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Wake Me Up

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Obligatory Disclaimer - I obviously don't own any of these fandoms or their characters. If I did, I wouldn't be working 40+ hours a week at a call center.

This is a massive fusion with a good dozen fandoms at least popping in but this is primarily a Teen Wolf story wearing the Sentinel little black dress... And a Stargate overcoat. Needless to say, respect for cannon is not something you will find here. For any of the fandoms, really.

If you are interested - I have some casting albums up on my Facebook. They are public so if you feel the need for visuals, have at. Beware of spoilers.

Three lovely ladies have Beta'd this for me - my thanks to myredturtle, Thandi M and Melody B. I didn't always take their advice but they put in a good effort and I'm grateful for them.

Also a big thank you to my fellow minions that saved my bacon with the whole making-pictures-work thing. Because pictures are hard, okay?

 

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-*-*-*-*-

Prologue

Beacon Hills - End of August 2014

Waiting. Right. Waiting.

Waiting for test results. Waiting for test results requires patience.

Patience, Stiles. Patience.

Stiles is horrible at waiting. He has no patience. None at all. But! he can meditate.

He's good at meditating. Even though meditating is doing nothing. Well, it's actively doing nothing. Working at doing nothing, even. Physically nothing, lots of potential for mental something.

Like inside his skull, not outside of it. No sensing. No outreach of emotional tentacles. All on the inside.

Fuck. Deep breaths. Maybe a little meditating? He can reinforce his shields and still be mentally available when the doctor returns.

A throat being cleared in his immediate area draws his attention. Stiles's eyes find a pair of black boots. Black boots lead to jean-covered legs and up to a surprisingly sexy black v-neck. Finally Stiles finds the prettiest eyes he has ever seen.

Hello, hotness!

The sentinel - because this, wow, this has to be a sentinel - is looking at him with a blank but expectant face.

"Uh, hi." Good job, Stiles.

"You're the Sheriff's son? Right?"

"Yup, Stiles. Stilinski. That's me!"

"And you're?" Hottypants glances at the door Stiles recently exited. It only goes one place. The testing room. The one for blood tests, not the one for sensory tests.

"Getting tested! Yup! Chemical confirmation that I am, in fact, a guide." Stiles nods.

"You're not 18."

It's a statement, not a question but, "Right, 17."

"Where's your dad?" The sentinel crosses his arms, drawing Stiles attention to the fuzzy red band on his right wrist. Not the usual black leather soul-cover of an on-duty sentinel or guide. Not the light or bright blue of a searching sentinel. Red. A non-standard color that casually denotes a bonded status.

...But the guy in front of him doesn't feel that different from Scott, who firmly resides in the 'not bonded' category of sentinel-hood.

Stiles rolls his eyes at himself.

"Not here. No, don't give me that tone of eye! It is completely legal for anyone, regardless of age, to be tested for Sentinel/Guide genes as long as they have probable cause that leads them to believe that they are either a sentinel or a guide. Which I do." Stiles waves his uncovered right wrist complete with soulmark at the guy."In fact, in cases of medical emergency, the test subject does not even have to provide consent for testing if they show signs of empathic or other sensory distress! In many countries other than the United States, -it has been a standard part of Emergency Room triage for like 5 years now!"

"Your dad's not going to like you being tested."

That sounds more like a question with maybe a touch of accusation. Stiles deflates. "No. My mom didn't want me tested and he's been standing by her choice. But it wasn't really her choice. And she knew. They knew. Know. My parents know. That I am a guide. I just want formal training before-" He cuts himself off. He's rambling. Why is he rambling? He's rambling because Mr. Drool-Worthy-of-the-Year is listening and not looking completely bored.

Droolworthy had even laughed! Well, okay, smirked and suppressed it but it felt like a laugh.

"Before you're 18? Before you bond?"

"Yeah. I just. I feel like my bondmate is out there. Waiting. I think he needs me and I want to be ready, you know?"

Hotness nods. "Good luck." And walks back down the hallway to the bombshell babe waiting for him.

Of course.

More than likely bonded.

Fuck his life!

But Stiles continues to see Hottypants McDroolworthy around town. Often. Multiple times a day. Sometimes just driving around. Sometimes at Track and Field practice in the morning. Sometimes at Lacrosse practice in the afternoon. In the parking lot after school.

Like, a lot.

-*-*-*-*-

End of November 2014

 Derek couldn't get that 'little dork from the S-n-G Center,' as Kate calls Stiles, out of his head. His completely dumbfounded, slack jawed face the first time he set his eyes on Derek. That full body nod when he admitted to being tested. The flail of arm that is probably an active danger to any passersby when he got excited. The changes in vocal pitch as he talked faster or slower. The way his eyes flashed when he challenged Derek. His scent - hope, tension, cinnamon and orange, with a bit of leather and gun oil somewhere in the background.

His bare right wrist.

Derek had been a little embarrassed for the younger male. It was almost indecent, showing his soulmark to god and everybody like that. Derek hadn't realized until later it was a statement. Purposely showing irrevocable proof that Stiles belonged at the Center. That he had every right to be there and no one else could say differently.

At first glance, Stiles's soulmark looked like a child's drawing of a cat complete with fat, round body, too small head and little stick legs laying in impossible directions but made out of flesh and freckles rather than marker or crayon. Something about it had tickled the back of Derek's mind and he couldn't help but stare.

Soon it became evident that the soulmark was a big cat. Slowly, it became a jaguar. Then, long past socially acceptable boundaries for staring, it was Derek's grumpy ass spirit guide staring him down from the end of the hall, complete with the cat's standard "What the fuck is wrong with you?" face. From that moment, Derek couldn't leave the hallway without talking to Stiles.

Without getting a good look, a sniff and a vocal sample of the younger man.

He should have given Stiles his number.

But Stiles isn't trained. Stiles hasn't found his feet yet. It would have been inappropriate. Right?

Because this stalking thing is so much better.

God, even his internal monologue sounds like Stiles now. Derek can't remember what it sounded like before.

Stiles is laughing at something Mophead has said as they meander in from the lacrosse field. His head is thrown back, his eyes wide and a little wild.

Fine, he'll do it. Give Stiles his number. They could text or something. And he could stop this, this this!

Mophead - Scott, his name is Scott. McCall. Scott McCall. Derek really has no reason to mess up the other sentinel's name. Not even in his head. He knows Scott. He works with Scott. He is training Scott.

Scott grabs the handle of the door that Derek is leaning next to and pauses, looking at Stiles expectantly.

Stiles for his part hesitates for a moment before straightening up and addressing Derek. "You know, I never did catch your name."

"Derek. Derek Hale." Stiles smells shocked. Mophead's face and posture are shouting 'I told you so!' so loudly Derek could swear his ears are ringing.

"Did you need something?"

"To get to know you."

"As like part of the Pride? Or something? 'Cause I'm part of the Pride. Well, not yet. Not until I'm all trained and certified. But soon, really soon. And we should do Pride things. Because we're Pride. Soon."

Derek just holds out the scrap of paper with his number on it and walks away after Stiles takes it. He resolutely refuses to listen to Scott and Stiles as they make their way to the locker room.

He refuses to follow them with his vision.

He does allow himself a moment of Stiles's scent profile. Happiness. Relief. Curiosity.

He texts Kate as soon as he was in the Camaro. 'We need to talk.'

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 1

Beacon Hills, End of December 2014

The last day of school before Christmas Break.

The last day of senior year before Christmas Break.

The last day of school before the last Christmas Break of Stiles's High School Career and everyone's been edgy all day. No one has any patience. No one can sit still. Everyone is snapping at someone. No one is happy. Not a single person is smiling. No Christmas carols or happy wishes are voiced in the hallways.

It's oppressive. Depressing.

Not long after lunch all the sentinels in Harris's Physics class - all four of them - go still at once. The scary kind of still. Scary, not breathing, possible fugue state kind of still.

The guide kids around the room converge on the closest sentinel. No sentinel is left out of the guide-love, regardless of established friendships, rivalries or personal preference.

"The alpha!" Scott manages to force out. It's echoed by three other voices.

"Fire!"

"The Hale House!"

The Hale House. A misnomer; none of the Hales actually live at the Hale House.

Well, they used to. They don't anymore. Grand-daddy Hale had added a third floor to house the extensive Reyes-Hale brood but the kids all paired up and moved out to start their own flocks.

Now it's a multipurpose building not far from the elementary school, used for several Hale businesses.

The top floor is predominately storage with a desk, phone line and secretary for their Search and Rescue/forest guide services.

The second floor houses the law firm. A few really posh offices with a client entrance separate from the rest of the building, according the Stiles's dad.

The bottom floor is a nursery/daycare kinda thing. All the Hale babies in Beacon Hills that are too young for school spend their days there with the area S-n-G babies because, seriously? A sentinel-safe nursery? Nightmare. As long as your kid has a certain consanguinity with a sentinel or gui-

The nursery!

Stiles doesn't remember leaving class or getting in the Jeep or the entire trip to the Hale House. That's probably a good thing.

Jackson beat them there and is standing in front of the fire engines with Lydia wrapped around him. Jackson's describing something to a man in fire gear. The crew chief is noting Jackson's words on a clipboard, nodding and throwing out more questions. Lydia's got a hand around Jackson's wrist and is whispering in his other ear. Standard guide pose for high-sensory, low-movement events.

The crowd is being held back by deputies. The cops haven't even gotten the barricades up yet.

Cars are pouring in.

People are running everywhere.

Scott is out of the passenger door before the Jeep is even in park. He's hauling ass around to the side of the house and getting way too close to the fire. Blowing off police like they aren't even there. Typical Scott-on-a-mission. Or maybe sentinel-on-a-mission?

But Stiles is needed too. He knows he is. He just doesn't know where. Or by whom.

That's when he sees them. Derek is standing frozen beside a large SUV on the other side of the road, just on the edge of the daycare parking lot, and -again!- way too fucking close to the fire. There's a woman with him. She's smaller than Stiles with hair too dark to be the same woman from the SGC. Stiles can't get a good look at her but she feels related to Derek. She's leaning on his chest with her hands on his neck, talking to him.

As he approaches, Stiles can feel the empathic weight behind the words the woman is using in his bones.

No. Don't. Stay. Please, stay.

He can't see much of her but it's Talia Hale. It's got to be. She's keeping Derek out of the fire and Stiles can really get behind that.

Derek can't. There's a fine tremor running through his body, like he's a horse about to bolt. Derek manages to shake his head, his eyes wide and unseeing. His nostrils are flaring. The sentinel's muscles begin to strain with a single purpose.

Oh, hell, no.

Stiles moves to assist, hands up to touch Derek's skin above his mom's hands when Derek stumbles. He's keening. Derek is keening like a dying thing and clutching the small woman's dead weight against him while Stiles struggles to get the three of them safely to the ground.

Belatedly, Stiles moves to put his hand to Derek's neck. He still needs to keep Derek out of the fire and maybe he can ease some of Derek's pain, too. Not that anything really eases the pain of losing your mother. Stiles knows that personally but he still has to try.

The moment he touches Derek's skin something snaps inside him like a bone being set, or maybe more like a joint popping back into socket. The sharp, short pressure and almost-pain is followed by an overwhelming sense of rightness. Stiles can taste Derek's grief on his tongue. So many things are directly downloaded into his brain. Things he can't even articulate. He knows how many people were in the house, he knows how many of those hearts have stopped beating and he knows how many of them are too far gone, too damaged to ever beat again. Because Derek knows.

Derek knows.

Stiles isn't sure what makes him look up but when he does he's staring into the bright, brown eyes of a big, black wolf. Talia Sheppard-Hale's are brown eyes looking at him through her spirit guide's body.

Not sure what else to do, Stiles calls his spirit guide. It's a strange feeling, combining elements of both tugging on a guide rope he can't see and politely knocking on a wooden hollow that only exists inside his body and mind. Stiles's grey wolf materializes as if stepping out of an invisible forest and tilts its head to one side in canine inquiry.

The black wolf huffs, quite distinctly nods and makes a break for the burning house. She hits the front door and disappears in a flash as the front porch collapses.

Gavin and Cora Hale are there, pulling their mother's body off of their older brother, sobbing and sniffling. Tears and pain are making war on their normally beautiful faces.

Derek silently wraps himself around Stiles and honest to god growls at anyone that approaches their little group too closely.

Stiles can feel Scott drawing close. His best friend is wrapped around someone, too. A little Asian girl that fits under his arm much better than Allison ever has. She's in pain, both physical and emotional. Scott's need is urgent. He's desperate. He needs to, has to, get her to his mom. The Center. The hospital. Someone he can trust. Someone who can make it better.

Stiles dazedly runs a hand through Derek's hair as he contemplates them all. Their situation. Maybe they all need to go to the hospital. Or hugs. Probably both. This is definitely a hug day.

Without looking, Stiles throws Scott the keys to the Jeep. Scott can drive. Probably.

It will all be fine.

Melissa McCall gives the best hugs.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Derek and Stiles end up in the same room as Scott and the girl.

Either she's still asleep or she's faking it really hard and the sentinels aren't calling her on it.

Stiles is pretty sure she's asleep.

All of the rooms on the Sentinel floor are full. The Burn Unit is helplessly overloaded. Pediatrics is no better. It's a rather horrific three-way competition for who is under the worst strain as the entire hospital fills up.

HALO Flight is working overtime transporting people to other hospitals. Some are going as far as Sacramento and San Francisco.

The fire has fucked so many people.

Even Stiles.

Yeah, he found his sentinel but having to let someone shoot his sentinel less than an hour later was fucked. Even if it was just a tranquilizer. Completely. Fucked.

Lying in a bed with said sentinel making Stiles the little spoon? Not so fucked.

Well, maybe a little fucked. He isn't really any smaller than his sentinel - like an inch shorter but with broader shoulders. Okay, he weighs less. Significantly less but the guy makes him feel tiny. And safe. And like he makes the sentinel feel safe, too.

Okay, so, totally not fucked.

Seeing his best friend wrapped around a girl Stiles absolutely does not know kind of tips the scale back towards fucked.

And the hospital bed. Seriously, do they purposely buy horrible beds? Could it be some not-so-evil plot to get you out of them sooner? Like some sort of backhanded motivation to get better?

Derek strokes his hand across Stiles's stomach and he feels himself relaxing. They should probably talk about the whole bond thing but it feels to him like a private conversation. Privacy doesn't look like something that will be happening any time soon.

Tension entering his sentinel's body has him scanning the door. Stiles sends his sentinel happy thoughts as Gavin and Cora Hale enter. They are both wearing hospital gowns and color-coded ID bracelets rather than their normal soul-covers.

Soul-covers are actively and aggressively discouraged on patients in hospitals. Like they cover veins or something.

Gavin's ID bracelet is light green, identifying him as an unbonded guide. Cora's is light blue for an unbonded sentinel.

"Emma is a complete badass." Cora starts without preamble or even a 'hello'.

Stiles feels Derek shift his head on the pillow behind him. A nod? A head shake? 'Carry on' in some sort of super secret, Hale Family head-neck-shoulder speak?

"Uncle Peter got her out of the House - he's online now, by the way. She's become the nexus of all Pride communication since the fire. She's taken over a doctor's office and even bullied a nurse into giving her a pair of scrubs."

"Peter came online?" Derek sounds surprised.

Of course he is, Stiles thinks. Peter has to be in his 40's and who comes online at 40? Something like less than 2% of the population. Maybe. Add to that the fact that Peter Hale had lived most of his life thinking he was mundane and can you say mind fuck?

Now, a Hale - in this case Sentinel Archer Hale - having two mundanes in his brood had been quite a thing. It just didn't happen. People were shocked. People were scared. If the Hale Family was having problems conceiving sentinels was it a sign of problems for sentinels everywhere?

People are stupid.

When the blood tests became reliable (but still expensive as fuck) about twenty years ago, everyone found out Peter wasn't mundane. He was latent. A sentinel with his genetic match online, active and married with a two year old daughter.

"They think because of the fire," Cora gives them an awkward look and a shrug. "People as far away as Las Vegas are coming online because of the danger to the Pride. Peter's in one of the S-n-G Center bonding rooms with Chris right now. Guess he really is Uncle Chris now, huh?"

"I am not calling Kate 'cousin'." Gavin shot out viciously. "She's several apples short of a barrel. It's a fiery barrel, too, covered in nails that point outwards. Really, really sharp nails. Nails and razor blades."

"And that would be really weird for Derek." Cora looks approximately 12 with her face scrunched up that way. "I can't believe you kissed her."

"Can we focus?" Stiles's irritation is irrationally soothed a little by his sentinel's irritation.

"They are calling it an attack. Asking everyone about people with grudges against our family. Or if it's someone against Deaton and Deucalion taking over California for mom and dad because they were so close to the Center when things were bad. Why are they calling it an attack?"

Tension takes his sentinel's frame by storm so fast that it is actually painful. "Because it smelled like napalm. And a little bit of thermite."

Cora looks affronted. "I didn't-. But-. What?"

"Even Hale Family sentinels don't learn everything before they leave high school, Cora. This summer will be big for you." Derek's voice cut off abruptly and returned gentle. "Bigger, if you bond."

Cora nods once. "Dad, Uncle Jacob and Sam were on the third floor."

"They were putting together gear for the camping trip this weekend. We were all going to take the school-aged sentinels out to the lake. Mom and I were late. The restaurant messed up our lunch."

"They didn't make it out. Several sentinels outside heard them say something about a pregnant woman trapped on the first floor."

Derek nods stiffly. He'd heard it too.

"Deucalion and Uncle Peter were on the second floor with this one," Cora jabs a thumb towards Scott's teddy bear causing Scott to growl a little. "Her dad and Emma. Peter got them out while Deucalion also went after the pregnant woman."

"Sophia was in the nursery with Aunt Ava. Chloe was running the pre-kindergarten/pre-school field trip and collapsed when Sophie died. We haven't gotten word about what happened to Ava's bondmate, yet."

"And that's probably a bad thing," Gavin chips in, subdued.

"Laura was out back with her and Aunt Linda's group of toddlers but Linda had gone back in the house to talk to Uncle Jacob. So," Cora frowned.

"They figure out who the pregnant woman is? Was?"

Cora bit her lit and glanced at Gavin.

"Victoria Argent." Stiles can feel Derek's gut goes cold. Gavin hesitates but carried on. "Emma said she and Kate showed up to give Peter the latest ultrasound pictures."

"Good news, though!" Cora's voice is happy in a painfully forced way. "Peter's online and bonding. Laura found her guide and is bonding. You found your guide and you're, uh, here. Scott, too! Emma is a total boss and she is systematically destroying the stereotype that mundanes born in Sentinel/Guide families are somehow faulty."

Gavin nods. "Seriously, I will never allow anyone to talk down about or to a mundane ever again."

"Blair and Jim are coming to help and probably bringing half of their Pride. Uncle Patrick and Uncle Jethro are coming-"

"And probably half of their Pride."

Gavin and Cora aren't really twins, right? They are in the same grade and everything but they have different birthdays. There are months between them, right? Like 10 months?

"-Uncle Jethro will want to handle the investigation but Blair has already asked a sentinel team from L.A. to come up." Cora finishes up.

"The FBI will have jurisdiction over NCIS." Stiles can feel his sentinel's headshake. "That's going to be a mess."

Derek's famous sister Emma chooses that moment to show up with a clipboard full of papers, a sheaf of post-it notes, and no less than three cell phones. She nods her way through an unnecessary round of introductions and stays just outside of both Derek and Scott's invisible comfort zones. She makes no attempt to touch or even look too long at either of the pre-bonding pairs in the room, and manages to send Gavin and Cora packing with a glance and a gesture before turning her attention to Derek.

"On the personal, family front, I don't have much good news." She reports. "Grandpa Archer won't be coming home. Pawpaw was deeply affected by today's events and apparently collapsed. He is stable for the time being but it is very touch and go. Their local alpha indicated they were aware of the depths of our problems here before I managed to get through to him. The Everglade Pride was already circling the wagons for Gramps and Pawpaw when I spoke with them.

"Svetlana and Gage will be coming to town, though. They are already on the way with able bodies and supplies." Svetlana was the Hale Family Alpha Guide before Talia Sheppard joined the clan. Gage Hale being Svetlana's sentinel. Stiles swallows and stamps down on his nerves.

"I bet those gossips already told you about Uncle Peter?" Stiles can feel Derek nod behind him. "Did they tell you Adrian Harris came online and is right now bonding with Laura?"

Stiles wanted to gag. The idea of Mr. Harris having sex is enough to turn his stomach. Pairing him up with someone as hot as Laura Hale just makes it worse.

A small spike of fear shooting out of Emma grabs Stiles's attention before it could wander. Before he could start picturing it. Thank god. "I know sentinels can bond without training but I didn't think guides could." It sounded like a statement but it was definitely a question. Seriously? Is this a Hale Family thing or what?

"We can," Stiles tries to reassure her. "Of course, we can. Bonding is actually instinctual for both halves of a pairing but we aren't supposed to. It's not encouraged because bonding wakes up more of the sentinel and guide's abilities and needs. Without training, it's just really hard to manage the sentinel's new needs, your own abilities and the physiological changes caused by bonding.

"But school teachers are taught the basics of meditation, grounding, centering and shielding. Harris has to be able to control and quiet his mind in all kinds of situations, otherwise he couldn't teach sentinel and guide kids. They should be fine but the Center will probably keep someone with them to monitor them, just in case."

Emma gives a single, decisive nod and turns back to her list.

"The Sheppard Clan is already on the way because mom and dad gave blanket permission for Uncle Patrick to visit as long as they call first. They have provided formal notice of intent, however, requesting permission to bring more of their Pride in to bolster ours. I have it here if you want to review and approve it.

"The Argent Clan wants to send a crew including their heir-apparent, her sentinel, mother and brother. That's a bonded pair and two unbonded guides. Apparently they have something to settle with our Argents that requires someone well placed in their Pride structure."

Stiles isn't really sure what's going on with the information dump but Derek just keeps nodding behind him like the verbal newsfeed is expected. That's when it occurs to Stiles that Derek must be the senior Hale sentinel right now. All of his elders are either bonding or, Stiles swallows, dead.

"With standard security," Derek agrees.

Whatever that means. Stiles doesn't huff at his lack of understanding but it's hard.

Emma nods, "With standard security," she agrees, making a note on her board.

"The Sun Clan wants to send some people our way, too. As 'a show of international sentinel solidarity.' "

Stiles can't help shifting around as his sentinel's disquiet seeps into the room. The Hales and the Suns are the world's two major sentinel clans and while no one would call them rivals, they definitely have very different opinions on what's 'best for the tribe'.

"A pair or two that aren't alpha or from the primary line should be fine." Stiles turns his head and raises eyebrows at Derek. "Maybe a few unbondeds?"

Derek nods and his unease lessens slowly. "No Wolf Guides. A small group, and no security. We will supply their security."

Emma nods. "The name they threw me was Maria Hill. She's an American and registered as having a Mountain Lion for her spirit guide. Her sentinel-husband and their son would come with. There is an unbonded daughter of the primary line attending CalSci waiting to make her way up as soon as we give the go ahead. I'll make our demands clear to them."

Stiles acknowledges the tiredness in his bones with a jaw popping yawn, prompting Derek to start settling them both more comfortably on the bed, bringing covers up and nestling the blankets around them. "Anything else?"

"Two last things. First, Victoria Argent's body was removed from the House. Physically, she's stable, burned but stable, and Peter's baby is fine, but she isn't responding mentally or emotionally. The doctors are thinking it could be anything from brain damage to total death of personality. With her husband and medical proxy off bonding with the baby's father for who knows how long, they are asking the Pride for a decision."

Victoria Argent is a horrible human being as far as Stiles is concerned. And not in a good way. She's a total, full-blown psycho. She says and does all the right things but she always leaves him feeling like she's a hairsbreadth from killing them all. Painfully. In their sleep. With acid and paperclips.

He has no idea how Chris can touch her. Or how he can let her touch him.

And really? Who's idea was it for that woman to breed? Not once! Not twice! But four fucking times?

Stile sighs. Maybe he should abstain from voicing any opinions about the woman.

"When Blair gets here, have him do an assessment."

"Sandburg isn't that kind of doctor, Derek."

"No, but it takes an Alpha Guide to diagnose death of personality and you can't get more alpha than Blair in the United States. He can make the call on behalf of the Center and leave our family and personal feelings out of it. What's the other thing?"

"Just a minute, let me get him." Emma is literally gone for a minute. Emma returns with the father of Scott's teddy bear in tow. The guy must have been waiting close by.

Teddybear manages to reassure Scott enough to get a hug from her father but not enough for Scott to let him linger in their space.

Daddybear turns to Stiles and Derek with a small smile and almost bow. "I understand I owe your family an apology." The man waved his splinted hand. "I unduly attacked a member of your family, your Peter Hale."

"How about we start with your name?" Derek interrupts aggressively, prompting Emma to back the man up a good two steps.

"I am Sun Yukimura. That is my daughter, Kira."

"You're the guy from the Korean Embassy!" Stiles blurts out completely mindlessly.

Feeling his sentinel's curiosity, Stiles continues. "About six months ago, a girl came online in Korea. An American whose parents work for the U.S. Embassy there. One of the local alphas kidnapped her and tried to force her to bond with his son. When we- When Embassy Security got her back the Korean government claimed that, regardless of citizenship, she came online in Korea therefore she is subject to Korean Guide Law. Guides aren't even legally considered human in Korea so the sentinels had been within their rights to take their property. -"

This draws an angry rumble from both sentinels still in the room.

"Right." He pats the hand that has once again started petting his belly. And what is up with that? "I read that they got her out of there in some kind of crazy midnight helicopter extraction thing but they never gave her name. Or they did and I just remembered the 'Yukimura' part."

"You are correct. Kira and I fled the country as soon as they could get us out. We couldn't take my wife because she is a Japanese citizen, not U.S. It was felt that even a rumor of Americans 'kidnapping' my wife, the mother of a guide, would cause even more problems because of how explosive that entire region can be when it comes to Sentinel/Guide issues. Now, Noshiko's departure keeps getting strangely delayed."

"So it's completely understandable that you would attack an unknown sentinel for, from your point of view, stealing your daughter. But an apology or a thank you to Peter probably wouldn't go amiss. Maybe both." Stiles looks behind him. "Are flowers a sentinel-appropriate gift?" Sentinel amusement is really addictive. At least the amusement of his sentinel is. "Why would you need to apologize to us?"

Derek goes still, his amusement petering off.

"I was meeting with Peter and Talia to negotiate my daughter's place in the Hale Family Pride. As you," indicating the contents of the bed. Of Derek and Stiles's bed. "Are now Head of the family, negotiations must begin anew, and an apology is an important point of etiquette."

"What? Head of the family? Derek?" He looks over his shoulder but the jerk just rolls onto his back and away from Stiles with a resigned sigh and eye roll so pronounced Stiles can feel it. Stiles looks away from Mr. Useless to Emma.

"The Hale Family has always been lead by a Wolf Guide, Stiles. That is why leadership skipped from Great Uncle Gage's guide to mom, and now, to you. Once you complete your bond, you and Derek will be Head of House Hale."

Head of House Hale? The Hale Clan is the reason there is a Beacon Hills, California. They are half the reason the Sentinel/Guide Center exists in the United States. They are why their kind are safe in basically all of the Western Hemisphere. They are advocates and instigators for all kinds of equality movements around the world.

Panic floods Stiles's system. His gut is frozen. He's light headed. He can hardly breathe! His heart is trying to beat right out of his chest-

A large, warm hand slides over his shoulder and settles in the middle of his chest. Waves of nonsense crash on Stiles's ears. Most of it washes over his head but some of it settles in and comforts him. "Hey, there. It's okay. You're okay. We don't have to do anything you are not comfortable with. It's fine. It's okay. We have options. We can get Svetlana to take back family leadership until you are ready. We can go to school, if you want. I can re-activate and we can go military. We can just travel once you graduate. We don’t have to do anything."

Eventually, Stiles manages to settle back against the chest of his favorite jerk in existence. "You knew this was coming? You've been trained for this since you were a kid or something, right?-"

He can feel Derek nod behind him. "Laura's more alpha than I am but she doesn't have a Wolf Guide and that's a big deal to our family. It won't stop her from taking over California for mom since Deucalion can't. Or taking over the Southwest from Gage. She'll just have to yield to us on family matters."

"I need to know more. I need to know everything." Okay, so maybe he's still panicking. "I need to understand all about sentinels, guides, your family. I can't decide anything until I understand. Until- " Where's his laptop? He needs his school bag. Google, heed your master!

"I know my mom was a big believer in Earth magic, stuff about telluric currents influencing humanity and vice versa. There are books. Journals. In the Family Archives. All our records are there." Good. Great! Knowledge is power and comfort and - Stiles sighs as he is, once again, pulled against Derek's chest and made to settle. Stiles lets the conversation flow around him.

Second big revelation and second tragedy in one day, he is so incredibly done but also comforted as he lets sleep roll over his mind and body.

Derek will stand watch.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

The primary scene is being run by teenagers. No, seriously, teenagers.

There are adult sentinels on the property and they are all taking orders from a high school jock. [Sentinel. White, male. 17 to 18 years old. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Approximately 5 foot 9 inches, 150 pounds.] He looks like he should be leading a huddle under Friday Night Lights, not discussing perimeters and patrols with all gravity due the situation.

Marshalling a mass of mundane minions is a small guide. [White, female. 17 to 18 years old. 5 foot 6 inches - in heels. Estimated 5 foot 3 inches and 105 pounds. Strawberry blonde hair, green eyes.] It's possibly weirder than Captain running the show that she's made herself the scene mom. Or the volunteers' mom? Either way, Ms. Bossy is having her minions fetch and distribute food and water. She's pushing guard-volunteers to take breaks. She's assigning people watch shifts for the next day and forcing people to go home and sleep through sheer force of personality.

There are still children on the scene, only like three, but still. Considering what happened today it's more than a little shocking. Hopefully, their parents are just hospitalized, not dead.

The kids are under the care of another guide. [Pacific Islander, male. 17 to 18 years old. 6 foot, maybe 6 foot 2 - and 165 pounds.] Jailbait had them all quiet and comfortable in their own tent, separate but not too far from the command tent, and then Jerkoff showed up and started shouting.

Special Agent in Charge Jerkoff, to be exact, got there about 20 minutes before Don and Ian and the first thing he did was try to clear the scene. Of sentinels. Of guides. Of anyone not in a uniform and quite a few actually in uniform.

Hours late to the scene and all SAC Jerkoff wants is to throw his weight around.

Seriously, what the fuck is this guy thinking? The FBI should have been on the ground as soon as a sentinel reported the suspicion of foul play AKA the smell of napalm. Even if the locals didn't call for help (which they did according to Sheriff Stilinski), the area field office should have gotten themselves involved on the suspicion of a hate crime.

They should not have waited for an engraved fucking invitation from the Alpha Pair of the United States.

The locals are so pissed off it truly boggles Don's mind that Jerkoff can't feel it. That he hasn't run away in terror. That he isn't bleeding.

Everyone stops when Don and Ian step fully into the command tent. They're all frozen. SAC Jerkoff's mouth is still open and his fingers are still jabbing Captain in the chest. Captain still has his top lip pulled back, baring his teeth in an angry grimace.

Ian breaks the silence. "Good job, kid," and jerks his head towards the tent flap.

Captain shoulder checks Jerkoff and follows Ian out.

Don holds Jerkoff's gaze as the tent empties, all the volunteers following Captain outside. Don waits Jerkoff out as the man starts to bluster, as pacing quickly gives way to shifting and finally silence.

"What is wrong with you?" Don purposely speaks softly. Not trying to hide the conversation from the sentinels outside, at this point that wouldn't be even remotely possible, but to make the man go still and listen. And, according to Charlie, he's scary as hell when he talks soft and calmly. "Do you realize what your office has done to this community? Not just to Beacon Hills but to the nation's entire Sentinel/Guide Community? Maybe even the world's?

"Your office's failure to adequately respond to this emergency has shown us that the FBI doesn't give two fucks about us. Then you compound your error by getting in the face of the person doing your job and further alienate people that have already taken a serious hit today."

"The locals-"

"The locals followed procedure. I discussed it with Sheriff Stilinski personally. I don't know and I honestly don't care why but you didn't. You can justify it to the review board. For now, control of the scene was ceded due to your negligence so you're going to take your people and get the fuck out."

-*-*-*-*-

Emma Marie Hale is a total badass. Like, seriously, Colby James Granger is in awe of her.

Formerly the third, now the oldest Hale kid is a force to be reckoned with.

She's lost both of her parents, all her father's siblings, her older sister and older brother all in one day. She's lost huge chunks of her family's physical history and legacy. Several cross sections of her family's contribution to the community literally went up in flames and what is she doing?

She's organizing relief for other affected families. She's fielding phone calls from the entire planet. She's coordinating sentinel forces pouring into her territory on behalf of her Pride and Blair fucking Sandburg. She's handling hotel reservations and other accommodations for what might be a quarter of the United States' Sentinel/Guide population.

Colby has lost track but he is fairly certain she's in the middle of plans for a memorial service for after the holidays, once everyone's bonded and/or out of the hospital.

She's also handling announcements for said bondings to the rest of the S-n-G community at large.

Somewhere in all of that, a community New Years' Eve party was the born.

And she whipped up a floor plan for all three levels of the House, including sentinel-reported positions of everyone in the house, on a white board. It's frighteningly accurate. Not a single sentinel capable of speaking to them has contradicted it yet.

Of course, the best source of confirmation would be Laura Hale since she has sentinel-senses, knew all the players and was on site before the incident started, but she is in the middle of bonding. Bonding with the local high school Chemistry/Physics teacher, which is apparently the most giggle-worthy thing to happen to this town since ever.

Second choice would be Derek Hale but Ellison put a big 'do not bother under pain of death' sign on the guy. Something horrible must have happened to him.

Colby's wince is not entirely internal.

Something even more horrible than the most horrible thing to happen to a sentinel and his family in this country for longer than it's been a country must have happened to the guy.

Colby finds his guide on the hospital roof alternating between staring into space and jotting a few things down. Colby is fairly certain they don't have enough confirmed variables for Charlie to work any 'voodoo' so only god knows what is happening on his guide's ever present clipboard.

P versus nP.

Noting his empathic read of the traumatized.

Scripturally emoting his current lack of chalk dust pollution.

They've been talking about surrogacy recently and Colby is fairly certain Charlie wants to name their first child Pythagoras. Which is absolutely horrible and not something Colby should be thinking about right now.

The raised eyebrow and tiny grin Charlie gives him over his shoulder makes the thought feel a lot less inappropriate. Makes it feel like the perfect thing to be thinking of right now. Pythagoras Eppes-Granger kind of has a bit of a ring to it.

Charlie sighs heavily once Colby settles on the ground next to him. "This pregnant woman."

On second thought, they would end up calling him 'Pi' and -take it from a guy whose first name is also a kind of cheese- middle school would be a very special kind of hell for their as yet unborn child. "Yeah?"

"She bothers me. She's on the first floor. She should have been able to get out on her own. At least three sentinels went for the rescue. What happened with her, Colbs? Why didn't they get her out?"

It's the question that's been bothering Colby for a while now. One of them anyway.

It just makes no sense.

Only one of the sentinels in the house wasn't bonded. The rest of sentinels in the house were still really young for bondeds. The oldest one was a few months shy of 50. Getting her out of the house shouldn't have been a problem. Even if it required physical force.

"It's too soon to guess. We don't have any real evidence ye-"

"Granger." It sounds like profanity when Charlie says it that way.

"I'm serious, Charlie! We don't the evidence to draw any kind of conclusions. We need complete physical and empathic exams on her and the guide they got out with her. Preferably more than one. We need to walk the scene and collect the physical evidence."

"Maybe she was cut off by the fire?" Charlie tries to throw it out there like they can change what they both think seems to have happened."Maybe she was injured? Maybe the stairs collapsed and were impassable?"

"Maybe everyone in the house broke their legs at the same time? Maybe they were all rendered unconscious? There's no way to make this less horrible, Charlie." Colby pulls the smaller man under his arm and lets his cheek rest on the curliest hair in the known universe. "The truth is we don't know anything yet. Other than that Don and Ian should be here soon and hopefully we can pack it in for the night. Maybe we'll get lucky and get to watch someone bully Emma into taking a break."

"Five bucks on Blair."

-*-*-*-*-

Sheriff John Stilinski has always wanted to meet Blair Sandburg. His wife had idolized the man. Bought every single one of his books, as they came out. Even the textbooks. She could go on for hours about how Blair Sandburg revolutionized the way the world looks at guides and worked so closely with U.S. lawmakers to pave the way for a better future for their son.

The Ellisons are an old name. Almost as old as the Hales or the Sheppards but for their money, not their sentinels or guides. So when the heir-apparent came online as a sentinel and ran as fast as he could for the nearest Army Recruiter that would look at him twice, it had been a bit of a scandal.

A scandal that ended in tons of good press for Ellison Enterprises, the U.S. Army and a number of pro-sentinel politicians.

Most mundanes outside of their immediate Cascade, Washington territory only see Blair and Ellison on television. Either when Blair is lecturing or through some paparazzi super telephoto, a-satellite-might-be-closer lens. It is considered an honor by many to see the Alpha Pair of the United States in person at all.

A day like today is too high a price to pay for the honor. Way, way too high.

"The FBI team you requested landed an hour ago. The Hale scene is still too hot for any kind of processing but Eppes-Edgerton insisted on checking the security deployment. Sinclair, Reeves, and Eppes-Granger are already at the hospital, if you would like to join them now."

Ellison nods gruffly as he maneuvers his guide into the back seat of the Sheriff Department SUV. "That would be best."

"And the Sheppards?" Sandburg asks.

"On a private plane as of forty-five minutes ago. They'll be here before midnight." John gestures for the Deputy behind the wheel to drive and turns as much as his seatbelt allows. "My son, Stiles, bonded today. He's only 17. I need to know," John does need to know but this is Blair Sandburg... Who is definitely not more important to John than his son."I need to know if it will hurt him."

"I would have to meet and scan him before I can responsibly answer that question." Blair is just as forthright as he seems. Good. "But I can give you some general information, if you think that will help. Who did he bond with?"

"Derek Hale."

Blair chokes in surprise. "Your son is a Wolf Guide? When did he come online? How old?"

"12."

"And you hid him?" The Sheriff nods his answer. "Wise. Most consider Wolf Guides sacred. The Center here in the United States wouldn't have taken him from you or anything but foreign alphas? The press? If it had gotten out, the amount of security you would have needed just to keep him safe?" Sandburg shakes head. "As of the last update I received, the only Hales that have secluded to imprint and bond are Laura and Peter, so I am going to go ahead and assume Stiles and Derek have a only formed a preliminary mental bond and that no formal imprints have yet been completed. At this point, the most dangerous thing we could do to Stiles or Derek would be to physically separate them."

"We haven't." John surprises even himself with how sharp his own feelings on that subject are.

Alright, so maybe he isn't as okay with the whole group shower thing as he thought but Stiles had been right. It was just like showering after gym class. Derek didn't touch Stiles once the clothes started coming off. Derek didn't crowd Stiles. Derek just made sure everyone else kept his or her distance. With a powerful 'don't fuck with me' aura and the occasional growl. Naked.

Kira showering with three boys was strange. Really, really strange. But Sun and Melissa had watched for any funny business, too, and if they didn't have a problem with it, how could he?

"They just need to be together. To know they're safe. Even after pairs formalize their imprint, the bond will be touchy for the first year. Longer if a pair doesn't choose to pursue a sexual bond or if, like in this case, that option has to be delayed." Blair gives a smile that could not be qualified as happy and shakes his head as he starts thumbing through something on his phone. "I know many think that the federal age of consent shouldn't apply to sentinels and guides. That the government has no business dictating terms for people that are 'committing to a soulbond'."

The Sheriff shares a glance with his Deputy. Is this guy expecting John to argue against his only son having to wait to have sex with an older man? Having to wait to jump into what equates to his marriage bed? Because if so, one of them is confused. And it ain't John.

"The problem with this stance is twofold. Because, of course, every time we pursue legislation that only affects the Sentinel/Guide population we are going to alienate someone and we segregate ourselves a little bit more from the Tribe."

"Additionally, the Center's Age Rules are reinforced but not actually caused by the federal standard, and are primarily to make sure both halves of the proposed pair have decently well-developed personalities. Not just so they can both provide legal consent. Bonding too young can cause intense co-dependence, so much worse than your usual bonded pair - to the point of mental atrophy, professional uselessness and physical danger to others. All potential from both halves of the pair is completely lost."

Now, John is confused. Vaguely fascinated but completely confused. And that's saying something because the Sheriff of Beacon Hills County can follow Stiles-babble. Professionally.

"Example: 1872, Italy. A pair bonded at 12 and 11; Sentinel and Guide, respectively. Full bond but so far as I know platonic. As they grew older the guide became completely passive, afraid and eventually unable to form even the simplest opinion with a literal mental block against being better than his sentinel at anything. The sentinel, on the other hand, grew unreasonably aggressive. Hated everything. Confronted anyone that looked at his guide too long or in a way he didn't like to the point of physical violence and, on one occasion, death."

The silence in the car cuts John really deep until Parrish snorts and then starts laughing.

"You know that that won't be a problem here, boss. Stiles has an opinion about everything. Usually a strong and vaguely ridiculous one that couldn't be removed surgically, and Derek? Derek's been hip deep in teaching sentinels control since before he came online at 14. Other boys go to summer camp, he went to sentinel camp. He ran it and he's been running training activities for the Pride's younger sentinels basically solo for over a year now."

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

The only warning Blair gets of the other Alpha Guide's presence is the ripple of sentinel posture correction that flows down the hall before the elevator doors even open. Blair looks up just as Patrick Sheppard steps out of the elevator car with his sentinel at his side and several members of their family group behind him.

Patrick Sheppard is a tall, proud man with sharp green eyes and an aggressive baring. Just about as different from Blair as any guide Blair has ever met. If Blair's aura is a comforting breeze on a warm day, then Patrick's is an icy blast before a winter deluge. The man is pissed and he's got to be hurting, even if none of it is leaking through his shields.

Patrick Sheppard has a reputation for being a hard ass. This reputation is earned. He sets expectations high and expects them to be met. They are.

Patrick Sheppard has a reputation for being intimidating. This reputation isn't earned, mostly because it isn't actually worked for. He just realizes the power of silence and a certain, well maintained and repeated posture.

His son, John, learned this lesson early. The only one of his sons to get it so far. John's tactics are more along the lines of a gentle grin-and-slouch combination that make others want to give him whatever it is that he wants. Patrick's consists of The Sheppard Chin of Epic Stubbornness™, squared shoulders, and letting his victim stew until they overcome and prove the worth of their continued existence.

It takes a stout person to stand in Patrick Sheppard's face and tell him something he doesn't want to hear. Blair squares his shoulders, keeps his sigh strictly internal, and approaches the other pair.

"Our betas brought us up to speed on the situation."

Blair can see their family group Betas DiNozzo-David over Gibb's shoulder, so Sheppard can't be referring to them, "How is Jareau-Hotchner?"

The new pair will be the alphas-in-waiting for Sheppard-Gibbs Eastern Seaboard territory once they've settled and are stepping into beta position for that territory for the time being.

"Better than can be expected six months out from the murder of his ex-wife and a feral onlining. I'm almost certain she's pregnant already but Jethro won't confirm or deny it for me." Patrick grins at his sentinel for a second but sobers quickly. "We aren't going to fight you on your chosen investigators, but Gibbs' guys are going to tag along and we want our medical examiner to handle the bodies."

"Only the Hale bodies," Blair counters

"The Hales and he's free to assist, if asked."

Blair shakes his head. "I can only authorize his assistance on sentinels and guides through the Center."

"Accepted, but if the locals request his help and expertise," Patrick allows his sentence to trail off.

"As long as they request his help, we will stay out of it. Is he ready go get started? I can have someone walk him down." Blair glances over his shoulder to his sentinel.

Jim orders a pair to break off from the wall they are holding up and approach the doctor in question. Blair manages to not roll his eyes at the use of Army Commando Finger Signals but he does share a significant look with Sheppard while the voluntold pair gets the medical examiner moving.

The significant eye contact changes gears as Emma Hale clicks by in a pair of heels she must have borrowed at the same time as the scrubs she's wearing. She looks ragged. Frazzled. Nearing the end of her rope. Her hair and nails are a painful looking mess but at least she's found a belt to hold her string of smartphones in a quick draw fashion.

The young woman is trailed by a doctor, two nurses and a gaggle of orderlies. She's talking about something thatshe is obviously not happy about, but they don't manage to catch much of the conversation before she turns the corner behind Blair.

It's Patrick's turn to glance significantly at the people behind him. Patrick's youngest child and only daughter, Olivia, breaks formation with her newly bonded sentinel, Paula Cassidy, at her side.

Once they round the corner Blair speaks again. "The sentinel running the Hale scene should be relieved soon, if you wanted," Blair isn't 100% sure who breaks off from the Sheppard-Gibbs group at that. Whoever it is they are flying solo and would have to be a sentinel within Patrick's immediate family. That makes it Gibbs's boy, Liam. "We should be able walk it tomorrow."

"Jethro and I will be included."

"You can come with us to the scene but the investigation belongs to Special Agent Don Eppes. He will decide who walks the scene." Sheppard's frown turns disgruntled. Blair interrupts him before he can do more than open his mouth. "But I have something else I could use your help with right now."

He turns and leads his sentinel and the other bonded pair to the right at the same junction where Emma, Olivia and Paula took a left. They stop outside of an empathically shielded single-occupant room.

Patrick peeks through the door's wire and glass window. "That's Kate Argent."

Blair nods. "She was found on the first floor of the Hale House along with her mother, Victoria. I want you to scan them both. Victoria is in another part of the building."

Patrick nods, pushes open the door and freezes. Gibbs plasters himself to his guide's back so quickly that it's surprising neither of them fall and get injured. Gibbs wraps his right hand around Patrick's right wrist and runs his fingers over the other man's lion soulmark.

"Wow." Patrick manages to choke out as his brain reboots.

Blair nods grimly. "And that's in a drugged sleep. It's going to be bad when she wakes up."

"Death would be kinder."

Two sentinels and two guides enter the shielded area. Patrick raises both hands and holds them in the air above the young woman's sternum. Not touching her, just floating above even her aura.

"Her empathic channels are abraded."

"Abraded?" Patrick sounds incredulous. "I think you mean torn all to hell. I've never seen damage like this."

"I'll show you something else you've probably never seen." Blair flicks the sheet off of Kate Argent's right wrist. Both Sheppard and Gibbs rear back like they've been struck.

"But-. She's-." If the senior Sheppard guide gets any whiter he'll be a ghost. The older man manages to clear his throat and frown himself into an at least temporarily improved state of mind. "Where's her soulmark?"

Blair can only shake his head. "She had it when she was seen at the Center in August. But with soul-covers it's hard to tell when it could have left her."

"Left her. Her spirit guide left her? You're right, I've never seen that before. I've never even heard of it. I don't even know what that means. She's going to go dormant?"

Blair nods. "She can't actively project right now, which could be from the damage, but her channels are closing. They're already smaller than they were an hour ago."

"And her mother?"

"A mundane, but," Blair hesitates and then shakes his head. Patrick's findings will either reflect his own or they won't. "We need to verify death of personality in Victoria Argent."

"If this," Patrick Sheppard pauses with a frown and starts again. "If what happened to Kate happened in the House and whatever it is destroyed a mundane's mind-"

Blair feels himself nodding again. "It would have affected everyone, anyone close enough. One way or another."

-*-*-*-*-

Right after breakfast the next morning, Sandburg-Ellison descend on their group room with three worn looking parents in tow.

"We have a lot to cover but once we do, you guys can get out of here." The cheers that echo in the room are not at all forced. "Let's start with the least personal; your Pride. Kali Asan and Jennifer Blake came down from Washington with us. They were betas in the Spokane Pride and were already moving down here for positions in your local Center. Jim and I would like to recommend that you take them as your personal Betas. I have personnel jackets from their previous Prides for you to review but, in short, they have been bonded almost 20 years, they are well trained and they're popular in the community. Having people like them behind you to back your plays and give you ideas can only help you.

"Alternatively, Sheppard-Gibbs wants you to consider taking Sheppard-Rabb as your betas. They don't have experience with officially being betas but they have been Sheppard-Gibbs right hand for years and lawyers always come in handy to Pride leadership. Plus," Blair glances at Derek so quickly Stiles almost misses it. "They're family."

Stiles just nods, not sure what else to do. Should he even be making this decision? Do they have to make a decision at all? Bigger Prides usually have multiple beta pairs. Different pairs to fill different roles.

"Next, I think we all know that completing sexual bonds within your pairings would be inappropriate and possibly dangerous right now. You're all hurting."

A flash of an image through Stiles's mind makes him stare at his sentinel. Gold walls, fire light and pain. What the actual fuck?

"You're all healing and most of you fall under Center Age Restrictions so platonic bonding ceremonies are in your futures, assuming you all still feel you have made the correct connections and want to move forward as bonded pairs."

Both sentinels glare at Blair like he's threatened to take their guides away, but Stiles and Kira relax. Both reactions are what he expected. Knowing your country's alpha will back your play takes a lot of the pressure off.

Blair turns to focus on the parents in the room. "We recommend and request that your children move into pre-bonding dorms. They're chaperoned and sentinel-friendly. Similar to college dorms, but larger. This will allow your children to sleep beside their bondmate and watch out for each other at the same time. The majority of pairs delaying or avoiding a sexual bond stay in these or similar accommodations."

"And that will be until the end of the school year?" Dad asks.

Wait, what? "End of the year? Dad! I'm 18 in April!"

"And the school year ends in May." Dad shoots back.

"It's only another month, Stiles," Blair tries to soothe. "And 18 would not be a good idea. Sexual bonding will drive Derek to be more primal, more territorial and possibly militant for the first several months."

Stiles frowns in his sentinel's general direction. The guy fucking shrugs. "Can't really be sure until after. Bonding could make my inner-sentinel more needy and more primal or it could reassure my sentinel, get you more freedom." And be more fun. Derek didn't say the words but Stiles is certain he heard them.

"Speaking as a fellow Wolf bonded to a fellow Jaguar," Blair cuts in. "Less primal is not a realistic expectation."

Explanations that Stiles doesn't follow and don't really make sense are thrown around and somehow, he and Kira end up sitting with Blair in chairs by the windows. Blair pulls the occupant curtain forward, but doesn't close it, to give them as much privacy as they can get in a room filled with sentinels within a hospital full of sentinels. Ellison pulls Derek, Scott and their parents to the opposite wall.

-*-*-*-*-

Jim watches his guide move the curtain and snorts. Blair might need to have a private discussion with his little guides about the things coming their way bonding- and education-wise but that has to be balanced with the level of separation pre-bonding sentinels can tolerate.

The curtain is the compromise. That, and the sentinels remaining within the room, physically between their guides and the rest of the world. The curtain provides an emotional sense of privacy but isn't a real physical barrier that can impede the sentinels in their duty.

Jim turns to the three concerned parents and holds out a file folder. Melissa McCall takes it from him and snaps it open. Both fathers immediately lean in and start trying to read over her shoulders.

Jim clears his throat and waits as the two younger sentinels pull their attention away from the curtain. "I don't like the genetic matching. It's unnatural. As far as I'm concerned when a sentinel chooses his guide and the guide chooses him return, that's it. It's done."

"But?" The older one, Derek, asks angrily. Eyebrows drawn down.

"But my guide felt biological confirmation of your choices would help the community - and your guides' parents - accept your choices."

The upward flick of the furry caterpillars masquerading as eyebrows on Derek's forehead translates into a demanding but silent "And?"

"Congratulations, perfect matches all around."

Ellison turns to the more nervous father first. "Your daughter's place within the Pride is guaranteed. It would take a lot to get Scott and Stiles into separate Prides and since Stiles is the local alpha, she's in."

The Alpha Sentinel of the United States looks to the younger sentinel next. "She's interested. She's willing. She's both physically and emotionally injured. She's been through a lot since her onlining, including a kidnapping and the Fire. Take it slow. If you think that maybe, kind of, in anyway, you might be rushing her even a little bit, slow down."

Mission accomplished Jim turns to the whispers behind the curtain. He can see the two younger sentinels share a shrug and turn their attention back to the curtain, too.

-*-*-*-*-

Stiles watches the eye-fucking when there should be privacy-making going on at the curtain with (probably not empathically) quiet amusement. It's like a peek of what he and Derek could be in 20 years and it's pretty great.

"I get the feeling we are going to be visiting often. Three Jaguar Sentinels in one place? All alphas? Talk about intense."

The two younger guides exchange speaking looks and something inside Blair unclenches a little.

Blair hasn't yethad time to see Kira and Stiles interact much and that has to change. He needs to know how they get along. Once they're fully bonded to their sentinels they'll basically be in-laws. Possibly live-in in-laws and possibly for a very long time. What kind of nightmare would that be if they can't or won't be friends?

Blair isn't actually sure if Kira won or lost their little eyebrow argument when she asks, "Does having the same spirit animal mean something?"

"It's a familial bond. Jim, Derek and Scott are spirit-family. Brothers in every way but blood, from the moment they met." Blair let them digest that for a moment. "I've reviewed your files. You both display a good range of abilities and a strong grasp on their utilization so I just want to talk to you about some additional educational opportunities available to -and some might say required of- you."

"The Alpha guide - an Alpha guide? - any and every Alpha guide, has extended responsibilities to the Pride because of our abilities. We can do things other guides can't and that connects us to the mysticism, some say magic, of our kind in unique ways. We are keepers of history and lore, and leaders on a number of various levels.

"That said, there are four distinct classes or lines of thinking to 'guide magic'. Each guide can choose one and every alpha guide must choose one. Patrick Sheppard is a Druid, that's the class that comes from northwestern Europe. I am a Shaman, that's the ancestral American way. There is also the Wenwet or Egyptian school - which I think would be a good fit for you, Stiles. And the Kannushi or Asian school - which I actually don't want you to pursue, Kira. I think you would find yourself more suited to the Druid path.

"I brought some reading material to give you both more detailed information but I need to be clear that we do not discuss these things with mundanes. No matter how closely related we are. In fact, as far as they are concerned, the books I am about to give you don't actually exist. Let's keep it that way."

-*-*-*-*-

Once the curtain is drawn away and Scott and Kira drag their parents off for packing and moving, Sandburg-Ellison sits back down with Stilinski-Hale and the Sherriff.

"The team we have investigating the fire hates me right now because I won't let them interview you." Ellison gives Derek a mean smile full of teeth. "So, while they are listening, tell me about Kate."

"I met Kate in August." Derek begins. "Her family is new to the area and the Center wanted to try something. I've been on the 'fragile' list for a while now but I couldn't tolerate any of my conservators for very long and the Center wanted to try something new."

"Why couldn't you tolerate the Center's conservators?"

"They were wrong. Wrong smell. Wrong touch. Wrong sound. And they kept," Derek glances at his guide, obviously a little embarrassed. "They kept pushing for sex. They made me uncomfortable so they were of no use to me."

"But Kate was different."

"Right. Kate's a Jaguar Guide, which I'd never heard of before. She never pushed for sex. We didn't think of each other that way. We were able to form a strong, platonic work bond."

"How has she been recently? Have you noted any changes in her mood or behavior that you can share with us?"

"I haven't seen her in three weeks. Since I informed her I found my guide. But you mean before that?"

Ellison nods.

"About a month ago she became upset about something. Hurt. Angry. She didn't want to talk about it and wouldn't go to the Center with it."

"She wouldn't talk to you about it? Not at all?"

"No."

"Any sentinel-enhanced guesses?"

Derek is quiet for a moment before nodding to himself. "Something to do with her family."

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

"I had really hoped Scott would bond with Stiles someday."

"It certainly would have been easier on us," John Stilinski agrees as Melissa prods him into an empty break room. "Easier on Stiles, too. You know they want him to lead the local Pride?"

"After everything that's happened? The Fire? So many dead? He'd have to rebuild the damn Pride. He's only 17!"

"From what I've heard, he's the only viable candidate."

"Heard?" Melissa questions.

John nods, "Heard. Parrish is a member of the Pride, of course, and he clued me in but I apparently don't count as a member until Stiles bonds." John sighs as he pushes a surprisingly unresisting Ms. McCall against a wall. "I'm surprised you let Scott leave without you. You trust that guy?"

"Who? Sun? No, I don't know him enough to trust him. But I trust Scott. I know he won't let anyone keep him away from me. He won't let anyone put us in danger. He doesn't have it in him. Never has."

John presses against her, running the tip of his nose up along her neck. "I've been speaking with Dr. Sandburg."

"Yeah?" Melissa's voice shakes a little, comes out breathy.

"Interesting guy. Babbles." Melissa gives that throaty, sexy laugh of hers. "According to Dr. Sandburg, in the wake such disasters, bondings increase. Strong relationships form as the Earth tries to fix itself, searches for balance. Even mundanes can be affected."

"A mundane is definitely going to be affected if you don't kiss me. Soon."

John does his best to hide his smirk as he goes in for the kill. Melissa's eyes tell him he's not successful. Their lips barely make contact when the break room door snaps open and they spring apart.

Standing in the doorway is a sweating, red faced Special Agent Rafe McCall. The father of Scott and ex-husband of Melissa looks pissed but he doesn't say a word. Melissa meets the man glare for glare as the Sheriff explains his need to get going and makes his escape.

Typically, Rafe McCall breaks the silence. "Were you sleeping with him back then? Is that why you called him first?"

Shock and pain so strong they leave her breathless shoot through Melissa. "I called him first because you were a violent drunk and even then he was the sheriff! We weren't sleeping together then. We aren't sleeping together now, not that that's any business of yours! It was just a kiss! And what the hell are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be in Sacramento?"

"I came because this town is in shambles! Fires have been raging all over town all night. There are as many roads blocked by accidents as there are drivable ones. There are people still passed out on the sidewalks, drooling and in shock," Rafe's face gets progressively redder as his voice gets louder. His forehead is doing the vein-y thing Melissa hates. "And I wanted to make sure my wife and my son are in one piece in the epicenter of a major catastrophic event. Did you know the Red Cross is here? FEMA is on its way! The president has ordered the national guard to mobilize to keep the peace!"

What? No way! "This is the last town that could ever need-"

"Normally, I would agree with you but the sentinels here took it on the chin yesterday. They are scattered. Disorganized. The Pride was attacked by the Tribe, at least that's what they are all saying out there. Honestly, Stilinski giving the Hale House scene over to the Pride for protection was brilliant. Smartest thing he could have done. They get to mourn and lick their wounds in private but now his tiny department has to do everything else."

Silence stretched between them until it made them both uncomfortable.

"I'm here now," Rafe says quietly as he deflates. "What can I do?"

Melissa lets him stew for another few moments while she makes her opinion of him clear with one arched eyebrow and her jaw jutting to one side. "I need everything you can get me about Sun Yukimura."

-*-*-*-*-

John Stilinski should probably feel bad about abandoning Melissa in the face of her ex-husband's fury but he really, really doesn't. No one can shut someone down as totally as Melissa McCall and Rafe? Rafe just being in Beacon Hills makes John start to think about violence and hiding bodies.

John listens as Liam Gibbs assures his father that no one has gotten within the Hale property's generous fence line since the fire crews left the scene. The younger sentinel provides his father the used t-shirts each fire fighter and paramedic had shoved and sealed into evidence bags for the sentinels' use and starts to herd the FBI's on-scene Crime Scene Investigators like a teacher with a bunch of kindergarteners.

"We're here today to evaluate and collect any evidence we can regarding the incident that took place yesterday on these grounds." Special Agent Don Eppes tells the current guard shift. "Once my team has completed our assessment of the site, it will be returned to your guardianship. We ask you to not discuss anything you learn either through us or you own abilities with anyone. I want to remind you that preliminary findings can be misleading. Please allow the case to follow its natural course. Thank you."

John can see sentinels nodding and probably voicing their agreement from their places around the edge of the property.

"It isn't safe for us to enter the structure." Don informs the group that follows him through the gate, onto the property and up to a folding table that his sentinel has set up. "So we're going to use all four pairs for the evaluation. Charlie, Colby, you guys get the grounds. Document everything."

"Sandburg-Ellison, I want you to start with the top floor. Sheppard-Gibbs, I want you to take the first floor. Ian and I will take the second floor." Don passes each the appropriate blueprint roll-up and they spread out.

John gestures for each of the three deputies that he's armed with camcorders to follow their assigned pair. Parrish and the younger Gibbs sentinel tag along with Eppes-Granger to the corner they decide to start their search. Haigh goes to Sandburg-Ellison and moves with them as they settle in the grass. Eppes-Edgerton with the help of Graeme settle their blueprint on a bench so Don can kneel on the ground with Ian standing behind him. The Sheriff readies his own video camera and trains it on the blueprint that Sheppard-Gibbs roll out on the table, holding the microphone close to make sure none of their words are lost.

The three pairings with blueprints each make some sort of skin-to-skin contact. Ian slides his hands down Don's neck to settle on his guide's shoulders under the other man's t-shirt. Ellison rests his hands on the biceps that he has rolled Blair's sleeves up to expose. Gibbs untucks the tails of Sheppard's shirt and rests his hands on his guide's flanks.

They are using a form of psychometry that is really rare because of how strong the pairing and their bond has to be to do it. The pairing has to be able to combine their abilities to make it work. It's supposed to be extremely exhausting work and it's limited by physical proximity to whatever they are trying to find or examine.

The guide will start by slowly running their hands over a symbolic representation of whatever they are trying to find, or in this case, the location they are searching. Almost like playing a Ouija board with Hale House blueprints. The sentinel then uses his link with his guide to send his senses to the guide's empathic presence within the scried location. Once they are both firmly, psychically on the scene both halves of the pair catalogue the location with their senses.

The process has to be repeated by at least one other bonded pair. The recorded testimony and performers' after action reports are then compared and certified by an outside source. Once that process is complete everything the pairs discover is considered completely admissible, legal evidence.

As each pair finishes their assignments, they exchange blueprints so that each team examines each floor. The three pairs finish their discoveries and have their statements written, recorded and signed before Granger-Eppes finish walking the back yard. Not much of the house is left standing enough to explore, even psychically.

"It started on the first floor." This has to be the first time John had heard Leroy Jethro Gibbs speak. "In the center of the house. Not far from the main staircase."

"Near that emotional black hole." Blair shudders. The guides are all pale and drained, leaning against their sentinels for comfort but Blair looks by far the worst. Whether Blair's reaction is because of his nominally civilian life or an increased level of empathy over the other two guides, John can't be sure.

"Where they found Kate," Don puts in.

"There was no," Sheppard hesitates. "It didn't seem like there was a lot of shock. Or fear. From the other victims."

"They died fast."

"Or Kate's pain covers any impressions they left."

"Possibly both."

The three guides lapse into silence as they all wait for Eppes-Granger to finish with their gaggle of crime scene investigators and leave them to snap pictures and bag and tag.

Colby is grinning when he joins them. "This whole place is buzzing about you tearing Special Agent In Charge Thomas a new one."

Don doesn't exactly explode but John gets the impression he comes as close to it as the Team Leader will allow himself. "You should have seen the guy. It was like he didn't know the first thing about sentinels. And didn't care! Trying to take an established crime scene from the sentinels in charge? Like trying to push a doctor away in the middle of surgery. How? I mean, what?"

"I have an idea about-"

"Do you know how many S-n-G pairs work for the Bureau in California?" Blair casually interrupts his sentinel.

Don frowns. "We had 5 pairs between all the departments in Albuquerque so-" He passes the question to his baby brother with a flick of his eyes. Don can almost see the numbers whirling behind Charlie's eyes and he wonders idly if Colby can hear them, ticking away like numbers on a turn-style counter.

"Based on comparative populations for the city of Albuquerque to the state of California?" Charlie hedges. "345 pairs."

"Three." Jim supplies, disgust evident in his voice. "The FBI employs three pairs within the state of California. Arizona, Nevada and Colorado are not much better."

Horror sinks into Don's gut. "Two of those pairs are on my team, Ellison."

Jim opens his mouth to retort when his cell phone rings. He cuts himself off and answers with a curt "Ellison."

Liam Gibbs wanders over from where he just finished letting the CSIs out of the boundary gate and John watches all three of the sentinels not on the phone call tilt their heads to one side and grow increasingly tense until Ellison tersely ends his conversation and then the call with a vicious jab.

"You're in Cheyenne Mountain."

John isn't really sure who Jim is talking to until Liam nods.

"Why did I get that call from an unbonded sentinel?"

The young Marine shrugs a little too casually. "No bonded pairs in the mountain. Cam is the highest ranking sentinel we got."

No bondeds? How the-? John didn't think there was a single United States military installation on the planet without even a single bonded pair.

"And he's reliable?"

"Yes, sir. New to the program but he has educated himself thoroughly on the mission and he's good in the field. People like him. He works hard and puts himself on the line more often than not. Trustworthy. Shockingly bad at pool. Terrible taste in beer."

Surprisingly, Colby bursts out laughing. "He still drinks Heineken?"

Liam Gibbs nods and rolls his eyes. "Fucking skunk spray, I swear."

Ellison frowns significantly in Granger's general direction.

"I was in the mountain for three years. Then I came online and bonded and Landry kicked me out."

"Landry?"

"Base CO for about a year now. He has a real hate on for bonded pairs. Wouldn't even let Charlie in the Mountain, no matter how excited his geeks got about it."

The younger Eppes guide puts a soothing hand on his sentinel. "I've still worked with them for the program. I have done a lot of consults since my clearance went through."

If looks could kill, the glare Patrick Sheppard levels on the group as Gibbs pulls back from whispering in his ear would get the alpha guide arrested on at least four counts of voluntary manslaughter.

"What the fuck have you done with my son?"

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

If riding on a motorcycle behind his sentinel counts as any sort of hint, Stiles is going to hate the next five unavoidably celibate months of his life.

Their final stop is what used to be Beacon Hills' rather limited industrial district. The area had been sold to the Hale Pride when the trucking company that operated it had collapsed. Rather than allow the buildings to rot and become the natural habitat of illicit college parties for the local branch of the University of California (Go, Werewolves!), the Pride had repurposed the old warehouses into a pod of sentinel-friendly apartments.

Asphalt deconstruction had officially become a popular pastime for the young unbonded sentinels of Beacon Hills County and, man, did they get creative.

Derek actually has an apartment on the grounds but they aren't supposed to enter into such 'an intimate setting' without a chaperone. Since they lost theirs when they left his dad's house, they head directly to the dorm building they have been assigned. The inside of the building Derek leads him into looks like something out of a reality television show only much cleaner, and done all in tasteful earth tones.

As soon as the door falls shut behind them and Stiles takes the duffle he's been wearing as a backpack off, a blond-haired, blue-eyed version of Scott bounds over to them.

"Welcome to the No Sex Dorms!"

Like he needs a reminder. Stiles doesn't even try to stop his eye roll.

"I am Erik Sigurd, one of your Resident Assistants." And he looks like he should be going through a wardrobe to Narnia with a bunch of siblings. Stiles hates him already. Maybe. Ok he doesn't hate the guy just his job but emotional transfer is a thing. It may be a personality flaw but Stiles is prepared toaccept without shame. Everyone needs a coping mechanism.

"There are four of unbonded sentinels that cover this building so that one of us will be here to monitor you and your roommates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. James handles the grocery shopping, Victor launders the linens, Rob is in charge of the kitchen and I handle the bathrooms, so don't be afraid to let us know when you need something or if something needs to be corrected around the dorm."

King Peter the Magnificent proceeds to give them a tour. Kitchen on the left side of the entrance with the dining area on the right. The bathroom takes the entire back end of the building. The toilets and showers are in stalls. Stiles officially lives in a place with fucking stalls.

Stiles drops his bag in the room Derek picks, and digs out his laptop and phone. His town is in fucking shambles and not nearly enough of the Pride is doing anything about it.

He spends the next 20 minutes on the phone with the Center being left on hold and transferred around before Derek takes his phone, hangs it up, dials a new number and hands it back to Stiles still ringing.

A woman picks up and she sounds all prim and proper. Like she hasn't even been working at all. Like she's been sitting at a desk doing her nails all day. Like she hasn't even looked outside.

Stiles is instantly furious. "Why aren't we doing anything?"

"Sir, the Center is very busy at this time. I don't know how you got this number or who you think you are-"

"Stiles. This is Stiles Stilinski." Stiles might be a little too smug about the horrified quality to the silence emanating from the other end of the line.

"Oh, I-. We-. I-. Your instructions, Alpha?"

"Send me information on what resources we have so that I can come up with a plan. My betas will bring them in and we'll all carry them out."

"And who are your betas, sir?"

Stiles glances at Derek. His sentinel just gives him an eyebrow flick/shoulder shrug combo that he decides to interpret as Derek letting him know it's his choice. " Sheppard-Rabb for now but I want to meet with Blake-Asan as well."

Derek turns away, pulling out his own cell phone. Probably to call his cousin.

"I would be happy to arrange that meeting for you, sir. When are you available?"

Stiles gets to spend the rest of his evening poring over information with Dave Sheppard and his sentinel, Harmon Rabb. The betas improve, legalize and systematically initiate every single one of his ideas.

Is this what it's like to have minions?

Derek chokes on his dinner. Stiles is fairly sure it's because he caught Stiles's mental image of the older men painted yellow and wearing nothing but goggles and blue jean overalls. Derek gives him a mildly constipated look that Stiles chooses to interpret as Derek being in awe of his guide's brilliance.

-*-*-*-*-

"Wait, what is it? What is that?"

"It's an empathic containment circle." Derek drops the carpet and stands facing Stiles. "Empathic output can't leave or enter the circle but a properly shielded transmitter - a guide or a sentinel - can."

"What is the point of that?"

"It allows unbondeds to drop their shields and relax. It will allow us to casually share mental space to help facilitate bonding later on." Stiles gets a mental image of two big cats rubbing their sides and sleeping together so their scents and hair cling to each other. He's pretty sure it's coming from Derek. On purpose, even! It makes him grin a bit.

It sounds cool. Interesting, except - "I don't know if I'm ready for that."

Derek just nods, "Fair enough," and climbs into the bed.

Climbing into bed with Derek is surprisingly hard. His sentinel has already proven himself to be intelligent, flexible, protective, loyal and hard working. Bonus! The man is so gorgeous it should be illegal. But making the choice on his own right now with no emergency, no distress, and no need driving Stiles like whip is really intimidating.

Derek just sits back up and holds his hand out for Stiles. When Stiles takes his hand, Derek pulls his guide to bed, slowly so the smaller man can object or make changes if he wants to. He doesn't. Derek tucks Stiles's back against his chest and curls them together on their sides.

Derek's gut unclenches when Stiles relaxes.

Stiles can do this. Stiles has done this. Stiles is actually really, really down with doing this. Derek's body is warm and solid against his. It's not really a brotherly experience but Derek keeps a tasteful gap that only allows them to touch above mid-chest and below mid-thigh.

Dad will never believe he didn't just jump into bed, into sex, into bonding and just everything with Derek.

Stiles didn't. He really didn't.

Even if you ignore the weeks of text conversations and the three shared meals he didn't- wait, were those-? "Those were dates, weren't they?"

Stiles can feel Derek's tired amusement. "What?"

"The bowling with Scott and Allison, the movie with Lydia and Jackson and your sister's birthday dinner? Those were dates?"

Laughter. The fucker. "Yes, those were dates."

Well, okay then. Something inside Stiles unclenches and he allows his shields to relax. He can feel Derek's mind on the edge of his own, a warm hulking source of support and comfort. Not all that different from Derek's physical body, really. Stiles doesn't reach out to him like he knows he could. This isn't the time. Baby steps, Stiles, baby steps.

Derek's arm snakes up Stiles's chest to settle over his heart.

It's all okay. Quite comfortable, actually.

-*-*-*-*-

Derek seriously has the strangest fucking dreams. Seriously.

All Stiles can remember is firelight, golden walls and Egyptian hieroglyphs. It's cold but it's not a physical cold?

Stiles shakes his head to clear it as he moseys down the stairs to the kitchen.

Sirius Black (his name is Rob, actually, but Stiles is trying very, very hard not to care) is passed out and drooling on Stiles's favorite chair as of the night before. He has three limbs scraping the ground, the fourth one sticking up in the air like an antennae, and his neck is at an angle Stiles is pretty sure belongs only in a horror movie. Stiles generously allows him to carry on.

Scott and Kira are in the kitchen with an older bonded pair that Stiles doesn't recognize. Hopefully the strangers are making breakfast because Stiles knows better than to expect something actually edible to happen if Scott is running the kitchen.

Derek is sitting at the bar with Emma, working his own sentinel way into full not!happy! mode.

"No one is letting me wander alone, Der. Why do you think Olivia and Paula are here? At least my babysitters are family," she jerks her head toward Sirius. "And awake."

Derek huffs and focuses on the woman closest to him. She looks like him but not. They have the same hair and eyes. Definitely related. "How's John?"

Olivia grins. "Not even going to pretend, are you? We all know John is your favorite."

Stiles's sentinel just shrugs, gives a little grin and says, "He's a wolf." like that explains everything. In some ways it does. Derek's mom was a wolf and his guide is a wolf; he's genetically predisposed to love them.

"He's on some super-top-secret mission that everyone knows about but no one will discuss. Something happened though," Olivia Sheppard makes eye contact with Stiles over Derek's shoulder. "Blair wanted me to let you know that he, Ellison, and my dads will be in DC for the next day or two. They snuck off last night, trying to fly under the radar. They will definitely back for the funerals."

Emma gives an angry sigh. "With half of Capitol Hill, no doubt."

And isn't that an awkward subject? "How is," Stiles swallows. "All of that coming?"

Emma Hale fucking growls. "It's not. Every time I make progress on the plans I get a call from a senator or a governor or a cabinet member with suggestions or expectations. This one wants a funeral for each bonded pair, which is ridiculous, would take days and leave out the mundanes that died. - Even if you're just looking at the Hales! That one wants a big, publicized, televised affair like some sort of royal wedding. This one wants a private, invitation only, high security affair.

"You know what mom and dad wanted?" Emma is epically angry, at this point she's shouting the words. There may be spit. "A barbeque! They wanted to be cremated and buried with their memorial tree. Then they wanted their friends and family to get together, crank up the grill, tell funny stories about them and get smashed. That's it. That's all! And these politicians want to make my parents' death a spectacle." Spectacle comes out of her mouth almost violently. There was definitely a bit of spit involved. "They see our family's losses as a source of ammunition. They want to make statements. They want to use the Hale Fire and the Hale Funeral to get re-elected."

Stiles lets her gather her breath, feeling both relieved and guilty that maybe she doesn't have it all completely together.

"So, let's have a barbeque."

The look Emma gives him could turn someone to stone. "We can't ignore them. The Center learned that lesson more than 20 years ago. Of course, they won't listen to me because I'm not the Hale Family Al-" Her eyes flick up to Stiles.

Stiles gives her a little grin and nods. Yeah, he's taking it.

Emma's eyes flick over the Derek who just nods his confirmation.

A smile dawns on Emma Hale's face like the sun breaking through storm clouds. "Your orders, Alpha?"

"We'll give them a parade. A somber one, like they did for Kennedy, but here in Beacon Hills. The wagon will have pictures of everyone killed or injured in relation to the Fire rather than a casket and a flag. They want to make it a national tragedy? Then we will but we aren't going to make it about the Hales. Or sentinels. Or guides. We'll make it about all of us."

"We'll make a separate Memorial Forest for the Hale Fire victims. Plant a tree for everyone. Something like Oak for Mundanes; Apple for kids; Rowan for Sentinels and Ash for Guides. Or we can have the victims' families pick their trees? Ashes optional. Obviously, we won't have any ashes to burry with the tree if they are still alive so let's just make it optional for everyone. If they push it we'll televise the first few."

"They will probably want us to televise mom and dad's trees at least." Emma agrees, taking notes on her tablet.

Stiles rolls his eyes but nods. "Make them ask for it, though. Actually, maybe we should make Dave and Harm do it?"

"I'll get them over here." Olivia turns to call her brother and his sentinel.

"Was anyone overseas affected? Or did we lose any members originally from other countries? We might need to have a color guard or something carry all the right flags. Or we can have a flag for each person? Maybe no wagon just people carrying the photo of their loved one? One person, one photo kinda thing?"

Stiles glances around, a visual check on all Sheppard and Hale affiliates in the room. He's greeted with the sight of bobbing heads so he continues. "After the planting, we can have the private barbeque your parents wanted. Make it something everyone can participate in separately, maybe? Can we do that?"

"We can buy the old saw mill on the edge of town," Emma is thumbing through screens on both her smart phone and her tablet, looking for something. "That way the Forest will be associated with the Pride directly and not just the Center in general. The Mill has the cleared ground for the new Forest and a house we can convert for a caretaker. There's also an old logging camp not far from it if we decide we need more room."

"Good, let's do that." Stiles agrees.

"What if someone doesn't want the person they lost involved with the ceremony?"

"We'll frame a blank or black piece of paper and set it with the others so the count is still right and, we'll plant a general, unlabeled tree. Actually, let's not label any of the trees once we are past the planning stage. If our point is that 'we're all in this together' then labels would fight that message. If plaques are wanted, they can go in whatever offices we set up at the Forest. Nothing on the trees or grounds."

"What about a wake?" Paula Cassidy asked from her spot in front of the stove.

"You don't think that's redundant? A wake and a barbeque?"

"No, not at all. They serve different purposes. The wake lets you focus on the loss and you memorialize that loss with the funeral. The barbeque is a celebration of how they lived, a party."

"And the wake," Olivia pitches in, coming back from her phone call. "Gives the people a place to send their condolences and flower arrangements so that no one has to have them at home."

Chapter Text

Intermission

The White House, Washington, D.C.

"Sir, what you are suggesting is not possible." Blair tries to keep his voice even. "It is entirely more likely that you would murder your grandchildren in their sleep than John Sheppard would betray his Tribe."

"How can we put any sort of faith in John Sheppard? The man's a loose cannon. Just look at what happened in Afghanistan." The Air Force General currently in command of Cheyenne Mountain is full of negativity and bluster but empty of sense.

"Afghanistan is exactly why you can trust John Sheppard, General Landry," Blair shoots back. "When given orders that endangered members of his tribe, John Sheppard disobeyed them without hesitation and he did everything he could to save lives. He holds the safety of his Tribe above both his own life and his own career."

"And if his commanding officer had been worth the metal on his shoulders he never would have given such an order, especially to a guide. That's why he's in Leavenworth and Sheppard got promoted and moved to the Mountain, an assignment of his choice." Ellison makes intense, significant eye contact with the current President of the United States of America, Henry Hayes. "What you all fail to realize is that, if John Sheppard were to bond it is quite possible he would be Alpha Guide of the Planet. Of Earth. A guide of his stature could not harm the Tribe. He doesn't have it in him."

"He's that powerful? No one mentioned that before."

"Sir, when he left Earth he was at least as strong as I am right now and I'm bonded. I can't tell you how much stronger and more stable bonding made me. He's probably the strongest guide our world has seen in over a thousand years."

"What is your community asking for? Sandburg? Ellison?"

"An investigation." Ellison doesn't hesitate. "We want a bonded pair to gather evidence and prove Sheppard's innocence or guilt."

"Sir!"

"I don't care how much you trust your source, Hank. Proof and a trial before sentencing are a citizen's most basic rights."

"Of course, Mr. President. I am merely objecting to throwing another bonded pair away when we have already lost two to this endeavor. They are too rare and valuable to the service and once we send the second wave our ZPM will be done. We will not have the power to dial Pegasus again."

"On the contrary, General, we must know what happened to the ones that went before." Ellison is all but growling. "We owe it to the two pairs we have lost, to all the unbonded guides and sentinels that went with them and to all of the unbonded sentinels and guides that remained on Earth and have now lost their future bondmates to the Expedition."

"You have a pair in mind." The President isn't making a guess, he knows Jim too well.

"Guide Don Eppes and Sentinel Ian Edgerton. They are FBI and areimpressing the hell out of a lot of people with their handling of the Hale Fire. Don ran his own field office for several years and has a real talent for hunting down fugitives. Ian is the FBI's best tracker and is former Army, a sniper."

"Good, make it happen but Landry has a point too. I don't want any other bonded pairs on the trip."

"Assuming the worst and this is all true," General O'Neill speaks up for the first time in the meeting. "What could cause Sheppard to?" 'do this' is implied by an almost negligent hand wave.

"Something chemically damaging or otherwise altering his brain chemistry. Drugs? Maybe? I would have said nothing on Earth could violate the sanctity of a guide's mind like that but considering the nature of his mission," Blair Sandburg held out his hands in a gesture of helplessness.

"Sir, I would like to request that Damon and Darius Werth be added to the expedition roster." O'Neill hands two personnel files to the President for review.

"You want to add two barely 18 year old Marines, fresh out of boot camp to the personnel list for a mission of this importance?"

"Yes, sir. They are both active sentinels and the Lieutenant Colonel was their sperm donor. In the event that Sheppard is guilty, they would have the best chance of bringing him in."

"Is that true?" Hayes asks Ellison.

"We don't have any record of sentinel children ever being used to hunt a guide parent," Ellison flicks angry, impatient eyes over both Air Force men. "But, theoretically, they would smell their genetic connection with the man and would therefore be better at finding him. Chances are he wouldn't be able to hide from them."

"And the blood connection should also reduce the effectiveness of John's mental abilities against them." Blair adds in a small voice.

-*-*-*-*-

"You trust Landry?" Jim Ellison cuts right to the heart of the matter as they settle into the back of the limousine.

Major General Jack O'Neill doesn't miss a beat when he answers, "Not as far as I can throw him."

"Any particular reason?" Blair's tone is leading.

"Two." O'Neill acknowledges with a nod. "First, I don't know where he came from. When I accepted my position in Homeworld Security, he was the only name on the list for me to consider for Stargate Command, but he's never served in the SGC or Area 51 before and he isn't publicly friends with anyone that should have gotten him the posting."

"Which means he's friends with them secretly," Blair frowns.

"Or he's blackmailing someone." Ellison counters. "Likely several someones."

"The second reason?"

"He said the message was sent by Sam and Danny, the last survivors of a betrayed expedition, but we have codes we use with each other. SG-1 does. All the gate teams do. Private not-really-jokes that we hide in reports. We put them in transmissions, recordings, anything. A sort of secret 'I haven't been replaced by an alien' kind of thing.

"Danny has an entire stealth punctuation code. You saw that report, it was terrible but a man that speaks, reads and writes 23 languages doesn't destroy his own grammar on accident; no matter how eccentric he may be. Some of the worst, choppiest reports he's submitted were done so he would have the punctuation to tell the world on paper how Jack O'Neill fucked up."

"And?" Blair prompts.

"And it's missing from the reports Landry released. Our codes are missing. Or they're so jumbled that they don't work anymore. And it's not just for one or the other of them, it's for both."

"You think Landry edited the report."

"I think I don't know what happened and I don't like it. I do know I spent more time on SG-1 than I did married and if any of us had something to say, especially something this horrible, the code would be there."

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

Beacon Hills

"I'm sorry." Scott said. That she's hurt. Not that it happened. "I love you. But. She's-."

"It's okay. They tell you that when you meet the right one they are everything to you. Immediately." His grinning nod is a real punch to the stomach. "And we just aren't."

"Yeah," he sounds sad? Maybe? "Friends?"

She sucks it up and gives him a nod. "Eventually."

Allison shakes her head to clear it and climbs out of her father's big black SUV. Her relationship with Scott is over. It is past and she can't, won't let herself regret it. She'd expected the end, really. She'd known the moment he'd shown her the dainty little vulpine paw print on his right wrist that she wouldn't get to keep him.

She just hadn't expected it to end this soon.

She's happy for him. Really, she is, but she could use a little support right now, too. What do you do when your worldview is turned upside down? And for bonus difficulty, all of the parental guidance you've relied on for your entire life has been institutionalized in one form or another.

A little more than 36 hours ago now, she was sitting in the hospital waiting room, trying to get someone to let her in to see Scott when Emma Hale walks out of the treatment area and asks to speak with her and her brother.

Emma sat down with them in a tiny, white conference room and systematically changed Allison's world with just a few short words.

Emma had let them know that their father had reported to the Center (Allison knew that) because Peter Hale had come online (Allison hadn't known that!) and they were bonding (Allison really hadn't needed to know that). Emma had been the one to tell them that Scott had found the little vixen with his jaguar on her wrist. She'd also said that, contrary to what Gerard has said, yes, their family actually are some of those Argents and that their Clan wants to send then some support. From France.

That's how Allison and Alex end up at the local airstrip watching a tiny little plane taxi to a stop. A good third of the people that climb out of the plane have full heads of shining blonde hair. A more typical color for Argents than the dirty blonde of her siblings' and father's or her own rather unusual black.

They have the standard security allotment for traveling Sentinel/Guide VIPs, one bonded pair for each Guide-Dignitary. They should be able to make it work, between their car and the two Center suburbans everyone should fit.

Two women in their twenties, one with brown hair, the other blonde, break off from the group and approach the two local guides.

"Allison?" the blonde one asks, pointing at Allison, her French accent almost unnoticeable.

Allison nods.

"Alexander?"

Allison's brother nods, stepping forward to shake hands.

"You are just like your father has described you. I'm Charlotte Argent. This," She gestures to the brunette. "Is my sentinel, Heather. Your father?"

"Is secluded." Allison says tightly.

She can feel Alex's questioning gaze on her as he explains to the alpha guide. "He's bonding with Peter Hale."

Charlotte nods, unsurprised at their news and unaffected by Allison's attitude. "A week of isolation wouldn't be unusual considering their ages and Hale's recent onlining. This is their third day?"

"50 hours and counting." Alexander's huff at her attitude is not subtle.

"And what do you think of him? Your father's sentinel."

"We've never met him." Charlotte's mind is well disciplined and tightly shielded but Heather's surprise spikes briefly across Allison's shields. "Our mother was crazy jealous. She couldn't stop our father from seeing his sentinel per their prenuptial agreement but she didn't have to let us."

"She's gone then?" The female sentinel speaks to them for the first time, very clearly an American. "And the child?"

"Was removed before her body failed completely. He is in the care of the Pride."

"They're calling him 'Michael the Miracle Baby' on the news." Her brother contributes.

"How do you know so much about us?" Allison's curiosity finally bursts. "Gerard swears we aren't Clan."

"Gerard is no longer Clan," Charlotte agrees with a small nod. "The two of you and your father may be. It remains to be seen."

"So, what does that mean? Tests? We're going to be tested."

Charlotte's shrug is neither a yes nor a no.

"The Pride has made arrangements for our stay." Heather stepped in before things got awkward. "We were supposed to call Emma Hale when we landed."

Allison frowns. No one had told her that. "Gerard doesn't live with us, if that's the problem. He had a fight with Kate like a month ago and dad kicked him out. He lives in one of the Pride apartments, now."

Again, surprise from the sentinel, "Do you have room for 12?"

-*-*-*-*-

Sheriff John Marcus Stilinski is not ready for this.

He's standing on the other side of a one-way window from a bonding room. They'd all agreed that Scott and Kira would go first but Derek had started spiking or, more likely, had stopped being able to hide his sensory spikes from Stiles, in the night.

Stiles had woken up half the county to get help for his sentinel but the only long term solution anyone, including Sandburg-Ellison could come up with was formalizing Derek's imprint on Stiles. It would give Derek a firmer foundation that the sentinel could use to zero his abilities out on and, hopefully, give Stiles the mental connection necessary to crank down Derek's dials himself if he needed to.

They hope.

They are sure about the foundation part but not the mental connection part. Apparently, the mental stuff is touch-and-go without a full sexual bond.

Sheriff John Stilinski is abso-fucking-lutely not ready for this.

Derek enters the bonding room first. He's wearing what has to be a tiny, dark blue speedo and, really? That's a lot more than John needed to know about his son-in-law.

The younger man is steady on his bare feet to Dr. Sandburg's very vocal pleasure but his back is covered in a painful-looking rash.

At least it's not bleeding anymore.

-*-*-*-*-

Derek inspects the room and tries to ignore the observers he can hear on the other side of the glass. None of them are as important as ascertaining the security of this room.

None of them are armed. In fact, Derek hasn't allowed a single weapon to enter the underground bonding areas in this section of the Center since he'd ordered a guard rotation above it. None of their Pride want to fail Derek on this issue. They're all living in fear and no little awe of Stiles's wrath.

None of the audience would be able to physically enter the room before Derek could theoretically stop them. The physical structure is sound. Stiles is safe. Or he will be as soon as he gets his ass in here.

They'd had to separate for their cleansings and mediation periods. Just rooms apart in a building with no locked or barred doors but Derek had nearly lost it. He still would have if it hadn't been for a recording of Stiles's heartbeat that they let Derek keep and listen to until the very moment he entered the bonding chamber.

-*-*-*-*-

Derek's growling is slowly getting louder and louder the longer he's alone in the bonding room. The sentinel is pacing so rapidly it's starting to make John nervous. Derek looks like the big cat he is and he's clearly pissed off at being in a cage.

Ellison puts a hand on the Sheriff's shoulder as the man starts to rise. Whether he's getting up to go find Stiles or to comfort Derek doesn't actually matter. Neither would be helpful at this point.

The Sheriff of Beacon Hills County glares at the Alpha Sentinel of North America shamelessly and without reserve.

Ellison just gestures to the second door of the bonding room with his chin.

John turns in time to see his son swing open the door to the bonding room.

Derek stands frozen for a breath and a half before he calmly walks into the center of the circle in the middle of the bonding room and kneels, waiting for his guide to join him.

Stiles doesn't look the least bit concerned that he's closing himself into such a small space with an upset and nearly feral sentinel. The Sheriff's son looks poised and completely in control as he moves to the center of the room and stands inches away from Derek fucking Hale. His back is straight, his shoulders broad and his head unbowed. He looks confident. Adult.

John's son looks like an adult.

It's a real kick in the chest.

No, John Stilinski is not ready for this.

Not at all.

-*-*-*-*-

Stiles and Derek watch each other. Derek gestures for Stiles to turn and he does. A gentle touch warns him before Derek's picks up first one foot, then the other, running fingers and palms over both. Derek runs his hands up Stiles's legs stopping around mid thigh, several inches below the dark green, erm, 'swim suit' Stiles had been given to wear.

Derek turns Stiles so he's facing him once again and repeats his actions.

He then pulls Stiles down so the younger man kneels with his kneecaps on either side of Derek's but not quite in the older man's lap. He runs his hands over the exposed skin he's finally allowed his eyes to conquer, keeping his hands well above Stiles's belly button and away from his pectorals.

This is closer and nakeder than Stiles has ever gotten to another human being. It's awesome. Horrible and oh, so strange, but awesome.

Horrible because it will be months before they get to do anything like this again and probably even longer before Derek will agree to doing this with intent. Strange because of the deep inhalations his sentinel is using to gather his scent. Awesome because Derek's high and tight little nipples are just one of the painfully obvious signs that Derek is just as into as Stiles is.

He closes his is eyes as his sentinel runs his hands up Stiles's shoulders and neck into his hair and recalls every word Patrick Sheppard, Blair Sandburg and two different Center instructors have all told him about creating a bridge, a tether, between his mind and Derek's.

"Are you ready? I'm going to reach out to you now. I just need you to relax and let me - oh, hey, your shields are already down? Awesome. You really trust me, don't you? You feel that pressure? That's me. Grab it with your mind. Pull it deep. It'll be better if I don't push. Stronger if I don't have to force it. Wow, that's great. We're doing so good Derek. So good." Stiles knows he's babbling but Derek has already established a history of responding positively to Stiles-babble. His is probably the sentinel in Beacon Hills least likely to have a problem forming a vocal imprint on their guide.

"I'm going to spread out now. You'll feel me everywhere. You'll know everything I know. You feel everything I feel and think everything I think. Kinda strange, right? I'm going to bring your shields up around me. Wait. Let me do it."

Derek's preferred shielding method/imagery is fire. So for Stiles, raising his sentinel's shields is like pulling a blanket of fire up around them both. Safe fire. This fire would never even dream of damaging Derek or Stiles but it would not hesitate to destroy anyone else.

Once he's formed a nice thick but flexible egg of fire around the two of them, he calls his own preferred shielding method, water. In his head he can see it fill up the area around them. The water meets the fire but doesn't put it out and the fire doesn't evaporate Stiles's mindscape.

Derek's fire and Stiles's water work together, protecting them both. Keeping them comfortable, happy and connected.

Stiles leans back, rolls his neck and works his shoulders to loosen them.

That had to be at least a half hour of work but it is perfect. It's exactly what they both need and while it won't stay like this without a lot of work and the foundation of a full mental, spiritual and sexual bond, it will stay like this longer every time they work on it.

And they will be working on it! "We're done right? That was kinda f-" A surge of intent from Derek grabs Stiles's attention as his sentinel grabs the back of his neck and reels him in.

Bold as brass, his sentinel plants one on him. Full mouth and it is amazing.

Stiles has been kissed before, okay? Boys, girls, everything in between, it has never mattered to him one whit. Nothing on Earth is as sexually flexible as an unbonded guide, but this! This kiss proves that he was doing it wrong every single time he kissed before this. Every. Single. Time.

It's hot, wet but not awkward and he knows, can feel all the way to the bottom of his toes that he is the center of Derek Scott Hale's existence. But it lasts barely more than a moment before Derek starts to tense up and pulls himself back, glaring toward the wall.

Derek manages to stand without touching Stiles in the least and to get between Stiles and the window before he can grasp the meaning of his sentinel's sudden distance

The observation window.

Stiles had forgotten the window.

How could I forget the fucking window? Stiles thinks, completely dazed and more than a little disappointed, even as his sentinel herds him out of the bonding room.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

The dream always starts out nice.

She is her spirit guide.

They are one and the same, powerful and primal. They run through a jungle she's never seen. A jungle that doesn't -couldn't- exist in a real physical way on Earth, judging by the colors all around her.

A familiar bird, an African Hawk-Eagle, flies in from the stars. He recognizes her, greets her, courts her.

He does aerial displays to impress her but he never touches her.

The dream doesn't always stay nice. Hasn't for a while now.

He can't touch her. He's too far away.

Flames and smoke surround him. There are shouts and crying in the distance. Explosions.

Blood blooms on all-important breast feathers. The pain of it stabs in her chest.

He ages rapidly.

Feathers molt so quickly that they almost explode off of him. Flesh crumbles, drying and fading. A shrunken, unrecognizable husk remains where her most precious once lay.

The dream has gotten worse.

She's no longer one with her spirit guide. They stare at each other from across a great divide.

The eyes of the beloved cat are filled with pain and betrayal as it looks from the body of their mate and through the flames to Kate.

"I do not know you." the cat says. Something inside Kate snaps.

She is alone.

Kate has never been alone.

-*-*-*-*-

The Sentinel/Guide 'floor' at Beacon Hills County Memorial Hospital isn't actually a floor. It's a three-level out-building connected to BHMH by glassed covered walkways. It's also the unit with the most extra shifts available and the smallest group of qualified personnel to fill them, since anyone working in the S-n-G unit has to be certified by the Center.

Melissa McCall was certified by the Center four years ago, not long after her one and only son came online.

Distress alarms on the Unbondeds' floor are routine.

Entering a room two hours before the end of her shift on Christmas Eve and seeing a sentinel-orderly restraining a patient isn't strictly unusual.

A guide fighting the orderly so fiercely that he calls for back up and floor security has to rush in is definitely a surprise.

Melissa moves to the bed, syringe at the ready-

"Gun!"

Why is she on the floor? She tries to get up but pain shoots through her right arm. Her shoulder blade is burning. Why is her back wet?

No one around her is moving but she can hear people shouting in the distance. She'll just rest here a minute.

-*-*-*-*-

Disoriented. She wakes up confused.

Agony. She's in pain.

Hands. She's being held down. Someone is holding her down.

Shadows all around. The shadows are holding her down. Caging her. Trapping her.

There are animal spirits like her all around her. All caged in and held back by the shadows. Trapped by the shadows. Why won't they let her people go? Why won't they let her go?

She needs a weapon.

A gun!

She has to escape! She has to get free. She has to help her brothers.

Shadows get in her way. She cannot allow them to stay there.

One of her brothers breaks free of his chains. Finally!

He's a guard dog, large and fierce, snarling and snapping. A raccoon is riding on his shoulders, confused and afraid but determined.

No! Shadows move to recapture them.

Pain! It burns. She is betrayed.

-*-*-*-*-

Alan Deaton stares at his red-covered hand with a great deal of fascination but absolutely no confusion. He's been shot. He knows it. He is strangely comfortable with it, in fact.

He doesn't know by whom but that doesn't actually matter to him.

The bullet also entered his already damaged sentinel and that he doesn't like at all.

His sentinel, Deucalion Lane, has already lost his vision thanks to the Hale Fire and has started the slow slide to dormancy. Now, the damaged sentinel is going to lose his life to some psychopath in a hospital.

Maybe it's better this way. To die together. No ability loss. No soulbond failure. No insanity.

Deaton uses the last of his strength to make sure he falls across his sentinel.

Yeah, it's better this way.

-*-*-*-*-

"Shots fired! I repeat, shots fired. Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital, Sentinel Unit. Second floor." The Los Angeles Violent Crimes Squad was already on the ground, running. "Sentinels report one shooter, two weapons fired."

Ian and Don take the front stairs. Colby and Charlie take the back.

They pause by the door. Charlie slides his hand into the center of Colby's back and does his Professor X thing, sliding into the back of Colby's mind to balance his senses.

"I can't get anything from her. Her mind is chaotic." Her? Colby's never heard of a female mass shooter before. "She's lost, Colbs. She doesn't know where she is."

They go in low. The smell of fresh blood is intense. People have collapsed and are bleeding all over the area. Several of them have succumbed to their wounds.

The shooter's been through the area twice, circling the floor. Barefoot, based on the bloody footprints.

Kate Argent stands in the middle of the hallway like a very confused version of the Tomb Raider.

For a moment she freezes, face elated. Her hope and excitement smells out of place and completely profane in this hallway. Confusion and then anger flicker over her face. She raises the weapon in her left hand.

Colby fires.

-*-*-*-*-

"I don't care how pretty he is, there is no way being rejected by a sentinel she wasn't fully bonded to caused this." Only Don can manage that amazing combination of hopeful and derisive.

"Look, we know she was having family problems, she's already emotionally unstable." A team member Blair isn't familiar with argues back. "Hale breaks up with her, ends their work bond and she destabilizes further."

"So, she makes an incendiary device and goes to one of his family's business weeks later? That doesn't track, David." Don glares around the circle of investigators before his eyes land on Blair. "What do you think?"

"What do I think?" Blair takes the time to look each of the team in the eye. "I think the only time I have seen, or even heard of, an online guide destabilizing this way is when their bonded sentinel was tortured."

"She didn’t have a sentinel." Colby Granger feels heartbroken to Blair. Of course he is, he has to be. Could anything be more devastating for a sentinel then to be forced to shoot a guide in self defense? Compound that with the inherent pride a sentinel would normally feel after successfully defending the tribe and his guide in any other situation? Talk about pain and confusion.

Blair is quiet for a long time, watching Charlie wrap himself tighter and tighter around his sentinel. "Do you know why we destabilize? When we're online and alone for too long?"

Colby shakes his head.

"In actuality, no one does,” Blair begins.“The current theory is that the moment we come online we form a tether with our fated bondmate. It's a tenuous connection. You can't even call it a fledgling bond. Especially if your bondmate isn't online, yet. But it's still there and we still ache for it to be complete.

"We can make temporary stop-gaps while we search and wait. We can mate with a mundane or one of our own kind, if they're compatible enough. We can form a Work Bond with one of our opposites, be it sentinel or guide. But these are just bandages. The tether is like a psychic wound. It's still there, leaking and making you weak. It just keeps bleeding until the person intended to plug the hole, does."

"Do you have any reports of a," David checks his notes. "An African Hawk-Eagle Sentinel suffering any sort of abuse? In the last month?"

"No. Nothing has been reported to the Center, yet. I did contact the International Sentinel and Guide Association and they have agreed to reach out to their membership nations. They will contact your team if they find anything or when they are through."

-*-*-*-*-

They'd known about the hospital shooting.

Of course, they had.

The local police AKA Stiles's dad! had called Stiles to request the Center send experts to help out at the scene. The team Stiles sent had managed to clear and release quite a few people. Victims of both the shooting and the Fire. Those they could move to the Center, they did. Those that were too delicate to release or move had been given sentinel security that would remain on site until they were released or Stiles felt better about the situation.

At this point it really is a toss-up as to which would happen first.

What that sneaking sneak hadn't mentioned to Stiles was that Momma McCall had been shot. He hadn't let them know she was even injured until she was out of surgery and in a recovery room!

On the one hand, Stiles could appreciate his father reducing their stress by keeping them out of it. He can definitely see the wisdom in cutting at least two upset and anxious sentinels out of the pile. Especially strong ones like Derek and Scott, whose upset would drive other (see: calm) sentinels to respond. It just saved them all a great deal of stress.

But Stiles knew Scott wouldn't, couldn't see it that way. She's his mom! It's Scott's job and his right to worry about and protect her. Just like it's Stiles's duty as Scott's brother to have his back in all endeavors.

Or to at least get him to actually enter Melissa's hospital room and see her rather than spend all of Christmas standing in the doorway and growling at each and every passerby.

-*-*-*-*-

Miranda Tate frowns at the sight before her. The one and only hospital in Beacon Hills County is swarming with activity.

It's Christmas for fuck's sake! Surely, this can't still be from the Fire. That was almost six days ago!

Unless something else has happened? Miranda's gut goes cold.

The local Center had informed her that this is where Peter Hale said he was headed; the jerk had taken his guide and left bonding isolation more than 24 hours before they were expected to.

They couldn't have beaten Peter and his guide to the hospital, could they?

Miranda glances at her sentinel-son. He should be able to find his father.

Marcus's nose flares as he scents the area. "They aren't here, but there is something," Marcus verbally trails off and leads them away from the Sentinel Unit.

They find their way into the main hospital, up two flights of stairs and into some sort of natal unit. Two women are sitting in a window seat holding a tiny bundle with very familiar blue eyes.

"All I'm saying is that if we can get a Hale or a Sheppard to donate, we should both take it."

"No, we agreed last time. We are not using the same donor. What if they bond? They'd be siblings, like those two sisters in Texas. Or the brothers in New York. And, now, another pair of brothers in Kansas-"

"Does that really even matter? If we raise them together they will already be siblings emotionally, anyway. So what, if they are sentinels and guide and they come online and they bond, they will just end up with the most epic friendship ever. You are making a ton of false assumptions here. Are you going to flip out if Braeden ends up bonding with one of the twins?"

The darker female, a sentinel, snorts. "There is no way Braeden's spirit animal is a bunny. Or an otter for that matter. She is way too aggressive-"

"What exactly is wrong with the 'sisters from Texas'?" Miranda loves her guide-daughter. Malia is really quite aggressive, too.

The other female sentinel surges to her feet and places herself bodily between her guide and the smallest Hale and the Tates. A few absolutely not-discrete rounds of sniffing later and they have firmly come to an impasse.

The Judgment Friends are not willing to back down because they don't know who the Tates are even if the sentinel can smell out their family relations. Including their link to the child the Friends are holding.

The Tate Family is not willing to back down because yes, Miranda and Marigold are the 'two sisters from Texas.' Half-sisters to be exact. Yes, they are bonded and yes, they really are just best friends. They have been through everything, every single day and every single upset, together and despite the assumptions of others they neither need, nor desire to have sex together.

"I don't know, I think sisters are kinda hot."

Unless they are sharing someone else, of course. "Peter."

The rapscallion is grinning at them as the blue-eyed man behind him heartily rolls his eyes.

"Miranda and Marigold Tate, may I introduce you to my guide, Christopher Argent." Peter holds his guide's right wrist in his right hand and puts his other hand in the small of his guide's back, presenting him to Miranda.

"Chris, please," Blue Eyes requests.

Miranda is pleased to move into Christopher Argent's personal space and sniff the skin above the crook of his neck. It's a very old fashioned greeting between allied sentinels. A silent but public vow to protect each other's guide.

"Peter Hale, Chris Argent." Miranda responds, sliding her arm behind Mari to repeat the process. "My guide, Marigold Tate."

Peter reciprocates the ritual greeting with Mari and looks around, eyes sparkling. "Last I heard the two of you were starting something interesting with a pair of brothers?"

"The Winchesters," Miranda nods. "The younger one has finally come online as a guide, so our family group negotiations are on hold right now for their training and bonding but it will probably happen." Peter's already focused on taking in and cataloguing her children so she moves on. "Peter, this is Marcus and that's Malia. We know you didn't want to know if we conceived but we never lied to our children about their father and, after the fire, we had a hard time keeping them at home."

"A sentinel boy and a guide girl? Damn, am I good!"

Miranda and Mari share an eye roll.

"But, you said," Chris glares at his sentinel. "That business trip the week Allison was born."

"Was really good business." Peter gestures at his biological offspring. "And I told you I had no children that I knew of." He turns to the Tates. "I was 20, stupid and angry, you really shouldn't have taken anything I said seriously."

"Where are you guys staying? How long are you staying? Have you met Jennifer Blake and Kali Asan?" Also known as the Judgment Friends. "They've been watching over young Michael for us."

Peter is smug. The jerk. Miranda just knows he's going to do everything he can to keep the two opposed bonded pairs in one room for no other reason than his own personal entertainment.

They get the child officially named -yes, Peter had actually intended to name the baby Michael. Where did you think the media got it from? The hospital leaked it, of course. - checked out, and were at the car. The men are strapping the baby into a car seat that they are still cheerfully arguing over when the FBI showed up.

"Sir, we'd like to ask you both a couple of questions."

Peter tosses Miranda the keys, gives the group his address and makes a pointed gesture from his teenage children to the cargo area full of packaged baby gear. Miranda and Malia crawl into the over sized SUV with Blake-Asan and little Michael and take off with Marcus and Mari following in the Tates' car.

Once they are gone, Peter, Chris and the FBI Agents make their way to one of the quiet conference rooms in the Sentinel Unit.

Guide Don Eppes flips on the white noise generators and formally requests that they consent to being questioned separately. Chris and Peter, of course, inform the Agents that they were too newly bonded to handle such a separation and that said Agents could kindly fuck off.

"Very well," Don Eppes is completely unsurprised. "We'll start with you. Peter, tell me the events of the Fire in your own words."

"I remember hearing a sound like a soda can hitting a hard wood floor The building shakes. I need to get Emma and the little guide out. The guide's father is terrified. He's tries to hit me. Deucalion goes down the back stairs to check on the nursery. I take my group out the office entryway. I remember a young male sentinel tearing his way into the back yard and then nothing. I woke up alone in a bonding room with Chris."

"Your siblings? Jason, Jacob and Ava?"

"They were upstairs, bitching about camping gear and dust. Sam was with them. Linda, Jacob's wife was taking up lemonade and Jeremy, Ava's guide, had gone to the store."

"And the nursery?"

"Sophia was in the nursery with one employee, Julia Edwards. The kids were napping. Kate and Victoria were checking out the facilities since Michael would soon be using them."

"What about Laura Hale?"

"She was outside, in the back yard, with her and Linda's group. The older ones play outside while the younger ones nap. There are another two groups of older ones but they were at the museum with Sophia's guide, Chloe, and four other employees. I can get you their names if you need them."

Don nods, Peter's story matches what others had told him. He doesn't bring out a blueprint for the guy because he'd still been officially latent and any mapping he did would not be admissible. "I have questions now for your guide."

Peter nods his consent.

Don looks at Chris.

Chris nods his consent.

"Have you heard any reports about the damage involved in the Hale House Fire?"

Both of the interviewees tense. Interesting.

"Nothing official. You want me to give you my opinion?"

"You are the Arms Dealer."

Chris frowns at Eppes' tone, "Argent Arms specializes in design, limited manufacture and, yes, sale of registered and legal ammunitions. We are federally licensed and work mostly in government contracts."

Peter fights not to growl when Eppes' attitude doesn't seem to change.

"And if I give you pictures?" the other guide asks his.

"I will give you my opinion."

Don pushes forward a file folder. The pictures are bad. Old, taken a long time after the damage was done. They're gruesome, too. Some things just don't need to have light cast directly on them.

"I think I know exactly what did this." Chris flips one of the pictures around to get a different angle. "I have a pretty good idea, at least."

At Don's gesture, he continues.

"A friend of mine from college - Major Paul Davis, United States Air Force - contacted me about designing some weapons. Said his program needed something new."

"For what purpose?"

Chris shakes his head. "You don't have the clearance to know and I don't have the clearance to tell you."

"What can you tell me?"

"They wanted something with high damage potential over an extended amount of time. An anti-personnel weapon that can be safely carried in the field by a soldier and hand launched." Chris turned a few choice photographs back to the federal agent. "My father was lead designer on the project. He decided to revisit the napalm bomb, to mate it with a fragmentation grenade."

"And did Kate know about this weapon?"

"My entire immediate family did. Not a lot and definitely not who it was for but my father and I heatedly debated some of the details."

"Did she have access to it?"

"No, absolutely not. Access on anything that experimental is limited to myself and the lead designer, in this case, my father."

"Can you tell us about your relationship with Kate?"

Peter frowns at the FBI Agent, bothered by his word choice. Not your daughter, but Kate.

"We are very close, were very close. She was the most likely of my children to enter the family business. I tried to be her friend, to take and use her input as much as I could."

"Has anything been different at home?"

"Kate had been very upset recently but she wouldn't talk about it."

"We've been told you had a fight with your father over Kate and you kicked him out of your residence. Can you tell us about that?"

"My father is a difficult man," Chris began. "He'd said something to Kate that upset her a great deal. Since I couldn't get her to talk about it, I confronted him. Gerard told me that he is the head of our family and nothing he does is any of my business. I informed him that it damn well is my business if he's going to go around upsetting my daughter. That's when he told me that she isn't my daughter."

"And how did you feel about to that?"

"It's insane, of course! She was born of my wife! She looks just like me but with brown eyes. She is my daughter."

Peter shifts around in his chair, uncomfortable. Chris's eyes lock like lasers onto his sentinel.

"She wasn't, Chris." Peter was flaring his nostrils like that would help him remember scents and stopped with a frown. "There's a genetic connection there but it's not father-daughter."

"Wha- what are you saying?"

Ian finally moves from his place along the wall behind Don and drops a folder on the table. "She's your sister, not your daughter."

-*-*-*-*-

Chris is pissed. Of course, he's pissed. His father knocked up a minor; Chris's high school girlfriend that Chris had never intended on marrying. Then he covered it up. They both had. They lied to him about it! They ruined all of his plans!

They had almost destroyed his relationship with his sentinel before it had even begun.

Gerard Argent should be in fucking jail.

"I thought you said you kicked Gerard out of here?"

The FBI Agents had given them a ride to the Argent's place so that they could take a look at the devices.

"Yes." Chris's jaw is stiff, his spine even stiffer. "A month ago. He hasn't lived here in three weeks."

"He's been here." Peter advises Don and Ian. "Recently. At least twice within the last five days."

Ian steps away to call in the crime scene techs. Don hands each of them a pair of gloves from a bag in his pocket and they all pull them on.

"We've made six prototypes of the device. Three sizes, two of each size." Chris tells them as they make their way up the stairs to his office. "Only two people know which lock box they are in and the code to open it."

Chris opens the correct cabinet and types the 20-digit code to open the lock box into its alphanumeric pad.

The box's lid hisses as it pops out and Chris pushes it to one side. The middle-sized canisters are missing.

Both of them.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

Beacon Hills, New Year's Eve 2014

Allison Argent isn't really sure if Emma Hale's Pride New Year's Eve party is a great idea or a horrible one.

Security is tight. Everyone is tense. And fireworks would be a categorically bad idea.

Allied bonded pairs visiting from all over the country are patrolling the entire Center grounds and large chunks of the surrounding countryside. They are questioning everyone and searching every vehicle that turns onto the Center driveway, both themselves and with what Allison is fairly sure are bomb-sniffing dogs.

The party itself is scheduled to take place mostly in the New Gym of the Beacon Hills Sentinel/Guide Center. 'New Gym' being a designation relative to its brother the 'Old Gym'. The New Gym was at least 10 years old when the retired high school was taken over by the Pride and remodeled within an inch or two of its life.

No one seems to want to let their family members out of sight so the doors between the New Gym and the Old Gym are propped wide open. Partygoers are continually walking back and forth between the two gyms.

Kids of all ages are roller-skating to stupidly loud music in the Old Gym. It's dark and there are lights making goofy shapes all over the floor. Allison is fairly certain there is a disco ball involved. It's ridiculous.

There is a half-court basketball game going on in the New Gym on the opposite side of the room from the buffet and temporary bar. What probably used to be storage rooms all around the New Gym's basketball court are full of different groups participating in a variety of activities. One room has several of the smaller kids watching cartoons. Another room has a bunch of comfy chairs, about half of which are filled with readers. A third one has a boisterous button-mashing, trash-talking video game tournament. The kitchen in the New Gym is full of what Allison can only describe as 'moms' even if half of them aren't actually female.

The newly bonded pairs aren't there, which is a relief. She's not sure she could handle having to watch Scott being all protective and adorable with someone else. Not without shooting something, at least

People keep staring at her. Not threateningly, exactly, but they aren't being shy about it, either. There are rumors going around that the Fire was started by her sister. Her sister/Aunt, Allison corrects herself mentally and frowns around the room. She can feel their assumptions and anger pressing on her shields. Betrayal runs deep through the room and is leaves her feeling naked, defenseless.

The party is a full-blown social battlefield.

Alex abandoned her early on, melting into the video game tournament and disappearing without a trace.

Her new 'siblings' don't let her linger alone for long. Malia and Marcus find their way into her space and start making up loud, horrible and hysterical stories about each and every person that glares at Allison even just a little too long. They are too shameless to make any politically correct connections at the party and they obviously couldn't care less. Allison can't help but love them a little bit for it.

Charlotte Argent and Heather Kessler, the Alphas-in-waiting for the entire Argent Clan, are waging a very different battle. Not for Allison's mental well-being like her new siblings, but for their Clan's welcome in the Hale/Beacon Hills Pride.

They are floating between the tables and different groups of adults being charming and generally gorgeous. They are telling stories to anyone that stands still long enough, both about Pride life in France and their experiences thus far in Beacon Hills. Peter and Michael Hale feature heavily in their stories but Gerard is left out and twice his mention is pointedly avoided in conversation.

Beside Allison, Malia freezes. Allison follows the younger girl's eyes to Lydia Martin. Lydia Martin is the most popular girl in their grade, in the entire school actually, and a guide. Allison has never seen her speak to anyone that isn't a sentinel or Danny Mahealani.

Lydia marches right over to their little cluster. She maintains eye contact with Malia the entire way and for the first time in the week that Allison has known her new sister, the Coyote Guide backs down. She goes so far as to herd her older brother away from Allison until they are half way across the room and then gets them both into the ongoing basketball game.

"I wouldn't stand too close. You might catch the crazy." Allison says snidely. It's a defense mechanism she's picking up from Peter.

Lydia just gives her a look so full of understanding that Allison almost apologizes even though it wouldn't do her any good. The words are said, she'll just have to do better.

"So, which one are you going to let take you home?" the question is abrupt but breezy and way too familiar for Allison's comfort.

"What? I mean, I can't just-"

Lydia serves her another one of those understanding looks and it shuts Allison right up. "You can't expect loyalty from an unbonded sentinel. You know that. They'll try. They will really, really try but once the one shows up that's it. It's over."

"You mean like that?" Jackson is holding court to several guides, including Malia. At least one, who is probably still in Middle School, is rather blatantly trying to get a good look at his soulmark. Allison is almost certain another of them is a Sheppard, "Wait, I think that one's bonded. Isn't that-?"

Right on cue, Paula Cassidy slots into her guide's personal space. Her chest presses against Olivia's back, her arms cross over Olivia's stomach and she rests her chin on Olivia's shoulder as she glares at Jackson. He just keeps right on flirting, now with the both of them. Paula just snarls something probably derogatory at the would-be Casanova and pulls her laughing guide away.

"And you are my new best friend." Lydia is turning back to Allison with a mean little grin on her face when something catches her eye. "Oh, I want one."

Allison looks to the door. The Judgment Friends, as Malia calls them, are back but this time they have brought three fine young sentinels with them. The front two are a matched set, walking side-by-side. They're both blonde, broad and brawny with eyes just a little small for their faces.

Between them and a step behind is a taller, skinnier, quieter looking male.

"Which one?" Allison asks her new 'friend'.

One freezes and turns toward Danny, the other two continue over without breaking stride. Allison is 90% sure Lydia's eyes are locked on the remaining twin.

The two remaining boys make their was over to the two female guides. Lydia and the shorter sentinel are shamelessly obvious about checking each other out right up until he offers her his hand.

Lydia smirks at Allison as takes the proffered hand. The two all but vanish, last seen headed for the door.

-*-*-*-*-

It has to be the most amazing thing he has ever smelled. Ethan takes a deep breath. Then, he takes another and another, following his nose until he is facing a gorgeous back.

"It's Armani." A charming voice drifts over one broad shoulder.

"What?"

"My aftershave." The guide turns around and looks down (down!) at Ethan. "It's Armani, from their new Sentinel line."

"Can - Can I?" Ethan is mortified. He is usually so much smoother than this.

The guide gives him a little grin and leans forward. Ethan takes a deep breath. This is the one. This is it. He's perfect.

"What's your spirit guide?" his guide asks.

"A tiger. A white Siberian Tiger."

The guide nods. "We are going to take it slow. We are going to get to know each other. You are going to court me. And, once I say so, we are going to fuck like bunnies."

"Oh, thank god."

"Now, your name?"

-*-*-*-*-

"Wow."

Isaac is shocked. Not that Aiden abandoned him in the middle of a party. Not that Aiden abandoned him in a place where Isaac knows exactly no one. Definitely not that Aiden abandoned him in order to fuck a girl.

This is not the first time any of these event have happened. It's not even the first time they have all happened together.

It is the first time that Aiden has taken off without even introducing himself to the girl he's going to fuck. At least, Isaac is fairly certain there were no introductions. It all happened so fast that he really can't be sure.

"Lydia Martin." Isaac looks at the remaining guide. "Her name is Lydia Martin. And she's my best friend, apparently."

The last was said so softly that Isaac isn't sure if he was supposed to hear it or not, but she's got to be aware of his sentinel status thanks to the bright blue soul-cover Jennifer insisted all three boys wear, so Isaac just nods.

"Aiden." He gave back to her. Big brown eyes looked up at him, all kinds of wide and confusing. "He's Aiden Blake. My brother." Then, because he feels the need to clarify. "I'm adopted."

"And you are?" she questions with a smile. She has dimples. Honest-to-god fucking dimples.

"Isaac Lahey. Clouded Leopard Sentinel." What the fuck, Lahey! It is way too early to be throwing that out there!

Her eyes go impossibly wide. She is a total Disney Princess. Isaac Andrew Lahey is officially trying to get it on with Belle. No, she looks more like Snow White? Whatever! He clears his throat self consciously, "You?"

"Allison Argent. Crowned Eagle Guide."

Okay, so maybe not so much trying to as going to. Probably.

She holds out her right hand, obviously intending for them to shake. He clears his throat, yet again -he really needs to stop that!- and grasps her hand.

It's a punch in the gut. Seriously. His intestines feel liquefied and solidified and electrified, all at the same time. He can hardly breathe. It's so confusing. It feels so horrible he wants to scream and cry, but at the same time, it feels so good he's pretty sure he could come just from holding her hand.

She slides her left hand down his right forearm and lets her hand linger on his soul-cover, a question. He nods. She slides one finger under his wristband and pulls down.

She stares.

She stares a little longer.

He's starting to get nervous. Is it her fucking bird or not?

She grins.

-*-*-*-*-

His best friend is an idiot. No, seriously. He's a complete idiot.

Danny is certain Jackson had noticed when his girlfriend took off with another guy. That Lydia Martin left a party with some strange sentinel that is not Jackson Whittemore.

And is Jackson doing anything about it?

Absolutely not!

He's too busy chasing one of the visiting guides around the party and making an ass out of himself by flirting with anyone else in her general vicinity.

She is so obviously attached to the sentinel that she came with that Danny is almost embarrassed for Jackson.

The guide and her companion are moving to the skating gym. Probably hoping to escape Jackson by leaving basketball behind.

Jackson shamelessly follows along, talking way louder than necessary about how great he is at everything.

Danny uses his chin to point them out to his sentinel. Ethan grins, rolls his eyes and nods. No stealth is even attempted. Danny and Ethan just pile right into the group.

While they are picking out skates from the shelves of spares in the storage room, Ethan helpfully distracts Jackson long enough for Danny to introduce himself to Malia and her brother, Marcus.

Okay, so, Jackson might stand a chance?

Danny settles in to watch the disaster that is Jackson courting someone unfold. After all, he'll have to be the one to explain to Jackson exactly what went wrong. Or provide Lydia a play by play to giggle over this weekend. Maybe both.

Probably both.

"Man, he doesn't even notice the guys checking him out."

Danny sighs in his sentinel's general direction, not taking his eyes off of his idiot of a best friend. "He never does. Jackson is the straightest sentinel in all of Beacon Hills."

"The way he dresses? No way, Aiden's the straightest sentinel in Beacon Hills."

"Hah! I've seen your brother, remember? He doesn't dress any worse than Jackson."

"Because I dress him. Five bucks says I can set up Jackson with a guy before you can get Aiden with one."

Danny scoffs. "You're on."

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

Beacon Hills, First week of January 2015

Stiles feels pretty. The suit is a dark, almost navy blue with discreet pinstripes that he would call 'fun' on any other occasion. The matching waistcoat (it's a fucking vest, okay?) is a bit strange to wear and the tie is boring as hell, but Stiles still feels pretty.

Well, he feels pretty right up until he sees his sentinel is his dress uniform. The Marine Corp uniform was designed for bodies like Derek Hale's.

Stiles will not pant. Stiles will not drool. Sexual tension is not a luxury he can indulge today. It's not appropriate, either.

Stiles will be helpful. Stiles will shore up his sentinel so that Derek can make it through the day.

"You got everything?" Stiles starts to paw through the plastic box full of uniform odds and ends. White uniform gloves, a few different belt buckles and a couple of medal cases are the majority of the contents. There is also a sword on the bed that Stiles has no idea what to do with, so he starts fiddling with the medal boxes until he finds one heavier than the others.

It's brand new. Stiles doesn't think it's even been opened. At least not by Derek.

"I thought your last duty station was Colorado."

Derek nods, adjusting the already perfect line of buttons on his coat in the mirror. "It was."

"So, are you going to tell me how you were a Prisoner of War in Colorado?" Stiles turns the open leather bound case so that his sentinel can see the medal in question. "Because I totally have this mental image of you being held hostage by a bunch of stoners and the big, bad sentinel getting ransomed for cookies."

Derek chokes and Stiles gets a brief mental image. A flash of gold walls and flickering firelight. It's one he gets often, so often he probably should have expected it.

Oh, so that's what that is. Stiles sobers and waits for his struggling sentinel to give some indication of what he needs.

Derek raises one arm and Stiles slots himself into place under it. Eventually, Derek manages to choke out. "They're still processing your clearance."

And, really, what else can Stiles do? His sentinel wants to tell him, wants to let Stiles help but Derek also wants to stick to the rules. He wants to handle things appropriately and keep doors of future possibility open to them. It's almost as adorable as it is exasperating.

Stiles floods his sentinel's mind with his adoration of and faith in one Derek Scott Hale until his sentinel relaxes and gets them moving down stairs.

The last Friday of winter break, two weeks after the Hale Fire, has been declared a national day of mourning by the President of the United States. Heads of States around the world have followed his example.

Their plans were simple. At least, on the surface they were simple. A procession from the Center to the Mill that they are converting into the Fire Memorial, plant some trees, a couple of military honors and everyone breaks up for barbeque.

Thankfully, there would be no mass or other religious ceremony for them all to suffer through.

Officially, this is because the Sentinel and Guide Community internationally refuses to give precedence to one established religion over another on the grounds that it would cause divisions and issues when interacting with various cross sections of the Tribe. Unofficially, it's because Sentinel-Guide spirituality is much more nature based than mundanes are generally comfortable with and therefore is not to be shared with outsiders.

Things got complicated when the Pride agreed to a full-honors, Armed Forces funeral procession. Apparently, this sort of procession requires "escort battalions from all five branches of the United States Armed Forces!" Stiles had wanted to argue Capitol Hill down to just the branches that those who lost their lives had served in, but it turned out to still be all five.

Jason Hale had been Army before he found and married his wife and guide Talia Sheppard, who had been a Navy JAG at the time. Jason's twin Jacob Hale and Sophia Hale, Talia and Jason's oldest child, were Air Force. Ava Hale and her guide Jeremy Jackson were retired Marine Corps. And Sam Hale, Talia and Jason's oldest son, had been on Christmas leave from Coast Guard. That didn't even include the non-Hale sentinel and guides or the mundanes that had been effected by or died in the Fire.

Now, they have three incredibly large cross-Service battalion forming up on the Center lawn including three military bands. One of them is the Army's Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps which Derek is fighting a bit of a dork-gasm over. Apparently, their father had been a fan boy and had shared his love of the Corps with all of his children because all of the remaining Hale kids are feeling both excited and guilty about watching them get ready in their white wigs and red coats.

Two platoons of police from all around the state are forming up, as well. They will escort the procession, leading and following the military units the entire way.

Admiral A.J. Chegwidden, a close personal friend of Talia Sheppard and Rabb's commanding officer, is acting as commander of the troops. Stiles's dad is commanding the police escort. Both men are in the main waiting room of the Center's office discussing security deployment over bagels and coffee.

The event gets even more complicated due to the destination of the procession. The route from the Center to the Mill crosses most of the town and has to include two rest stops for the marchers. And everyone is marching. There are no motor vehicles in a sentinel parade. Add to that the fact that both stops have public speakers, one of which is a great American poet reading one of her own original works and the other is so secret they wouldn't to give Stiles a firm name in any of the planning meetings. (Combine that with the presence of so many Secret Service Agents and it just makes Stiles assume the mystery speaker would be the POTUS himself.)

The moment is upon them. Muffled drums are being played. The first police escort marches past the platform the Representatives of the Lost are standing on and moves out, down the Center's main drive and into town, followed by dad and Chegwidden.

Platoon after platoon marches by until the unit Stiles has been waiting for is suddenly before them. A Marine Corp Color Guard bearing rifles and three flags; the United States Flag, the California state flag and the newly created Hale Clan flag.

It's a simple flag, a white background with black fringe and a black Hale Family triskele with a stylized howling wolf in the center. The same triskele Derek's father had and Derek and his Great Uncle Gage all have tattooed between their shoulder blades.

The Representatives of the Lost abandon their stage and form up, rank-and-file style behind the Color Guard.

Rather than a flag draped casket and caisson, they chose to have a relative of each victim walk in the victim's stead, holding a picture of their lost one. Laura and Harris are standing for Talia and Jason, much to Stiles's relief.

At first they, this very political they AKA 'The Powers that Be', had wanted Stiles and Derek to do it. They wanted the new alphas should stand for the old alphas, but neither Derek nor Stiles had been comfortable about that. After a few rounds of negotiation it had been agreed that a cross-gender pair would be better symbolism for the lost cross-gender pair and the local alphas should lead the marching mourners like Jackie Kennedy had for her husband's procession.

The caparisoned, riderless horse follows the Representatives. Stiles had argued against the riderless horse on the grounds that they are honoring civilians as well as soldiers and wasn't this just a little too military already? But Derek had wanted it, said his fallen family members had earned it, so Stiles had promptly shut the hell up.

He had even graciously accepted the choice of a solid black horse as a nod to Talia's spirit guide.

Stiles and Derek walk hand-in-hand behind the horse.

The 'Young Pride', as his and Derek's immediate pseudo-family-group slash Pride is being called, follow five paces behind them.

They form a severely muted rainbow. They all wear dark colors, but not a single one of them is wearing black (Lydia's idea). Black had just felt inappropriate to all of them considering that Sheppard-Hale had wanted their funeral to be a party.

The Young Pride is followed at a distance of five paces by Sheppard-Gibbs with Sheppard-Cassidy and DiNozzo-David flanking them.

After them Argent-Kessler marches with Argent-Hale and one of the security pairs they brought with them.

They are followed in a self-decided order by all the visiting dignitaries that feel they could make the march, including representatives of the Sun Clan and the Pan-Arab Sentinel Alliance.

Official PASA representatives negotiating entry and then actually showing up in Hale Territory is causing quite a thing internationally, according to the internet. They've been highly isolationist for longer than Stiles has been alive. For longer than Derek has been alive, actually. This is the first time they have sent a delegation out in longer than anyone is willing to specify.

After the last of the marching mourners comes the second platoon of police and the end of their company.

Walking through Beacon Hills is actually really cool for Stiles. He can see where damage was caused by the events surrounding the Fire, he can see what's been fixed and what's left to do but he also gets to see the faces of his Tribe. They're somber but they no longer seem to be afraid. They are definitely not the confused, horror-struck horde of even a week ago.

They make it to the Mill right on time, the approximate time of ignition for the Fire.

Things are held up as the hundreds of military personnel on site either move to help with crowd control or to pitch in to help with moving things and planting.

For the first time today, the TV cameras are in Stiles's, and therefore Derek's, face in a way they can't ignore. It doesn't really let up once things get moving again, either.

Disbursing the rest of the Young Pride so that all that hotness mingles with other families and the visitors that have been cleared to help with the planting almost works to divert some media attention. Then Sandburg-Ellison come over and put their backs into helping the Hale kids plant their parents' trees and of course the piranhas return.

They get the trees and ashes, the first of which are of course Talia's and Jason's, into the ground. There are so many volunteers and the ground has been so thoroughly prepared that it takes almost no time for the trees to go up.

Derek starts quietly crying when Taps is played. Stiles wraps himself around his sentinel, tucking both their heads into the crooks of each other's necks and holding on tight.

Neither of them are in any shape to notice or care when the three-volley salute is carried out with a cross-service squad of 7 soldiers or the Air Force fighter jets perform the missing man formation.

-*-*-*-*-

Stiles's idea of 'everyone participating separately' in the barbeque had been brilliant.

Everywhere that has enough open space for a grill and people (and quite a few places that don't) has a grill or fire pit waiting. Every social club or community center in the country has a crowd partaking.

Sheppard-Gibbs and Sheppard-Rabb are running the barbeque at the Center that the more political guests have been directed to.

Emma and Lydia guide all the more family-like guests, including the extended-Hales, the Tates, the Argents, the Suns and the cool new kids from Washington, to the Hale house. No, not that Hale House. The actual home that Talia and Jason raised their children in, on the edge of the preserve, not far from the lake.

Scott and Kira volunteer to hike back to the Center for Stiles's Jeep and give Stilinski-Hale a ride to the family barbeque. By the time the four of them make it to the house, all the guests are more comfortably attired and the grill is ready for the first round of food.

Grill Master Whittemore is actually living up to the hype, but that might be more Danny's influence than Jackson's actual skill.

Stiles is bouncing down the stairs after changing in Derek's old bedroom, a little high from finally getting a smile out of Derek, when the woman he's been avoiding corners him.

"Stiles." She crooks her finger at him and moves to the parlor like she has no doubt he'll follow. And she's right. Svetlana Volkov was the Hale Family Alpha before Talia and is one of the last people on the planet that Stiles ever wants to upset.

He's not ashamed in the least to admit she intimidates the fuck out of him. Not ashamed to admit that part of him is shaking in his boots but another part, the louder part says, "No, this is right," and forces him to raise his chin. His newfound Alpha-ness draws his spine straight and his shoulders back. It forces him to look her in the eye. It's not something he expected but it's a part of himself that he has become very comfortable with these last two weeks.

She settles into a chair and starts preparing a cup of tea on an actual tea tray, giving both of their sentinels time to mosey on in.

"I would like to discuss your part in the Hale Family Pride."

Stiles nods, he expected it.

"The Pride is vulnerable right now. It needs experienced leadership, a steady hand. Gage and I are prepared to be that hand."

Stiles shakes his head. "No."

Her eyebrows shoot up, not quite mockingly. "No? Beacon Hills needs strong leadership or sentinels will abandon it."

"I agree, but we feel that Derek and I are that leadership. We are young and we are new to this, but we are strong." She opens her mouth to object, but Stiles doesn't let her. "Strong doesn't mean perfect. It doesn't mean not making mistakes. It means fixing mistakes, even if they are someone else's."

Her eyebrow dance is definitely not mocking this time. "You don't want to consider giving up the reins until after college? You have so much ahead of you."

"If you had been here two weeks ago, I'm sure this would have been a different conversation but the team is pulling in tandem now and handing over the reins would be detrimental to the journey. However, there is something you could do for me. I think we would both prefer you do it, actually."

"Do tell."

"Take the Hale seat on the Center Council back. I've been told you didn't like letting go to Talia in the first place and I'm not even sure it's legal for me to take it. Not yet, anyway."

She nods. "Alright, but in six months we will have this conversation again."

"Fair enough."

-*-*-*-*-

"I don't know," Gavin Hale looks emotionally torn. "I know I have the right to the Sheppard name because my mom was a Sheppard and because I'm a guide. I know mom would have been pleased to see me take it but I feel like this would be a bad time to jump ship, you know?"

Marcus Tate shakes his head. "I am definitely taking the Hale name. My father has already offered and it's not like we'll stop being family with our siblings. We'll still be here for them. It'll just give us personally an easier time networking and getting people to take us seriously further down the road. Not that that's a problem for you, you're already a Hale."

Yes, their father has offered, requested really that they both take the Hale name. They have every right to it, Peter had said. A permanent place in the Clan they should have been raised in, he said.

It might not be a big deal to her sentinel brother and father but what right does a guide daughter have to a sentinel family name?

She doesn't fit. Even the guide her age born to the name is going to leave it behind.

Sure, they will still be biological family when Marcus changes his last name, but emotionally? Different last names would separate them. They wouldn't be a unit any more.

On top of everything else, Marcus is abandoning her.

She gets up like she's going back for another round of meat, drops her plate in the dirty dish tub and walks right into the preserve.

-*-*-*-*-

Derek isn't sure why he started seeking Heather Kessler out. Okay, he knows why. It's when he's not clear on.

She's become the most comfortable person for him to be around lately. She's right up there with Stiles. Maybe even a little higher because he's not in a perpetual state of mutual lust-torture with her.

She's the only adult sentinel that he knows that had bonded with a guide who was underage when they first bonded, so she can sympathize with him without useless platitudes. On top of that, her wait to consummate the bond was a year and half rather than Derek's five months, something that Derek finds vindictively relieving.

She lost her parents during her bond's platonic period, too.

He finds that he wants to flat out discuss things with her that he legally can't. Talking to her is easy. She's just comfortable for him in a way he's never encountered.

Well, then again, maybe he has.

"Are you a Jaguar Sentinel?"

-*-*-*-*-

If Xiao Chen Sun had allowed himself to hope that he would make foreign friends on this trip, he would have been disappointed. All of the Americans his age are paired off or grouped up and he's not sure how to penetrate their clusters without destroying any chance of finding the friendship he seeks within them.

His mother would know, she's an American, but he's not sure where she is. The last time he saw her, she was sitting down for tea with the terrifying, white-haired guide matriarch. It's probably not worth looking for her.

Standing from his bench seat, he wanders back over to the food. He tries lingering on the edge of groupings and, while some of them acknowledge him, none of them actively invite his presence.

One other is refilling her plate when he is. He can't smell her very well over the scent of the food but he is certain she's a guide. She's beautiful. Her skin is like chocolate milk and something about her eyes is aggressive but playful.

Her right wrist is bare. She doesn't even seem to notice. Could she be so newly online that the propriety of a soul-cover isn't a concept to her?

He can't seem to help himself; he needs to touch it. He knows it's rude and completely inappropriate but he reaches out for her. Slowly, so that she can move away if she wants to.

She doesn't move though. She allows him to touch her, watching his hand move through the air almost like a bird waiting for the strike of a snake.

He touches her wrist and turns it to get a good look at the familiar-looking reptile he thought he saw there. It's like he can suddenly breathe, like he's had a weight on his chest for years and never noticed until it was gone.

It's pretty great.

-*-*-*-*-

Blair fights the urge to crow his happiness at being right while yet another young pairing comes together across the yard from his seat.

He beams at Maria and Svetlana as Maria's son and Kali's daughter find their way into each other's lives in a very permanent way. "Do you believe me now? The Earth is using us for balance. She's pulling all the right players to the wound and helping them pair up to increase her stability."

"That's impossible." Maria Hill is shocked and confused, the majority of her focus on her son. "How could a planet, a rock, affect humans? No, there's no way."

Blair and Svetlana exchange a pitying look. Maria's doubt is her own greatest stumbling block in her guide-hood.

"Give it six months," Blair challenges. "Within the next six months every single online sentinel or guide in this yard will be bonded."

-*-*-*-*-

"Uh, Mr. Hale?"

Peter looks up at the young meathead lusting after his daughter. "Yes, Jackson?"

"Malia walked into the woods without telling anyone where she was going. She's been gone for almost a half hour."

A useful young meathead. "Thank you, Jackson."

The boy blushes and stammers. "I just don't want her to get lost or hurt or anything, you know?"

"I'll take care of it." Peter assures, pushing his plate into Jackson's unresisting hands and heading for the trees.

Peter finds his daughter sitting on a log on the bank of the lake. He can smell her misery, her loneliness, and it makes him more than a little homicidal. He sits down beside her without saying a word and waits.

She doesn't say anything for a long time but after a good, solid hour, she leans against him so that he can wrap his arm around her.

It's almost another hour before she speaks.

"I don't know why you think I should be a Hale," Malia finally says. "I'm not a sentinel. I don't belong here. I should just go home."

Should, not want to, Peter is pretty sure that's significant. "Are you kidding? Of course, you should be here. Sentinels are nothing without guides. We need you."

She huffs. Wrong line of attack, then.

"And, of course, I want you to be a Hale. A daughter and a guide? Do you have any idea how jealous Talia would be? She would have snatched you up so fast! Your formative years would have been hopeless. You would have gotten away with murder with our alpha guide's willing and active participation."

She's looking at him now. She smells like the beginnings of hope and there's a ghost of a smile there.

"And this boy. This Jackson," he continues.

She rolls her eyes but it's a happy eye roll.

"Are you going to take pity on him? That boy wants your attention so bad he's gone stupid with it."

She snorts.

"Alright, stupider."

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

Ah, meeting your soulmate over potato salad. How romantic!

Gavin Hale is trying really hard to not be jealous but this bitch has been online for two fucking weeks.

He's been online for four years. Alone. Unguarded. For four years! And this bitch just swoops in and gets what every single guide in existence wants before she even finishes her training!

Actually, that's not strictly true. He's been physically guarded by his sister and, while he loves her more than anyone else on the planet, she isn't what he needs. He isn't what she needs, either. They both know it.

He makes eye contact with his new sort-of cousin and they both roll their eyes as three moms and one dad descend on the new pairing.

Alex glances around and jerks his chin toward the trees.

Gavin checks the coast and finds it clear. All the adults are too busy trying to congratulate the new pair and move them into the privacy of the house without touching the pair or each other. It's amusing in that socially awkward kind of way but, more importantly, it provides them a wonderful opportunity.

They make for the trees.

The chances of pursuit are slim. Most of the adults are too tired after marching all day to worry too much about them. At least, not in the relative safety of the preserve. Of course, that wouldn't have stopped them from keeping Gavin and Alex from escaping if they had the option. For no other reason than to not have to collect them later.

The two of them actually make it all the way into the forest without being called back by an adult or a sentinel. It's a relief.

The barbeque is just too damn depressing.

First of all, because being labeled one of 'the kids' is utter bullshit. Stiles is just a few months older than him. Stiles wasn't forced to sit out of the march organized to honored his own parents. Stiles spent the last two weeks bossing really important people around from here to Hong Kong! Stiles was, in fact, running the damn thing.

Not that preparing the ground at the Mill wasn't important because planting trees in winter? Really? They were lucky it didn't snow!

But, it would have been nice to hear all the speeches in person and not have to YouTube them later.

Second of all, the barbeque is the worst! Every time someone started to enjoy themselves they would stop and look guilty and that's not what mom wanted. Mom wanted a party. She wanted all of the people she loves in one place and for that place to be filled with music, laughter and food.

Gavin watches Alex walk through the woods. He doesn't really know much about the guy, other than that his father, Chris, recently bonded with Gavin's Uncle Peter; that his family moved to Beacon Hills almost exactly a year ago; and that the two of them had to do all of the work on their history project this last semester because the rest of their group was completely useless.

Oh, and that the guy has a mean sense of humor not all that different from Cora's.

Alexander Argent is obviously comfortable with woods in general, even if he doesn't know these woods specifically. Alex definitely doesn't know the preserve well enough to know where they are going but his happy gasp when they can see the lake through the trees is rewarding.

Alex is the one that spots Peter sitting down on a fallen tree with Malia just before he and Gavin leave the trees.

Gavin leads them in a sharp right turn that takes them to the day camping areas that the Hale family has been renting out to the community for years. They are most popular in the summer when people use them for swimming and cook outs, but it's nice to see the park full right now.

Who is running the park with his parents gone? Emma? Peter?

"The Center."

Gavin blinks, he hadn't meant to say that out loud.

Alex gives him a tight not-really grin that looks a little painful. "I heard Stiles, Peter and Dave talking about some stuff the other day. Most of the Hale businesses have been temporarily left in the care of the Center since the Center gets most of the profit from them anyway. It's just until they can get interviews and stuff done."

Gavin nods, that makes sense.

It's a little chilly out but that hasn't dampened the turnout at all. Each and every slot has at least one car in it. Every table is loaded down with food or coolers or people playing cards or dominoes. Half the grills have groups of people laughing with beer in hand. People are throwing around footballs and Frisbees. Dogs are all over the place, wagging around and chasing children.

This is what mom wanted. It's perfect. Gavin's heart eases in his chest.

Playing football near the playground are a bunch of guys Gavin recognizes from school. Mostly current seniors but there are some of last year's graduates thrown in there as well. All of them are athletes, members of the football, basketball, lacrosse and soccer teams. He has no idea how they know who is on which team, they seem to be playing skins versus skins.

Alex talks Gavin into pulling up a swing and ogling the lot. They are pretty shameless about it but the guys are all hot and sweaty and nobody is more sexually flexible than an unbonded guide. Alex gets an honorary inclusion because, while he's technically latent, he is from one of the planet's two major guide clans, so his imminent guide-hood is practically a given.

"Oh, god." Alex looks like he just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. The one Alex just admitted to being sweet on has stopped the game and is making his way over to them.

Alex's taste really isn't all that bad. The guy is tall. Probably taller than Gavin, so that puts him well over 6 feet. His shoulders are a little narrow for his body but he has foofy black hair sort of like Scott McCall's and big brown eyes hiding behind glasses.

"Hale!" The guy (Matt?) calls out to him. "Did you want to join us?" His eye contact is intense and almost intriguing except for the fact that a.) Matt is Alex's and b.) the guy is using it to pointedly exclude Alex. He's acting like Alex isn't even there.

Gavin looks between Matt and Alex. Alex's smile is wilting rapidly, his entire body folding in on itself. Matt's smile just grows larger as the silence grows progressively longer and more awkward.

Gavin doesn't know what's going on here. Does Matt not realize who Alex is? Why would someone be such a dick to the male version of a Disney Princess, whose big sister is even more of a Disney Princess? Especially Disney royalty whose entire family sells automatic weapons?

Maybe he doesn't know who Alex is? Gavin perks up. In that case, introductions are in order.

"Nah, I'm good hanging out with Alex. Have you met Alexander Argent?"

Matt's grin disappears like someone threw a switch. Gavin feels the taller man go cold. Then, suddenly, Matt is burning again but this time it's furious burning rather than the success burning of a moment ago.

Gavin and Alex stand together. They don't even have to talk about it, they are going back to the house. But Matt's friends have circled. They are all furious and Gavin has no idea why.

"Whatever you're thinking, you don't want to do this. You don't want to attack a guide."

"Oh, yes we do." Mean laughter echoes around the circle. "We want to send a message."

Matt shoves Alex but Alex just turns his body and the attack fails.

"Asshole." Matt nods and two of the bigger guys grab Alex's arms, holding him still. "You think we don't know what you're doing? What the Argents are doing?"

Matt starts punching Alex!

"What are you doing?!?" Gavin tries to stop Matt but someone just grabs him around the waist and throws him from their circle.

Not listening to him is what they are doing.

They can't do this! They are going to hurt Alex! They are going to get themselves killed!

Gavin is screaming now, pulling desperately on the shoulder closest to him. The owner of said shoulder punches him in the face and screams at him, calls him a traitor. He can hear the guy make the distinctive 'I'm trying to spit' noise as a thick arm flies over Gavin and sends Shoulder flailing into the violent circle.

Shoulder gets back up and the thick arm, plus the twin that it's connected to, steps in front of Gavin and growls. Loud.

The jackasses beating Alex stop and turn to Shoulder and the twin in time for Cora to come flying in. She doesn't hesitate. She doesn't even glance Gavin's way. She just dives right into kicking the asses of at least a dozen full-sized jocks all by herself.

She is furious. Gavin has never felt her mind this angry before but her mind is not wild. She is completely focused. It burns Gavin a bit to touch her mind.

Gavin is too dazed to try and figure out what the fuck is going on. He just knows sentinels are here and he's safe.

Alex will be safe soon.

The bad guys are not safe and they won't be escaping, either. The Pride won't let them.

The twin pulls Gavin away from the Circle of Pain as Ellison and Derek wade in to help Cora and defend Alex. At least one of the sentinels is armed (realistically, all of them probably are) because all of the attackers fall from the circle bleeding freely in several places and not just the standard orifices.

Gavin ends up jammed into a wooden hidey-hole part of the playground structure with an actively growling, practically feral sentinel standing guard in front of the hole's only entrance.

Now that he's not so focused on trying to help Alex, Gavin can feel a whole lot of angry flooding into the park from the direction of the house.

It's such a relief! Gavin closes his eyes. He barely notices the sentinel's shock or the hands on his shoulders as darkness takes him.

-*-*-*-*-

Deputy Jordan Parrish is exhausted and the only sentinel currently on duty.

Most of the sentinels on the force have either specifically requested the day off or demanded Parade duty only. Because, yeah, it's a national day of mourning for their Alpha, their former Alpha, but Jordan feels that doing his duty to the best of his ability will do more to honor his former Alphas than anything else he could possibly come up with.

And, he has never been much for barbeques so he might as well let someone else enjoy the national mandate to get drunk and play with fire because what else do you do at a barbeque?

All that being said, he hadn't actually thought anyone would cause trouble. Not today. Not with so much international focus on them. Not with the fucking President in town.

Boy, had he been wrong.

He'd been out on patrol when the call came through to dispatch and they'd sent him down to the lake.

What he found there stopped him cold.

Sentinels had taken over the playground equipment. They were guarding the swings and the jungle gym. They were patrolling the football clearing. He couldn't get line of sight on any guides other than Sandburg and Stilinski but he got a sense of weight and bodies from the big crawl structure with a slide. They must all be stashed for safekeeping.

The Pride was exhibiting behaviors that Jordan hadn't seen the likes of since Afghanistan. When the unit he had been in was ambushed, the three-pair Pride in his company had similarly taken possession of a bunch of caves to protect them.

Fourteen roughly college-age kids are strewn about, bleeding and broken on the sand. Most of them are unconscious but one or two were awake and moaning over their very not-straight limbs.

A blood-splashed, pissed off Jim Ellison is a sight to fucking behold. He looks like something out of an ancient legend or like a campfire horror story made real.

With an equally pissed off and messy Derek Hale beside him, Jordan can't really blame the paramedics for not forcing their way into the sentinel circle. They have to be scared out of their minds. Anyone with half a brain would be.

Parrish exits his patrol vehicle and approaches the two alpha pairs. Both sentinels abandon their guides with firm instructions to stay put and met him in an open, neutral area.

The two Alphas are furious. They had specifically requested the park remain empty today. Someone had violated Stiles's standing orders and because of that a bunch of bullies had beaten the shit out of two guides.

They need to clear out the area so that the sentinels can start to relax. Otherwise, no one on the sand is getting medical attention.

Calling more mundanes into this situation, especially armed ones, would only make things worse. It would cause the protective sentinels to ratchet up their security measures and the borderline feral ones to escalate. It might possibly cause a preemptive strike against the interlopers in order to keep their guides safe.

So, Parrish calls dispatch and gets every sentinel on staff sent in despite the holiday. He calls the sheriff personally, fairly confident that, while John Stilinski is definitely an armed mundane, his presence will calm Stiles and therefore Derek and the rest of the Pride. He lends Derek his phone so that his alpha can call the Center to get a Constabulary Assist Team and some guide-doctors sent their way.

The moment Stiles sees Sheriff Stilinski jump out of his cruiser, Stiles's shoulders relax. Sentinel and guide shoulders all around the park similarly drop, backs straighten, heads go up. The tension that's been running through every Pride member on site cuts just about in half immediately.

Even with all the help they can muster that the Pride can accept, it takes hours to get everyone's contact information and clear the park.

Once Parrish can no longer hear the wheels on the last visitors car, he sets his fellow deputies to checking the fire pits just in case someone got stupid in the rush of getting the fuck out.

It's a while after that before the Pride manages to untangle itself from the sandbox. In the center of the group are two young not-even-out-of-high-school-yet sentinels that are as feral as he has ever seen a sentinel go outside of a hail of bullets. Each one is wrapped around a guide, one of whom is bleeding and the other is unconscious.

The guide-doctor they get on site is both charming and beautiful. She speaks gently with a lovely foreign accent and keeps her tone light, her body posture unthreatening. She wakes the sleeping guide with a word, manages to treat each injured guide through a tangled web of sentinel limbs and isn't the least bit intimidated by the growling.

She ascertains that one of the guides actually came online during the incident and promises to train him personally. She assures him and his sentinel that training is one of the services she provides her Pride in France and she's quite good at it.

She doesn't use a single machine, which is good because the smells and the noise of most medical machines are horrible for sentinels anyway.

Judicious use of pain medications, medical wrapping tape, a splint or two, a bunch of psychic nonsense that goes right over Parrish's head and she declares them fit enough to go to the station. She sternly warns the Sheriff and each of his onsite deputies that they have to be gentle with her patients and that they better make sure all four of them make it to the hospital. Tonight. Or else.

After the guides are taken care of, the Pride manages to pull back enough to allow the Paramedics to treat the rest of the attackers. Three had already been dragged out of the sandbox by the CAT responders and rushed to the hospital by the EMTs when their heart rates had dropped dangerously low. The remaining eleven were all awake, in pain and sitting quietly waiting their turn.

They don't remain quiet.

The perpetrators seem to gain confidence on the ride to the station. Or maybe it is just because they are no longer under the direct care of a bunch of pissed off sentinels. Of course, it could also be the pain medication they were provided turning off their collective common sense. Whatever the reason is, they all suddenly get chatty.

They want anyone and everyone to know they did it for the Pride! They were defending the Pride! Protecting the territory from those coveting Argents! Several of the attackers go so far enough as to insist they did a service for the community! And that they should get medals!

Medals, for violating the bonds between the Tribe and the Pride, on today of all days? Parrish rolls his eyes and shakes his head. They want medals for injuring guides. They're delusional.

They won't be his problem for long, though.

Stilinski-Hale has already banished the little fuckers from the Tribe and wants them out of town yesterday. The fourteen of them are never welcome in Beacon Hills ever again.

The local alphas aren't the only ones that are furious. Sandburg-Ellison and Sheppard-Gibbs are shouting at people from here to Washington DC.

They've already had the incident qualified as a hate crime, a federal offense.

Now, in the wake of the post-Fire Fuckup of Epic Proportions, the Director of the FBI is running, jumping, climbing trees to get back on the Hale Clan's good side. They have arranged for three armored transport trucks and armed them with FBI guards and drivers. They are just waiting for the Asshat Squad to be processed so that the FBI can whisk them away.

They've already flown two of the hospitalized perps to Sacramento for continued treatment.

They don't think the third is going to make it.

-*-*-*-*-

What a fucking relief. She is more grateful for Isaac every day.

Allison couldn't imagine sitting around the Hale family home without him. Being single and useless, while Scott plays security-alpha and organizes the pairs left behind to defend the Hale property, just in case. Being part of 'the Package' and watching while Scott stands on the porch looking tall and heroic, giving orders with Kira at his side.

Instead, Isaac, or rather her being with Isaac, makes her part of the defensive force. An active part of the team. Equal with Kira, even if nominally under her direction.

Isaac doesn't demand any explanations of her, not about Scott and definitely not about Kate. He doesn't press her with his expectations. He just gives her what she needs and accepts everything she can give him with equal grace.

Allison has no idea what she did to deserve him.

Isaac has even gotten them assigned to baby duty with Jackson and Malia, so she doesn't have to deal directly with Scott or his new lady at all unless she wants to. Without asking, just because he knew she'd want it.

When the call comes for changes of clothes and toiletries to be taken for Aiden, Gavin, Alex and Cora, Allison, Isaac and Lydia volunteer.

Getting out of the house makes breathing easier. The drive to the station isn't really long enough to be a decent reprieve, maybe Alex will need them to stick around or something?

God, she's an asshole. She fights to swallow her shame as she enters the Sheriff station. Hoping her brother's trauma is enough to get her out of an awkward social situation.

"Excuse me."

A familiar-looking deputy glances up from his place at the front desk when Allison calls his attention. He looks tired. He feels tired. She's a little surprised that he isn't swaying in his seat.

"We're here for the Park victims." She holds up the bag of clothing and shower goodies she packed for Alex. Dad and Sheppard-Rabb are in the back somewhere, watching out for the Pride's rights and had insisted on showers for the attacked. The constant smell of blood was no doubt keeping Aiden and Cora agitated.

"Allison Argent?" The badge-wearing sentinel asks. She nods. He stands "I just need you and your party to provide IDs and sign in." He starts to push a clipboard their way and then he freezes.

Shock, fury, fear and hope roll over her mind from the sentinel behind her. From Isaac.

-*-*-*-*-

Camden. The deputy sitting, now standing, behind the desk is Camden Lahey, Isaac's older brother.

He can't be. Camden wasn't a sentinel, not when Isaac knew him.

But, he smells -

No, Camden is dead. Their father beat Camden to death the same day he 'accidentally' killed their mother. The same day Kali and Jennifer had burst into the Lahey house and claimed responsibility for executing Justus Lahey for his crimes against his family and the Tribe... Didn't he?

Blake-Asan had never told anyone that Isaac had carried out his own father's sentence before they even entered the house. No matter how extensively they were questioned or who called them on the carpet for their story, they stood up for him.

Like only Camden had ever done for Isaac before.

Hadn't he?

-*-*-*-*-

Camden. No, Jordan. Jordan Parrish hadn't seen his little brother in eight fucking years. He had, in fact, never intended on seeing Isaac again.

How do you explain to someone that you couldn't take the abuse anymore? That you didn't have the guts to stand up to your own father? That you had run away, so horrified by the sight of your mother's cooling corpse that you didn't even stop to think about the little brother that adored you? That you ran, ran right into the arms of the Center and were never the least bit inclined to look back?

A tiny, red haired dynamo hits Ca- Jordan in the chest. "No," she says like he's a dog trying to have a go on the carpet. "We can't have this right now. There are members of your Pride that are much too delicate for this to happen here."

She's right. She is absolutely right. He can smell the growing ire of both sentinels in the back. He can hear their guides' frustration and confusion.

But he can't help it.

No, yes, he can. He just needs to swallow it back. He can't do this to them. He can't let this hurt them.

-*-*-*-*-

The sentinel Lydia is pushing against goes limp.

Not completely limp. His weight doesn't come crashing into her or anything but he's definitely not so rigid and seems less distressed? He's definitely pliable but he is not actively interacting anymore. So maybe he's just a different kind of distressed? Could he have put himself into a fugue state?

Lydia frowns. This close to him, actually touching him, she should be getting all kinds of empathic output from him but she's not. She puts a hand directly on the skin of his neck.

Distress. Heartbreak. Pain. Fear. Anger. Distress. Heartbreak.

Repetitive and intensifying emotions. He's apparently away but currently non-responsive. So, he's probably trapped in some sort of a self-containing emotional feedback loop, an emotion-induced fugue state.

The self-containment won't last for long. They need to get him out of here.

She needs to get him out of here.

Her eyes track over the sentinel in her arms. She had come along to help emotionally support Cora and Aiden. This is not what she expected.

But her sentinel is gorgeous. Assuming his spirit guide is the bird thing she's been looking for.

Sandburg-Ellison and Sheriff Stilinski come out of the door behind and to one side of the front desk.

"Get yourselves to a bonding suite," is all Dr. Sandburg tells her before he and his sentinel start ushering Allison and Isaac towards the back with all of their baggage, both physical and figurative.

The door closes behind them and all she can feel is relief at Isaac's absence. Whatever is going on, he was making it worse on her sentinel.

She still needs to get Deputy Parrish out of here. A police station is way too emotionally charged for a compromised, possibly delicate sentinel. She won't be able to pull him out of this state until his instincts tell him he's safe.

She can't take him home. Her mom would definitely notice and lose her mind.

She can't take him to his home. She doesn't know where it is and it's not like she can ask him.

They need somewhere neutral, which would be the Center. Dr. Sandburg's right, not that that is surprising.

She can use her spare key to Allison's car to get them out of here. Allison will understand.

A cleared throat has her looking up. Stiles's dad is leaning against the door to the back with his arms crossed. His face looks pinched. His eyes are full of a pain that Lydia doesn't actually understand. He pulls his keys off of his utility belt. He removes one of those cheap karabiner key chains from the rest of his ring and tosses it her way.

Most of them look like house keys, one is either a lockbox or mailbox key but the last is significantly larger than the others with the word "JEEP" stamped on it.

Stiles's Jeep.

The sheriff is basically giving her permission to steal his son's Jeep and use it in the kidnapping of his deputy. Relief floods her system.

He nods at her before turning and heading further back into his station.

She can do this. Maybe being surrounded by the smell of his alpha will help?

Well, he's going to be surrounded by it, either way.

She pulls the deputy's arm over her shoulder and gets them moving toward the parking lot.

Alpha-scent does, in fact, help.

By the time they make it to the Center, Deputy Parrish is blinking and actually looking around! He is not yet responding to aural stimulation but that would be a ridiculous expectation of an unbonded sentinel in this sort of situation.

Of course all their progress is almost undone when the officious little bastard that admits them at the Center tries to separate her from her sentinel for the traditional pre-bonding cleansings. And then he has the nerve to call for someone with a tranquilizing gun to shoot her sentinel when said sentinel growls at him!

Of course the sentinel with the tranq gun refuses to help the little weasel and instead helps Lydia push through her demands for a bonding room.

They both end up throwing Stiles's and Sandburg's names around until someone with a brain stem dismisses Weasel and leads them to one of the bonding rooms the Center keeps on stand-by.

The sentinel and his guide voluntarily post themselves on the door just in case Weasel gets a second wind.

Finally! She's alone in a barely lit room with a sentinel she met two hours ago. So, what now?

If it were Jackson, she would strip him, put him to bed and play some Adele really softly until he came around. But this isn't Jackson. This is someone so much more important to her. Someone that, ideally, will be much more important to her for a much longer time.

Well, he can't get comfortable in a utility belt. The Kevlar she felt through his shirt can't be all that comfortable, either.

She sets to, removing his boots, utility belt, uniform shirt and the Kevlar vest. On second thought she also removes his socks, regular belt and uniform pants.

She settles him under the covers, strips down to her own underwear and crawls onto the bed but over the covers. Then, she starts talking to him. She's not even sure what she's talking about but it doesn't seem to matter.

She watches color return to his face. He manages to flex his fingers and toes. Soon, he's answering questions, including his name, age, and date of birth. At one point, he pulls her under the covers and against his body.

She tries to ignore the fact that it's a really, really nice body.

Finally, after she has no idea how much time has passed, he is actively engaged in their conversation. He's asking questions and stating preferences.

"You are not at all what I expected."

There is something in the way he says that simple statement that gets her back up. Something sexual? "Oh my god. Don't tell me that you're gay? I don't think I can handle a platonic bond."

He gives her one of those re-evaluating-your-intelligence looks that her princess-mode freak outs have always garnered. Then, he blinks, tilts his head and seems to look right through her.

That look is enough to stop her (probably over) reaction.

She knew intellectually that she could have no masks with her sentinel but seeing it, experiencing it is shocking. And a relief.

"Not gay. Bisexual? Maybe. In a healthy relationship with my prostate? Definitely. I mean, my soulmark is a horse. A stallion, actually. So, I expected-"

"That your guide would be," Lydia hesitated. "Hung like a horse?"

Her sentinel flushes and gives a single, abrupt nod.

She doesn't even try to fight the naughty little smile she can feel spreading on her face. "I've always wanted to use a strap-on."

He kisses her forehead and promptly changes the subject, plunging right back into their previous conversation. "How is my being a cop a problem? You were expecting to join the military. I've seen you talking to the recruiter." There are levels of questions in there. She can feel them.

"Cora has always been a very good friend. Probably was my best friend before her brother came online. Better than Jackson. Better than even Allison at this point. I expected we would, you know, do the working bond thing and I would need to be able to go with her and do whatever she decided to do." She could feel the weight of the deputy's gaze. "Cora has always been really protective of me, so I figured-"

Parrish snorted. "That's probably because the Hale Family code is 'Protect the Guide' and you hate being a guide." Another not-really question.

"That's stupid. I don't hate being a guide. My issue has nothing to do with me."

"What is it then?" he asks, raising a single sexy eyebrow.

"My dad came online when I was six. He divorced my mom and bonded with his sentinel before I was even seven. He left us. He hurt my mom. He broke her heart to pieces but she's never hated him. Even now, she still loves him and he has no time for her. She can't move on. She's so alone."

"You know he didn't have a choice. His sentinel - "

"I know. I know she needs him. More than you need me but he - they. I feel like they could do something. My mom has never seen them together. I feel like - "

He pulls her close and starts running a soothing hand down her back. He knows. She knows he knows. She's certain she can feel him in the back of her mind.

After a while he rolls so he's flat on his back and pulls her along so that she's draped across his chest. Normally, she's not much for manhandling, probably due to her rather severe case of Small Person Syndrome, but when her sentinel does it it's more than a little thrilling.

He brings his arms together in the air above them and unsnaps the button on his black leather "on duty" soul-cover.

She can't help but grin when she sees her palomino Clydesdale dancing across his wrist.

She pulls off her own bright green soul-cover and shoots it across the room like a rubber band before showing him her soulmark. She has no idea what the bird actually would be considered. It's a stone gray eagle of some sort with black markings.

She feels him relax into the bed.

"Do you know what it is?" She's insanely curious. She's never found anything like it in any book she's ever read or on any forum or database on the internet. The Center's resources were useless and had nothing but records of a dozen other guides with her mark. None of whom had ever bonded.

"I call it a phoenix." She almost gives herself whiplash turning her head to look at him so quickly. "What else do you call a huge fucking bird that can shoot something a lot like white phosphorus out of its feathers? And the bird survives. Like it's nothing. Do you know how horrible white phosphorus is?"

"Pretty arrogant, naming your spirit guide after a legend."

"How do you know my spirit guide isn't the source of the legend?"

"I don't know." She casts her eyes suggestively downward. "You haven't shown me anything legendary, yet."

He laughs.

So, sue her. She's 18 and she knows what she wants.

He kisses her.

"You are ridiculous." It sounds a lot like 'I love you' when he says it like that. "Come on, let's shower and I'll show you something legendary."

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

Cheyenne Mountain

This. Is. Ridiculous.

Major Marshall Sumner has been given the task of getting up to 100 military and civilian assets through the wormhole to another galaxy in a maximum of 38 minutes. He has been given two weeks to select his guys and get them prepared for the journey.

'Select' might actually be a generous term for what he has to do. He was told which civilians he was getting; one medical doctor, one translator and two engineers. He was given a list of 400 military assets and told to take his pick.

The exact nature of this mission hadn't been explained to his satisfaction. They'd said 'retrieval' in the mission brief, which could actually mean anything from 'go burn the bodies, collect their tech and wait for extraction' to 'hunt those bastards down by any means necessary.'

To that end, he'd taken all four sentinels on the volunteer list, plus another 10 soldiers with gate experience per civilian totaling 40 assets and a full 16-man SEAL platoon, including their baby Guide-officer.

Then, they added a whole new level of difficulty to his preparations when Landry had informed him that, per the President, anyone on the roster that bonds could not go on the mission. Even if this mythical person bonds with someone else on the mission roster.

For fuck's sake, all of his civilians and three of the four officers in his command, including his handpicked second in command, are guides.

Thank god for Evan Lorne. Sumner has worked with the guide before. He's a solid officer and a prime resource for creative solutions.

The first solution was segregation. It bordered on incredibly illegal behaviors like unlawful imprisonment and pair bond interference, but all seven guides and all five sentinels on the mission roster had agreed to curtail their movements. The guides chose specific sections of three continuous floors, a single bank of elevators and a single set of stairs for their own use. The sentinels were assigned a similar arrangement much lower in the mountain. This allowed Landry to order all of the sentinels and guides in the Mountain to not enter any of these areas and fulfilled the President's orders as much as possible.

The second solution had to do with organizing the expedition; something he felt firmly could not be managed by e-mail. Which lead to his introduction to the webinar.

Sumner hadn't known what a webinar was four days ago and he could have gone his whole life happy in his ignorance. There is just something offensive about video chatting with someone at all that was made so much worse by video chatting someone in the same physical location.

The results of the webinar were more than a little hysterical. Lorne had armed three little grunts with the tablet PCs like the ones geeks in the mountain cling to. Through these PCs, Lorne is giving orders, issuing diagrams and making fucking maps of where he wants what gear staged or which person standing at the time of departure.

'Pass the PC' is now a popular game in the SGC. Watching full-grown men argue about the best way to fulfill Lorne's orders is almost as funny as grunts standing around nervously waiting because they sent Lorne photographs of their work. Army Infantry getting face busting grins when Lorne responds positively or completely falling apart when he doesn't is just not getting old.

Sumner just finished his final debrief with Landry. The last of his volunteers is back in the Mountain from a family leave and they have firmed up their departure time for 24 hours from now.

New snag: the President has assigned a civilian bonded pair command of the expedition. A pair of FBI Special Agents charged with finding John Sheppard, investigating his crimes and bringing him to justice. Sumner is still commander of the military forces but shouldn't they have mentioned this earlier? Shouldn't the Expedition Leaders have been involved in the planning stages, such as they were?

Oh, yeah, he's pissed.

Now, on top of all of that, the 38-minute window for getting everyone through the gate has been reduced to 30 minutes. As a 'safety precaution'. Apparently, the geeks aren't certain that their current power levels will maintain a full 38 minute window.

It's a good thing he'd gone with the minimum number of personnel he felt could effectively handle their security needs else he'd be attacking his roster with a weed-whacker and that wasn't a stress he needed.

He enters the room where his sentinels are waiting. They all snap to attention with satisfying speed and precision. As he orders them back into their seats he takes note that the sentinel assigned to his command that has been missing for a week is in his dress uniform. The guy still looks fairly well put together, but he smells exhausted. He smells like dirt and trees, too.

This! This pipsqueak from fucking Virginia got to go serve in the Hale Family Funeral when he, a sentinel born and raised in Hale Territory, got denied?

What. The. Fuck.

-*-*-*-*-

Evan can feel his commanding officer's fury building from five levels away and shakes his head. Evan's not quite clear on why Sumner is surprised.

It's not like they would allow a Major to lead an expedition to another galaxy and regulations forbid an online, unbonded sentinel from being promoted past that rank. They are considered just too much of a risk to lead such large units in the field.

It had been fairly obvious to Evan from the beginning that someone had it out for the original expedition. Things just didn't add up even if you ignored all the rumors running rampant around the Mountain. A vaguely worded mandate of retrieval? Said retrieval assigned to an officer many referred to as The Terminator behind his back? A list of volunteers primarily made of soldiers with epic war records and a tendency to shoot first and question not at all?

No, if the Powers That Be actually expect this expedition to come back with prisoners, something else had to happen. Something needed to change. Handing the reins over to a pair of accomplished officers of the law would be that change.

Eppes-Edgerton have the skills to investigate and properly handle any evidence left behind and to find out what actually happened to the First Expedition if no one is left alive, as the rumor mill is convinced will be the case. The pair will ensure lawful handling of whomever the expedition finds, whether they are alive, guilty or otherwise. The pair has the experience to expand the sentinels' investigative and hunting/tracking skills.

The change is a move that makes sense and it laid most of Lorne's moral concerns about their mission to bed.

What is still concerning Evan is the last minute change of one of his civilian assets.

Until yesterday, Dr. Elizabeth Weir had been slotted to fill the role of translator, history geek and cultural ambassador for their expedition. He knew her, he was used to her and they had always worked well together. She'd taken over those duties in the Mountain when Dr. Daniel Jackson had stepped through the gate with the original expedition and she'd been the first civilian volunteer to sign up for the second.

Then, the commanding officer of the Daedalus came online on the bridge of his shiny new space ship. Just doing a miniature shakedown cruise around the solar system and boom! A man with no family history of either online or latent sentinels and not from one of the traditional sentinel zones comes online.

Elizabeth Weir had proven to be his perfect genetic match.

The entire situation was highly irregular but no one could argue with it. He is online. She is his match. No more expedition for her.

They are probably on said shiny new space ship bonding right now!

Which leaves him with his current problem. Jonas Quinn. A guide. The only alien guide on staff. Jonas had been called back from an extended mission with SG6 to the new Jaffa homeworld and immediately agreed to take Elizabeth's place. He makes Evan nervous but Evan doesn't know what it is about him that does so. He can't readily articulate it.

It can't be the alien thing. Evan has worked often and easily with Teal'c and Vala for years. Both together and separately, the alien sentinels...

Well, hell. Maybe it is the alien thing. An alien guide thing. He can fix that right now.

"24 hours from go." Evan announces as he enters the room his fellow guides were waiting in. He waits for acknowledgement from each of them before moving deeper into the room. He taps Quinn on his shoulder as he walks past the younger man. "Meditate with me."

-*-*-*-*-

Liam Jethro Gibbs is dirty.

He didn't have time to even wash his hands before he was bum rushed onto a military transport back to Colorado. He's covered in dried sweat and there are bark fibers from Uncle Jason's memorial tree still on his hands.

He itches.

Now, he has to sit through what will probably be the most pointless and painful briefing of his military career.

Liam mostly knows of Marshall Sumner by reputation. According to most, Sumner is just resentful because he's never bonded. Without bonding, he can't advance his career beyond Major, but if he'd never come online he'd be at least a Colonel by now.

To add to that, Sumner's chances of bonding are probably slim.

Like John, hell like Liam, no one even knows what Sumner's soulmark is. It appears to be some sort of fur covered, bark colored squid or maybe an octopus? But without the aquatic feel to it, according to the guides on base.

Liam had personally met Sumner only once. When he'd returned to the Mountain to put himself on the volunteer list for the second expedition, they'd had a brief conversation. It had been obvious to Liam then that the Major didn't know the full details of the operation. But, then again, Sumner hadn't been shamelessly eavesdropping on the Alpha Sentinel of North America when he got the news, either.

The heavy scent of pissed off precedes Sumner into the room. Liam's commanding officer drops a folder heavily onto the room's podium and orders them all into their seats around the table.

Sumner glares down the length of the table at Liam as if he had personally insulted the older man's mother and sister. Since Liam has never met any of the older man's family and has been doing nothing but minding his own business, he doesn't even try to respond to the unspoken challenge.

Sumner's upper lip curls back in fury and he begins his briefing. "Our mission is to hunt down Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard."

What the - fuck it, this guy wants a fight? He's got one.

"You know there is no way that's going to work." All the sentinels in the room tense at his challenge. That's fine. He knows at least two of them are on his side. "First of all, that order has no legal grounding whatsoever. Second, Wolf Guides are way too rare for our kind to tolerate such treatment of one."

"This has nothing to do with - " Major Sumner tries but Liam will not give up the room's attention. Every sentinel going through the gate with the expedition needs to know this.

"You do know what a Wolf Guide does, don't you? What they provide the Pride just by existing?"

"Of course, I-"

"Do you know how many Wolf Guides there are in the world? How many there are in the U.S.?"

"That is not - "

"A well-populated, typically multi-country region is lucky to have one. The United states has four."

Sumner frowns, halting his own arguments. "Four?"

Liam ticks off fingers. "We all know Blair Sandburg." Heads nod all around the room. "My Aunt Talia died two weeks ago," Another round of nods and the smell of shock from the front of the room. "Stiles Stilinski just bonded with my cousin, Derek Hale, also two weeks ago." More nods. "And my brother, Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard."

Liam watches Sumner's jaw work silently, but really what can the man say? No sentinel is going to get feisty with a Wolf Guide. They can't. They are, in fact, predisposed to unite and protect the Wolf Guide.

Additionally, no guide is going to endorse any endeavor that would intentionally set out to harm another guide and there is no way they aren't taking any guides when there are this many sentinels on the mission.

He holds Sumner's gaze watching the man work his way to accepting the situation.

This won't be the first time a sentinel or guide has had to wiggle Tribal orders in order to fulfill them and still meet Pride morality. It won't be the last time either. It's better for them all to be aware of it now than to be surprised by it in the field.

The door to the briefing room slamming open breaks the impasse. Don Eppes enters the room. He exudes badass and Liam is not ashamed to admit it gets him more than a little excited. Most Raven Guides are happy playing jokes and perusing knowledge but Eppes proves there is an exception to every rule.

Edgerton follows his guide into the room. He has definitely mastered the don't fuck with me air that takes most alphas years to muster.

All military assets seated around the table jump to attention despite the fact that both men are civilians. Neither is a man any of them want to piss off.

Eppes takes the briefing folder from Major Sumner and glares at him until he takes a seat.

Eppes' attention flicks to his sentinel then he turns to Liam and frowns. "Go clean up before you give yourself a reaction."

Liam nods but looks to his commanding officer before moving from his seat. No reason to put his foot in it any further since the cavalry has arrived. Sumner nods his permission so Liam goes.

He lingers at the door long enough to make sure he won't lose the bonded guide's voice as he makes his way to the showers.

"Alright." Don begins. "I'm going to tell you what we all are actually doing here. Then, we are going to review our personnel and supply lists and make sure we have everything we're going to need covered."

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

Beacon Hills

The Beacon Hills Sentinel/Guide Center is an old high school. A retired one. The one his mom and dad attended, actually, even though Stiles hadn't. Derek hadn't, either, so there is that.

It's cool looking. Sometimes it's hard to tell if the cool stuff is from the original building or from any of the many remodels. Sometimes it's really easy to tell, like the hallway three wings of classrooms down from what was and still is the main office. It kind of looks like someone snipped a section of a hall out of a different building and dropped the snippet into the old high school. Like a very confused giant's version of scrapbooking.

The old high school is actually on the edge of the Preserve. Closer to town than the campsite or Derek's childhood home but still surrounded by woods.

They are touring the facility, trying to figure out if they want to make the new sentinel/guide daycare part of the Center or build a new facility for it. Making it part of the Center would increase its security because hello, sentinels, but the Center is a place for sentinels in distress and Stiles isn't convinced it would be good for sensitive children to be exposed to that, no matter what this little weasel of an administrator says.

"I think the problem is that we aren't parents," Derek says once they have finally sent His Pushiness on some fool's errand.

"Neither is he!" Stiles argues.

"Right, but we could get some parents to look it over and give us their opinion. Mundane and sensitive parents. Your dad, Ms. McCall and- Actually - " Derek turns abruptly and leads Stiles upstairs, around a few corners and into an old classroom.

Inside the classroom are a saucy-looking blonde woman and one of the biggest men Stiles has ever seen. Both are sentinels. Stiles has seen them around and they seem friendly enough but they largely keep to themselves.

The two sentinels are arguing about something but stop and stand when Stiles and Derek enter the room.

"Stiles, this is Vernon Boyd," Derek gestures at the man who gives a tight smile and nods to Stiles. "And his mate, my cousin, Erica Reyes. Their little boys used to go to the Hale House Nursery."

"Used to?"

They are quick to assure Stiles that their children were not harmed by the Fire. Their older boy was on the field trip the daycare was having that day and their younger one had been in the backyard with Laura. They were very lucky and intensely grateful.

They discuss the day care thing. Boyd and Erica definitely feel that having the nursery at the Center would be bad for the children and that the Center's location would actively discourage busy parents from using the service.

"We're here almost every day," Erica says at one point. "And it can get bad for us, I can't imagine- just, no."

"Talia and Jason's house wouldn't be any better though," Boyd puts in. "Location wise, anyway."

Derek nods and moves to stand. Their inquiry is fulfilled.

"Derek?" Erica's voice stops them in the doorway. "Have you been to the Archive, yet?"

Stiles's curiosity piques. They had meant to but with everything going on it hadn't seemed important.

Derek shakes his head.

"I think you should. I went down there the other day after you said the two of you would need to and, well, you need to go down there."

Derek looks to his guide. Stiles is enthusiastic about it. Of course he is. Knowledge is power! as Stiles reminds him on an almost daily basis. Derek just rolls his eyes and leads the other three towards the Old Gym.

To Stiles's surprise, they end up in some sort of maintenance closet under the Old Gym. Derek and Boyd pick up and move a metal shelving unit full of an army's worth of various paper goods, to reveal a wall with a large triskele carved into it.

Derek pushes up a section of the wall. It proves to be a panel (that Stiles is convinced you have to be a sentinel to see) that covers a biometric palm reader. Derek lays his hand on it and after a few moments, it lights up green and a door unseals from the wall like the hatch of a spaceship. It is the coolest fucking thing Stiles has ever seen.

"There are three exits," Derek tells him as he leads them down a bunch of stairs and a hallway. "This one, one in the center of the eastern wall and one in the northwest corner. The one in the corner is an exit only and opens to the woods not far from the house. This one and the eastern one open both ways. You know where this one goes, the other lets you out at the Center's sign near the road."

Derek freezes just a few steps into the room at the end of the hall. "Oh, god."

The four of them spread out. The room is huge, with pillars that look like they might have been stolen from the Lord of the Rings set at regular intervals. The room is filled with boxes and dust.

Probably more boxes than dust.

Probably.

"We're going to need back up."

-*-*-*-*-

Getting back up is, of course, easier said than done.

It is a family archive. Sure, it has records for the local Pride; everything aged out of the archive attached to the library upstairs ends up down here, but it also contains a great deal of private family stuff. Like past alphas' journals and all kinds of legal paperwork, from deeds to birth certificates. One box looks like nothing but medical records.

So, who do they ask? Who can they ask for help?

Laura and her guide left with Svetlana and Gage for training and an alpha placement.

Cora and Gavin are wrapped around their new partners. She won't let anyone get too close to her guide. He is practically barricaded in his new room back at the dorm. They probably won't be fit for company for more than a week.

Peter is bonding with his guide and their new kids, all three of them.

They end up approaching Lydia and Deputy Parrish when they see the newer pair in a hallway.

Lydia's sentinel is stubborn, trying to force himself to accept the presence of others near his guide so soon after bonding. He refuses to be the cause of her missing any school even though he's obviously uncomfortable with his guide being around even their alphas.

"We could graduate early!" Stiles throws himself and Derek into Martin-Parrish's argument. "I'm only going for the physics credit but I could drop to one of the lower graduation plans and get my diploma tomorrow."

"I'm only attending for an art credit." Lydia puts in, giving her sentinel a haughty look. "Everything else is for fun."

Stiles turns to gape at her, more than a little shocked. "You're taking physics."

She shrugs. "Fun."

"Harris's physics!"

She glares at him but concedes the point with a nod.

"What about that thing you got?" Derek butts in. "In the mail. About the languages."

Beacon Hills High already has the most diverse Foreign Language department in the state. Mostly because Beacon Hills has the most sentinels in the state. Sentinels who spend a great deal of time serving their Tribe overseas. Normally for more than long enough to pick up the local languages.

It's the teaching certificate that keeps a lot of sentinels and guides from sharing their knowledge. In the school anyway. The Center-sponsored classes don't have that requirement.

"You'll probably find the letter when you get home." Stiles says, feeling Lydia's curiosity. "Apparently Kira's dad is going to work for the school and that adds Korean, Japanese and two dialects of Chinese to the program." He turns to his sentinel. "And a single semester of a language isn't going to do me a bunch of good."

"Are you taking Latin?" Derek gives him that squinty eyed look that Stiles is pretty sure means he's tracing the edge of that thing he won't tell Stiles about until Stiles gets the appropriate clearance.

Stiles raises both of his eyebrows and gives Derek his skeptical face "Should I?"

His sentinel shrugs. "It would help."

"With that thing you can't tell me about yet?" Stiles just wants to confirm, honest!

Derek nods tightly, "With that thing I can't tell you about yet."

"I know Latin." Lydia gives a perky little shoulder shake. "Three forms of Latin."

"There, I can learn it from Lydia. Which I will have time to do after I get passed out of high school tomorrow."

Derek huffs. "You should definitely study Latin with Lydia but you can't just drop out of high school."

Stiles gives his sentinel the scathing look that his statement deserves. "It's not dropping out if you've finished all the required course work. It's graduating early."

"Fine. You're right." He continues before Stiles can crow about his success. "But you only get to do this once, Stiles, so make the most of it. I could almost regret you going into this bonded because you will miss so much of it, but I could never regret you being in my life. I need you. So, just, do this. For me?"

Stiles deflates and looks to Lydia. He could still push for his way if he has back up, but Lydia is slowly caving under a heavy dose of sincere sentinel eyes.

He huffs right back at his sentinel and nods. Fine, they'll do it Derek's way.

-*-*-*-*-

The Archive isn't that bad.

Okay, the dust is bad but seeing four big, bad sentinels in little white dust masks and gloves is kind of hysterical.

Most of the Archive is in really good shape. There just hasn't been anyone updating and filing everything away for at least 15 years. And they need little binder-divider-storage things. More shelving wouldn't go amiss either.

The sentinels get busy stacking and lining up boxes of records by date. The two guides on station start the research.

It was surprisingly easy to get Derek to agree to let Lydia dive into the records with his guide. Stiles figures it's because Derek was much more comfortable with Parrish than he was with Scott. Is it the age thing? Or maybe they went to school together?

Stiles and Lydia pour through the oldest records they could find. They went all the way back to the founding of Beacon Hills and start throwing facts back and forth for the sentinels and each other.

"Apparently Beacon Hills was founded by a bonded pair, which we knew, Guide Deacon Smith and Sentinel Balthazar Hale." Lydia said at one point. "Beacon is a contraction of Balthazar and Deacon."

About twenty minutes later, Stiles asks, "Do you know why the settled here?"

Lydia shakes her head in response.

"They mention here something called Nemeton Point. There's a map." He holds it up. "We can check it out later. Probably."

"What's a Nemeton Point?"

"Sounds like it's a nexus point for ley lines or telluric currents. Whatever those are."

"Telluric currents or Earth currents are extremely low frequency electric currents that travel over large areas at or near the Earth's surface. They can travel over ground or through the sea and are influenced by both human behavior and nature." She frowned at the lot of them when they froze and looked at her. "What? I read."

Stiles clears his throat. "Judging from the map there are seven of them on Earth. Guess who holds four?"

Lydia leans over his shoulder. "That one is Beacon Hills. That one has got to be Sheppard's Dale, Virginia. I'm going to guess the one in France is whatever the Argent's named their complex and the one in China is the Suns'?"

Stiles nods, that's his guess, too. "I wonder if we should point these out to the minor clans in the Southern Hemisphere?"

"I wonder if the map is still accurate."

-*-*-*-*-

Cheyenne Mountain

 

Their departure had been delayed. Eppes-Edgerton had demanded more gear both to help with their investigations into the accusations against John and just in case they are stepping face first into a war because what besides a guide gone crazy could destroy the entire First Expedition? Answer: war.

Landry had balked at both the supplies and the delay, but the expedition's leaders had the backing of Sandburg-Ellison and the President so the General couldn't deny them what they wanted.

It's Sunday afternoon before Liam goes through the wormhole with nothing but a P-90 strapped to his chest and a backpack full of vacuum packed clothes.

As a member of the forward guard, he has to be mobile.

The first thing that hit him on the other side of the wormhole is John's panic. He's pretty sure it is John's panic anyway. His brother's scent profile has changed since they were last together but it isn't completely wrong or anything. More like as if he had bonded?

Liam shakes his head to clear it.

The room they stepped into was beautiful. It's done in a strangely metallic blue and an actually interesting shade of brown. The stairs in front of him have cool looking runner lights that Liam is pretty sure are some form of Ancient, but he couldn't begin to tell you what they say. Directly up the stairs, there is a huge bank of multi-color pane glass windows that is flanked on either side by more stairs leading up into bright and open balconies.

Most importantly the room is full of people. So much for a 'murdered expedition'.

All around the room, he can pick out science and military uniforms matching those sent with the first wave. Mixed in with the expedition members are people adorned in rather roughly hewn clothing and wielding very advanced, very alien looking weapons.

He can hear Sumner on the radio, trying to talk back through the wormhole because holy fuck! This is not what they expected! All Sumner gets back through the radio is static.

Are they being jammed? Are radio jammers a thing? Can they do that?

John's boys, Darius and Damon, get the soldiers coming through the wormhole to focus on getting the supplies and other soldiers coming through the wormhole organized and out of the way, just like they trained.

Members of the original expedition hustle forward to help and direct the newcomers.

Sumner smells furious.

Eppes-Edgerton smell vindicated.

The remaining officers and sentinels smell at least five different kinds of confused.

Liam doesn't know any of the others well enough yet to be sure who is feeling what but there is a broad range of emotional smells filling the room. Curiosity, excitement and fear are the most prevalent.

John Sheppard himself is standing up on the balcony to the right of the gate. Behind him, with one hand on John's shoulder, stands a huge dreadlocked sentinel whose scent matches the changes Liam can detect in his brother.

The gate winks out behind them and Liam spares a moment in his staring to hope that was the full thirty minute interval they planned on.

A small, blonde female sentinel pushes her way through the crowd, pulling a larger brunet male guide in her wake. It's been about a year but Liam still recognizes them as Dr. Sam Carter and her guide, Dr. Daniel Jackson.

"Jonas?" Jackson questions the new expedition's language asset, sounding more than a little lost.

The younger guide looks to his predecessor and nods earnestly. "I'm here to rescue you."

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

Malia's first weekend with her dad. Dads? Dad and Uncle Chris? Peter and Chris. Her first weekend with Peter and Chris had been dramatic to the point of actual pain.

First off, an all day funeral. Ouch.

Following that, an attack on her cousin and new brother. What is wrong with these people?

Then the packages of personal stuff they'd packed before driving out had arrived in the mail from her moms. That had been kinda cool, actually, because it resulted in a ton of shopping to flesh out her and Marcus's wardrobes and decorate their new rooms.

Then, Sunday tipped right back to dramatic because the four of them had to pack up Chris's house. Taking stuff to his only son in the No Sex Dorms had been pretty painful to Chris. Almost as painful as leaving his daughter's things boxed and set aside in what should have been her bedroom. She's only sequestered with her sentinel, so they couldn't just ask her what she wanted done with her stuff, but at least it's not like they are never going to see her again.

Now, it's Monday, Malia's first day of school in Cali-fucking-fornia. Who knew January could be, well, cold?

Their dads left the school once she and Marcus got their schedules. Marcus, her doofus younger brother, has just abandoned her to find out more about the school basketball team and she can feel Jackson Whittemore in the back of her mind, building himself up for something.

"Hi." The blond jock of all trades sounds strangely nervous. "I don't know if you remember me."

She snorts.

He has the dignity to flush but still holds out his hand. "I'm Jackson Whittemore."

She shakes her head. An unbonded guide shaking hands with an unbonded sentinel is generally a bad idea. Empathic transfer is strengthened by touch and if both parties happen to be a match, spontaneous bonds can form.

He just nods, accepting her decline to shake gracefully and shoving both of his hands in his pockets.

"I wanted to apologize for my behavior this weekend. I have been thoroughly informed that I am an ass." This self-deprecating grin thing he has going is stupidly attractive. It's not even fair. "I was hoping I could make it up to you by showing you around." It's a good offer. Probably the best she's going to get. She nods. His happiness explodes across his face and he holds out one hand. "Your schedule?"

They have their first two classes of the day, lunch and the class right after lunch together. Jackson proves himself to be informative and funny.

He hovers a bit, but she doesn't really pay it any mind. It's probably just a watching out for the new kid thing, right?

The Pride takes over an outside table at lunch. It's strange to see a grown man sitting and eating lunch even with a bunch of seniors but Derek Hale does not hold her attention in the least. His guide, though. His guide is gorgeous with big brown eyes, flailing limbs and a very strange sense of humor.

She's quite taken with him and she owns that. Even if a guide isn't supposed to be interested in another guide, especially bonded one, he is very attractive. It's not like her attraction is going anywhere. She knows this. Stiles knows this. Derek knows this.

Jackson obviously does not know this. The younger sentinel at the table starts growling under his breath at the Alpha Guide until Derek calls him on it, loudly.

Not completely sure of the cause of the problem but unwilling to be involved in a inner Pride conflict, Malia flees.

Jackson follows. He's twitchy, unhappy and invading much more of her personal space than she thought was possible to do without actually touching her. Anytime someone walks too close to their side of the hallway or one of the friends she's managed to make in the two classes she had without him waves, he either growls or inches closer.

After the second incredibly unsubtle U-turn someone makes away from her, she snaps. "What?"

"I. You. We." The so-called 'smoothest motherfucker in the school' is stuttering. At her. Huh. He huffs. "You're mine. I'm yours. I know it and I don't want other people getting too close to you."

She snorts. He has a crush on her and is assuming it's something else. Well, they can end this right now. "Let's see, then."

He blushes and slides his bright blue soul-cover down so that it's wrapped around his palm rather than his wrist.

No. No way. It's not possible. Her coyote stares up at her from his wrist with a single canine brow raised mockingly.

"Your spirit guide is an Amazon Tree Boa?"

He nods, watching her face intently.

"I can't do this. I can't do this. Not right now." She can feel his sadness like rain on her face. She can also feel his desire to see her wrist but she knows that wouldn't be wise and he doesn't press.

"Can we just be friends? At least for a while?"

Still dismayed but putting up a good front, Jackson nods and moves to open the door to their next class. "So, friend, have you ever heard of lacrosse?"

-*-*-*-*-

"I'm Ms. Simons and I will taking over Mr. Harris's classes for the rest of the year. The notes he's left me indicate-"

It's more than a little disturbing to Derek when they entire class erupts in applause. Not because they are happy to have a substitute and therefore an easier class. Not even because they are glad his sister and her guide have gotten the opportunity to train to be alphas-in-waiting with Gage and Svetlana, but because they are genuinely relieved that his sister's guide is gone from their lives.

He is especially disturbed by the fist pumping and chest bumping going on with Stiles and Scott.

"You do realize he's bonded to my sister and is pretty much your brother-in-law now, right?"

His guide is so horrified that it's almost cute. "You mean I have to deal with him forever?"

Scott and Kira, no, pretty much the entire class finds Stiles's reaction hysterical. Only he, Scott and Kira bother trying not to laugh.

"It won't be that bad," Scott tries to reassure Stiles. "He's online now and you're his alpha."

Stiles rolls his eyes and dramatically buries his head in his arms. "That just makes it worse!"

-*-*-*-*-

Her sentinel has got to be the hottest person she has ever seen. He's long, pale and lean with a thick mop of perfect curls atop his head. Like a perfect man statue done in ivory and gold.

Her sentinel looks especially good mouthing and sucking his way up her inner calf.

"I want you to tell me what Sandburg whispered to you while I was talking to Ellison the other day."

Her sentinel's timing is the worst.

Allison pulls her leg out of his hands and scoots over on the bed, patting it for him to join her. He crashes down beside her and rolls up on one side to look her in the face.

"He wanted to give me a heads up, to warn me since he knew I was going to be out of touch for a while about some stuff that is going to happen with my family." Fuck, it's hard to say.

He just nods and waits.

"Helena- "

"Which one is Helena again?"

"The blonde one." Okay that's not really specific. "The older unbonded guide that came into town with Charlotte and Heather? She's Charlotte's mom. Her grandmother was sister to Gerard's mom."

Isaac decisively nods his understanding.

"Helena clued Sandburg-Ellison in on why Gerard was banished. Apparently, he was involved in his mother's murder, but they had no physical evidence connecting anyone other than his father to it and she was a family favorite so all mental evidence was dismissed due to prejudice."

"Gerard's mother being the sister of the current Argent Alpha's mom."

Allison gives him the same nod back. "Since they didn't have the evidence to try him, they kicked him out. Out of the country, out of the Pride, out of the family, all of it."

"And now they think he had something to do with why Kate went so," she makes the typical swirly gesture with one finger for crazy. She can feel his amusement but he doesn't grin or do anything inappropriate for which she is grateful. "But they can't prove it. Obviously 'we know he did it!' isn't admissible in court, so they're going to interview him and probably ask for an empathic scan."

"And?"

"And they are taking care of it. Gerard will either be banished from the Tribe on this continent as a whole or - I don't even know but I will probably never see my grandfather again." She chokes, tearing up. "For that I'm grateful, and that's the worst part. I hate what we know he did to dad. What he and mom did to dad and, really, to Peter too. And if I never see him again, I'll be glad."

Isaac pulls her into his arms and rocks her gently. Eventually she manages to pull away from him and ask, "What about you? What did Ellison tell you?"

He rolled onto his back, taking her with him. "I told you about my parent's deaths."

He feels her nod against his chest.

"Obviously, I was wrong about Camden dying. He got home first, like I knew. What I didn't know is that he came online right there in our kitchen, freaked out and ran straight to the Alpha. Camden literally hunted Blair down on the streets in our hometown. It was when Blair got the situation out of Camden that he sent Blake-Asan to my house."

"That's why they showed up?"

He nodded. It was something that he'd never understood before, but he had never actually felt the need to question their arrival or their timing. He had just figured it was sentinel magic. "Because of how he came online Camden was fragile. Part of that was because he couldn't move past failing me, even though he really, really didn't, so they decided on a permanent separation. An adoption and a name change and never look back."

Her sentinel is quiet for a long time. There is more coming, she can feel it. After several false starts he finally manages, "I would like that, too, actually."

"A permanent separation?" Fuck, she was just starting to like Beacon Hills but if that's what he-

"A name change. Leave that wife beater's name behind. Let it die with him." Isaac gave a big sigh. "What do you think?"

"Parrish? Or Argent?"

"Argent. I didn't even think of Parrish. I mean, I guess I could as long as- "

"No, no. Argent is good. You might need to go Parrish first if you really want to leave Lahey behind so that our pairing name will be Argent-Parrish, instead of Argent-Lahey. Or you could take one of your moms' names? Argent-Blake has a cool sound to it. Argent-Asan isn't bad either. Or what was your biological mom's maiden name?"

Isaac just nods and begins nibbling on her neck, ready to leave the subject for later. "I'll think about it."

-*-*-*-*-

Get laser hair treatments, they said.

It will be good for your sentinel, they said.

It is completely painless, they said.

Dirty rotten fucking liars, Stiles says back. For multiple values of pain, it is not painless.

For Stiles's inability to sit still, it is not painless.

For Stiles's dignity, it is not painless.

For Stiles's skin, generally and as a whole, it is. Not. Painless.

It's not his first treatment and it will not be his last. It is his funniest treatment so far, though. What with Derek sitting in the corner, covering his eyes and fighting (but failing) to not growl under his breath the entire time.

Getting them right after school when he has to go back to school the next day is an additional unexpected step towards extreme masochism that boggles his mind more than a little bit.

"Is this the strongest stuff we can get?" Stiles asks Derek as his sentinel applies Aloe Vera gel across his shoulders. It has lidocaine and menthol. It's cooling!

Derek chuckled. "I asked the same thing when I was getting my treatments."

Stiles is sincerely tempted to make a 'when I was your age' joke but that would seriously come back to bite him on the ass later. And not even in a fun way.

"Erica convinced me that A&D Ointment is the best thing for this kind of thing."

"A&D? You mean Diaper Rash Ointment?" Derek blushed, a nice, solid red from his neck to his the roots of his hair and nodded. "What happened?"

"Well, I didn't get very far. My dad found me." Stiles couldn't help laughing at Derek's chagrined tone. Or that might be because of Derek's hands running up the backs of his arms. "I can promise you it stinks and it doesn't spread well. Great for tattoos, though."

"I'll keep that in mind." Not that a tattoo is happening because needles, but you never know. "What about that stuff they put on me before I left? We should get some of that."

"I think that's prescription but we can call-" Derek's words cut off as if by a knife when Stiles goes to unbutton his pants, his entire being focused on the of movement Stiles's hands.

It's stupidly amazing to know that his sentinel wants him like that. Stiles barely has his top button popped and Derek is out the bathroom door, promising to make that phone call right now.

Stiles just sighs, feeling satisfied, frustrated and guilty all at the same time.

Not even two minutes later the door opens again to a blushing Scott pushing a robe-draped Kira into the dorm's big group bathroom and saying something that not even Stiles could follow before turning around and running like someone set his tail on fire.

They share a look of fond exasperation for a moment before Stiles wiggles his bottle of gel at her. "I'll do you if you do me?"

She nods decisively. "We should always get treated together."

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

Wednesday after school they are back at the Center. Stiles is starting to get the feeling that he should just expect that any and all free time he has will be taken by the Center. Do not pass 'Go'. Do not even try to collect $200... or the new Halo game.

The front offices at the Center are much expanded from their previous state as part of an old high school. They're now a nice, multi-level area with a large open waiting space containing a number of chair clusters in the middle. Three sides of the waiting area have two levels of offices. Between the main doors and the sitting area there is a long desk manned by one of the Center's secretaries. The whole area has a modern but comfortable feel to it, including the spiral staircase in the corner.

Standing in front of the front desk are two sentinels. One is a man in Air Force blues, the other is a woman in a black leather skirt that Stiles is fairly confident is illegal in at least thirteen states.

"Major Cameron Mitchell," Mr. Air Force introduces himself.

Mitchell offers his hand to Derek but Derek refuses the physical contact for the both himself and his guide.

"Vala Mal Doran." His companion keeps her hands behind her back and nods at them both. "Do you have somewhere private? Where we can talk?"

They end up back in the family archive, the combination of white noise generators and being underground make it one of the most private locations around. Possibly in the state.

Vala wanders the archive under Derek's amused but watchful gaze.

Mitchell sets his briefcase on the research desk and motions for Stiles to take the desk chair. "I don't know what the officer that went over the preliminary paperwork before covered with you, and she is not available for me to ask, so I'm just going to cover everything I think we need to cover. Feel free to stop me if you have any questions.

"As you are aware, Captain Teldy had you sign a petition to waive your age-disability so that we would only have to do the clearance/NDA process this once and so that we could do it before your 18th birthday, without your dad being involved. Due to your bonding and imminent majority, the court agreed to our petition and ruled that you can sign our Non-Disclosure Agreement. It will be binding from the moment you sign it. This does not make you legally an adult, but congratulations."

Whatever, he'll be 18 in three months anyway. He just wants to know what his sentinel is struggling so hard to keep from him.

Captain Anne Teldy had given him a blank copy of the NDA he was going to sign so that he could do a preliminary review with Sheppard-Rabb. Both lawyers had been almost hilariously frustrated by the blank spaces, but agreed otherwise it was fairly standard if frighteningly thorough. They also made it clear they would very much prefer to be read in so that they could actually be helpful to their alphas.

He had already planned to ask about it on their behalf but he wasn't holding his breath.

Stiles takes his time and read the agreement. Probably not thoroughly enough to please Sheppard-Rabb, but he does read it, making sure to note the places information has been added. He signs and initiales as instructed before sitting back, "So, what is Stargate Command?"

"I'll give you a brief overview," Mitchell assures Stiles. "I'm going to skip a lot of details because I have a secure laptop for you with me. Once we set up your access to it, you can read all the full debriefs available at your level. You and Hale have the same level of clearance so you can discuss everything together." Mitchell turns to Derek. "Can you verify that the laptop will remain physically secure?"

"Yes, sir. It will either remain with Stiles and myself or in this room for as long as we have it. Most of the Pride doesn't even know this place exists and those that do won't talk about it. Only four people can access this vault at this time. Five, once we code Stiles in. At that, point three of those that can access it will have SGC clearance. Within this room are a number of hidden safes, one of which can only be accessed by me and/or Stiles. We will use it to store the laptop."

"Four safes?" the female sentinel gives a flirty smile over her shoulder.

"Seven," Derek corrects.

She nods at him, looking suitably impressed.

They set up the laptop. It requires three separate 16-digit alphanumeric pass codes and a fingerprint scan to get Stiles access. Mitchell pulls the laptop away once they are done with that, preventing Stiles from immediately fucking around with it, and starts up a slide show.

The first picture looks really old. The colors are strange, sandy or sepia toning maybe? There are a number of people in the picture, all wearing white or tan, and using ropes to hoist what looks like an oversized replica of Xena Warrior Princess's favorite throwing weapon. "This device was found in Giza in 1928, it is a Stargate.

"Stargates were built by a long-dead alien race that we call the Ancients and distributed across the galaxy as a network. These devices are used to create stable wormholes for travel between planets and galaxies. Basically, you walk into the event horizon here on Earth and get downloaded to and then ejected out of the device you dialed on another planet. Got it?"

"Got it."

"Roughly ten years ago, an archeologist named Dr. Daniel Jackson deciphered the cover stone found on the gate from Giza. Thanks to his work the Air Force successfully activated the gate and a team, lead by then-Colonel Jack O'Neill and Dr. Jackson himself, stepped through the wormhole for the first time. This team encountered fascinating allies, enemies and technology on a planet on the other side of our galaxy called Abydos.

"When what was left of the team sans Dr. Jackson made it back to Earth, Stargate travel was deemed a security risk to the planet. The Air Force ended the program, put the gate into storage and forgot about it.

"A year later, the gate was opened from the other side. A small force with advanced weapons technology came through the gate and took prisoners. The team from the original Abydos mission was reactivated and Jackson was retrieved from his unofficial offworld retirement. Over the course of trying to recover our lost personnel, we discovered that Ra, the enemy we thought was defeated on Abydos, was just one member of a great and terrible race of space tyrants called the Goa'uld.

"The Goa'uld are parasites. They live inside and control host bodies, normally humans. They pretend to be gods and rule over more than half of our galaxy with an iron fist."

"Humans are their slaves and playthings," Vala put in, coming over and leaning against Mitchell. "They use us for everything from building their palaces to incubating their young and they don't take kindly to those of us that don't agree."

Cam nods. "The Goa'uld Empire is ruled by a group called the System Lords, a council of a dozen of the highest ranking Goa'uld. Ra was their leader until we killed him on Abydos. He was succeeded by Apophis. He's the guy that raided the mountain and got the Earth using the gate again. It took us a few years but we eventually caused the deaths of Apophis and several of the lesser lords and broke the spine of their armies.

"You see, the System Lords are dependent on the might of the Jaffa. The Jaffa are the humans that they use to incubate their young and the foot soldiers of the System Lord armies. As a reward for their service, the Jaffa are given increased healing and extended lifespans."

"The reality of that 'reward'," Vala cuts in again. "Is that the incubation of baby Goa'uld, or prim'ta, suppresses the Jaffa's immune system and forces their sentinel gene into dormancy. The Jaffa's immune system is then replaced by the prim'ta itself, which actually does the job more effectively as part of improving its own habitat."

"What about the guide gene?"

"Guide children don't survive to implantation age in Goa'uld-enslaved peoples."

Stiles stares, more than a little horrified. "So they are rewarded for service at the expense of their freedom? Because babies grow up and they will always need a new baby parasite eventually?"

She nods. "Exactly, but we've discovered a medicine called Tretonin. Tretonin provides the same benefit as incubating a prim'ta but you only have to get a shot once a day. It ended the dependence of the Jaffa on their masters."

"And began their dependence on us? On Earth?" Stiles asks.

"For a while," Vala agrees. "But now they have the means to create their own supplies of Tretonin."

"Either way," Cam calls their attention back to him. "Not all of the Jaffa were willing to accept Tretonin but thousands of Jaffa did. They rebelled against their gods and took their freedom. More join the Jaffa Nation every day so big win, right?"

Stiles might not know anything about aliens but he does know sarcasm when he hears it. "Wrong?"

Mitchell grins at him. "After the death of Apophis, Ba'al threw himself into the ring. He has united the System Lords and declared war on the Tau'ri."

"That's us," Derek supplies helpfully for where he is currently shadowing Vala between shelves.

"Ba'al is cleverer than either Ra or Apophis ever were. Meaner, too." Vala assures Stiles.

"Now, on top of all of that," Mitchell sighs. "We have Anubis to deal with. We don't know much about him except that he was once a powerful System Lord thousands of years ago until the rest of them kicked him out. Now, he hates them all."

"Anubis is a absolute psycho," Vala peaks through some shelves to disagree. "He hates everything. He wants to destroy everything. Them, us and our allies, the Asgard."

Cam nods once, conceding her the point. "We are stuck in a three way war that we can't win and we refuse to lose."

"So what are we doing?" Stiles asks because sentinels don't just accept problems, they end them.

"Dr. Jackson made another discovery about a year ago. A gate address for another galaxy, specifically the gate address for the City of Atlantis."

"Atlantis? The legend? The sunken city?"

"That's the one. It was actually a ship. A big city-sized space ship built by the Ancients. We are hoping the Ancients left us something useful."

"That's the mission my cousin John is on," Derek adds.

Cam makes a pained noise. "We recently - as in about the time of the fire - got a transmission from the Expedition." Stiles is not shocked by the pained surprise he can feel coming off of Derek but it is powerful. "Landry secured the information they sent to us and released a report to the Mountain after it was 'properly analyzed' by his scientists at Area 51. According to him the personnel in the Mountain are too emotionally invested in the Expedition to objectively handle the data."

"That's ridiculous!" Derek says with intensity, practically a shout. For Derek it is definitely a shout. Derek never shouts. The entire experience is surreal.

"Right, so when Landry released a report from Jackson and his sentinel Samantha Carter saying they were the lone survivors of a murder spree committed by Guide Sheppard, I called Ellison immediately."

Derek's pained noise is like a stab in the chest.

"A second expedition was sent out a few days ago to find out what is really going on in Pegasus but we don't know when we will hear back from them." Mitchell looks pained for a moment. "You have to understand, we don't trust Landry. Hardly anyone in the Mountain does. We haven't for months, basically since he got the job, really."

"And?"

"Jack - General O'Neill, tried to straighten him out but Landry is slippery. He's good at following orders while still managing to do whatever he wants, anyway. Now, Sandburg-Ellison are taking care of it. That's why the second expedition got launched. Now, they have gotten the International Oversight Advisory back on their high horse about the SGC needing to be run by a civilian. The IOA is putting forth Sandburg as their choice candidate and the President seems in favor. We think that'll go pretty well."

"Wouldn't that cut into their responsibilities with the Council?" Stile asks, frowning.

"No," Derek assures his guide. "The Centers are run by their local alphas and are basically autonomous. For the most part, the Council just dictates the policies Centers have to adhere to, what services they have to provide, allocates funding and handles conflict mediation. They don't actually meet that often."

-*-*-*-*-

"So, this is something you did?" Stiles asks his sentinel once they are alone again in the family archive. "You travelled to different planets through wormholes? You made friends and kicked snake-y ass in the stars?"

Derek nods. "For two years. O'Neill, he commanded the SGC before Landry, and he recruited sentinels. According to him, sentinels are made for Stargate exploration. Or rather, it was made for us."

"O'Neill first recruited Erica and she met Boyd at the SGC. They came home for leave and Erica told the family that we needed to seriously consider transfers to this random Air Force base in the middle of Colorado. As many of us as possible, as soon as possible would be preferred. We took her at her word. That's how Liam and I got involved in the Mountain.

"Not long after, that something crazy went down with John in Afghanistan. The wisecracker figured he could use the change of pace that is a 'non-combat' posting and he requested the transfer. He got into the Mountain about six months after I did.

"A year later, when they discovered the address for Atlantis and decided to send the first expedition, John was the first to sign up. He has a weird," Derek gestures vaguely toward his soulmark. "It's like a lion but it's solid black with green eyes and wings like a raven?

"Before he left, he told me that he decided his sentinel is obviously an alien and since you can't get more alien than another galaxy he had to go.

"Not long after the Expedition left, Landry took command of the SGC. I was offworld but by the time I came back, about half the sentinels in the Mountain had been cycled out of the Mountain for made up reasons. A lot were sent to the Middle East. Medical discovered Erica was pregnant again. They declared her fragile due to her condition and she got a discharge for it, despite the fact that she's already had two pregnancies while working in the Mountain and been just fine. Of course, Boyd left the service with his mate."

"Wait." Stiles interrupted. "You were offworld long enough for Erica to get discharged? Medical discharges take a while, don't they? How long were you-? I mean, what? Do they have long-term offworld assignments in this galaxy? Was that what you were doing?"

"They do have long-term in-galaxy offworld assignments. The Alpha Site is a rotating six month stint but that wasn't what happened to me. I was," captured. Derek swallows, it's a hard thing to admit even though Stiles kind of already knows. "A PoW. "

Understanding flashes across Stiles's face.

"The Goa'uld like taking prisoners. They like to torture, especially sentinels. It's gotten worse, actually, with Ba'al in charge. They aren't slouches on the physical stuff or anything but his people are very talented at mentally and emotionally destroying you. They manipulate you until you don’t know who you are or what you believe anymore. "

"So, kind of like Hi-Jacking or something?"

Derek nods. "They can do that and more traditional brainwashing, too."

That's disgusting, Stiles thinks but keeps it to himself. He doesn't need to prod his sentinel, not yet.

"Everyone in the Mountain that's gone through it has this." Derek pats his left pectoral where he has a tattoo of a backwards 5. "It's the Kanji for self. It marks that you survived. That you are still you. Liam actually has two. Pretty sure he's the only one keeping score past the first time."

"I sense this was started by a geek." Stiles gives a pretend suspicious glare.

Derek laughs at his guide's attempt at humor. "Yeah, it was. Daniel Jackson is a linguist, knows like 23 languages. It was his idea."

"Tell me about it. What happened?"

Derek sighs. "It was a recon mission. Nothing special, a forest planet with farmers living in log cabins. They didn't even have weapons other than their basic tools. A Jaffa patrol came through the gate. They killed the guy we left guarding it. Took four of us and about half the village captive. I don't know what happened to the locals, probably turned them into hosts or just killed them."

Derek shakes his head. "A scientist for the System Lord held my team for seven weeks before we were located and rescued. Only the civilian asset and I survived. The deaths were," Derek swallows harshly. "Bad."

"By the time SG-1 and 6 got to us, my senses were completely unbalanced. I was spiking so bad that I couldn't eat. I was constantly throwing up because of smell and taste. Covered head to toe in a bleeding rash.

"I don't remember the rescue, either, but I apparently attacked them as soon as SG-1 opened our cell. They knocked me out and dragged me back to Earth. Medical tried to help for a while but in the end they declared me fragile and sent me home.

"Two weeks later, I was standing in the Center talking to a total nerd with big brown eyes." Derek lands a smacking kiss on Stiles's forehead.

-*-*-*-*-

He's been avoiding the investigators for days. Not resisting arrest, really, because no one is trying to arrest him yet but actively making himself unavailable when someone tries to set up an appointment for an interview. Not being where they can find him when they try to discuss it face to face.

It wasn't too big of a deal while Sandburg-Ellison were out of town, but they're back and now the situation has to be addressed.

Blake-Asan find him by accident in the local public library.

Jennifer agrees to stay with him while Kali steps out to call Sandburg-Ellison for instructions.

Gerard Argent is an interesting conversationalist and manipulative in an effective, if a little heavy handed, kind of way. He doesn't even have to rely on his guide abilities to get her to want to agree with him. Not that he's afraid to use those against her, either. Jennifer can definitely see how he can get people to do horrible things for him.

He makes a joke about cookies and reaches into his bag for what she assumes is a tin of them. When he rights himself, he's holding a canister. It looks like a prop for a cheap television show but it makes her gut clench in fear.

He pulls the pin and throws it at her. The canister hits her in the stomach. Hard. It hits the ground as she hits her knees.

-*-*-*-*-

Beacon Hills' one and only public library is going up in flames.

"We have two confirmed fatalities." Colby Granger advises Sandburg-Ellison as they enter the team's command post. "Jennifer Blake and Kali Asan. Witness reports indicate Blake-Asan approached a man that several positively identify as Gerard Argent. They engaged him in conversation with no indication or acts of aggression. Moments later Asan is missing, Blake is on the floor and Argent is shouting about a fire. He got the building evacuated and then disappeared."

"Covered his escape with a good deed." Ellison sounds both cynical and disgusted.

Granger nods. "After murdering a fellow guide, causing her sentinel to collapse and die."

"Alright, we've got to play this carefully. We don't want the mundanes to know a guide is the cause of the fire rather than the source of their rescue or to connect him to the Hale Fire. No press conference. No official manhunt. Call the airstrip, the train station and the bus terminal. Anything that can get him out of town. Tell them he's a person of interest for questioning, not a suspect."

Ellison starts talking louder as he and his guide make their way back to their car. "Alert the Center. I want every available pair to meet me at his residence. I'll need a map and a coordinator. Get me Sheppard-Rabb."

-*-*-*-*-

It took them less than three hours to bring Gerard Argent to ground. The guide was the only one injured. A sentinel shot out his kneecap and he broke his nose because he went down hard.

"We can't just ship him off for punishment without a trial," David Sinclair argues with the Alpha Sentinel of North America. "We can't just extradite him to his clan either. They're not even a governmental body."

"We can't afford a trial," Ellison argues back. "No matter how closed it is, when the media gets wind of the charges and the accused it will destroy our community. You saw what the rumor of a power play did to those two baby guides less than a week ago. What do you think will happen if the world finds out a guide murdered another guide? Or that he set a fire exactly like the Hale House Fire? There would be chaos in the streets! Riots, looting, more of the Tribe will die. In droves."

"We don't have any proof anyway," Sandburg adds. "None of the witnesses at the library see him as anything other than their hero, plus Kate and Victoria, the only people that could solidly connect him to the Hale House Fire, are both dead."

"Actually," Granger cuts in as he and Charlie enter the conference room the group is in. "The library's security cameras have offsite backups. We're working on a subpoena for copies. They could prove his involvement at least here."

"Look," Ellison cuts Sinclair off. He believes in law and order, too, but he is beyond done with this conversation. "I'll get the International Sentinel and Guide Association to request custody of Gerard Argent, rather than request he be turned over to his clan. He stands accused of crimes here and in France so they have just as much jurisdiction and they are a governmental body. What happens to him from there is none of your concern."

"What will happen to him?" Charlie the ever-curious asks.

"Considering the multiple counts of murder and acts of terrorism on his bill?" Blair responds. "They'll put him through a deep mental scan to find out exactly what he's done and to whom. At the very least, they'll burn out his mind gifts but if he's guilty of everything we suspect, life imprisonment is a real possibility. Death would be more likely."

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

Washington, DC

"We have had a dramatic increase in the nation's Sentinel/Guide population. I'm not ashamed to tell you, this is bothering a lot of people." The President settles on one of the matching couches in the center of the room. "What can you tell me?"

"That they are right to be bothered and should probably be afraid." Ellison settles himself and his guide on the opposite couch. Other than an aide or two and some security they are alone with the President. "We saw similar increases in our population before and during both World Wars. It's hard to be sure because most of the information we currently have was collected after each war but we believe the onlinings started months ahead of any actual attacks. They then accelerated in various countries as they attacked or were attacked."

"The difference, of course, is that this is not just the principal countries in a war." Blair puts it. "From what we can tell this is uniform across the globe. It's so wide scale and abrupt that many have noticed it, not just heads of state.

"It's hard to track the numbers on a global scale because not everyone will give us their exact statistics or even the same statistics over time," Blair continues. "But when we do a country-by-country study it looks like it started in July."

The President's head pops up at that. "July? When did we send the First Expedition? Wasn't that June?"

-*-*-*-*-

Quantico, Virginia

Is this what the onset of Schizophrenia feels like?

He can't sleep. He can't focus. He should have gone to a hospital two days ago for the headache. His sense of reality is strange.

There is no way he can actually be feeling Rossi's love for his ex-wife Carolyn. In Spencer's own heart. As if it is his feelings for Carolyn. He hasn't even met Carolyn!

There is no way he can feel intersecting emotional layers going back and forth between and connecting Hotch and JJ. He can only assume it is their bond and he wants to poke at it, to explore it but that's not even possible. Won't be even if he really is feeling what he thinks he's feeling.

Not that he can be feeling what he thinks he's feeling, hence schizophrenia.

Oh, god, he can't breathe. What in the -

"Spence." A warm hand lands on his shoulder. He can breathe. He can breathe. Big chocolate brown eyes swim into focus. "Come on, pretty boy, we need to get you to the Center."

-*-*-*-*-

As soon as the door closes behind Reid and Morgan, everyone starts talking at once. Some of them are very not happy.

Reid-Morgan? JJ shakes her head. The weight on her chest lessens the further Derek gets Spence from her and the office. Spencer's distress is extreme and his projection intense. It's almost shocking that none of the mundanes on the team are showing any signs of headache.

Spencer is not the guide JJ would have picked for Morgan. Mostly because Morgan had never showed any interest in males. Then again, Morgan has never kept the company of the same woman for what JJ would consider a long-term arrangement and he has always been very attentive with Spence. Gentle, really, so maybe it does make sense.

"That is enough." Hotch breaks through the noise. "Coming online this late in life is painful. If Reid and Morgan do bond that is a private matter and none of us have any say in it or any right to information about it. JJ?"

Right. Briefing.

-*-*-*-*-

Fort Benning, Georgia

Two hours before the team is scheduled to roll out for a big series of ops in Bolivia, the Pooch goes to wake Cougar so the guy can catch shower and check his pack.

Cougar isn't actually asleep. Well, he might be but the Pooch would be intensely surprised if he is.

The team's sniper is whimpering under his breath and his sheets are damp. Maybe bloody? Pooch pulls the top sheet off his teammate looking for a wound, but most of the skin that Pooch finds is raw. Cougar is so hot that he's practically baking with fever but Pooch doesn't think he's sweating.

Cougar needs Medical. Now.

Pooch reaches across Cougar's body to grab his wrist and pull him up along Pooch's body for transport but as soon as he touches the smaller man Cougar starts fighting him. It's weak and ineffectual which is more than a little damaging to Pooch's worldview because Cougar is normally a complete and total badass in a cowboy hat.

"No! No, no, no, no." Cougar keeps repeating himself even after the Pooch releases his wrist and steps back.

He moves to the door and looks down the hallway. "Clay, I need you in here."

Their commanding officer takes one look at Cougar and says, "We have to get him to Medical." Before Pooch can say anything, Clay is at the bed and taking hold of Cougar.

Cougar screams.

Distantly, the Pooch can hear the sound of a door being broken down. Big hands break into his mental fog and push both Pooch and Clay out of the way. Jensen appears out of nowhere and kneels beside Cougar's bed.

"Hey, Cougs. Cougar. Carlos. Carlos, man, focus. I need you to focus on me, buddy." The Pooch has heard Jake Jensen's voice in a lot of situations. Hell, they all have, the boy never shuts up, but it has never sounded like this.

It doesn't actually sound different. His pitch hasn't changed or anything. His voice is just steadier than Pooch has ever heard it, more compelling. He can't take his eyes off of Jake and the Pooch is not even the one the techie is talking to.

The team stands spellbound as Jensen gets Cougar to settle and starts working the sniper though breathing exercises.

Cougar snakes a hand up so slowly Pooch misses it until the sniper latches on to Jensen just above the techie's bright green soul-cover.

Jensen's the only one of them that wears a soul-cover out of uniform. He's the only one that has to. Pooch glances over to Clay and sees the same shock and surprise shining in his CO's eyes despite the man's usually stoic face.

"Clay," Jake's voice breaks the quiet tension building in the room.

"Jensen." Clay keeps his voice so soft it's barely more than a breath in difference to the team's brand new sentinel.

"Cougar and I aren't going anywhere anytime soon."

"Right." Clay pulls out his phone and moves to leave the room. Probably the apartment entirely, just in case.

"Roque, I need you to hit the store for me." The Pooch turns to see a shell-shocked looking demolitions expert standing in the doorway, nodding like Pooch's bobble-headed dash dog. "We need cotton balls and apple cider vinegar. Raw, organic and unfiltered apple cider vinegar. It'll be chunky. Go to a specialty store."

Roque turns muttering something about a 'hippie store' and leaves the apartment.

"What can I do, Jake?" The Pooch asks, keeping his voice low despite the fact that he knows it's probably pointless.

"Oatmeal bath. Get the boring stuff from the kitchen. A cup of oatmeal in a coffee filter, tie the filter good. Drop it in a hot water bath. Milk in with the water but only if it's organic."

"Hot water? Jake?"

"It has to steep."

"Right."

-*-*-*-*-

Jake has had a mountain lion on his wrist for longer than he can remember, but every single mountain lion sentinel he'd ever met had a different animal on theirs, not a single one of them had his raven.

The moment he'd seen Carlos Alvarez and heard someone call him 'Cougar', Jake had known down to his toes that Cougar was a true name. He'd known in that very moment that he'd just met his sentinel. Their immediate, intense and unlikely friendship had just sealed the deal so far as Jake cared.

But Cougar wasn't online, so Jake couldn't make his feelings known. He'd accepted that a lifetime of friendship was the best he was ever going to get from Cougar.

Only now, Christmas has come early. For Jake, at least.

For Cougar it's probably more like Thanksgiving. Alvarez Family Thanksgivings are painful, loud and exhausting.

A lot like Cougar's life has been from the moment he started spiking, if you ask Jake.

Stripping Cougar for the first time had been a lot less fun than Jake had expected and a lot more single-player than he'd imagined. Carrying the smaller man to the much-cooled bath had been incredibly frustrating on levels but watching his sentinel relax into the water made Jake feel powerful.

The apple cider vinegar is doing good things for his sentinel, too. Seeing the sentinel's skin react positively to the dabbing treatment is pretty fucking cool. ACV relieves the itching caused by his severe skin reaction and helps prevent possible infections with its natural antiseptic qualities. Thank you, guide school.

Now, it's the moment of truth. He's treated Cougar's rash everywhere (yes, everywhere!) else and it is time for his right arm. Judging from the condition of the now peacefully sleeping man's left hand and forearm had been, his right is going to be bad.

But looking at someone's soulmark? Without their express permission? That's a violation of the other person's privacy. A gross violation, like borderline abuse.

Normally Jake isn't bothered one way or another about someone else's privacy because hello? Hacker! But this is not something he is willing to do to his own sentinel.

At the same time, though Jake can't just leave Cougar's right arm untreated. He huffs at himself. He really has no choice.

He takes a deep breath, steadies himself and treats the back of the hand and forearm in question thoroughly before he finally has nothing else left to do and has to flip it over.

A sob escapes him at the sight of his little raven sitting smack dab in the middle of his best friend's wrist. He stifles his reaction as best he can but the damage is already done.

Cougar rolls his head toward Jake and opens his eyes to mere slits. "Jake?" The concern in the seldom-heard voice shakes Jake to his core.

With surprising strength considering his state, Cougar pulls Jake right onto the bed and into his arms. Cougar snuffles his nose back and forth in the crook of Jake's neck in that this-is-my-guide, possessive/content sentinel way that Jake has seen but actually never experienced.

Cougar's contented sigh tickles across Jake's throat and the sentinel settles back into a deep sleep.

Jake grins. For once, he doesn't feel the need to break the silence. It's too fucking perfect and too unexpected, he's so grateful for it and so exhausted. It's seeping right into his bones. Probably coming from his sentinel.

His! What an amazing word.

Jake tangles his fingers into Carlos's long, wet hair and follows his sentinel into sleep.

-*-*-*-*-

The Bolivia op they have been planning for months is blown. They can't complete the job without their sniper and their sniper is going approximately nowhere.

Not that anyone on the team is comfortable leaving him unguarded in his current condition.

Clay is entirely certain that if he even tries to get Jensen to leave Cougar's side the man will do something court-martial-able.

Assuming Cougar doesn't kill Clay first, of course.

The Losers are officially home to a bonded pair. Outstanding!

-*-*-*-*-

London

With the suddenness of a cork escaping an agitated bottle of champagne, knowledge and emotion flood Sherlock's brain.

Things he knew but never understood about his yellow-haired flat mate shuffle in Sherlock's mind like a deck of cards and resettle in a brand new order, for once forming a clear image of his companion.

Oh, the things that he didn't know he didn't know until this very moment.

Concerned gray eyes peer down at him. Careful fingers on his left wrist measure his pulse, blood pressure and temperature the way only sentinel-doctors can.

Sherlock turns his other wrist over. There is a mark on his skin. It has the color and texture of freckles but behaves like a line drawing. The face of a lion is formed in a minimalist style.

John gasps.

-*-*-*-*-

Washington, DC

"You're saying spirit animals are significant?" The questioner looks between them trying to watch them both. "I thought it was just a way to help matches happen."

"It is and it does," Ellison confirms to the sitting President of the United States while attempting to stare down his guide.

Blair just raises both of his eyebrows in challenge right back at his sentinel. "We don't usually talk about this with anyone outside of our community, sir."

"I can keep a secret, Blair." Henry Hayes didn't bother to try to hide his amusement at their display.

Blair wiggles his eyebrows at his sentinel who eventually just huffs and nods. Blair grins.

"We don't have it down to a science but observation dictates that spirit guides are a direct reflection of their sentinel or guide. No matter how much you wouldn't expect it, Raccoon and Raven guides -and Fox Guides!- love games and puzzles, knowledge. Bird of prey guides are particularly fierce, territorial and surprisingly sneaky. Wolf Guides are leaders, especially war leaders, and form very strong family groups."

"And sentinel leaders?"

"The majority of Alpha Sentinels in the United States - and the world - are big cats. That’s why sentinel groups are generally referred to as 'prides'. A lion, tiger or jaguar spirit guide denotes alpha potential."

"What about guides? Can't they have big cat spirit animals?"

"Once upon a time, I would have said no. That other than birds of prey and wolves, guides don't get actively predatory spirit guides. However, there was one guide I met recently that had a jaguar spirit guide and her soulmark was a bird of prey."

"And?"

"Well, we'll never know what it would have meant. By the time she agreed to a genetic search, her sentinel was already on Atlantis and she died in the events surrounding the Hale House Fire. I think it would have been a fascinating role reversal."

-*-*-*-*-

Miami, Florida

Dreams are plaguing him. Not just dreams, visions. They follow him when he is awake, too.

He dreams of space and flying, fires and death. The death of entire worlds. Even when he's awake figures march behind his eyelids, pale and alien. Frightening creatures with long, white hair and cruel, sharp-toothed smiles.

Not all of the dreams are bad, though. Some of them are hot and heavy in very good ways.

Actually the ones that rock his world the most aren't the violent ones or the sexual ones but the intimate ones. He dreams of cuddling and talking, just being familiar in ways he's never gotten used to.

A flip of blonde hair that he remembers but can't place. Laughter. A warm smile he's only seen in a dream. These things haunt him when he's awake and alone.

"Ryan?" The voice from his dream calls. Is this a new symptom? Auditory hallucinations?

Steady hands pull his shoulders back, up and away from the desk. When did he put his head down? Why did he put his head down? He can't remember.

"Ryan?" The voice calls again.

Maybe it is real. He looks up to get a good view of his rescuer.

"Calleigh?" He can feel her concern pressing against his mind. It's warm and gentle but sincere. "Is this real?" He needs to know, to be sure.

She hugs him.

-*-*-*-*-

Seattle, Washington

An animal has been following him for the last three days.

It's small and stocky. Sort of like a bear but the head and tail are wrong. The size of a medium dog but the feet and ears are wrong. It's mostly black with a thick, pale stripe starting right about its front shoulders and going back across its butt and tail.

According to Google, it's a wolverine. Not the comic book character, an actual Gulo gulo. Not a creature that hangs out in Northern Washington state very often.

It's not real. It can't be. It has no problem keeping up with him, even when he's using motorized transportation. It walks right through people and walls and tables and things, like a ghost. It's not physical so it's not dangerous, right?

Oh, so wrong.

Steve Ellison was tired of being followed.

Whatever this creature is, it has to want something, right? Something from him? Why else would it keep his company for so long?

Because hallucinations are always reasonable.

He'd called it over to him. Middle of the week, middle of the day, during his only meeting free hour, he'd gotten the creature's attention and enticed it closer. It hadn't been hard. The creature had come to him easily, almost eagerly.

Steve should have known.

As soon as he touches that warm, dry fur that he knows doesn't actually exist, his world tilts right off of its axis.

The sound is actually the worst part because for a long time there is nothing, he's alone in the world and it's peaceful. As soon as he gets used to that the sound is back on louder than ever after its absence.

He can hear heels clacking on a hard floor. The only level that is not all carpet is the main floor. How could he be hearing something from 12 floors away?

He can feel the muscles in his stomach contract violently. Dry heaving, fun. He must be panicking. Nothing feels quite real.

He can hear arguing. Two women, right outside his office. The door opens. A hand cups his cheek. He looks up into clear blue eyes and he has a foundation again. The world is back in order but it's a new order.

He pulls her close, his nose going to the crook of her neck. Her hair feels amazing against his skin. Her smell is the most perfect thing -

"Mr. Ellison!" Marge, his secretary, is the biggest stuff shirt on the entire planet. "This is highly irregular! Release her-"

He growls and pulls the guide behind him. If anyone even thinks about taking her from him, he will gut them and he will enjoy it! This old bat needs to back the fuck off.

Words. The best voice he has ever heard comes from behind him. He turns to his guide.

Her eyes are warm and happy. It's stupid and romantic but all he wants is to make her eyes look like that forever.

She slips her hand into his and squeezes. His world stabilizes further.

He blinks. His guide is the front desk secretary. He's not even sure of her name. Something Brams. She came all the way to the top of the building and bullied her way past Marge to save him. Wow.

Now he gets it. Finally, he knows why Jim clings to that little curly-haired hippie witch doctor.

"Marry me." The words are stupid and impulsive. He really needs to think-!

"Okay."

Or not.

His grin is going to crack his face. His bottom jaw will snap off all together and then where will he be?

Happier than he's ever been, that's where he'll be.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

Rabb dropped his phone on the table with a laugh. "You will never guess who that was."

"Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie."

Rabb gives his Alpha the squinty-eyed look his smart-assery deserves as both of their guides laugh themselves breathless in the background. "Yeah, it was Mac."

He waits for his guide to collect himself before continuing. "She and Brumby came online together last week. She was so shocked! They are both sentinels. Who knew?"

That sets his guide off again, laughing so hard it might be a danger to him. "I told her!" se crows. "I told her they should discuss their results. Did they really tell all of us they were latent sentinels and not tell each other?"

"Apparently." Rabb just shook his head with a small smile. "The engagement is off, he's already found his guide and she's coming back to the States for training. I told her to get her ass to Beacon Hills, we'd take care of her."

Stilinski nods. "We do have a bunch of training groups going on."

"I don't think she'd be a good fit with a bunch of high schoolers."

"We have adults coming online, too. A 61 year-old woman came online yesterday, Satomi, she's the oldest onliner in the country so far." Stiles wiggles his eyebrows with a face busting grin. "Oooh!! No, wait, we still have Helena Argent at our disposal. We could set her up for some individual training sessions with sentinels."

"Are you match-making?" Derek sounds amused despite his grumpy face.

"The woman deserves a sentinel, Derek. And if she wants to be the next Argent Family Alpha - which, newsflash: she does - she needs to match a woman. Mac is a woman."

"In other news," Dave hands his Alpha a thick registration folder. "Yet another pair has come online. The only sons of rival families in middle-of-nowhere, Kansas. Apparently they have been a hot topic in this town for two years, now. The sentinel pulled his guide from a sinking car, saving him from drowning and brain damage, then bam! Instant friendship."

Rabb snorts, "That should have told someone something."

Dave nods. "Right? The guide, Alexander Luthor, has requested that they come to Beacon Hills for training. Sentinel Kent has stated no preference other than leaving Kansas as soon as possible. Sentinel Kent's family insists they go to Sheppard's Dale but Dad thinks they will fit better here."

"Reason?" Derek gives the beta more squinty-eye.

"Age," Dave supplies without missing a beat. "Sentinel Kent is just recently 18. Guide Luthor is 23. There is some concern that Sentinel Kent will not graduate on time. Kent's family blames the guide."

"Good grades until November." Stiles snaps folder closed and pushes it away, looking up at his sentinel. "After that we have incidents of truancy, menacing, property damage and one recent case of aggravated assault but the charges were dropped."

Derek frowns. If this guy is going to be trouble-

"I think punching your father in the face after he threatens your guide is the least any of you are capable of," Stiles informs his sentinel before he can even finish the thought. "We obviously need to step up our presence in Kansas, the situation should have been noted long before the pair's soulmarks showed up."

Derek nods, that kind of behavior is typical of an onlining sentinel whose presumptive guide is being disrespected or threatened. "There's a reason our relationships are protected on an international level and it's not solely for our benefit."

Dave glances over to his Alpha, "So October is when their bodies started cycling on?"

Stiles nods his agreement. "Probably mid-October." He hands folder back to Dave. "Take a team to retrieve them. We'll get them trained and bonded and worry about Sentinel Kent's formal education later. A GED or summer school. Take Boyd and Erica with you. Lex has a reputation for being something of a princess, his father Lionel looks to be first cousin to the Devil and there is something definitely wrong with Jonathan Kent.

Derek continues when his guide leaves off, "Don’t take crap from any of them. Luthor-Kent will be in pre-bonding barracks until they finish their training. We'll have the room next to us set up for them. You have a week."

"Daily updates." Dave finishes with a nod.

-*-*-*-*-

"We've had another three sentinels and four guides come online in the last three days." Stiles frowns as he reads the report again.

They were meeting with Argent-Hale and Sheppard-Rabb to discuss the training progress of the new group, but the new group just keeps growing. They're going to have to subdivide all the training groups again based on progress and age. That means early reevaluation of the trainees and dragging more sentinels into training duties, two things Stiles really didn't want to do.

"What in the world could be bringing this many people online?" Dave sounds as confused as Stiles feels. "Normally, I would assume armed conflict but this is across the entire map."

"Not all of it," Rabb corrects. "There are a few countries that aren't reporting unusual onlinings."

"Those countries don't have the Sentinel/Guide population to support onlinings." Stiles put in. "That's what happens when you make guides government property and indoctrinate the local sentinels into treating us like chattel. We run away. It's got to be something else. Something bigger."

"What could be big enough to threaten the entire world, though? Is someone about to go nuclear?"

"I don't know. I don't think bonded pairs would be much help in the face of nuclear fallout, though. It's got to be an attack. Maybe aliens?" It's a testament to how worried they all are that Stiles doesn't receive even the smallest flash of amusement or annoyance from anyone in the room. Not even a single eye roll. The 'adults' in the meeting just pause and ponder his idea very carefully.

"Do you really believe in aliens?" Dave's face makes Stiles think that seriously considering aliens is physically painful for the other guide.

Stiles does his best to not glance his sentinel's way. Or tense up. Or really just do anything that would give the game away. Who is he kidding, they probably already know that he knows something. "Honestly, I have no idea but it would explain some of the truly fucked up, definitely not found on Earth, soulmarks that some people have."

"So what do we do?" Chris Argent's chronically pain filled voice cuts right through the room.

"Training." Stiles says immediately. "We get all our new people trained, thoroughly and quickly. If biology, or the psychic plane, or god or whatever it is that's forcing so many of us online, thinks that sentinels and guides are a solution then we need to start there and expand. Maybe apprenticeships? Assign a newbie to each bonded pair?"

"Weapons caches," Derek snaps and points at the arms dealer. "What mobile options do you have?"

"Nothing that will fit in a Camaro."

-*-*-*-*-

Instead of lacrosse practice, Stiles starts running group meditation every day after school for the newly online guides. The idea is that a strong connection to their alpha will help to steady them until they can bond. Bonus points if it provides them with the psychic confidence to surrender themselves to the training process more easily.

It doesn't take long before every guide in the Pride, regardless of how long they've been online or their bonded status, is making it to at least two meditation sessions a week. They end up having to move from one of the meditation chambers to the old gym.

Five times a week, Stiles sits on a mat in the middle of the basketball court with a microphone clipped to his shirt, surrounded by the guides of his Pride. They play some weird ass ambiance music in the background and light candles all around the room. His favorite ambiance is the ocean waves one and the pillar candle is actually really great for his focus even though he hasn't had problems with his ADHD since he bonded with Derek.

His guide minions sit in rough circles around him and follow instructions while ogling their own pillar candles. Or each other. He's pretty sure that on more than one occasion, he gets ogled. Whatever.

The sentinels of the bonded participants either stretch out on the bleachers and try not to snore too loudly or meditate right along with the rest of the group. The divide is pretty 50/50 unless Derek is playing along. He sits back to back with Stiles and meditates. He doesn't get a vote on the matter, so he makes sure the rest of the bonded sentinels don't either.

Stiles isn't sure if it's desperation or actual relationship progress but it doesn't take long for Derek to develop the confidence to train with the other sentinels while Stiles leads group meditation. It takes about a month but eventually Derek allows their mutual line of sight to be broken. Not long after that, he allows up to but not more than the distance of one mile to stretch between them.

Stiles almost misses having his constant shadow around but he's mostly grateful. If he'd had to sit through one more talk about finding your anchor, being your own anchor or trusting that your abilities can do something and yes, it all really is real, he was going to punch something. Or someone. Possibly himself.

-*-*-*-*-

Beacon Hills - Early April 2015

Stiles's 18th birthday party is the biggest party he has ever had.

Not that he wanted it that way. He definitely didn't plan it that way. He'd just invited a few friends and all the family he and his sentinel have in town to the Center Gym to be total kids together. To roller skate and have a cake fight with. Maybe some Nerf action? It wasn't quite warm enough for water balloons.

All of his invitees were actually early. Most of them just followed him over from school and helped him set up. The stragglers came in once lacrosse practice was over and they were followed by wave after wave of Pride members.

First it was just the newly online kids, which was cool and would totally still fit with his plans. Then they were followed by almost every adult in the Pride. Stiles is assured more than once that the Pride members that didn't show up are on kid management for those that came. It's completely overwhelming and all Stiles can think about is that they don't have enough food for everyone.

Then, the Crockpot ladies arrive. Thank god for the Crockpot ladies.

The pile of gifts makes him feel a little gleeful. On the scale of five-year-old child to full-blown Dursley, Stiles is in the absolute middle.

The two best gifts of the night are the matching soul-covers Derek hand-wove for them both from parachute cord in their favorite colors and Peter and Chris's team presents. Peter got Stiles into a handgun safety and concealed carry permit class for the next weekend. Chris promised Stiles his choice of handgun and enough range time to make an informed decision on what he wanted to carry once he was licensed.

Ever since their omg wtf meeting every sentinel in the Pride has gone everywhere they legally can well-armed. When the Pride informed Stiles's dad about their reasoning and their fears, he had increased both the size and frequency of patrols all throughout Beacon County. He then called the sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders in all of the counties surrounding Beacon Hills and advised them to do the same as well as their reasoning behind it. Word had it that those he advised had repeated Sheriff Stilinski's actions in their own counties and by contacting their neighbors.

Derek has even gone so far as to get a huge, brand new SUV and allow Chris's contacts to modify it with its own gun safe and storage compartments full of ammunition. He flat out gave the Camaro to Cora and Gavin who had come to a timeshare agreement concerning the vehicle.

Near the end of the night, Erica corners Stiles in the gym's add-on kitchen. "Thanks for having us here," Erica's sadness is like a gentle rain on Stiles's shields.

Stiles frowns. "Why wouldn't we?"

"A lot of bonded pairs find us uncomfortable company." She shrugs. "A lot of mundanes, too. They say we're unnatural."

"Why? Because you mated another sentinel?"

She nods.

"You know what I think?"

She shakes her head.

"I think those people are fucking stupid. I think that you're online. That means that somewhere out there is your perfect guide and they are waiting for you I'm sure but you looked. Both of you looked and you couldn't find them. No one else on this planet could find them, either, because you got all the help you could for your search. I know that and you know that.

"These mysterious guides, that no one can find, are alive and active and out there, but they are in some galaxy far, far away or something and you can't get to them. So you found something beautiful, you made something work and that's a miracle because you and I both know that as sentinels and guides - we are not meant to be alone. We aren't like normal humans, being alone could literally kill us.

"I didn't even realize how lonely I was until I met Derek. My mind protected me from the pain of not having his place in my mind filled right up until he came along and filled it. But it was worse for Derek than it was for me, I mean, he was fine until that thing that I know you know about happened to him but once it did it sent him into severe and dramatic decline. The kind of decline a sentinel doesn't usually hit until they've been unbonded for like 20 years. Now, I know that very same thing has happened to you, too. Derek explained that tattoo to me. So you had to find a piece that fits, someone that can keep you happy and healthy, and you did it. Who cares that it's different from what other sentinels have? How is it any of their business?

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

God, that graduation ceremony had been torture. The very day no one can expect or demand that Derek keeps his hands to himself anymore and his guide spends the entire time out of reach!

Who fucking hated him? For real? What did he ever do?

Not that it matters anymore now that he's got his guide in hand. Literally. Derek smirks as he runs his hands over his guide's entire chest before settling on the line of buttons running down the middle of it.

They had discussed this moment off and on for the last week. It all boiled down to a balance of pressures. Namely, the pressures of being ready to advance their relationship versus having a bond strong enough to face the danger they both know is coming.

So far as Derek is concerned they know and accept where there relationship is going, so it's Stiles's choice when they take which steps. He just has two rules and those are strictly for intercourse. First, they needed a good amount of time to themselves for it. Preferably a week but Derek would accept a day or two considering their circumstances. Second, it would take place in their own private space with a bed. Whether that ends up being Derek's apartment or if Stiles wants to wait until they are moved into a new place together is completely up to Stiles.

Derek runs his nose down along Stiles's collar bone, inhaling strongly, and then runs his tongue back up toward the younger man's ear.

The ride from the auditorium to the Lake had been their first time together today since climbing out of bed this morning and their first time alone together ever. Stiles had been fairly determined to give Derek his daily dose of babble in that 20 minutes alone and Derek had been content to let him right up until Stiles confessed to thinking about blow jobs in the forest all day. It had almost been enough to get Derek to pull over right then and there but the wisdom of having Pride members within shouting distance had won out.

He's just going to keep to the front of his guide's body. If he wanders to the back they will start a chain of events that neither of them are ready for and they will break both of his rules. Besides there is nothing wrong with building his imprint slowly. As long as he doesn't destabilize, it's just extended foreplay, right?

He starts to bury his face Stiles's underarm but pulls back quickly when his guide tenses in a bad way. Something to add to the list to discuss.

He runs his hands down Stiles's flanks, enjoying the sensation of skin on skin until Stiles pulls him in for another kiss.

Once Stiles is relaxed again he starts nibbling down his guide's chin, down his throat and to his nipples. Derek takes his time with them but keeps it light and teasing, making sure they both get equal time under his mouth and fingers.

Fingers tugging on his hair remind him of what they both want. He pulls back enough to watch Stiles's face as he mouths his way down the guide's stomach. He waits when he gets to Stiles's fly. Stiles swallows a few times before giving him the nod to go ahead.

Pulling out his guide's cock is a gift. His guide in totality is the best gift Derek has ever been given but this just makes it more.

He settles back on his haunches and watches his hand work his mate's penis to full hardness. The feel of it on his palm, the sight of it in his hand and the smell of it on the air are just- He could probably get off on just being able to touch his guide this way. The warm silk in his hand and the moans in his ears just make his good time more likely.

Derek stops his hand, moves the other one to the center of Stiles's chest and waits for his guide to stop squirming. Once Stiles focuses on him, Derek leans forward slowly. Stiles keeps his feet when Derek licks him from base to tip, but Derek and the tree end up taking most of his weight as soon as Derek wraps his lips around his mate. A few bobs of his head later, a hand lands awkwardly on his shoulder as Stiles takes back his own weight.

"You taste so good." Stiles really, really does. He smells amazing too. When they met in September, Stiles had smelled faintly of chemicals, of Adderall. Now, eight months later - after four months, three weeks and 5 days of being bonded - the smell is gone. He only smells of Stiles now.

Soon to smell like Stiles and Derek.

Stiles cries out when he comes and the sound almost takes Derek with him. He settles back to watch his guide recover, already plotting the next time he gets to take his guide apart like this.

There's that noise again. He frowns at his guide. That sound can't be coming from Stiles, can it? No, he's been around Stiles when he got aroused before and he didn't make this noise then. No human could possibly make sounds like an electronic mosquito. Right?

Derek glances around and inhales deeply. He can't smell any mosquitoes and they both left their electronics on the cooler they pulled out of the truck.

There it is again! It's louder this time. Maybe closer? Fuck.

Derek pulls his guide away from the tree they've been using as support and hastily leads him back to the Lake and the others.

Stiles is tucking and buttoning with all good speed rather than complaining about Derek's brutal murder of his afterglow. He's probably picking up on Derek's worry.

The sun is about halfway set before they make it back to their group's tables. Emma and the guides are trying to laugh but are only managing to hold a very stilted conversation. McCall, Harm and Uncle Peter are sitting very still with their heads tilted to one side, listening. So, they must be hearing it too.

"What do you think it is, Derek?" Peter asks as his Alpha stops beside Scott.

"I don't know." It seems to be coming from the direction of the cars but all he can see over there is Erica and Boyd. Maybe in the air? He gasps.

In the sky, several miles out, there are four? No, five. Planes? Ships of some sort. Derek has never seen anything like them.

Distantly, he can feel Stiles pressing himself against his back and whispering in his ear. The safety of his guide's presence is comforting and lets him look further for more detail in safety.

The ships are blue-y gray and about as long as a speedboat. Their edges are violently jagged and they have stubby little wings on either side. They are thicker in the back and come to a distinct point in the front, like something you should be able to puff out of a blow gun.

"Unknown Aircraft, 12 o'clock." He announces to the group.

"What the fuck." Peter is always so eloquent.

Three of the dart-things break their very loose formation and start firing on Beacon Hills. A heartbeat later, Derek can smell the fire, pain and blood into the air. He can hear the distant screams.

Boyd and Erica are already losing their minds, snarling a challenge at the invaders as if they can reach them so far away, up in the air.

Derek mentally reaches for Stiles. This is not the time for their Pride to lose their shit. He gets Stiles's acknowledgement and has just enough time to take hold of the hands resting on his chest so that he can take his turn and anchor Stiles as the guide lets his mind loose on their Pride. Stiles bolsters every guide he can reach so that they in turn can support the surrounding sentinels. It doesn't help Boyd and Erica because they have no guides but it's the best they can do. For now.

The ships are slowing down, coming lower. They shoot strange spotlights from their bellies. In the light appear the grossest people Derek has ever seen. Their skin is pale blue or green, waxy and wet. Their hair is white, dirty and knotted. They smell like rotting flesh but also of something earthy and hot.

Derek has the time to see Boyd and Erica charge the newcomers and shout "NO!" before the first spotlight hits the table.

Emma and Sheppard-Rabb disappear in a wash of light.

The second ship, not far behind its brother, takes Chris and Yukimura-McCall.

Derek grabs Stile's hand.

The light tingles.

-*-*-*-*-

They're late. Of course they're late. Two teenagers hitting a grocery store with four toddlers and a newborn is not exactly an ideal recipe for quick and on time! Not even with a 'Mom of the Year' medical professional for back up.

On the upside, Malia smells distinctly aroused by the sight of him with her baby brother strapped to his chest.

They are finally, finally headed out of the store, with only one small toy or candy per child he might add, when something screams at him. Jackson really can't be sure what or how he knows but something is definitely wrong.

And what is that horrible noise?

An aircraft, the likes of which Jackson has never seen, buzzes the store and fires on the town water tower.

Holy shit. Stiles is right. Aliens are a thing.

A hand touches his and he stumbles.

It's almost what he imagines it would be like if he suddenly got better gear in the middle of some jacked up shooter game and his new sensors kicked on before anyone could warn him about them, but that's not really a good description, either. Everything is brighter and just, he can't -

Everything is just more. More sound, more light, more smell, more taste. It's almost too much but he feels stronger, too. Steadier. He's grounded and secure.

Jackson turns to see Malia holding his hand. Everyone around them is frozen. No one knows what to do.

"We have to get them to safety," Malia says. Her voice is soft but intense.

He nods. She's right. His guide is right.

Momma McCall keeps all four toddlers in the cart and reaches over to take the baby, harness and all, off his chest. "There's an old World War II bomb shelter just up the road. Across from the library."

Jackson and Malia both nod. As soon as a solid round of evasive wiggling frees him of the infant, they turn as one and start shouting at people to follow them.

The streets are on fire. Mundanes are panicking. These ships have the freakiest lights that can scoop people up. Or destroy them? Jackson honestly prefers the first option.

They lose more people to the lights than Jackson finds acceptable but his priorities are clear. His guide and the children.

Momma McCall is just a bonus.

-*-*-*-*-

Allison watches horrified as her Alpha, her father and her ex-boyfriend disappear in a wash of white light.

A different sort of plane buzzes in from the southeast. It's paneled sort of like a B-2 stealth bomber but quite a bit smaller with three distinct thrusters in the back and downward sloping wings. It shoots down the first attacker that light-scooped Emma, Dave and Rabb and all she can think is those must be the good guys as the second attacker punches it for the stars.

A howl of pain breaks the air and she watches her father's sentinel charge into the group of, well, aliens.

She can feel herself nodding as she walks around to the back of her dad's SUV and can't seem to make herself stop. Why is she nodding? It doesn't matter. Alex is matching her step for step. Their sentinels trail them both, more than a little confused and completely on edge.

She beeps the back of the truck open, spins the knob on the mobile gun safe that she herself had vehemently protested and opens it. Alex is pulling out the carpet flooring and using their dad's keys to open the other storage compartments. He hands her a bow and quiver. She hands him back a shotgun.

They arm up. It doesn't take much to get their sentinels to start strapping on everything their guides hand them. Even the stuff the sentinels don't know how to use.

"What are we doing, exactly?" Isaac asks as the Argent siblings slam the doors of their father's SUV closed and give it a little beep.

"Helping Peter," his guide answers, not even breaking stride and she checks a magazine and slaps it into a handgun.

"Is that wise?"

She stops and frowns at him. "Peter is feral and fighting, which means that dad is alive because if dad had died his sentinel would have collapsed. So we are going to watch his ass and assume dad will be back to claim it."

"Right," he nods quickly, both intimidated and inappropriately turned on by his guide's assertiveness.

She just raises an eyebrow and turns toward the fray.

Allison takes aim at the creature holding Erica free of ground with an easy one handed grip on her chin. She does as she's been trained and puts three in the center mass of the target.

The creature doesn't stumble, he doesn't hesitate and he definitely doesn't put Erica down. He just grins at Allison, flashing teeth that would not look out of place in a shark if they were less rotted and shoves his hand into the center of Erica's chest.

Erica's growls go from howls of rage to shrieks of pain faster than Allison can blink. Whatever that thing is doing to Erica turns her into a prop from zombie movie. Allison feels the flame that is Erica get sucked away and ruthlessly snuffed out.

The creature laughs, showing off his hole-less chest.

Allison shoots again. This time she takes out his forehead and the center of both its eyes with her little clover pattern.

The creature stumbles for a second, then falls flat on his back and doesn't move.

"Head shots," Allison advises her brother as the rest of the monster squad starts to charge them and their snarling sentinels take guard positions on either side.

"Noted."

-*-*-*-*-

Lydia knows the moment her Alpha is taken. She doesn't know how he's taken or even by whom. Hell, she's not even sure how she knows he was taken but she is certain of it.

When one of the many planes circling Beacon Hills air space crashes down on main street, she approaches it. She is going to get some answers.

"What is it?" she asks, mostly to herself.

"An F-302," her sentinel answers.

"What? There's no such thing as an F-302."

"That's what it says. On the little sticking up part. Above the United States Air Force symbol."

The ground shudders and bucks for several minutes, halting their progress as they struggle to keep their feet. Her sentinel proves himself completely capable of anticipating and avoiding destruction as buildings all around them collapse, the streets fold like paper accordions and light and power poles dance.

The safety dance is exhausting.

She thinks a question really hard at her sentinel as she struggles to catch her breath. What the hell was that?

"Not an earthquake," he says. "Something exploded. Or collapsed? Something big."

He's pointing toward Nevada. Or maybe Colorado? How far can a bonded sentinel detect physical events?

That depends completely on the size of the event, the reasonable voice in the back of her head supplies. If it was big enough, he could probably detect something happening in Virginia. Assuming such a large event didn't just kill the planet.

She begins their forward progress once again.

Jordan Parrish is practically humping her, trying to shield her body with his. In any other circumstances he'd probably have to arrest himself for public indecency.

There is a female in a black flight suit crawling out of the fighter wreckage using only one arm, keeping the other held tightly to her chest.

Jordan's hand on her shoulder becomes firm, stopping Lydia. "Sentinel, identify yourself."

The woman freezes for a moment before she stands and straightens herself. "Vala. Vala Mal Doran and Major Cameron Mitchell." The woman turns her back on them and stares sadly at the flattened, burning nose of what used to be her vehicle. "Maybe."

-*-*-*-*-

Stiles's first impression of... wherever they are is that it stinks. It's dark, it's damp and it stinks. Oh, and it's hot in decidedly not fun ways.

His sentinel is spooned tightly against him. Their fingers are intertwined and his sentinel's arms bracket his own where they are crossed over his chest. Stiles knows that, to his sentinel, this is so he can balance grounding through skin contact while not exposing his guide in any ways other than the already exposed flesh on his arms but Stiles finds it extremely comforting.

Derek whispers softly against his neck, "Someone's coming," and it's surprisingly not comfortable any more.

They are standing facing the room's web-like wall that Stiles has to assume is a door when two creatures like the ones from down by the Lake stop in front of it.

One stares at them with hungry eyes and shark teeth, head tilting this way and that in an obscene parody of a sentinel.

The other one is bigger and doesn't have a face. Stiles has to swallow a burst of nervous laughter harshly.

Of course it has a face. It's just wearing the ugliest boney mask ever.

Oh, god, please let it have a face.

Neither creature says anything. Do they talk? Can they talk? Do they communicate telepathically or something? No, not telepathically. Stiles would have picked up on that by now. Right?

The smaller one, the one with a face, reaches out and touches the wall to the left of the door from their perspective. The door opens upwards and the little one enters.

Stiles starts to get nervous as Derek steps back and allows the thing to back him towards the far wall with a lethal smile. Stiles feels his own terror spike as the thing holds up a hand.

It's fingers are long and don't get him started on those nails. Women would (might?) pay tons for long talons like these. Three of its five fingers have the most cool looking jointed armor Stiles has ever seen. It almost looks more like jewelry and -. Seriously?

Oh my god! What the fuck! Palm mouth. Like shades of Vampire Hunter D palm mouth. With teeth. Tiny, recurved fucking teeth.

The creature freezes. Its smile is displaced by a look of confusion as blood flows out of its mouth and down its chin.

Derek is kind enough to take the creature to the floor before taking its head in a series of precise slices of his knife.

The other alien is not much more than a broken, bloody mess just inside the door. Stiles swallows and does his best to breath as little as possible. Just when he thought the smell couldn't get any worse!

Until this moment, Stiles never would have associated a feral episode or even just sentinel combat with stealth or silence. Now, he can.

The long, bulbous thing Derek stabbed Stiles's attacker with is just laying on the floor while Derek works. Stiles grabs it, figuring his sentinel will want to keep the alien weapon and barely notices a very trigger-like click before Derek has him on the ground.

Derek's mind is a strange, warm static that Stiles can only think to call 'white', maybe 'blank'. It's not uncomfortable but Stiles isn't thrilled to touch it, either. Not that that stops him. It takes several minutes of apologies, reassurances and gentle demands both mental and verbal before Derek will crawl off of him and allow him to stand.

"Well, we know it's a gun now!" Yeah, he totally deserves the look Derek gives him for that.

They take everything from the two aliens that looks even a little bit like a weapon. He really hopes the pistol-like thing he's holding is actually a pistol. It would be a real downer to try and threaten someone with a scanner or something.

"What now?"

"We make sure no one else is on board and get off. We need to get back to the Pride." How exactly they are going to do that is anyone's guess at this point. "There is." His sentinel is taking in large quantities of air. Stiles takes his hand but stays alert for threats. "There is. This way."

Derek turns abruptly and takes them down a few dark corridors.

"Hale." A voice calls from the shadows, followed soon by a female guide. She's a mess, starving thin and so dirty that Stiles can smell her over the ship's ambience.

"Cadman." Derek returns the greeting.

"I see you've bonded."

"I see you haven't. I thought you were on Atlantis."

"I was, 'til about three months ago. Then, our only ally out there got culled. My team infiltrated this ship looking for the alpha pair of Sateda. The pair wasn't here but the Wraith captured my team. I'm not leaving without them."

"But you can leave?" Stiles just has to make sure.

She finally breaks eye contact with Derek and looks to Stiles. She nods. "I have a ship in the Dart Bay."

"Dart Bay?"

"Yeah, where they keep those little ships for culling."

"Culling? Is that-?"

"Where is your team?" Derek cuts off Stiles questions.

"Ford and Hoffman were fed on but one of their scientists took Parrish as a pet."

"Parrish? Jonathon Parrish? The botanist?"

"That's the one."

"Where is he?"

"This way."

They fucking beam to a different level. If they were on any other ship in Stiles's rather wild imagination it would be the coolest thing ever, but they aren't and it isn't.

The halls are really empty, like scary empty but then invading someone else's planet has got to be labor intensive. Probably more so if you have to gather all of the home team up so you can eat them.

They finally enter a well-lit chamber and find a human male lounging on a bed in an open front robe. Stiles tries really hard to not think about why the guy looks so blissed out and relaxed on a ship full of genocidal aliens.

He's obviously not the only one. All three 'rescuers' stand and stare at the guy for a while. It's sort of like finding out Princess Leia liked being chained up by Jabba the Hut. It's just too gross to contemplate.

When the botanist finally notices them, he gets alarmed very quickly. "You can't be here! How did you get on the ship?"

"We're here to help you," Cadman hastens to reassure him. Both guides feel a spike of terror and know it has the immediate, opposite effect on the captive as Parrish scrambles for something on the table beside the bed. Cadman tries again. "Jon! We're here to help you."

"Help me? Help me? I don't need - oh my god. You did something. I know you did something. What did you do to him?" He finds what he's looking for and holds it up in triumph. A walky-talky.

"No!" Stiles shouts as both he and Derek shoot the guy. He doesn't stop. He starts shouting at them but he doesn't stop. They shoot him again. This time a third shot comes from Cadman and her service pistol. Blood blooms on the scientists chest as he collapses, dropping the communication device.

He's down for the count. A very permanent count.

A red light comes on the walky-talky and a creepy voice they can't understand enters the room. By the tone it's asking a question.

"We need to get out of here." Derek takes Stiles's hand. "Now."

-*-*-*-*-

Scott wakes up alone. He's on a really large bench. Or it could be a small table?

Over the stench of the room he can smell blood. Guide blood. Not Kira's blood but close by.

He turns his head. He is not alone. One of those things he saw briefly by the lake has Chris Argent up against a wall. It's playing with the guide. It is obviously not a fun game, for Chris at least.

As silently as he can Scott rolls off the table and approaches them.

Chris and the creature are intensely focused on each other. Neither actually reacts when Scott stops beside them. Scott pulls both of the creatures blades out of their sheaths and gets to stab the damn thing twice before it can react.

He cuts the things hand off when it reaches for him and then its head with the other blade. He feels very Highlander. How the fuck-

Chris whimpers and collapses towards Scott.

The guide's leg is broken in at least three places. Scott doesn't know what to do. He'd have an idea of what to do if Chris was a dog but he's not. He is so totally not a dog and Scott's afraid to he will make it worse.

Swallowing, he picks up the guide. He can hear Stiles's heartbeat. The alphas are together, close and closing in on Scott's position.

Scott gets Chris settled on the table-bench just in time for Stiles, Derek and a female soldier he doesn't know to stumble through the door. Derek does a sensory sweep of the room before he allows either guide to step all the way inside and the door to close.

The female they introduce as Cadman rushes to Chris's side. She orders all three of them to find some sort of rope or fabric and straight, study things for a splint.

She knows what to do. Scott can suddenly breath.

No, no he can't. There's a pinching sensation in his chest just before Kira's terror floods his mind.

"No! No. Nonononono." He feels himself turning and running without ever making the decision to do so.

-*-*-*-*-

Being pushed and held down on the floor by the body of an alien woman is not nearly as fun as being pushed and held down on the floor by the body of her sentinel.

The creature monologues, which is also not fun.

It has horrible breath and, hey, look at that, it's not fun.

The creature tears open Kira's shirt and slams her free hand into the center of Kira's chest.

The creature's mind brushes Kira's and she gets an idea. She reaches into the creature's brain, into the core of her personal identity, and tears at her. Kira's mental hands transform into paws and she starts digging, pulling at the creature's consciousness and throwing it out behind her like dirt from a hole.

The Queen's physical gray matter starts to liquefy and runs out of the Queen's nose, dripping onto Kira's neck. She collapses quite suddenly on top of Kira and is just as heavy as she looks.

Kira's vision is going gray. Her limbs feel weak. There is something wet and warm on her upper lip. She licks it and tastes copper.

With another thought she sends every bit of information she captured from the monster, her alpha's way. He needs to know it to protect her sentinel and her Pride. He needs to know everything.

The body is thrown off of her and Scott is in her face. "Kitsune. My little kitsune." He's crying, crying like his heart is breaking and that is just not on.

With her last breath she pushes the will to live down their connection and into Scott. No matter what happens, he must live. He must fight. He is too strong to collapse. Who knows how many other sentinels will go with him? The Earth needs every single one.

Scott howls his loss and rage as his guide's last promise brushes his mind.

I will find you again.

-*-*-*-*-

Scott is fucking heavy. Just as he has every few seconds since they stunned his best friend with a vibrating alien penis gun, Stiles wishes his mind gifts were more in the line of telekinesis than telepathy.

"What is that?" Derek's voice is shocked, awed and more than a little giddy.

Derek is looking at a completely empty section of the Dart Bay. Obviously, exposure to aliens has fried his sentinel's brain.

Stiles doesn't have to look, he can feel Cadman's smirk. "That is a Puddle Jumper."

Derek gives her wide eyes. "It goes through the gate?"

"Has its own DHD and everything," The Marine nods. "Colonel Sheppard named them."

Derek fucking grins, slides under Scott's other arm and leads them forward in a sideways, uphill walk.

His sentinel is walking on fucking air! His sentinel is disappearing! This is not okay!!

"Duck, Stiles." He does so and he's in the belly of a ship. He turns to see Cadman and Chris inching their way up a very solid metal ramp. The very one he couldn't see five seconds ago. They each have one arm out in front of them and the other around each other because Cadman is still enabling Argent's locomotion.

Derek reaches out and pulls them into the cabin. Chris first because he's injured.

"Can you fly this thing?"

"Yeah," Cadman pushes past them to a section with a view port. "You can, too. They only respond to guides." She gestures for Stiles to take what he guesses is the co-pilot chair.

Stiles feels something touch his mind. It's warm and friendly, strangely genderless and incredibly invasive.

Derek's hand is suddenly gripping his shoulder tightly like he wants to pull Stiles out of his seat.

"Relax. It hasn't hurt a pairbond yet and I'm going to need his help," Cadman assures.

Stiles can feel her now, too. He knows how to get the ship moving and does so as she switches the cloak for the shield (an aftermarket add-on, she practically fan-girls into his mind.) She opens the drone launchers and he feels her take aim. "Let me show you something we learned in the air above Sateda."