Allison hitched Rose onto one hip, both arms wrapped around the five year old as she stepped out onto John and Melissa’s driveway and nudged the car door shut with one foot. The diaper bag was on one shoulder, her purse was on the same shoulder, and Rose’s miniature backpack was hanging from one elbow. She paused at the front of the car, watching Stiles with a small smile. “Why do I have the feeling that munchkins will be snatched by overenthusiastic family members the second we appear?”
“Because that’s the way it usually works.” Stiles smiled back from the other side of the car, then leaned down to unfasten Robin from her carseat. “And because we haven’t seen them for more than ten minutes since August.” He shrugged. “Except for the obvious. Work doesn’t count.”
Allison laughed quietly. “It’s not like they don’t understand. Your dad and Melissa definitely understand. And if my dad says he doesn’t, he’s lying.”
“Would you two get in here?” Lydia demanded, holding the front door open. “Breakfast is on the table and I have three cranky toddlers demanding Cheerios, but I said we had to wait for you.”
Allison grinned, making her way inside. “Did you make Rose’s favorite omelet?” She asked, jiggling the girl in her arms and grinning when Rose clung to her tightly, giggling.
“You mean the one with brussels sprouts and onions?” Lydia teased.
“No, Aunt Lydia!” Rose shrieked, squirming down from Allison’s grasp. “I don’t like that stuff.”
Allison laughed. “Are you sure? Didn’t Daddy tell you that brussels sprouts and onions will help make you big and strong, like Uncle Scott and Uncle Derek?”
“But not in an omelet!” Rose protested. “Mommy, that’s not nice.” She stomped off to the kitchen.
Lydia grinned. “I made hers with cheese and bacon.” She said quietly. “She hasn’t changed her mind on that being her favorite, has she?”
Allison looked at Lydia in amusement. “She tried to convince me to make cheese and bacon muffins, with cheese and bacon pancakes for dinner last night, and then begged me to follow it up with bacon ice cream with a cheese topping for dessert. I had to explain to an extremely pouty five year old that I had no intention of letting her have a heart attack at that age.”
“It’s vegan cheese and bacon.” Lydia laughed. “No danger of her keeling over today.” She heard a crashing noise in the kitchen and turned instinctively. “Samuel Merlin Hale, stop throwing things on the floor.”
There was a protesting shriek of disapproval and another crash. Allison winced. “Oh, that sounded like something broke. Where’s Derek?” She asked, frowning.
Like his name was all he needed to appear, Derek came out of the kitchen with two children wrapped in his arms with a third wrapping his arms around Derek’s neck. He looked unamused. “Sam broke a vase. With cheese. I’m not even sure how that’s possible, but I have it on video and saw it with my own eyes.”
“Be impressed later.” Lydia murmured, reaching out for Sam, the triplet clutching Derek. “I think it’s time for you to lay down.”
“No lay down.” Sam shook his head, his eyes wide. “No.”
“Yes.” Lydia set Sam down in the portable playpen in the living room. “By the way, John and Melissa went out to vote and get a cake. I was told not to tell you, but I think it’s obvious that you’re going to win, Stiles. That tends to happen when nobody is actually running against you.”
Stiles smiled. “We’ll still have to watch the results. There could’ve been a write-in candidate, Lyds. We don’t know.” He lowered Robin toward the couch and dropped her playfully, trying not to laugh when she huffed at him and went into the kitchen to find her sister. “Scott and Malia aren’t here yet?”
“They’re off again this week.” Lydia frowned. “And the only reason I know before you is because Malia decided this without telling Scott, while he was asleep. I got a text about an hour ago. I don’t even bother telling anyone anymore because you know they’ll be back together in a day.”
Allison frowned, setting down the bags she was carrying and nudging them out of the way. “Probably, but for god’s sake, while he was sleeping? What set her off this time? Was he snoring?” She moved toward Stiles, sitting down on the couch and tugging him down beside her.
Derek sighed. “It seems she may have… had a panic attack or something? I’m not clear on the details.”
Stiles frowned. “That doesn’t sound like her. Or maybe... do you think she’s pregnant again?” He wished his best friend’s relationship wasn’t so complicated. “I might be busier today than I thought.”
Derek shook his head and set Ariel and Sawyer down on the couch before corralling them between himself and their mother. “No idea. If she is, I would have imagined that she’d have told one of us by now. She was thrilled about Jaina, so I don’t know what would make having another kid different.”
“The fact that they’re always arguing?” Stiles guessed. “Well, the fact that she’s always arguing with him, anyway.” He knew that saying it would probably start an argument between the other pack members, but it still frustrated him that Malia liked to pick fights about everything she could, with Scott.
Allison grimaced. “She is extremely argumentative.” She murmured. “I heard her arguing with Cora about the best way to cook a steak, and then start an argument about how to eat it after they’d agreed on how to cook it.”
“She’s got a thriving business, finding people who belong together.” Lydia mused. “It’s just strange that she can’t figure out what she wants. But let’s stop talking about her and get the kids cleaned up, so that they can watch cartoons and we can eat.”
“Sounds good to me.” Allison said, standing up. She bent down to kiss Stiles, smiling, then straightened and went into the kitchen. “Robin, Rosie? Time to get - oh dear god.” Laughter sounded. “Stiles, get your cell phone out, we need pictures!”
Stiles got up from the couch and went into the kitchen, smiling.
Lydia glanced over at Derek, then leaned toward him for a kiss. “You know, by the time the poll results are in, we’re going to all be crowding in here and barely have enough room to breathe.”
Derek raised an eyebrow, peering down at her for a moment before kissing her back slowly. “I do know that. We’re going to be practically glued together.”
“It’s been a long time since we’ve all been in one place. I’m not complaining, I know we’re all busy. It just feels strange sometimes, not being as close as we were.” Lydia murmured. “And it has me worried.”
Derek stroked her back gently, his forehead pressed lightly against hers. “We’re all adults, with jobs and children and lives of our own,” he began softly. “It isn’t always ideal, but sometimes things get in the way of constantly being together, the way we used to be. It doesn’t mean we aren’t all still family; it just means we’ve grown. There was a time when my family were living altogether in the same house, practically in each other’s pockets… That was well and good for us at the time, but it wasn’t going to last long. Even if the fire hadn’t happened, we all would have gone off in our separate ways.” He kissed her again softly. “We still loved each other.”
Isaac sat back in his seat and dropped his napkin on his plate, smiling. “Thank you for dinner.” He nodded to Melissa and John. “I’m going to do the dishes, but I expect one of you to help me.” He remarked dryly. “Stiles, you’re not busy, are you?”
Stiles stuck his tongue out at Isaac and got up from the table, going into the living room.
“Would you two stop it?” Lydia threw a piece of lettuce, coated in salad dressing, at Isaac. She grinned when it stuck to his face.
Liam flailed backward, grimacing. “Oh, god, that’s disgusting.” He started laughing. “Stay away from me.”
John snorted, putting his head in his hands. “Now, now, children…”
“Hey, after today, we have to be serious grown-ups.” Malia smiled. “Because Stiles is going to win. He kind of has to. And then we’re...” She shrugged. “I don’t know.”
Scott didn’t look up from his plate, still smarting and annoyed from Malia’s recent self-mandated break-up with him. “Adults.” He muttered. “We’re adults. We still have to follow rules, and Stiles still has to uphold them, just like Dad does.”
John’s cheeks flushed a little, and he ducked his head with a small smile. It was a reaction he had any time one of the pack members referred to him that way, but it was especially important in Scott and Stiles’ case.
“If you’re going to whine and pout about me breaking up with you again, I’m going in the other room.” Malia stared at Scott. “I didn’t come here for this.”
“Nope, you came here for the free food.” Scott snapped. “You can keep your seat at the table. I’m going into the living room. Excuse me.”
“Scott!” Melissa chastised, looking a little furious with him, but Scott stomped out of the room with his plate before she could say anything else. She sighed and leaned back in her chair.
Malia made a face, but got up and walked into the living room.
Stiles put a hand on Scott’s shoulder and looked up at Malia. “You should go. This whole thing you keep doing... it’s not helping. We’ll take care of Jaina, so you don’t even have to pack up her stuff. Just go.”
“I don’t even know what I did to you this time.” Scott muttered, glaring at her. “But you keep breaking up with me, so obviously, it’s me. Do you just not want me around that badly? You couldn’t even say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to be with you anymore, let’s break up,’ you had to wait until I was asleep before you even made the decision? What the hell, Malia?”
“I just want things to be better than how they are.” Malia murmured. “I don’t get why nobody else understands that.”
Stiles’ teeth clenched, but he knew there was nothing he could say with a house full of kids around to hear it.
Scott stared at her, swallowing roughly. “Then I guess it’s never going to be better, as long as you’re here, with me. Is it?” He blinked and stood up, shaking his head. “I gotta go.” He mumbled. “I’ll see you later, Stiles. Congratulations, man, really. And... I’d go get Jaina, but I think Malia’s probably going to do that.” He looked at his girlfriend for a moment, and then sighed. “Tell Mom and Dad I said I’d see them later.” He walked out.
“What the fu- Scott!” Stiles sighed. “Okay, we were all here, waiting to celebrate my win, but okay, go home. Nevermind that I told...” He turned toward Malia as he spoke, “you to get the hell out of here, you’ve got to stay and antagonize Scott until he leaves. Just get out.”
Malia grabbed her coat. “You’ll really watch Jaina?” She asked cautiously.
“Yes. Leave.” Stiles scowled as Malia left the house.
Allison crept inside the living room and sat down beside Stiles with a sigh, patting his knee. “They aren’t just going to get back together, are they?” She asked, frowning.
“I don’t think they will, this time.” Stiles agreed. “I know Scott’s the Alpha, but I swear to god if he calls a pack meeting or some other family thing and she shows up? I just... I’m tired of it. He deserves better than she’s treating him and I don’t think she even means to do it, she’s just... she’s just pissing me off.”
“I know, honey.” Allison murmured, pressing a kiss to his cheek and leaning against him. “I am not going to even pretend I understand what the hell is going on in her head, but I’m not going to be shocked in the slightest if it’s because she didn’t think she’d be a mom this young, or that she’d be in a monogamous relationship with an Alpha at this point in her life or something. Scott does deserve better than he’s gotten from her, and he’ll get it, I’ll make damn sure of it.” She closed her eyes and rested her head against Stiles’.
Stiles put his arm around Allison and turned up the volume on the news when it started. He wanted them to hurry up and get to the election results, but he knew how this worked in the past and it would be another three or four hours before the full count was in.
“Everyone finish eating and come in here, please!” Allison called over her shoulder before burrowing against Stiles’ side, her eyes focusing on the TV as well. She’d been so ridiculously proud of Stiles when he’d decided he wanted to be Sheriff, and she’d done her best to stand at his side and support him through everything, particularly when Mendoza, their former instructor, had attempted to call Stiles’ run ‘nepotism at its finest.’ John had been furious and had railed at the former instructor until Melissa had been forced to hitch both arms around John’s in an attempt to drag him away.
Stiles glanced at Allison, smiling because he could practically read her mind. “He’s not eligible for the write-in vote, either. They won’t let him. Anyone voting for him is an automatic non-vote.”
Allison smiled back at him. “Best thing your dad ever did was that background check on that man.” She paused, frowning at her words. “I mean, he’s done lots of good things better than that, but - never mind. Mendoza needed someone to tear him down a few thousand notches.” She murmured, and lifted her head to kiss Stiles. She scrunched her nose up, beaming. “I’m so proud of you.” She said out loud.
“Well, he shouldn’t have lied about how much he earned in a year.” Stiles muttered. “And I’m glad my dad was the one that called him out for it, because after how he treated me and you, it was pretty much necessary.”
Allison nodded. “I’m just glad he’s out. If they’d made that ass the next Sheriff, I’d beg you to take us to another state.” She looked up at him and smiled. “I don’t know about you, but I kinda like it here.”
“I wouldn’t live anywhere else.” Stiles agreed, smiling.
Lydia dropped onto the couch, beside Allison. “All of the young kids are asleep, Felix and Jordan are helping their dad with the dishes - Isaac, not Liam - and Cora and Jackson should be on their way over.”
Allison leaned back, budging her shoulder against Lydia’s. “Good. Where did Liam go, then?”
“I don’t know, probably to go tell Malia to stop it?” Lydia guessed. “Five years of this is five too many. It’s obviously because she wants to get married, but she’s going about it all wrong.”
Allison stared at Lydia, dumbfounded. “She wants to get married? How do you get a desire for marriage out of the way she’s been acting? I honestly thought she was bored with Scott and was trying to get him to dump her so she wouldn’t have to dump him!”
Lydia stared at Allison. “How often am I wrong?”
Allison paused, then sighed and rolled her eyes. “Point zero-zero-zero-one percent.” She scowled. “So she’s causing all of this heartbreak for Scott, all because she wants to get married to him, but doesn’t realize she can just walk up to him and ask him to marry her?” She frowned. “Poor Scott.”
“Malia tells us everything, though.” Stiles frowned. “Actually everything. I know what underwear she’s wearing today because she was griping about it during lunch.”
“It’s the thong again, isn’t it?” Allison muttered, rolling her eyes. “I told her to stop wearing them if she wasn’t used to them - anyway.” She blinked and shook her head at herself. “Why wouldn’t she tell us about this, if it was as simple as marriage?” She asked.
“People have different motivations for their abnormalities.” Isaac spoke up as he walked into the living room and sat on the floor, in front of the couch. “Did you win yet?”
Stiles shook his head. “Fifteen more minutes before they get to that, I think. And it’ll probably just be to say the results won’t be in until ten tonight.”
Allison threw her feet up onto the couch to make room for Isaac, tucking them over Stiles’ legs and sighing. “Boo. It’s not like we don’t know that Stiles won, but for god’s sake, I wish they wouldn’t draw it out.” She stared at the tv for a moment, and then looked down at Isaac. “Okay. So what would your motivation be for not telling Liam you wanted to get married, if you two were in this scenario?”
“We were, for about two weeks.” Isaac admitted, shrugging. “And I knew that getting married meant more of a commitment and the possibility of coming home to a man with a sometimes violent temper. But we put a punching bag and some weights in the basement, where I’ve never liked going anyway. He can work out his frustrations down there and come back up to spend time with me when he’s calm. So I guess she’s afraid. Maybe because she doesn’t want to be like her dad. Or your mom. Maybe she thinks marriage means wandering eyes or going insane.”
Allison’s mouth fell open and her eyes shut. She exhaled, pressing a hand to her forehead. “Oh, god.” She murmured. “I think I need to have a talk with my sister.”
Stiles pulled Allison close for a kiss. “Go now. This is inevitable, as far as we know. If it turns out differently, you can meet me at home and console me.” He smiled. “We’ll celebrate something, either way.”
Allison smiled, cupping his face to kiss him back. “I love you. Kick some ass.” She glanced at Lydia and Isaac gratefully. “Thank you.” She murmured, before turning to leave.
“I love you, too.” Stiles called out to Allison, squirming a little to get away when Isaac took her spot on the couch.
“Have all of our wishes come true?” Lydia glanced at the two men sitting with her. “I think they have, now.”
Liam entered the room, followed by Derek, John and Melissa. “What wishes?” He asked suspiciously, and dropped down to the floor, resting his head in Isaac’s lap.
Derek moved to Lydia’s side, sitting on the arm of the couch next to her and wrapping his arm around her shoulders.
“You were there when we made them.” Lydia muttered, rolling her eyes. “Scott wanted Malia to have a successful business, I said I wanted Isaac to find inner peace, and Allison tried to get us immunity from all illnesses, but the Fates kinda compromised on that one.”
Liam rolled his eyes at Lydia in return. “Like I was gonna remember that. I’m shocked you did. You’ve got a really good memory. Like an elephant - ow.” Liam looked up at Derek and scowled at the older man.
Derek smirked down at him, shaking his head. “Don’t call or compare my wife to an elephant ever again, whether you’re trying to be complimentary or not.”
Liam stuck his tongue out at Derek, then tilted his head back and looked up at Isaac. “So, what do you think? Is Lydia right? Did your wish come true?”
“I didn’t make one, she made it for me.” Isaac smiled at his husband. “I’ve got you and our two kids, so I’m gonna have to say yeah, I’m happy. I don’t like when you leave your underwear on the floor, but I’ll just have to suffer.”
Liam let out a startled laugh. “Well, that’s where they usually end up anyway, I was just cutting out the middleman.” He teased, wrapping an arm around one of Isaac’s legs.
“That’s what a real argument looks like?” Lydia laughed. “When’s the last time we had one of those, Derek?”
Derek squinted down at her, tilting his head thoughtfully. “When we went to Sydney, before I got you pregnant with the triplets. You wanted to go see the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, I wanted to go to the beach and surf. You called me a surf bum-slash-meathead because I didn’t back down, and then you followed me to the beach anyway, cursing at me.” He looked fond as he recollected it. “Wasn’t that the night the triplets were conceived?” He teased her, wrapping his arms around her and pressing a kiss to her throat.
“I believe most people refer to that trip as our honeymoon.” Lydia laughed. “And I’m pretty sure we argued about the nursery.”
Derek’s eyes glazed over a bit. “You’re right, we did. We absolutely did. Those were both very, very good nights.”
“Shut up.” Stiles muttered, turning up the volume on the tv as the screen started displaying the local election results. “I haven’t been this anxious about an election since Dad’s.”
“I don’t understand why.” Jackson muttered as he came in. “You’ve got it in the bag. Everyone knows it’s going to be you.” He dropped down onto a chair across from Derek, holding an arm out to Cora as she curled up against his side, tucking her feet underneath her.
“But we don’t know that.” Stiles muttered. “Half of this town hates me for one reason or another. If there’s a write-in candidate that they want to win, I might not.”
Cora kicked her foot at him, eyes watching him gently. “You’re the best choice for this town. And if there are idiots here that are so determined to hate you by voting in someone who doesn’t give a shit and has absolutely no experience and would frankly just as well turn this town into a fucking crater as keep it safe, then I’m sure as hell not gonna sit back and let them. Buck the fuck up, buttercup. They’d be stupid to choose anyone else over you.”
Lydia nodded at Cora’s words, her own tone sharp when she spoke. “Where’s this lack of confidence coming from? I’ve heard all about the way you react to actual threatening situations, and I’ve seen some of that with my own eyes. You have two great kids and an incredible wife. You’ve convinced at least half a dozen teenagers to turn their lives around, and some of them became adults and they’re sitting in this room with you. You’re the best person for this job. Say it.”
Stiles made a face, but decided to comply with Lydia’s demand. “I’m the best person for this job.”
Cora punched the air and hollered, “Say it again!”
“I’m the best person for this job.” Stiles repeated. “Now shut up, seriously, they’re about to tell me I won the election.” He turned the volume up a little more, pointing at the tv as his name came up at the bottom of the screen.
Allison came rushing in, nearly skidding to a halt. “Have they called it? Did I miss it?” She threw herself down beside Stiles, wrapping her arms around one of his tightly, staring at the TV nervously.
“Now for the result of the Sheriff’s election.” The newscaster peered down at her paperwork as the information began to tally across the screen. “And in a landslide victory, the position of Beacon County Sheriff goes to V - Vl - Stiles Stilinski. Mr. Stilinski is of course, the son of our former Sheriff John Stilinski, who announced his plans to retire earlier this year. Congratulations to our new Sheriff!” She smiled genuinely at the screen. “Moving on, here are the results for…”
Allison had thrown herself at Stiles five seconds into the newscast, squealing and pressing kisses to Stiles’ face. “I love you! I am so proud of you!”
John was laughing. He wrapped his arms around them both from behind, pressing a kiss to the top of Stiles’ head. “All of that worry for nothing. I’m so damn proud, Stiles. Congratulations, son.”
Stiles laughed, putting his arms around Allison. “Well, I know I was being pessimistic, but can you blame me? This town is always so...” He trailed off when his cell phone rang and stood up as he answered, making his way toward the kitchen where things were quieter. “Hello.” He smiled to himself, unable to resist adding, “Sheriff Stilinski speaking.”
“Did I call - oh! You won! I wish I was calling to congratulate you, but we’ve got a problem out here in the Preserve. You were just the first person I thought of calling, since I knew I could reach at least two of you at once.” The dispatcher sounded apologetic, then went back to a business tone. “Well, Sheriff, a jogger called in to report a body near one of the trails.”
Allison looked amused but nodded, uncapping the marker. “Sure. Alright, so…” She peered at the paper. “Approximate time of death occurred at five-thirty pm, along the jogging trail on the west end of the preserve. Victim’s body was cut in half prior to disrobing; threads of the victim’s clothing were found in the wounds, and pictures taken at both locations where the body was found depict a fourteen in Roman numerals along the small of the back, while the upper back carries the image of an angel holding two cups. Image is a reference to a card in the Tarot deck major arcana. Both images were drawn using standard permanent marker, likely after the body had been vivisected and planted.”
Stiles’ breath hitched in his throat. “We’ll be right there.” He hung up, lowering the phone to his side. “Allison!”
Allison sat straight up and then stood and moved toward him, instantly worried. “What is it? What’s happened?” She asked.
“I’ll explain on the way.” Stiles murmured, grabbing his coat and tossing hers toward her. He made a face when he realized that had been a little rude. “Sorry. I’m not thinking. We need to go.”
Allison was shaking her head and putting her coat on. “No, it’s fine, you’re right.” She said, buckling her jacket. She turned toward Melissa and John. “You’ll all watch the kids, right?” She asked.
John put a hand on her shoulder. “Of course we will. Go. We’ll hold the fort down.”
Stiles walked outside and got into the car. “We’ll have to switch vehicles at home.” He mumbled, more for his own benefit than any real need to tell Allison. “There’s a corpse in the woods and some joggers found it. That’s how it happened before. With Laura.”
“Oh, god.” Allison murmured, closing her eyes briefly. “Did Dispatch tell you anything else?”
“No, but I didn’t ask. If this is... if this is the warning that Deaton gave us, then it’s kind of late in the year to get started, isn’t it? And why is that my line of thinking?” Stiles frowned. “This is year five. Just... okay.” He muttered. “We’re better prepared now. We won’t make the same mistakes as before.”
Allison nodded. “We’re grown. We’re more experienced, we’re stronger, and we have a solid pack.” She narrowed her eyes. “And if anything tries to come after our pack, I will rip it limb from limb.”
Stiles parked in the driveway of their house and got out, walking across the yard to get to the cruiser. They kept it parked alongside the curb, to make it easier when urgent calls like this happened. “I know you will.”
Allison shook her head, flipping the collar of her jacket open to make sure that her badge was visible. She climbed into the cruiser’s passenger side. “Do you really think it’s them again?” She asked quietly.
“Peter’s still locked up in Eichen.” Stiles glanced over at Allison as he drove away, toward the Preserve. “And one of the lunar-inclined people we know would have mentioned it if a new werewolf was skulking around.”
“Dammit.” Allison cursed under her breath, shaking her head. “Well… I hope they know that we aren’t the naive little shits we were five years ago.” She said quietly. “I don’t know what they’re expecting, but I’m going to give them hell all the way through.”
“I don’t think we were naive back then, either.” Stiles reached for Allison’s hand. “Get on the radio and let them know we’re almost there, all right?”
“Of course.” Allison picked up the CB and called into the station. When she finished and got the affirmative, she set the CB back in its cradle and leaned back, squeezing Stiles’ hand.
“I love you.” Stiles glanced over at Allison. He let go of her hand reluctantly and parked near a couple of other Beacon County cars, getting out and setting his phone to vibrate, just in case the murderer, assuming there was one, was still close by.
“I love you, too.” Allison told him, and climbed out of the cruiser. She made her way around the car, bestowing a kiss on his lips quickly before pulling back. “Okay, I’m professional now.” She shoved her hands in the pockets of her coat and made her way forward, narrowing her eyes at the crime scene ahead of her.
Stiles followed behind Allison, clearing his throat as he handed a flashlight to her. He only needed to look at the faces of the deputies that were already there to know how bad the situation was. He took a deep breath and moved past Allison. “Without giving me details, let me just guess.” He was forcing himself to be calm. Panic could wait until he and Allison were home. “Vivisected corpse and you’ve only recovered the lower half?”
Allison cringed, making her way toward the EMT where the unfortunate passerby that had found the body was sitting, huddled under a blanket.
Parrish exhaled heavily, looking at Stiles. “Correct on all counts. How’d you guess?” It wasn’t really a question. “Victim is female. She seems to have been stripped after the vivisection. Fibers of a denim jacket have been found caught on the edges of skin.”
“It’s the lower half.” Stiles pointed out. “Maybe it was from her jeans? Any identifying marks or tattoos?” He glanced toward Allison, feeling pensive. If this was all meant to replicate the way Laura had been murdered, he had a feeling he knew where the victim’s upper half would be located.
“She was cut exactly above the belly button.” Parrish hesitated. “Unless she had her pants pulled up that high, but I doubt it. Either way… Uh, no tattoos that we found, but there was a mark on her lower back, on her spine just above her tailbone. Not a birthmark… hard to tell if it was placed post-mortem or not. It was written in marker.” He sighed and handed Stiles the notebook he had in his hand. “I’m hoping you know what the hell that means, because we’re clueless.”
Allison moved back toward Stiles, frowning down at the notebook. She shook her head, looking confounded. “Definitely not.”
“Thanks, Parrish. We’ve got it from here.” Stiles sighed. “Can you take the jogger in and question her, though? See if she remembers anything unusual during her run?” He turned toward Allison, then crouched to look at the ‘XIV’ written in black marker on the corpse’s back.
Allison crouched down beside him, chewing on her thumbnail as she thoughtfully tilted her head to the side. “Roman numerals for ‘fourteen’. Fourteen what? Fourteen victims, fourteen years, age fourteen?” She turned her head to look at the remains, then shook her head. “Too old for the last one, obviously. No baby fat.”
“Why Roman numerals instead of the standard digits?” Stiles added. “So, I think we can agree that whoever this is, they think they’re classy. They’re not trained, since the denim scraps were left behind.” He made a face. “Post-mortem cut, which fits the pattern, if there is a pattern.”
Allison paused. “They’re obviously trying to copycat Laura’s murder.” She said quietly. “And the numerals just seem out of place in the face of the rest of this. With Laura, it was just… cold. Cruel, senseless. It was animalistic and out of control. This is deliberate. She can’t have been out here that long, which means it happened tonight, possibly a few hours ago - the body hasn’t even set into rigor mortis. And it happens to be the night of your election?” She stood up, worrying her lower lip. “The jogger, Karen, called nine-one-one and Dispatch called you not even five minutes after we got word that you’d won. It - they did it on purpose, they did this to get our attention.” She looked back at the body again. “They killed her just to get our attention. Stiles - they know us.”
Stiles nodded. “I figured.” He stood up beside her, thinking. “You know the incline about a quarter mile from here? That’s probably where you’re going to find her. Or I am, I don’t know. Do you want to go be bad cop to Parrish’s inevitable good cop? Why the hell would anyone go jogging by themselves in the woods, after dark, in winter? There’s no way that’s a routine she has, because we would have heard about it by now. She might not be local.”
Allison didn’t like the feeling that was niggling at the back of her head, nor did she like the chill forcing its way down her spine. “Stiles, do you mean ‘local’, like she’s not from Beacon Hills, or like… ‘of the supernatural persuasion’?”
“From here.” Stiles explained. “If she is from here, she’s been living under a rock.” He muttered. “You wanna deal with her or go looking for whoever this is?”
Allison let out an unhappy grunt. “I guess I’ll go look for the rest of the body. I tried to talk to her already, but she’s either in too much shock, or she was ignoring me.”
“She won’t be able to ignore me.” Stiles kissed Allison. “Be careful out here, baby. I love you.” He was grateful that the other officers nearby knew him so well; he doubted he and Allison would be overlooked for this behavior if they worked anywhere else.
Allison smiled at him, wrapping her arms around him for a hug as she kissed him back. “You be careful, too. I love you, forever and a day.” She nudged the bridge of her nose against his chin, hugged him once more, and then pulled back. “Bet you I get back to the station before you do.” She winked at him as she started to walk away, motioning to a few of the other officers to follow her.
“I doubt that.” Stiles called after her, smiling for a moment before he sighed and walked back to the car.
Stiles walked into the conference room, carrying a cup of coffee. He pulled a chair out beside Parrish, deliberately scraping the legs across the floor before he sat down and scooted forward in increments, making the chair legs scrape against the floor the other way, with a horrible squeaking sound. “Hey, whatever your name is.” He smiled in the most false way possible, deliberately being rude. He had practically perfected this in high school, he wasn’t going to let it go to waste. “Wanna fill me in on what I missed?”
Karen frowned. “It’s all in the report you’ll be reading later, isn’t it?” She asked quietly.
“Yes, but I want to hear it from you.” Stiles nodded to her, then took a drink from his cup of coffee. “What makes a person go for a run in the woods, all alone?”
“That’s sexist.” Karen scowled. “You can’t just-”
“Call you a person?” Stiles interrupted. “Because that’s what I said. I referred to you as a person. I’m sorry that we don’t have a court reporter in here that can read things back to you, or that you think I’m some kind of misogynistic idiot. Nice job trying to deflect, by the way. Now tell me why you were in the woods.”
“I got into an argument with my boyfriend.” Karen glanced away. “I just wanted to get out of the house for a little while.”
Stiles leaned forward, biting his lip. “All right. So you don’t normally do this.”
Karen shook her head. “No, I don’t. And he’s not abusive or anything, we’re both just... vocal about politics. We were talking about who we voted for, and he snapped at me and I just grabbed my coat and left.”
Parrish tapped his fingers lightly on the table. “I take it this election season was a little more volatile for you both than it has been in the past.” He said kindly. “You look exhausted, Karen, and I’m sorry we’ve gotta keep you here for this. Can we get you anything to make you feel more comfortable? Some water?”
Karen nodded. “Yes, I’d like some water.” She looked over at Stiles. “I had no idea you were this cold. I voted for you. Well, it wouldn’t have mattered if I voted for you or not.”
“I know you’re having a really bad day. I can think of one person who had it worse than you. You found part of her in the woods about an hour ago.” Stiles said bluntly. “So thank you for your vote, it does matter to me, but you’ll have to understand if there’s a delay in me sending you a card to express my gratitude.” He took a deep breath, knowing he had already crossed a line and needing to get back over it. “Okay, I know that was awful of me.” He murmured. “Do you know of anyone else that runs on the trail you use? Maybe anytime between lunch and dinner?”
“I’ve seen a couple of people pretty regularly.” Karen took the bottle of water from Parrish with a grateful smile and untwisted the cap to take a drink from it. She replaced the cap before she spoke again. “I don’t know their names, but one of them was friendly. We walked together a few times, on the way back to our cars. We didn’t talk a lot, she seemed like she didn’t want to.”
“And the other one?” Stiles glanced up at Karen.
“The other one?” Karen repeated, confused. “I’m sorry, I’m really tired.”
“You said a couple of people.” Stiles explained. “What did the other person look like?”
“To be honest, I didn’t pay that much attention.” She admitted. “I recognized his jacket from having seen it before, but he always wore it with the hood up. It’s dark green, if that helps at all. But when I’m running, I don’t really want to talk to anyone. I just want to run.”
"Fair enough."Jordan murmured, then started to open his mouth to ask another question when Stiles' cell phone rang. He glanced down at it, then at Stiles questioningly.
Stiles smiled apologetically and left the room, answering his phone. "Hey. What did you find?"
“Does an angel holding two goblets of water ring any bells for you?” Allison asked, frowning at the picture in front of her. She and her fellow deputies had found the body, but the face had been damaged and bloody and covered in mud so they hadn’t been able to get an ID just yet. On the other hand, the drawing on the victim’s back, while not a positive ID, was definitely something. She just wasn’t sure what just yet. “An angel, holding two cups, and the number fourteen. In Roman numerals.”
“Tarot cards.” Stiles muttered. “Can you text one of the pictures to me?” He walked over to his desk and turned the computer on, sitting down in front of it. “This is going to be exhausting. We’re going to have to track tarot card purchases in the area for the past year.”
“Fucking fantastic.” Allison muttered. There was a soft noise, and Allison’s voice suddenly sounded like it had an echo. “You’re on speaker-phone. I’m texting you the pictures now, ba- Sheriff. Still no identity, but they’re cleaning up the body right now, and hopefully there’ll be some identifying features that I might recognize.” She went quiet for a moment. “It wasn’t pretty, Stiles. Whoever did this either knew her and hated her face, or wanted to make it as difficult for us to figure out who it was as possible.”
“Well, we’ve still got a DNA match that can tell us, even if you don’t recognize her.” Stiles murmured. “We’ll need to test what was used to make the angel. We’ll find whoever did this. But if our killer wanted to damage the victim’s face, we’re most likely looking for a woman.”
“Maybe.” Allison murmured noncommittally. She wasn’t entirely certain about the direction this case was already heading in, but she doubted that a woman could be behind this - unless it was a supernatural woman. The markings on the victim’s face almost looked like claws, but there were tools that could be used to fake that. Stiles would see once he received the texts. “As for the angel, it didn’t look super creative. The only reason I even knew it was an angel was because of the very badly drawn wings, and what I guess is a halo? I think they used the same medium they used for the fourteen - permanent marker. They got creative and used different colors, since the water in the cups is blue, and the cups themselves are gold.”
“Great, you can buy that anywhere.” Stiles groaned. “All right, has she been transported to the morgue yet? I need everybody back here. I’m going to start making calls and briefing people.”
“Yeah, she’s on her way there. I’ll let the rest of the guys know, and I’ll see you soon. Love you, baby.” Allison murmured into the phone, smiling faintly.
“Love you, too.” Stiles hung up and looked at the picture on his phone, then started looking online for tarot cards marked with the number fourteen. He was three minutes into his search before he remembered Karen and Parrish were still in the conference room. He got up and hurried back into the room.
Parrish had his head dropped into his hands, ruffling his hair a bit. “So there’s nothing else you can tell me, then? Anything at all, even sounds you might have heard, or something that might seem suspicious-looking now that you’ve thought about it?”
Karen shook her head. “Please, I’d just like to go home.” She frowned.
Parrish looked up at Stiles. “Is there anything else?” He asked curiously.
Stiles shook his head. “No, but we’ll contact you if we have anything else.” He knew he had a long night ahead of him and he wasn’t looking forward to any of it.
“Thanks for coming in to talk to us.” Jordan told her quietly, reaching out to shake her hand. “We appreciate it, really.”
Stiles was silent as he watched Karen leave the room. He turned toward the deputy. “I won.” He muttered. “I doubt it’ll be really official until tomorrow, but I got the call about this two minutes after they announced the results on the news.”
Jordan gave him a small, wry smile. “Congratulations, Sheriff. Sorry that your first big case as the head honcho is a murder.”
“Yeah, me too.” Stiles took a deep breath. “How long were you on today?”
Parrish looked up at the clock on the wall and blew out a breath. “Uh, let’s see… I got here at five-thirty in the morning. About an hour and a half more and my shift will be over.”
“You worked a double?” Stiles cringed. “How are you still so friendly toward people?” He shook his head. “Go sit down. I have files you need to read over, anyway.”
Parrish snorted in amusement. “Good question. I’ll let you know when I’ve got the answer to that.” He held his hand out expectantly to Stiles. “What exactly did you find out?”
“Well, I don’t have the files or anything here.” Stiles explained. “I’ll have to find them. But they recovered the other... half. And there was a drawing in marker of an angel holding some cups. Allison sent me a picture.” He pulled it up on his phone and held that out for Parrish to look at. “This is nearly identical to a case my dad worked about seven years ago. Except for the tarot card thing.”
Jordan sucked in a deep breath, shaking his head. “What the hell kind of sicko would do something like this?” He muttered. “Poor kid.”
“What makes you think it’s a kid?” Stiles looked concerned. “The... what we saw was an adult female.”
Jordan looked stumped, giving Stiles a dumbfounded expression. “I don’t know. I honestly don’t, but - and don’t give me a weird look for this, okay? - the lower half of the body we found looked… young. Like they belonged on a teenager, or maybe even someone closer to twenty. I’d need to see the top half to be sure, but I could’ve sworn…” He trailed off, grimacing. “I still haven’t quite figured out how to work around this whole… ‘I’m a being not of this world’ thing. Sometimes I get a sense - not like Lydia does when someone’s about to die, and not like your… furrier friends do when they smell something wrong. It’s more a sense of youth? I guess. Vitality, maybe. She didn’t feel like she’d be any older than your age.”
Stiles gave Parrish a concerned look. “How old do you think I am?”
Jordan gave him an odd look. “You were sixteen when we met. I’m pretty sure you’re in your early twenties now. Why? Oh, god, this isn’t a supernatural thing, is it? Are you older than you look or something?” He glanced around. “Is this that same werewolf bullshit that Hale tried to spew at me the one time I asked him?” He whispered.
Stiles shook his head, smiling faintly. “No, you just started talking about how young the victim looked and then called her a kid, but you said she was around twenty, after that. You’re not that much older than I am, maybe - unless there’s something you’re not telling me.”
“I turned thirty-three earlier this year.” Parrish offered, and shrugged a shoulder. “I also think I’ve spent way too much time around your dad. Every other word out of his mouth when he referred to me was ‘son’, ‘kid’ or ‘kiddo.’” He smirked faintly. “Half the time, I had to look around for you, since I wasn’t sure exactly who he was talking to.” He sighed and leaned back in his chair. “I know it’s weird, but that’s the feeling that I’m getting off of her. She looks young, feels young, childish, I guess, but - I don’t know. I need to get a look at her to be absolutely sure.”
“Well, I talked to Allison about fifteen minutes ago and the body was already on the way to the morgue. Go on over. I’ll have the files on your desk when you get back.”
Parrish stood again, nodding at Stiles. “Appreciate it. Thanks, Sheriff.” He threw Stiles a grin.
Stiles grinned back. The rest of the night would undoubtedly be full of reading over old files and new reports, but he wasn’t going to deprive himself of at least a minute or two to be pleased that he was the Sheriff.
Allison passed by Parrish with a smile at the other deputy and a quiet greeting before she sat down on top of Parrish’s desk. She looked down at Stiles. “I’m already exhausted. This case has already exhausted me.” She sighed.
“Well, it’s not just you.” Stiles put a hand on Allison’s shoulder, fighting the urge to kiss her. They were careful in the station, not wanting to mix work with home too much. Once in awhile, like in the Preserve, was different. “I’m giving Parrish the old files from Laura’s murder. He’s gotta be more tired than we are, he’s been here all day. Double shift.”
“Oh, my god, why?” Allison blurted, her eyes going wide. “Tell him to take the files home! He can work from there and then go to sleep instead of falling down face first on his desk.”
“I’ll just make him some copies.” Stiles agreed. “Or they can wait until he’s slept. He’s on for another hour or so, though. And I have a feeling we’ll need him for that hour, with this going on.”
“Jesus.” Allison wiped her eyes and yawned. “You oughta give him a commendation when you get the chance.” She grinned, nudging his thigh with her foot.
“You weren’t really on this side of it, before.” Stiles murmured. “This is pretty standard.” He groaned when Allison’s desk phone rang. “Okay, you get that. I’ll bring you coffee.”
“You’re perfection.” Allison sighed, smiling down at him. She didn’t lean down to kiss him, though she very much wanted to, and moved to her desk to pick up the phone, swinging herself down into her chair. “Deputy Stilinski.”
“Oh, duckling.” The medical examiner sighed. “I know who that poor girl is, and I feel just awful for her. I haven’t begun the autopsy yet, but I thought you might like to know her name. Where’s your darling husband? Is he with you?”
"Kal," Allison greeted, sounding relieved. "Oh, he's at his desk. I just came over to mine. I can hang up and you can call us both back on Stiles' phone?" She suggested. "I'm not going to like the identity answer, am I?"
“I don’t think so, duckling.” Kallisto agreed. She hung up and called back, using Stiles’ extension.
Stiles held Allison’s coffee out to her and answered, putting the call on speaker. “Hey, Kal. What’ve you got for us?”
Allison took took her coffee and gave Stiles a grateful smile before she moved to perch on the desk next to the phone. “We’re all ears, Kal.”
“The poor girl’s name is Meredith Walker.” Kallisto didn’t like making anyone wait for information, but she knew that it especially annoyed her favorite couple. “And you don’t have to tell me, I know you’re acquainted, storm cloud. I’m already sending over information for your files.”
Stiles’ mouth curved up a little at Kallisto’s affectionate nickname. It was just another of those twists from the Fates, how he had ended up at Jungle with Scott and had a small crowd of drag queens gravitating toward him. He had been a little overwhelmed at the time, but they knew things he wasn’t willing to say out loud about himself. Kallisto had bumped into him again one day and ended up applying for a job as a medical examiner shortly afterward. “Thanks.”
“Mm-hmm. Now are you going to tell me the good news, or do I have to keep pretending like I don’t know? You keep your chin up and don’t let some crazy political extremist mess with that mind of yours.”
Stiles glanced over at Allison, taking a deep breath because Kallisto had no idea how likely it would be for anyone or anything to do that to him, the way it had once before.
Allison set her hand down gently on Stiles’ arm, rubbing soothingly. “Congratulations are in order for our guy.” She smiled a little sadly. “We might be a little happier if this news hadn’t come in right after.” She bucked protocol - and their own personal rules - for a moment, and dropped into Stiles’ lap, resting her head against his as she hugged him. “Poor Meredith.” She murmured.
Stiles nodded, rubbing Allison’s back. “We’ll have to break the news to our friends.” He murmured. “Hey, Kal? I’m hanging up, but I’m expecting you to meet us for coffee at some point in the next few days.”
“You’re damned right, I will. Bye now, you two.” Kallisto hung up.
Stiles reached over to hang up the phone. He kissed Allison’s chin, then glanced up at her. “I’m going to start moving stuff out of my desk tonight. There’s not a whole lot more we can do until shift-change, anyway.”
Allison nodded, smiling down at him. “I can help you with that, if you want.” She looked across at her desk, then stared down at Stiles’ desk and sighed. She turned to look at him, pouting a little. “I’m going to miss seeing you right across from me.”
Stiles laughed. “We live in the same house and share a bed. I figured you’d be grateful for the space.”
Allison grinned at him, knocking her forehead against his. “Never when it comes to you. Except once a month, and thoroughly at my discretion.” She kissed him playfully. “But it doesn’t mean I love you any less.” She teased.
“I love you, too.” Stiles murmured. “Okay, I’m going to take care of this stuff while I have the time.” He stood, holding onto her so that she wouldn’t end up dropped on the floor. “Drink your coffee.” He smiled. “I’m having my dad come in to get his things out of my office.”
“You’re enjoying this too much, baby.” Allison laughed, and obediently picked up her coffee cup, wrapping both hands around as she sat down in her desk chair. “Go, do your thing.”
Stiles got his cell phone out of his pocket and called John on the way into the office. “Hey, Dad.”
“Hey, son.” John greeted quietly. “Sorry, let me just -” There was a shuffling noise, and then the faint sound of a door shutting before John lifted the phone again. “Sorry about that. Rose got up a little bit ago, asking for Melissa’s hot cocoa and she wouldn’t go back to sleep until we read to her. I finally just got her down. What’s going on? Everything okay?”
“No, not really. We’re probably going to be here all night.” Stiles rubbed his eyes. “And most of tomorrow. I have a little bit of time before the night shift gets here, so I figured I’d just clear out my desk and move stuff into the office before I have to go tell a bunch of deputies that we’ve got a murderer out here.”
“Fuck.” John muttered. “What a way to start out your first term. Do you want me to come down and pick up what I left behind? You can go through my things and keep what you want. I think I’ve got pictures of Rose and Robin in there somewhere.”
“Nah, those are yours.” Stiles murmured. “Trust me, I’ve got thousands of my own at home. But yeah, come in and get things. I need to talk to you about this, more in-depth, anyway.”
“I’ll be there soon, Stiles.” John reassured him. “Do you need me to bring anything with me?”
Stiles thought for a minute. “Uh, no. Maybe just a box or a bag for your stuff, and that’s it.” He picked up a framed photograph of himself, Allison, Rose and Robin, giving it a wistful look because he knew everything had changed with this one crime.
“Alright, son. Like I said, I’ll be there soon. Love you.”
“Love you too, Dad.” Stiles hung up and sat down behind the desk, taking another deep breath. He knew he was starting to panic and kept trying to keep it from happening, but it was making it worse.
Walking toward the office door, Allison peered inside and then promptly stormed in, swinging herself down to the desk. “Hey - no, hey, Stiles, honey. Look at me. Look at me, okay?” She didn’t touch him, but ducked her head down until she was staring into his eyes.
Stiles nodded. “I’m okay.” He tried to focus on Allison. “Just... caught up.”
She smiled softly, turning fully toward him. “Well… When we finally get home, we can do some of our own catching up, okay? Until then, focus more on this…” She took his hand and put it over her heart. Her other hand moved to his temple. “Instead of this.” She leaned down and kissed him softly, keeping it simple and sweet.
Stiles kissed back, closing his eyes. He pulled away a moment later. “Okay.” He nodded. “Thank you. I love you.” He smiled at her. “I’ll be fine.”
“I know you will.” Allison murmured back, her lips curving up into a smile. She pulled back and stood up. “Parrish texted and said he was on his way back.” She told him.
“All right. My dad’s going to be here soon.” Stiles got up and went into the break room for a bottle of water. He took a long drink from it and went back to his desk, to start clearing out the drawers.
Allison observed him silently for a moment, and then sighed. “Jordan didn’t sound happy. I think finding out that it was Meredith really shook him.”
“Well, it’s always hard when you know the person.” Stiles looked pensive, but stood up straight. “Okay. We need to get the board set up, so that we can go over this. We’ve got...” He checked the time on his phone. “Thirty minutes.”
Allison nodded. “Then we’d better get started, shouldn’t we?” She smiled faintly and moved to the clear board, wiping it down.
Stiles got the paper that Kallisto had faxed over, using a couple of pieces of tape to secure it in the center of the board. “You wanna write out what we know? You have better handwriting than I do.”
Allison looked amused but nodded, uncapping the marker. “Sure. Alright, so…” She peered at the paper. “Approximate time of death occurred at five-thirty pm, along the jogging trail on the west end of the preserve. Victim’s body was cut in half prior to disrobing; threads of the victim’s clothing were found in the wounds, and pictures taken at both locations where the body was found depict a fourteen in Roman numerals along the small of the back, while the upper back carries the image of an angel holding two cups. Image is a reference to a card in the Tarot deck major arcana. Both images were drawn using standard permanent marker, likely after the body had been vivisected and planted.” She paused and exhaled slowly. “Victim’s name was Meredith Walker... age twenty-one at time of death.”
“I thought she was older than us.” Stiles frowned. “Something’s weird.” He leaned back against the table behind him. “It’s not going to be part of our official investigation, but I need to look through old yearbooks for all of the elementary schools in the county.”
“What do you think is going on?” Allison asked, frowning and folding her arms across her chest.
“I don’t know.” Stiles muttered. “I’ll need to talk to Lydia about it, to see what she can put together. But when I got the tour from the guy I had to share a room with at Eichen, he acted like Meredith was a fixture there, like she had been there longer than he had. And he wasn’t the only one that treated her that way. The thing is, I know she was already at least eighteen when she ended up in the same room as Peter. If she had been even a year younger, they would have put her in pediatrics.”
“So biologically, her age is inaccurate.” Allison mused. “What could cause that?” She turned to look at the clear board for a moment, thinking. “Maybe it has something to do with who she was. Being a banshee, I mean. Sort of like how Derek will never actually tell anyone how old he is except for Lydia, but we all know what Scott’s age is because he never ceases to tell us, and we knew it from the year he was turned, anyway.”
“Maybe somebody else knew.” Stiles glanced at his wife. “What are the odds that a hunter did this to her?”
Allison pulled the crime scene photos up and taped them to the board, then sighed before looking back at her husband. “Honestly? Slim to none. I hate saying this, but hunters are careful and incredibly precise. A lot of the… the marks that get taken down by a hunter have to be made to look either accidental, or natural.” She pointed at the pictures. “This was neither. This was sloppy, and a deliberate attempt to draw attention to itself. Whoever did this has never gotten their hands dirty before. They were eager to do it, but clumsy and a little hesitant in certain spots.”
“So we’re probably not going to find this person in our database.” Stiles sighed. “We’re going to have to be running two different investigations into this, Ally. One for the legal aspect and one for the shit we can’t talk about with most of the deputies here.”
“We can at least pull Jordan into this.” Allison murmured. “Sometimes, I wish that Scott or Derek or someone had wanted to join up with us. We wouldn’t have to sneak so many damn files home to ‘accidentally’ leave them open on the table.” She sighed and put the cap back on the marker before dropping her head into her hands. “I hate this.”
Stiles put his hand on Allison’s back. “I still think we’d be better off if they’d just go do the damned training, too.” He agreed. “But they’re happy where they are, and we’ll get through this.”
Allison wound both of her hands into the fabric of Stiles’ shirt, tugging him close and resting her head on his chest. “It’s never going to be any easier, trying to get through something like this. And yeah, I know you’re right, they’re happy, but we’d be happier if we had them at our backs.”
“And Scott would be miserable.” Stiles reminded her. “He’s doing something he loves, and Deaton just signed over the clinic to him, the day he graduated. He wouldn’t quit now, not for anything. It’s different for us because we’ve been doing this for four years now. He just got his name on the door.”
“True.” Allison sighed. “I’m just being selfish. I don’t want us to have to do this alone, and I know we aren’t, but part of this situation still feels like it’s going to isolate us. I don’t want that. I would never want that. They’re our family, Stiles.” She looked up at him. “I’m scared that whatever happens is going to be used to divide us. And it sounds stupid, but I feel like that’s why I want Scott and everyone in my sights at all times - because we can’t split away from them if they’re with us the entire time, you know? I don’t…” She shook her head. “Sorry. Like I said, it’s stupid.”
“It’s not stupid.” Stiles protested. “When Scott and I first met you, and he started spending every spare second around you? I was freaking out about it. I thought that he was done with me, since he had you.”
Allison grinned at him. “That bit you in the ass, didn’t it?” She teased. Lifting her head to kiss him, she rubbed her hand over his chest lightly. “I think, if it wasn’t for me, Scott would be content to be platonic lifemates with you, Stiles. He would never intentionally leave you behind.” She let go of him and turned to glare at the clear board. “Meanwhile, I would very much like this shift from already-Hell to end so I can go home and cuddle you and our babies before putting them to bed and showing you how pent up I really am right now.”
“That sounds good to me, too.” Stiles agreed, taking a deep breath. “Right after we’re done here, we’ll do that. And we’ll get someone else to take Rose to school in the morning, so we can try to rest.”
Allison sighed. “I’d say Scott could do it, but I dont want to bother him when he’s so upset about Malia right now.” She paused. “Then again, he adores Rose. Maybe a little time with her and Jaina is exactly what he needs.”
Stiles smiled. “Yeah. In fact, I’ll call him now. You do the briefing. You’re good at it.” He walked away to call Scott.
Allison smiled after him, chuckling softly to herself. She turned to sit down at the desk, grabbing a folder and a pen before getting to work.
It was nearly two in the morning before Stiles was willing to give in and go to sleep. He’d alternated between coffee, cake that one of the dispatchers had bought to congratulate him, and pacing in the office. His dad had been filled in, old cases were examined until Stiles thought his eyes might bleed, and he doubted he would actually sleep after he and Allison gave in to their usual urges for sex. He was just getting his coat when he saw Lydia walk in.
“Hi, Sheriff.” Lydia spoke clearly, an angry expression on her face. “I’d like to report vandalism.”
Stiles swore and hung his coat up, leading Lydia to his office. “What happened?”
She shrugged out of her coat, draping it over the back of a chair before she looked at him. “Someone spray-painted the Roman numerals for nine and thirteen on my front door. Is that significant to you?”
Stiles grimaced, but nodded. “Sit down. I can’t tell you everything, but somebody’s got a really bizarre numbering system that they’re starting to demonstrate all over town.”
Allison looked exhausted as she approached Stiles’ office door. “I don’t understand anything about this!” She spat in frustration. “I don’t get how the number connects to the victim, and it’s pissing me off!”
Lydia glanced from Allison to Stiles, feeling tired and bemused. “You’re not going to talk about this while I’m here because I’m a civilian.” She surmised. “That’s fine, just tell me that we don’t have another pack of alpha werewolves coming after us.”
“If we did, they’d be the strangest pack we’ve dealt with. We’ll send someone out to get pictures and take a look around.”
Lydia stood up, putting her coat back on as she turned toward Allison. “Are you okay?”
Allison folded her arms over her chest and sighed. “I’m feeling guilty.” She muttered. “I know it isn’t my fault, but - I don’t know, maybe it is?” She shook her head, then spread her arms out and wrapped them around Lydia. “What about you? Are you alright?” She asked her best friend, hugging her.
“I don’t want someone coming after my kids.” Lydia murmured. “Or your kids. Or any of the kids. Or us.” She hugged back. “I don’t think this is your fault. How could it be?”
“I don’t know.” Allison laughed, sounding a little bitter. “I don’t have the slightest idea how it could be my fault, but it feels like it is. Maybe because Meredith was killed to make a statement to us. Maybe because we pissed off the Furies - who are colossal assholes, by the way, if they happen to be eavesdropping.”
“Meredith?” Lydia repeated, taking a step back and looking back and forth between her friends once more. “Meredith was murdered?”
“Allison, get Lydia some water, please.” Stiles was already sending Derek a text, telling him that Lydia would be at the station for a while. “Officially, you don’t know that right now.” He looked up at her. “Unofficially? Yes. She was treated to look like Laura Hale had. I don’t want you telling this to Derek, do you get that?”
Allison cringed and all but fled, running out of the office to the water cooler. She came back with a cup of water and handed it gently to Lydia before sitting on the edge of the desk and closing her eyes with a sigh.
“What do the numbers mean?” Lydia asked quietly. “Is it a countdown to something?”
Stiles shook his head. “It’s not. I don’t know if I get the connection just yet, myself. Meredith had the number fourteen and a drawing of an angel.”
“Tarot cards.” Lydia exchanged looks with Stiles. They had made a point of finding shops that sold mountain ash, among other things that would keep them safe, after the pack split up for college. It hadn’t taken very long before the two of them were looking into other ways to gauge what was coming. Stiles had once compared it to owning a weathervane. If tarot cards could act as a warning system, they had a greater chance of staying safe. “Fourteen is Temperance.” She reminded him. “Self-restraint.”
“Something a jogger would definitely be fond of.” Stiles picked up a pen and tapped the end on the desk, letting his fingers slide down before he turned it over and did the same thing again. “What are nine and thirteen?”
Allison frowned, grabbing at her phone and pulling up Google. She looked up after a moment, frowning deeply. “Thirteen is Death. Nine is The Hermit.” She was beginning to feel anger. “I think it’s pretty safe to say that Death is pretty close to both you and Derek. You both know it on a deeper level.”
“Death is me.” Lydia nodded. “Which makes Derek the hermit. The card is about solitude, and self-discovery.”
Allison set the phone down and ran her hands through her hair with a sigh. “Okay, so we have Temperance, Death, and The Hermit. Self-restraint, self-discovery, and solitude.” She looked at Stiles and Lydia. “Now what?”
“And new beginnings.” Lydia added. “Death could mean death or new beginnings.”
“The Furies wouldn’t be doing this on their own.” Stiles knew that there was a slim chance that they weren’t involved, but that wasn’t what he felt was happening. “They like having messengers or assassins.”
“Yay.” Allison grimaced. “Thank you, Furies.” She shook her head and groaned. “So this is… whoever’s way of saying that they’re targeting you.” She murmured, staring at Lydia. “You and Derek. They already targeted Meredith.” She swallowed thickly.
“You know we’re next.” Stiles frowned. “We let our guards down, all of us, because it’s November and they said ‘five years,’ but the fifth year is almost over.”
“Stiles, that’s not helping anyone.” Lydia wanted to go home and check on her kids, even though she knew that was irrational. All three of them were asleep and had no idea what was going on. She wanted to keep it that way. “Felix is old enough to be told, if that’s what Isaac and Liam want to do. Jordan will probably notice changes in our behavior. And Rose. You’re her parents, you know you can’t hide anything from her. It’s in her DNA to put things together and protect people.” She smiled faintly, thinking of the way Rose had turned her room into a toy hospital, like Doc McStuffins. The little girl had demanded help from Scott, then ran around the house making police siren noises. The only way to get her to settle down was to turn on The Avengers. “I don’t need to get either of you to promise me that all of the kids will be safe. I know you’ll protect them.”
Allison rubbed her hands over her face and let out a soft laugh. “Of course.” She agreed and nodded. “We always will.” She tugged lightly at her hair, then stared at the ceiling before laughing again, this time in disbelief. “Is it stupid that I don’t know what the hell to do? I’m just… I feel like I’m basically reaching out on either side of me and trying to grab ahold of something solid, but… I can’t.”
“We’ve all been through a lot.” Lydia murmured. “My dad still lectures me about marrying Derek, like he thinks that it was a mistake. Like I don’t know my own mind and what I want. We’re going to survive this and I’m going to prove him wrong, just like I always have.”
“Your father is an idiot.” Allison muttered. “He’s met Derek all of twice, and thinks that makes him an expert on Hales? He should be thrilled that you’re happy, and delighted that he’s got grandchildren to spoil.” She looked up at the redhead she considered her sister and smiled wryly. “You’re damn right, we’re gonna survive this. I have two adorable, beautiful brats at home that I want to take to Disneyland one day and humiliate before their high school prom.”