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A Place We Call Home

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The whole thing starts innocently enough, on a rainy Saturday afternoon while they’re all just lazing around the Stilinski house. Stiles asks Derek how many people are in a typical werewolf pack, and he says, “Usually somewhere around a dozen. I’ve heard of ones with as many as twenty.”

“Wow, we’re tiny,” Stiles replies.

“Is that bad?” Scott asks, uncertain.

Derek shrugs a little. “Typically, the bigger the pack, the stronger the pack. So it’s not good. But a lot has been going on.”

Scott opens his mouth to ask how many had been in the Hale pack, but shuts it quickly when he realizes how hard that question would hit Derek. He just doesn’t want to know that badly. So instead he asks, “How do you pick new members? Do you wait for other wolves who want to join?”

“Some do it that way,” Derek says, and shrugs again. “Some packs travel. Some don’t. Some turn their own wolves, some don’t. Every pack is different.”

“So we just have to figure out how we’re going to do it,” Lydia says.

“At the risk of sounding . . . I’m not even sure how this is going to sound,” Allison says, “but I’m not sure we should wait for others to come to us. We’ve got something of a strange situation here.” She winds her fingers through Scott’. “I’m not sure we’d get the sort of people we would want.”

Derek frowns slightly and gives Stiles a sideways glance, but the teenager says calmly, “No, she’s right. We can’t take anyone who’s already a wolf. They would never bow to a human alpha.”

“Not just the human thing,” Allison adds. “It’s an age thing. People who travel alone are almost always adults. They won’t give way to a teenager, ‘wolf or no.”

“So we should look around the area,” Lydia says, tapping her fingers against the table.

Stiles frowns slightly. “Are you guys sure you want to do this? Make the pack bigger? It’s all well and good to be stronger, but the way we are now . . . we all respect each other, we work well together. If we bring in anyone else, we could really upset that balance.”

Scott shifts, uncomfortable. Things are better now, even good, but the change was still a lot of trauma for him. He thinks of Lydia as well, but she seems to be going about this practically. Maybe that’s her way of dealing with it. “I . . .” He blows out a breath. “I don’t know that my opinion can actually be trusted,” he says, just throwing that out there on the floor with everything else. If nothing else, he can bow out of the conversation.

Derek sighs, but at least it isn’t one of his angry sighs. Or it is, but it isn’t directed at Scott, not anymore. There are days when he really wishes he could wring Peter’s neck. “What happened to you wouldn’t be the way we would bring anyone else in. If we decide to. We’d give them all the facts and then give them a choice.”

“Did you know,” Stiles says suddenly, “that most teenagers brains’ haven’t actually developed to the point where they can accurately weigh long-term consequences?”

Derek just looks at him silently, which is his way of saying that he has no idea what to do with that statement. Scott, who’s more used to Stiles’ sudden jumps in logic, says, “So, are you saying we shouldn’t do anything right now? Or, uh,” he continues, since that would also be a decision with consequences, “that we should ask someone else?”

“Maybe we should ask someone with an ounce of common sense,” Lydia says, somewhat acerbically.

She obviously doesn’t mean it seriously, but Stiles gives her finger-guns and says, “Good idea.” Then he raises his voice. “Hey, Dad? Dad, can you come in here for a sec?”

“Yeah, just give me a minute,” Sheriff Stilinski calls out from the other room.

“That works,” Scott says, feeling strangely relieved while Allison’s mouth is just opening and closing silently, as if she can’t believe this is really happening. Scott gives her hand a squeeze.

Derek recovers quickly. “Do I need to point out that I’m not a teenager?”

“No,” Stiles says, “but you’ve also never been just a regular human, either. So your perspective is skewed. Besides, if we start making more werewolves, my dad will know anyway, and he’ll feel better if I talk with him about it first.”

Sheriff Stilinski arrives then, leaning on the door-jam of Stiles’ room, a mug of coffee in one hand. “Do I even want to know what you little heathens are up to now?”

“Dad, I am shocked and hurt by that assumption,” Stiles says, pressing one hand over his chest, “but since you ask, we’re talking about whether or not we should expand the pack. You know, make more werewolves and such.”

Stilinski folds his arms over his chest and says, “Well, I guess the first thing I would want to know is why.”

“Excellent question,” Stiles says, and looks at Derek.

Derek lets out a sigh. “The more members a pack has, the stronger it gets. And it’s not just ‘safety in numbers’. Each member’s strength increases, particularly the alpha, with more additions. It’s a ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’ sort of thing.”

Stilinski moves the rest of the way into the room and sits in Stiles’ spare desk chair backwards, resting his arms on the back of it. “Is there a reason you, as a pack, need to be stronger?” He’s obviously concerned. “I thought things were pretty well settled.”

“The man has a point,” Lydia said, nodding.

Stiles pulls one knee up to his chest, considering. “I guess maybe it’s sort of an ‘in case something else happens’ thing? The Argents can’t be the only family of hunters. Or another pack might try to take our territory – does that happen?” he asks, directing this question at Derek.

“We aren’t,” Allison interrupts quickly, before Derek can answer, “and Dad says that anyone else coming here should check with us. But . . .” She shrugs. Just because it should happen doesn’t necessarily mean it will.

Derek looks uncomfortable with the questions. “It happens,” he says. “Used to be, it would never happen here. The Hales have held this territory for generations and we were always a strong pack.” He looks away for a moment, shaking off the loss. “If the packs near us are stationary and steady in size, we could be fine. But it’s likely that the average age and unusual make-up of our pack do make us look weak. That could make us seem like an easy target, or it could make us seem like we’re too weak to bother with. It’s hard to say.” He doesn’t know much about the neighboring packs anymore. “And don’t forget, some betas will want to . . .” He has to stop and take a breath. “Will want to kill Stiles just because that will make them an alpha.”

Stilinski chews on this for a few moments. “Bottom line,” he says, “is that to me, it seems like you guys don’t feel safe. But that may just be because you’ve all gone through a lot. That makes you need a bigger security blanket, as it were.”

“So . . . what do you think the reasonable thing to do is?” Scott just flat out asked.

Stilinski looks around the faces in the room, all looking at him for guidance, which is a little terrifying. He thinks things through carefully before speaking. “I think that if things get out of hand again, it would be a good idea to get more powerful before the fact,” he finally says. “Because I don’t want what happened a couple months ago to happen again.” He reaches out and squeezes Stiles’ shoulder. “And if that means adding a few members to your pack, then so be it.”

The others all instinctively look at Stiles to see what his take on his father’s words was. Stiles lets out a slow breath and then nods. “Okay. I’m fine with having a security blanket. Uh, made of wolves. Or whatever. And I think you’re right – when we’re being challenged is not the time to find out we’re not strong enough. But we’re going to have to be careful about who we choose, and I don’t know how we would go about that.”

“I would go with the same way you would pick out anyone you’re going to spend a lot of time with,” Stilinski says. “Start with people you can stand. And then see if they would make good friends.” He pretends not to notice the looks that Derek and Scott are giving each other. They’ve come a long way from the circling and snarling they used to do, but they’re never going to be buddies.

“There’s got to be some basic criteria for the sort of person who would want to be a werewolf,” Lydia says, approaching this practically, like a calculus problem.

“People who want to become stronger,” Stiles says, remembering the days just after he had gotten free from Peter, how he had regretted not accepting the bite.

“Uh . . . like Jackson?” Scott says, in response to Stiles’ criteria, even though he knows that’s not how Stiles was thinking about it. He hears the slight shift in his friend’s voice and breathing, and knows what he’s thinking about.

“Jesus, no,” Stiles says, and laughs a little. “I mean, you know, people who want to become stronger for an actual reason.”

“You mean people that actually need it for some reason?” Allison asks. She seems somewhat skeptical.

“Well, yeah,” Stiles says. He looks at her and says, “That’s right, you never knew Scott back when he couldn’t get through a winter without turning blue in the face and going to the ER at least three times. But that’s the sort of thing I mean.” He looks at Scott and says, “You haven’t had any trouble with your asthma since then, right?”

Scott shakes his head. “My inhalers are actually going out of date. Remember when I had to get the rescue ones filled in bulk so my mom didn’t have to go to the pharmacy three times a month?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says.

Allison’s eyes are somewhat wide. “I guess I never realized your asthma had been that serious. You were trying to play lacrosse like that, really?”

“Yeah,” Scott says, somewhat sheepishly. “It was basically like, if I sat out every time I might have an asthma attack, I would never leave the house. My basic rule was that if I wasn’t actually turning blue, people around me could just get on with their lives.” Scott shrugs. “I watched a lot of gym class for the second half.”

“Everyone around here plays lacrosse,” Derek says. “It’s like a disease.”

Allison and Lydia both give dreamy sighs, obviously thinking of boys playing lacrosse.

Stilinski looked at Derek. “I don’t think your opinion counts. At least, not in this room.”

“Fuck yeah, lacrosse – sorry, Dad – frak yeah, lacrosse is awesome and I am totally making first line next year, you see if I don’t,” Stiles says. “And don’t give me that look, Dad, I know what you’re thinking is ‘because what my son needs is repeated concussions’. I will make first line and it will be awesome.”

“Don’t worry,” Derek says. “He should be more damage resistant.”

“Yeah, just try not to storm the field the first time I get knocked down, scruffy,” Stiles says in response.

Derek put a hand on the side of Stiles’ head and gives it a sharp push. Stiles dramatically collapses against his father, who just rolls his eyes. Seeing that somebody is going to have to bring them back on task, Lydia says, “So, we want to look for people who are sick, or maybe physically disabled in some sort of way.”

Scott nods at Lydia, but then Derek moves, leaning forward. “Only to some degree. Our bodies can’t fix everything. Some forms of blindness or deafness, other sorts of physical defects.” He pauses then, looking down at his hands for a long moment before speaking again. The others let him have a moment to gather his thoughts, since it’s clear that he’s not done. “Those are all good ideas, but more than that, I think we want people who are lonely. That’s why this works. We’ve made this a family. We want someone else who needs and wants that.” Derek knows all about being lonely. He thinks they all do, in their own way. In fact, they’re all nodding along with him as he speaks.

“So maybe we should just take a closer look around school,” Lydia suggests. “See who the loners are. I mean, some of them we know, but . . .”

“Some people are just invisible,” Stiles finishes for her, nodding. “And we want the invisible ones. Because the obvious loners, they’re happy being alone. They put it out there for everyone to see. We need the people that nobody else has noticed.”

“Do any of you know a guy named Isaac?” Derek asks. “Your age, maybe a little younger. Tall, gangly, curly hair. Works at the cemetery.”

There’s a moment of blankness on everyone’s face. It persists on Lydia’s and Allison’s, but light dawns on Scott when Stiles says, “Oh, wait, yeah. I think he sat behind me in biology last year. Isaac . . . starts with L. Laney. No, that’s not right. Something like that, though.”

“Lahey!” Scott says. “He’s new on the lacrosse team.” He narrows his eyes at Derek, daring the other werewolf to comment on the sport. “I can smell the soil and sometimes the chemicals on him. He’s quiet. Really quiet.”

“I still can’t place him,” Allison says. “Do we share any classes this year?”

“I think he might be in our history class,” Stiles says, but he sounds kind of doubtful. “But yeah, I can’t think of a single time I’ve ever heard him speak except maybe a few times he’s been called on in class. Which makes him sound like our kind of guy, actually. How do you know him, Derek?”

“I met him in the cemetery the night the omega came through. Remember, the omega’s first stop was grave desecration? Isaac was working that night. He’s got some steady nerves, even faced with werewolves.”

“Wait, so, he knows?” Stiles asks, clearly surprised.

Derek shrugs. “Sort of hard to hide when I had to lift a backhoe off the open grave he had been knocked into.”

“Fair,” Lydia says. “Totally fair.”

“But that’s a good sign, right?” Allison says. “I mean, that he didn’t freak out or make a big deal out of it or start posting on the internet and stuff.”

“I would say so,” Derek ventures.

“Unlike Jackson, who tried to threaten me?” Scott adds.

Stiles lets out a snort of laughter, then sobers up. “I guess back then exposure was a pretty potent threat because the Argents didn’t know you were a werewolf. So, he gets a gold star for trying. And then hopefully a kick in the nuts for being a gigantic douchebag.”

“Isn’t there a rule about one guy not suggesting doing that to another?” Allison asks.

“Not any rule that I subscribe to,” Stiles says.

Sheriff Stilinski clears his throat, and everyone looks over at him. “Okay, guys,” he says, “I have one more thing to say, and I don’t want you to answer this right now. I want you to really think about this over the next couple of days. These ideas you have about going to people who are sick or lonely are good ideas. But it also means that you’re targeting people who are emotionally vulnerable. People who will have a hard time saying no, even if you explain the drawbacks. So you need to think real hard about how you’re going to avoid taking advantage of these people. How you’re going to make sure that they understand. How you’re going to make a decision on who ‘deserves’ to be in the pack and who doesn’t – and how you’ll reject people that you don’t think will fit in, without causing more harm than good. This is going to be a very delicate sort of thing to do. And let’s not forget, and I hate to be the one who brings this up, but nobody else has, but you don’t even know for sure that any of you can turn anyone, since none of you werewolves are an alpha. So there’s the possibility that you’ll decide together someone should join, and promise that to them, but then not be able to follow through.”

“Trust me, I hadn’t forgotten,” Derek mutters.

They all nod in response, faces serious, and Stiles says, “Yeah, we . . . thanks, Dad. We’ll be careful. I promise.”

 

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