The GPS on his rented sedan leads Iruka to a tall apartment building in downtown Beacon Hills. There’s not much city to the city, just a small urban center and then a massive sprawl of industrial complexes and suburbs. There is no doorman so he lets himself in and presses the button for the fourteenth floor. He taps his fingers against his legs, subtly checking that his weapons are clear and ready for use should the need arise. He doesn’t expect them to be needed.
The elevator chimes as it settles to a halt and he walks down the hall to stand before apartment two. He knocks and waits. A middle-aged man answers the door. His beard his neatly trimmed and his eyes curious. “Can I help you?”
Iruka bows slightly. “Pardon the intrusion, Mr. Argent. I hope I’m not calling too late in the evening.”
Chris Argent shifts on his feet, settling more firmly against the doorframe. “And who is calling?”
Iruka reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a card. He presents it to Mr. Argent with both hands. “Umino Iruka of the Umino clan.”
Argent’s eyebrow raises. He takes the card, studies it for a moment, and then steps back, opening the door for Iruka to come in. Iruka bows again and steps inside. He toes his shoes off in the entrance and follows Argent into the living room. They take seats opposite each other.
“What brings you to Beacon Hills? You’re a long way from home, Mr. Umino.”
Iruka smiles. He’s been told he has a charming smile, not that he wishes to charm Mr. Argent but he’s hoping to put him at ease. There’s a tension in Argent, a tension that rose as soon as Iruka had introduced himself. He doesn’t usually get that reaction from fellow hunters. “I’m looking for a kitsune.”
A sudden stiffness goes over Argent. Iruka has struck a nerve. He wonders if Beacon Hills has a kitsune problem or the opposite. “You won’t find what you’re looking for here.”
“Really?” His instincts tell him that is not the case. “I may stay around a few days, just to be sure. Are there any threats in the area I should be aware of?”
Argent stands. “I’m out of the business. You should go.”
The answer, then, is yes. Iruka smiles as he stands and follows Argent to the door. “Thank you for your time. If you do hear of anything, please give me a call. My number is on the back of my card.”
“That won’t be necessary.” Argent stops just shy of slamming the door in Iruka’s face.
Iruka lets a grin stretch his lips. He whistles an old festival song as he returns to the elevator. It seems, regardless of whether his prey is here or not, that his stay in Beacon Hills will be quite eventful.
Iruka is being followed. It’s cute, really, how they try, but Iruka’s family has been training in ninjitsu for generations. These children could barely sneak up on a fly. Iruka sips at his tea. He supposes calling them children is disingenuous. It’s just that he’s used to dealing with much longer-lived folk. They’re past their teens, barely. One of them works at the coffee shop Iruka has taken to frequenting for breakfast, a vibrant young werewolf named Erica. She glares at him when she thinks he isn’t looking and texts constantly, no doubt keeping the others apprised of his movements. At least she can make half-decent tea.
He finishes his cup and stands, leaving the cup and saucer on the counter to be collected. He waves at Erica on his way out, earning him a startled look. He might as well make it easier on them. It’s such a pain trying to pretend he doesn’t see them.
He’s been in this town for three days and learned very little of his prey. There are strange energies in the area. He’d followed them his first day to an ancient Nemeton. It was in disarray but healing, though the healing seemed to be a fairly new state. Work of a kitsune or one of the druids in town? His second day he’d met with the druid-slash-veterinarian named Deaton and gotten just as cagey a response as with Mr. Argent.
Today, he thinks he will head to the high school. There’s an old acquaintance in town and he’d be remiss if he didn’t pay his respects. His approach to the high school seems to agitate his followers. The boy in the blue Jeep seems quite animated as he speaks into his phone. Really, the son of the sheriff should know better than to use his cellphone while driving.
Iruka can feel the wolves waiting at the edge of the forest as he walks into the high school. It’s early but there are some students gathered in the halls. He makes his way to the office and is directed to a classroom on the first floor. He raps lightly at the door before poking his head in. “Yukimura-san?”
Ken turns from arranging papers on his desk and smiles wide. “Umino-san!” He steps forward. They bow and then Ken breaks from the formal mold to pull Iruka into a tight hug. Iruka can’t help but smile back. In a country full of strangers, it feels good to see a familiar face. Ken steps back. “What brings you to Beacon Hills?”
“I’ve lost a kitsune.”
Ken laughs. “Again?”
Iruka shrugs. “He has a habit of wandering.”
Ken moves back to his desk. He likely has only a few more minutes before homeroom begins. “That’s why I married mine.” He looks back at Iruka. “You should come for dinner. Noshiko will be delighted.”
Iruka casts a meaningful glance at the window. Red and yellow eyes glow in the distance. “Are you sure the locals won’t mind?”
Ken follows Iruka’s glaze but his vision isn’t as sharp as Iruka’s. Still, Ken seems to get the reference. He shakes his head. “They can be a bit overprotective.” He raises his voice, obviously intending for the werewolves to hear. “Everything is fine. Dinner is at seven if anyone is concerned.” He looks back at Iruka. “You will join us?”
“I would be delighted.” Ken scribbles his address on a post-it note and hands it to Iruka. Iruka bows again and excuses himself so Ken can prepare for class. The wolves have mostly dispersed by the time he returns to his car. Only the red eyes remain.
The Yukimura house is surprisingly full when Iruka arrives. The blue Jeep is parked outside between a black Camaro and a black SUV. Several pairs of eyes focus on Iruka as Ken lets him in. Iruka smiles. It’s cute how they think they’re threatening. He counts four Alphas – strange for such a small territory. Mr. Argent is in attendance, seated next to what is presumably his daughter if the family resemblance holds.
The tension is broken as Noshiko crosses the room to pull Iruka into a tight hug and then kisses each of his cheeks in turn.
He grins. “It’s been too long, Noshiko-sama.”
She smiles and pulls him deeper into the house. “Far too long. Come. Ken’s cooked quite a feast.”
Ken returns from the kitchen carrying a large bowl of rice. “I prepared for an army and one showed up.”
Noshiko gives a stern look to the mass of people loitering in her house. “Not that it was necessary.”
Iruka shrugs. “Werewolves and hunters have a history of not getting along.” He glances between the eldest Alpha – Derek Hale, presumably – and Mr. Argent. He’s learned quite a few interesting things about Beacon Hills during his stay here. “Particularly in this town.”
Noshiko gestures to an Asian girl standing next to another Alpha. She steps forward hesitantly. “This is my daughter, Kira.”
Iruka takes a moment to glance at the girl’s aura. He chuckles. “A thunder kitsune? And already on her second tail. Congratulations.” He extends his hand to Kira. “I’m Umino Iruka. I’ve know your parents for a long time.”
She shakes his hand hesitantly. The Alpha she’d been standing next to frowns. “I thought you hunted kitsune?”
Iruka raises an eyebrow. He looks to Noshiko and then Mr. Argent.
“You have a reputation,” Argent says. “We took precautions.”
Noshiko rolls her eyes. “Exaggerations, I’m sure. The Umino clan is as old and prestigious as the Yukimuras. They are more guardians than hunters.”
“Now that you know that Umino-san isn’t here to kill us, perhaps we can all eat? Some of you will have to sit in the living room, I’m afraid.”
He’s introduced to the sprawling Hale-McCall pack over the course of the evening. There are the two primary Alphas – Derek Hale and Scott McCall – and two additional Alphas allied with the pack, a pair of twins named Ethan and Aidan Carver. He meets Argent’s daughter Allison and her werewolf boyfriend Isaac. Alpha McCall seems to be attached to Kira and Alpha Hale to the druid Stilinski. There’s a banshee, a werecoyote, a Hawaiian human, and several betas, including Hale’s uncle Peter and sister Cora. Erica is there, of course, along with a heavily muscled young man named Boyd and an arrogant beta named Jackson. The Sheriff stops by briefly, just in time for dessert, which makes his son frown and grumble.
He gets the story of Beacon Hills from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. The murder of the Hale family is a tragedy not forgotten, but the remainders of the family seem to have built a home once again, if only metaphorically. Still, it gives Iruka an idea.
He bids goodnight to the Yukimuras and guests then heads out to the winding roads of the Preserve. The Hale house is buried in the forest. Nature has started to reclaim what civilization had once cleared. The burnt out ruins remain.
Iruka starts up the creaking wooden steps with expectation curling in his stomach. His body feels alive again, in ways it hasn’t in weeks. He finds his prey on the second floor, sitting at the edge of what remains of the rear wall, staring out into the dark forest.
Iruka takes a seat next to him. “What have you found this time, Hatake-san?”
Kakashi turns to him with a grin. Lightning bugs dance in the air above them, drawn by the thunder kitsune’s aura. “A home.”
Iruka frowns. “You have a home.” The Umino family have been guardians to the Hatake shrine since it was built. Iruka is all that’s left of his family now, but the shrine remains.
“Not for me,” Kakashi says. “For them.”
Iruka glances at the burnt timber. The sky is open above them. No effort has been made to repair the house since its destruction. At the same time, no effort has been made to remove its remains. “It seems to have been forgotten.”
“There were good memories here, once,” Kakashi says. “Good memories yet to come, as well.” He pats the timber like it’s a faithful pet or perhaps an old friend. “It just needs some care.”
Iruka turns to study Kakashi. “Is that why you’re here? To bring care back to this place?”
Kakashi shrugs. “Perhaps. Someone certainly should.”
Iruka sighs. “I suppose I should find us more permanent lodgings then. You know Alpha Hale isn’t going to like you tearing down his house.”
Kakashi hums in agreement.
Iruka shakes his head. “You weren’t planning on telling him, were you?”
“If you eat poison, lick even the dish.”
Iruka rolls his eyes. “You have a strange way of looking at things.”
Kakashi grins. “It comes with age. You would be strange too if you had my years.”
“You missed dinner with the Yukimuras. Have you even said hello since you’ve been in town?”
Kakashi bumps their shoulders together. “I was waiting on you.”
Iruka laughs. “You know Ken was saying I should marry you.” He pokes Kakashi in the side. “To keep you from running away so much.”
Kakashi echoes his laughter. “But the fun is in the chase.” He turns more fully then. His hand cups Iruka’s face, holding Iruka still while Kakashi brings their lips together. Electricity sparks in Iruka, making his skin tingle like it does every time Kakashi touches him. Kakashi’s grinning when he pulls away. “I could get you a ring, if you like, though. Marriage is legal here.”
Iruka chuckles. “It would be hard getting a citizenship for someone with no birth record.”
Kakashi brushes his lips against Iruka’s again, light and teasing. “Technicalities.” His hand slides under Iruka’s coat. “Perhaps we should retire to your hotel room. It’s been too long and I hunger for flesh.”
Iruka snorts. “You sound like a cannibal. Who even says stuff like that?”
Kakashi stands then and brushes off his robes. Despite sitting on the burnt wood, the fabric remains pristine white. He holds out a hand to Iruka. “Shall I be blunter then?” Iruka accepts the help up. Kakashi leans in once Iruka is standing. His lips brush the shell of Iruka’s ear, sending shivers down his spine. “I want to take you until the only word you know how to say is my name because it reminds you that you belong to me.”
Iruka’s breath hitches and he shivers again. “O-okay.”
Kakashi steps back with a grin. “Lead the way.”
Iruka thinks he might like his time in Beacon Hills. Kakashi’s project seems like it will be beneficial in the long run, at least for the Hale-McCall pack. They could use a good home, a place for them all. Perhaps it will make a good home for Kakashi and Iruka as well.
Only time will tell.