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of ghosts and men

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Scott flopped down heavily on the bed with a sigh. The house was far too big and gloomy for his liking but the pay had been good and his mother had been in no state to turn down the offer. Money was tight as always and though he did what he could to help out in the vet's clinic, it wasn't even close to being enough. Scott was tired of seeing his mother stay up night after night, trying to make sense of the ever growing stack of bills, the lines around her mouth borne of worry and fatigue growing deeper everyday . The caretaking job had seemed like a godsend at the time.

 

On arrival, he was less sure. But he kept his misgivings to himself. His mother had enough to worry about.

 

The house ( was it a house? Surely manor would be more appropriate) stretched out dark and silent, the night they had arrived. It was a stormy night and they had been glad to be out of the wind and rain when they finally reached the place. His mother had been less pleased to find almost all the rooms locked, dust sheets cast over most of the furniture. It looked like noone had used the place for years. They were to stay there for a month and get the place ready for its new owners.

Scott yawned. He knew he should sleep but he was still on edge. The storm raged on, outside and he felt wide awake.

He must have fallen asleep anyway,because late at night, he jerked awake. He lay there, heart beating a little too fast, wondering what had woken him.

He decided he was thirsty. He poured himself a drink of water and was shuffling back to the bed when -

" Hi. "

 

Scott's heart almost stopped. With a startled yelp , he spun around, fell backwards on the bed and got tangled up in the sheets. He was still struggling to extricate himself when the voice said, apologetically , " Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you. "

"Yes, you did, " Scott , finding his voice at last.
He looked accusingly at the boy , leaning casually by the door, unconcerned, as if wandering into strangers' bedrooms was something he did everyday. Maybe it was. He had a practised air about him . Scott glared at him.

The boy grinned.

" I suppose I did. Forgive me. We have precious little entertainment here . We must take what we can get . "

Scott squinted at him. " Who are you ? "

The boy laughed and walked towards him . On closer inspection, Scott saw he was tall and skinny with pale skin. He would have been handsome were it not for the scar covering most of one side of his face.

" My name is Peter Hale. And you are -- ? "

" Scott McCall. " he replied. His eyes darted around the room, wondering how best to get rid of this unwelcome, peculiar guest.

"- - Oh, I'm not a guest. I live here." said the boy languidly. He frowned. " Well, in a manner of speaking. "

Scott's head whipped around. " How -- ? "

Peter smirked. " That one always freaks people out. I'm not even that good at it. I just catch snippets here and there, sometimes. The look on your face, though -- " He smiled widely.

Scott decided he was dreaming. His mouth had been hanging open, but now it snapped shut with an audible click. He turned around and climbed into bed determinedly. This wasn't real. This was just a dream and it would end as soon as he woke up.

" Denial. " a voice whispered, so close to his ear, he jumped. Apparently his guest didn't like being ignored. " It would be amusing if I hadn't seen it a hundred times before."

Scott swallowed, his mouth dry.

" What do you want? " he managed.

Peter sighed. " So predictable. And here I thought you were going to be interesting."

"Sorry to disappoint , " said Scott , drily.

Peter yawned. " We'll meet again, I suppose.Till then, adios." He walked away . Scott gaped after him.

The next morning, remembering the snippet the boy let slip, Scott asked his mother casually, "Mom, who are the Hales? Do you know? "

The Hales had lived there, he learned . A large family, friendly with the townsfolk, yet distant somehow. The fire that took them out , claimed almost the whole family. Derek Hale was the last surviving member and it had been he who had paid for the house to be renovated and hired Melissa McCall to clean it up before he arrived. She was the fifth housekeeper, it was rumoured. For some reason, all the others had hastily packed their bags and left hurriedly, some in the middle of the night, it was said. Noone had lasted longer than a week. The townsfolk muttered darkly that there were spirits afoot at the old house but of course, that was just superstition. It didn't mean anything.

Scott said nothing. The next day, his mother dropped him off at the library. He needed to catch up on homework he said. Melissa had given him a funny look ( never, in the history of high school had he ever willingly done homework and Scott kicked himself for not coming up with a better lie ) but she dropped him off and now he found himself
at a table, going through anything he could find on the Hales. Old newspapers, articles, records of lineage, anything he could find were spread out before him. He was eyeing the growing pile with dismay when someone slid in , next to him.

" Hey," said the stranger , slightly nervously, nodding at him. Scott nodded back and then
there was silence for a little while until--

" So what are you looking for? I could help. "
Scott, slightly taken aback, stared at him. The kid's face fell, a little and backtracking, " Or not. I mean, if you want to, obviously..." He twitched a bit and scratched his ear. He bent over his book, determinedly not looking at Scott. The tips of his ears had gone red. Scott took pity on him.

"Yeah, dude, that would be good actually. I'm kinda swamped here." The kid( Stiles, he learned later) looked up eagerly, brightening.

For the rest of the morning , they went over every record of the Hales they could find, methodically. Scott wondered on and off why this kid was being so helpful , but then decided maybe he was just lonely and wanted someone to talk to. He didn't seem to have many friends, if the time they spent together in the subsequent days was anything to go by and he was a little too anxious, a little too quick to apologize , like that was something he did a lot. Scott was careful not to pry-- something told him, this kid ( he was around Scott's own age but somehow Scott still thought of him as a kid) would not take kindly to being questioned too closely. He was oddly private for someone who talked so much ( and after the initial awkwardness, Scott found Stiles talked a lot) and even when he spoke of himself , he talked as if he were speaking about someone else.

Scott had said nothing of Peter to Stiles. In truth, there had not been much to tell, because after that first night, Peter had not put in an appearance. Sometimes Scott wondered if he had dreamt the whole thing. But it had felt so real and if nothing else, looking up the Hale family history was a good way to pass the time. Scott was starting to develop a morbid interest in the fire - - there were different accounts of how and why it started-- according to some reports, a gas leak was responsible while others referred to dry wood and kindling...these were sketchy at best and Scott had the distinct impression noone really know what had happened. These theories were speculation at best--