Derek roar and looks over to see him standing over Ennis’s body. Cora is getting up from where she had apparently been tossed across the room.
Everyone steps back and watches Harry’s deadly dance with Deucalion, who has shifted into his alpha form, which Peter must admit does look fairly demonic. Harry, meanwhile, is still in his beta shift and smirking at Deucalion, who is already showing more injuries than Harry.
“You know it’s generally a bad idea to go around claiming to be Death, and even worse to link their name to some arrogant epitaph like ’Destroyer of Worlds,’” Harry’s eyes take on an even more otherworldly glow and the shadows around them seem to lengthen and grow, “They tend to get pissy about shit like that.”
“So true, my hand. Do finish taking out the trash for me. Your pack has already cleaned up the other two. I look forward to meeting them again later, they’re fine young men.”
Being winked at by Death is probably one of the weirdest things Peter has ever experienced, and he’s not exactly led a quiet and sedate life. But they appear to come hand in hand with Harry, a man who Peter definitely wants to keep in his life. And Death clearly has a sense of humor considering their current appearance bears a striking resemblance to an anime character Peter remembers watching in his late teens, complete with long chestnut braid and priest’s habit. There are certainly worse Powers he could think of associating with. So he waves back at the grim reaper and returns his attention to the fight.
Deucalion had faltered when he’d heard that ominous and powerful voice, before redoubling his efforts with ferocious growls. He charges Harry, who ducks under him and punches up and all the way through the deformed alpha’s chest. The shadows in the room grow darker and closer for a moment before suddenly returning to normal, leaving the entire room feeling somehow lighter than it had before.
Peter hears someone muttering about higher beings playing too much Mortal Kombat but decides it’s best not to comment on that. Better to focus on clean-up, then they can check in with the rest and move on to dealing with the darachs.
Stiles marvels over the changes that can happen in just six days. He’d been so sure after the events of last Friday that he’d be left on his own to lick his wounds and recover. Certain that Derek would never see him as pack, let alone anything more than that, that his dad would only ever find him a disappointment, and that Scott would only really be there when he needed Stiles for something. But here he is standing as Derek’s Second with solid bonds to all of the Hale pack. Not only that but, for once in his life, his crush on someone might not be a lost cause. They’ve agreed to take things slow, which is fine by Stiles. He’s totally okay with dates, hand-holding, and good old fashioned wooing. Maybe a few kisses too, but he isn’t going to get ahead of himself.
And instead of being a disappointment of a son with no other family to count on, he’s surrounded by family he’d almost forgotten about and a proud dad who is trying to be more present in his son’s life. He has light bonds with his dad, aunt, uncle, and cousin. And a deepening bond with Harry, who he suspects will be enfolded into the Hale pack.
He’s not at all sure how that will work out with three alphas, but he’s been assured that such a thing can happen without it being the twisted mess that the Alpha Pack was. Not all alphas have a drive to be the top dog, so to speak. Some can apparently be perfectly content with helping care for and ensure the safety of their chosen pack. Whatever happens though, it’s sure to be interesting, especially when one of the folks involved is an avatar for a freaking god.
And wasn’t that a kick in the pants? Gods, or Powers as Harry called them, existed. They had limited direct influence on this plane and often worked through their priests and avatars, but the fact that they existed at all is a hell of a thing. It was also seriously disconcerting to realize that the pretty goth lady he remembers seeing after his mom got sick wasn’t just a stress-induced hallucination created to provide comfort to a kid whose mom had just tried to drown him. But, hey, at least he now knows Death is actually pretty kind and has a wicked sense of humor. Just don’t piss them off.
Pissing off Powers that Be is pretty much why they’re all standing around the biggest stump Stiles has ever seen. And Stiles does mean all. Every single person involved in the supernatural shit show that has been Beacon Hills for the past few months is here--the Hale pack, the Argents, Scott, Melissa, Isaac, his dad, Dr. Deaton, the Gajos pack, Harry, Luna, and Neville. The only two not here are Jackson and Lydia, and that’s because Jackson’s parents had decided to move to London earlier and Lydia had elected to follow. Stiles doesn’t know what blackmail she held over her parents’ heads to get that approved, but Lydia was a force of nature when she wanted to be. Derek had put them in touch with Harry who helped them find a pack in London.
Trapped on top of the stump are Dr. Deaton and two others. Stiles wishes he could say he was shocked that his guidance counselor was in the know and chose not to do a damn thing to help the teens and young adults running around trying to fix things without dying. But it just seems par for the course. The third person on the stump was not anyone Stiles recognized, but she looked like she’d gotten into a fight with Shredder, or, and this was more likely to be the case, been mauled by a werewolf.
Harry, Luna, and Neville stand at the top of the stump facing the three trapped participants with severe looks on their faces while the remaining supernaturally aware are gathered in the clearing in smaller clusters. His dad is standing off to the side with Melissa, who had learned quite a bit about things this afternoon and was clearly still struggling to process it all. Scott had tried to rescue Deaton the moment he entered the clearing, despite being told that Deaton was essentially being held for trial. So he is in his own personal time-out circle of mountain ash and had already had a silencing spell placed on him. Isaac clearly isn’t sure whether he should be defending Scott or greeting Erica and Boyd and so is hovering between the two groups like a worried and fretful puppy.
His aunt and uncle had not given the Argents any choice but to come, and the Gajos pack was essentially holding the Argents under guard. Chris’s face when he heard Stiles call Celeste Auntie is a memory Stiles will treasure for a while. He’s not sure he’s ever seen a man pale that quickly. Currently, Chris looks like he’s waiting for the executioner while Allison appears to be trying to cover her confusion by embracing her anger. It’s a good thing she doesn’t have laser vision, or they’d all be crispy critters based on the strength of her glare alone.
“Why are we here, Matriarch Gajos? I do not see any members of the council here, so I doubt you plan to have us stand trial. I wouldn’t have thought you’d be the sort to execute first and ask forgiveness later given your reputation for fair dealing.”
Stiles has to hand it to Chris, he’s got balls provoking his aunt like that. Or maybe a death wish. Stiles shakes his head at the sheer audacity of the man. He’s apparently not alone in his musings either. Derek lets out a soft snort and Peter mutters, “Ballsy.”
“You are not the one on trial right now, Regent Argent. You are merely here as witnesses. We all felt that it was important the truth of certain things be aired before everyone involved. But be aware that we have filed a formal complaint with the Council and you will see your day before them to account for your actions as well as the actions of your family,” Celeste’s no-nonsense, don’t fuck with me tone is even better than his dad’s Sheriff voice.
“You are here as a courtesy, and as such, I suggest you watch your mouth.”
Chris visibly swallows and tightens his grip on Allison’s shoulder and shakes his head at her when she goes to say something.
“I presume that we are the ones on trial, then, but I see no one here with any authority to hold such trial. There are certainly no members of the Council present, outside of Matriarch Gajos herself, and it is clear that she has a conflict of interest in this situation.”
Stiles is impressed. Deaton has got the “this is all just a simple misunderstanding” voice down to a tee.
“Ah yes, thank you for bringing that up.” Harry steps forward and nearly everyone in the clearing shivers as his full presence is felt. Of the three Hands, Harry is the one most everyone has been watching--dressed all in black and prowling like the apex predator he absolutely is.
“You see you three have managed to gain the attention of an even greater authority, or rather authorities.”
“There is no recognized authority greater than the Council’s in the Supernatural world.”
Ms. Morrell’s voice is also incredibly calm. He wonders if they were taught by the same person. They’ve definitely both got that aggravatingly calm under pressure thing down pat.
“Really? So you’re saying that you, as Druids, do not recognize the authority of Nature herself?” Interestingly, it is Neville who steps forward this time. Dressed as he was in dark brown corduroys with a dark green button-down, Stiles was surprised just how intense the man’s presence could be. At that moment, Stiles could feel the coiled power of a volcano ready to erupt, of a hurricane building power as it curves towards land. The hair rose on the back of his neck and from the hand that suddenly gripped his, he wasn’t alone in reacting to the intense wave of power. A quick glance confirms it’s Derek’s hand and he squeezes it in return.
“I do not know about her,” Marin’s eyes cut to the third person on the stump, “But Alan and I have only ever worked to maintain the balance, as is the calling for all Druids. Why should Nature find fault with our efforts?”
“Maintaining the balance?” Luna’s soft voice reminds Stiles of his mom at her most dangerous. That quiet fury that just begs to be unleashed. Of the three, she is the one who looks the most magical wearing a brightly colored and shimmering dress with long belled sleeves that remind him of faerie costumes. Her hair is pulled up in a messy bun, and a few of the escaped tendrils wave in the same unseen wind that is causing her dress to swirl about her.
“Assisting a hunter with poisoning a nemeton and then encouraging the local pack to cut it down? Helping a rogue Alpha Pack, alphas who had all slaughtered their betas purely for power, rather than reporting them to the Council? Working with the Hunters that slaughtered a pack you had sworn Emissary oaths too by using magic to prolong a dying Hunter’s life so he could seek to become what he swore he hated? All while also secretly planning to use a teenager to poison the same hunter so the bite wouldn’t take? Offering only the most minimal help to the teenagers who suddenly found themselves in the middle of a supernatural war?”
Luna’s gaze moves back and forth between Dr. Deaton and Ms. Morrell as she talks. She pauses and tilts her head, eyes briefly unfocusing, before continuing, “You are also complicit in the torture of supernatural creatures under the guise of medical experimentation and treatment occurring at a local facility that dares call itself a hospital. You may believe that you have done this to maintain the balance, but if so you are clearly lying to yourselves. You are so far off course that your very magic has become twisted. You may not have been planning to use a five-fold knot to boost your power for revenge like that one, but you are all darachs. Your actions have destabilized this area and poisoned both the magic and the earth of this area. If left unchecked that poison would have spread.”
By this point, both Ms. Morrell’s and Dr. Deaton’s eyes have widened slightly and it’s clear they’re both sweating. They’re clearly fighting to remain impassive, but also clearly worried.
“There is a chaos spirit trapped in the nemeton! If we had not put the tree to sleep with our actions it would have grown more powerful and corrupted more than just this area!”
“Then you should have called for help!” Thunder punctuates Neville’s outburst.
Harry steps forward again, patting Neville on the shoulder as he passes him.
“It’s quite clear that these two think they’re better suited to manage the balance of the universe than the universe itself, let alone all the various Powers in it. It’s a truly astounding level of arrogance and one I don’t think I’ve seen since the end of the War. To be honest, I’m rather amazed we haven’t heard one of them spouting off about the greater good. But before we let our bosses have their final say, I do have a question for this one.”
Harry gestures to Dr. Deaton, “What precisely was your plan with Mr. McCall? It’s quite clear you had one, or you wouldn’t have encouraged his desire to distance himself from the only pack in town without letting him know that there are other packs in nearby areas that he could have petitioned to join. Do keep in mind that it is a dreadful idea to try to lie to Death’s Hand. And you will answer. Silence is not an option at this time.”
Harry’s power surges and Stiles can practically feel it tighten around Dr. Deaton, who struggles for a moment to remain silent before finally letting out a gasp and opening his mouth to speak. Stiles grips Derek’s hand tighter, sure that whatever Deaton’s about to spew is not going to be pleasant for him to hear.
“Derek is untrained and poorly suited to being the Hale Alpha. Not to mention far too trusting of Peter, who he should have put back in the ground right after his resurrection. No good can come of that man being alive.”
“Well, that’s certainly an opinion, one that Death disagrees with by the way, or his resurrection wouldn’t have been successful. And instead of helping Derek become a better alpha, or helping Scott find a better-suited pack, you decided to do what? Train Scott for the role?”
“Scott has the potential to be a great alpha,” Deaton glares at Harry, and Stiles rolls his eyes when Scott puffs up with pride.
“Perhaps,” Harry sounds terribly amused, “But he has rather a good bit to learn about being a good packmate first, I think. Although now that I think about it, a somewhat self-centered alpha who is easily distracted by his romantic interest does make them more malleable and easier to use to maintain your personal idea of balance, doesn’t it? And that, in turn, makes you feel quite powerful, almost like a god, yourself, doesn’t it? Knowing that all the citizens of Beacon county are unwitting pawns in your ridiculous little games. Well, answer me!”
For a second, Stiles thinks that Deaton is about to have a stroke or heart attack as he shakes and struggles to stay silent. His final shouted and broken “yes!” causes Scott to collapse in stunned silence, looking shocked at what his mentor had just admitted to.
“I wasn’t anticipating that Scott would get bitten, but it was truly a blessing when it happened.” The words poured forth from Deaton as if he had no willpower to curb them anymore. “He’s so certain that things are black and white, good and evil, that he is easy to manipulate. I could have used him to control this territory completely. I just had to nudge things the right way when the opportunity arose.”
“Well, that answers my question.”
“I am appalled that such as these would claim to be my caretakers.” The voice that echoed through the clearing was as unmistakable as Death’s in that you felt it as much as heard it. Where Death’s reminded Stiles of dark spaces, decay, and regrowth, this one is full of vibrant life in its prime, of birdsong and storms. Stiles is not surprised to find the speaker somewhat hard to look directly at considering their dress is constantly in motion as flowers bloom and small animals move through the leaves that form the dress.
“Indeed, my love, they have twisted all our gifts horrifically.” This voice embodies galaxies, moonlight, liminal spaces, and all things otherworldly, and the speaker glows brightly enough to hurt the eyes. Death appears between the other two, this time looking more like the traditional Grim Reaper, but remains quiet as Magic pronounces judgment.
“And as judgment for their crimes against us, their gifts--magic, earthly body, and spirit--shall be used to heal the damage they’ve wrought. Are we in agreement?”
Stiles honestly expects screaming when the three figures on the stump start to glow and that glow seeps downward into the stump itself. But the figures for all the agony present on their faces remain silent. He’s honestly not sure if that makes the nightmarish tableau better or worse. As the glows within them fade, the glow of the tree grows brighter. Eventually, the bodies slump and start to wither, and, shortly after that, the tree becomes so bright that Stiles is forced to close his eyes. The glow is still strong, reminding him of sitting with his face tilted towards the sun and his eyes closed. Finally, it brightens one last time and then goes dark.
He blinks the afterimages out of his eyes and is stunned to see a gigantic tree towering before him. The Powers are gone, or at least no longer visible.
“Justice is done. We leave our child in your hands, watch over her well.”
Earth’s voice is far more gentle than it had been moments before, and Magic’s weaves around them like laughter when they add “Our hands will help, you’re practically family after all. It’s lovely to see you found your Hallows, Harry. Do remember to bring your Hallowed Pack for tea next time you visit. We promise to be on our best behavior.”
“Bloody matchmaking busybodies, I swear.” Harry glowers as he walks around the tree to join the rest of them. Luna darts forward to link her arm with his.
“Don’t pout, Harry. You know they just want us to be happy. Being a hand can be kind of isolating.”
“I don’t know, I seem to have good luck in finding people who will roll with it.” Harry grins at the Hales and Gajoses. Stiles grins right back and when he glances around sees that the other members of the Hale pack are grinning as well, though Erica, Boyd, and his dad look a bit shell-shocked under their grins. The Gajos pack members are also grinning right back at Harry, slightly more used to his shenanigans than the rest.
Scott, Isaac, and Melissa look completely stunned and slightly afraid of what is going to happen next, and the Argents just look downright terrified.
“Relax, you’re not in our purview.” Harry assures the Argents, “We’re perfectly happy to let the council sort you out. My guess is that they’ll be investigating all the hunting families to be sure that they really are sticking to their codes and not becoming serial killers under the guise of hunting. Knowing how the council works, you two will probably get assigned mandatory therapy and house arrest with the council while they sort you and the rest of the Argents out.”
Scott is shouting something but is still behind a silencing ward. Harry sighs and waves his hand, getting rid of the ward.
“--did nothing wrong. I don’t understand why you have to punish her. You aren’t punishing the Hales! Peter killed a bunch of people and no one is doing anything about it!”
Surprisingly it’s Melissa who reacts first, slapping Scott on the back of the head. “She kidnapped two of your classmates, shot them full of arrows, and was happy to let her grandfather torture them. I don’t know if she knew that Stiles was taken, but your other two classmates were just as innocent as Stiles. So don’t you dare say she did nothing wrong.”
“She was grieving! Derek’s the reason her mother died!”
“From what I’ve heard today, young man, you are the reason her mother died. According to Derek and Stiles, she was trying to kill you with an aerosol wolfbane. Stiles had to break some kind of barrier that he’d put up to trap that lizard monster that attacked the station later. And in the chaos of trying to save your life, Derek bit Allison’s mom. And she chose to kill herself. Which as a mom I cannot imagine doing to my child. So no, you don’t get to claim that Derek’s the reason someone killed themselves over a stupid prejudice.”
Melissa grabs Scott, “We are going home, do you understand me. We have a lot to talk about, and Stiles’ uncle has graciously offered to find you an alpha that is not one of the Hales. They’ve also agreed to loan me two of their pack to keep an eye on you and make sure you keep your temper and control of your wolf during our talk.”
Scott looks appalled, “I’d never hurt you, Mom!”
“From what I’ve learned today, without a pack you will find it harder to keep control. So we’re being safe rather than sorry.”
Melissa pulls him into a tearful hug, “I’m mad at you, and not pleased with how you handled this whole mess. But I’m also mad at myself for letting my fear keep me from talking to you and learning more about what was going on. That is on me. But that’s what I’m going to do now and I need you to work with me, Scott. I don’t want to lose you because you’re too stubborn to accept that you need help, okay?”
Scott slumps into her hold and Melissa shifts slightly so that she can look at Isaac before continuing, “And Isaac is welcome to come with us. I’m happy to have him continue to stay with us, and will happily work with Kaïs to find an alpha that will take both of you and me as well. You both deserve to be safe and happy.”
“She’s right, Isaac,” Derek’s voice is soft, “I completely understand if you can’t trust that I will be a good fit for you as an alpha. We’ve already helped Lydia and Jackson find a suitable pack in London, one with someone who can teach Lydia about the abilities that Peter’s bite woke in her. I know I’ve got a lot to learn, and you need someone who is already settled into this role. Someone who can help settle you and offer the guidance you need to heal. Leaving doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch. Erica and Boyd have decided to stay, but you can all continue to be friends. And if you decide you want to come back, then you would be welcome. Take some time to think about it. Talk it over with Melissa and the others that are going with you guys.”
Isaac nods and offers a soft “Thanks” before turning to leave with Melissa and a couple of the Gajos pack. Celeste and Kaïs lead the Argents away discussing transportation arrangements to bring them to the Council’s headquarters. Stiles squeezes Derek’s hand and bumps his shoulder.
“Proud of you, sourwolf. You’re a good Alpha.”
Derek turns to look at him and smiles softly, “I’m gonna try to be, at least. I have a feeling you’ll keep me on my toes.”
Luna and Neville are chatting quietly and gesturing about the clearing. Derek must sense Stiles’ curiosity because he softly notes that they’re discussing what still needs to be done to cleanse the area completely and planning wards for the nemeton.
“I don’t know about you lot, but I’m famished,” Harry states from where he is standing near Peter.
“Hmm, I could eat.” Peter smirks at Harry and Stiles is glad he can’t actually smell pheromones at the moment, “It’s certainly been quite the day.”
Harry steps into Peter’s space, “I wish I could say this level of shenanigans is unusual for me, but it really isn’t. Are you sure you want to pursue this further?”
“Darling, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Peter pulls Harry close, kissing him thoroughly.
When they come up for air, Peter adds, “I abhor being bored, and with you around life will certainly never be boring.”
“Quit scarring the kids, you two. You can make out more later. Right now we should get folks home and fed. Tomorrow we can finish up the cleanup, then the kids can have a few days to relax before returning to school.” Noah starts herding them all back towards their cars.
“Feel free to kiss all you want in front of me,” Erica grins, “It’s hot as hell. That goes for you two as well.” She smirks at Stiles and Derek. Derek playfully growls at her, and she dashes off laughing pulling Boyd along with her.
Stiles smiles and leans into Derek as they follow the two betas at a more sedate pace. There is still a lot of work ahead of them, but the world is looking a whole lot brighter than it had a week ago.