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Running . . . But Not Far Enough

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"I'll partner with Stiles, sir," Abbie said, throwing a grin at the rest of the class.

When the professor went quiet, simply staring at her, she said defensively, "I know he hasn't been here this week, but he'll still need to have a partner and hand in the assignment like the rest of us. I don't mind working with him." She tossed off the last part with a flair of nonchalance as Professor Maxwell continued to look over his Philosophy class. Stiles was the brightest of all of them and despite the unfortunate bit of business between him and Derek, he could whip them all intellectually in his sleep. Partnering with Stiles meant an A+ or at the very least an A, and her GPA could do with a lift. So what if it made her unpopular for a bit, the rest of them could suck it.

"Ummm, I'm sorry Ms. Denver, but that will not be possible. Mr. Stilinski is no longer a student at BHC." Professor Maxwell's pronouncement was met with stunned silence before the class erupted.

"What do you mean he's no longer a student here?"

"Where is he?"

"Did Kate get him expelled? That bitch!" A particularly vehement call came from the back of the class, and Danny sat there listening to it all. Where was this sense of outrage a week ago? Hell, where was it a month ago when the shit with Kate and Derek began? Danny said nothing, looked at no one and contributed nothing to the uproar.

"We've got to do something about this!" Abbie said, before Prof. Max, as he was known affectionately by his students, called on them all to settle down.

"All right, all right, that's enough." When the class went quiet, fumingly so, he continued. "Mr. Stilinski has not been expelled or removed from Beacon Hills College, he's simply transferred his final year to Stanford."

A pin could have dropped and it would have echoed across the room.

"Dr. Axxel, the head of the Philosophy Department, had offered him a partial scholarship before he had accepted entry here, and he simply thought now would be a good time to accept. Besides, he's already been accepted into a Graduate Programme as well there; it was an easy transfer.

"So don't worry about Mr. Stilinski, I'm sure he's going to thrive there. I'm frankly surprised you were all so out of the loop on this, knowing how gossip spreads in this place. Mr. Stilinski's transfer went through on Friday and he left town on Saturday. Now shall we return to the matter at hand of this upcoming assignment?"

And that was that. Shocked looks were thrown back and forth, students mouthing "Stanford?" to each other in disbelief and more than one tried to catch Danny's gaze to question him on what he knew, but he smartly avoided them, looking only down the theatre at Prof. Max and the laptop perched in front of him.

Thanks Stiles, he sighed to himself. It was going to be a hell of a day. These vultures would make sure of that.

++++++

Stiles removed his robe and climbed onto the elevated mattress as instructed. He allowed himself to be positioned on the bed, following instructions about how to arch his back, tilt his head, put his neck on display, as a sheet partly covered his bare torso.

"Perfect," Professor Stoator called. "Hold right there. And this, class, is your assignment for today. We're looking for detail, understanding of shadow and light, the medium is up to you. You have four hours, you may begin." Then she turned to the model. "Stiles dear, try to hold it as long as you can. When you feel your limbs begin to cramp just indicate to me and we'll sort it out."

Stiles was afraid to nod and upset the lines his body was already positioned in. Art students were the worst, demanding like you wouldn't believe. So he just called out, "Sure", his voice cracking slightly. It couldn't be any worse than his own internal agony, and shit, the money was good.

His sudden move to Stanford meant that neither him nor his dad had prepared for the expenditure of moving across the state. He'd already secured a second partial scholarship that allowed him to now entirely cover his additional tuition-related expenses, but that still left extracurricular, housing and sustenance. And regardless, he was going to make sure he was fed and had enough brain power to blow Dr. Axxel and the admin away with his performance. The man had gone out on a limb and secured a spot for him in the Graduate programme already and he'd be damned if he'd end the year anywhere but in the top five per cent of the class. He had something to prove, and if it kept his mind off the hell he left behind in Beacon Hills, then bring it on!

----

God he was stiff, sore and wondering yet again how the hell he'd allowed that sweet, petite lady to talk him into being her model. From the time Rebecca Stoator saw his moles she would not let him alone about them; going out of her way to ensure they ran into each other, until he gave in. When she'd mentioned how much she'd pay him to pose for five of her classes over the rest of the semester he'd almost choked on his coffee. It was a no brainer really.

He already had a part time job on Saturdays and some Sundays, this would be a little something to put aside for his housing. He could get behind that.

He pulled the robe around him, tied it and stretched.

The clearing of a throat nearby pulled his attention. A cute blond stood before him with a cocky grin. "You are absolutely beautiful."

Stiles frowned, "Thanks." He pulled the belt of the robe tighter and made to move past the stocky guy.

"Maybe you'd like to grab a coffee or something after you've changed?"

Stiles held back the sigh. He was used to this by now. After the first session, he'd had two girls asking him out to a club. He'd turned them down and before he could leave the building a brunette had approached him asking about a drink or dinner. He'd turned her down too. The last thing he was interested in was dating anyone, regardless of how attractive they were.

He picked up his bag he'd left nearby, just as the side pocket buzzed. He pulled out his phone to check his messages. Yup, time to go.

"Sorry, can't. But thanks." It was his pat response to each and every invitation to party, drink, dinner, lunch, breakfast, fuck, whatever, he wasn't interested. He had a group meeting to get to.

As he walked off to the cramped dressing room to quickly change, he heard one of the guy's waiting buddies say, "Told you he wasn't into dudes. Not every attractive, lithe guy with luscious lip wants to suck your dick, Kenny."

He closed the door on the end of that conversation. Jesus, it was just like high school sometimes.

++++++

He rushed into his Philosophy of Language group meeting. He was three minutes late and he knew he would catch a bit of shit for it. He appreciated people who could call you on your shit, and this small group of six would. They didn't like to be kept waiting, they seldom strayed from what they had outlined to discuss and they kept discussions interesting. In other words, they stayed out of your business but were still fun to be around. It was the one thing he appreciated the most.

No questions about where you came from, why you'd transferred half-way through the first semester of final year, and no attempts to set you up with a close friend of their cousin twice removed on their mother's side. In short, it was the exact opposite of Beacon Hills and he was grateful, especially for the lack of supernatural bullshit.

"Stiles, you're late again," Mina was the first to speak up.

"Sorry guys. It's just three minutes and I'm sure the outlines haven't even been handed out as yet. Really sorry."

"Don't tell me. Another chicklet waylaid you to ask you out?" Maurice said, one imperial eyebrow raised. Funny how such a simple mannerism never failed to cast him into the past. He tended to avoid looking at Maurice directly.

"Something like that. Can we get this meeting going, please? I did say I might be a few minutes late."

A collective sigh went up around the group. Bruce shook his head at him; the twins, Allan and Arthur grinned in eerily similar fashions despite being fraternal siblings; and Cassie simply stared at him as if trying to read into his soul. Of the entire group, she was his favourite. Seeming to find what she was looking for, she said quickly, "All right, guys, back on track. The outlines..."

And they were back on track. Like he said, he'd get shit for being late, but they stayed away from the really personal stuff. He smirked and relaxed, pulling his books from his backpack.

++++++

"You hardly call anymore. I've left like six messages, Stiles," Scott pouted down the video cam. And Stiles tried not to feel guilty.

"I've been busy, Scott. I have two part-time jobs you know, and Stanford isn't like BHC, you hand in your assignments on time or you're dead." Well that wasn't exactly true, but hey. He refused to feel guilty, after all, how could he tell his best friend that his continuing to talk about Allison, the love of his life, every chance he got was slowly tearing holes in his soul. He was happy for Scott, he really was. Ever since Alpha Talia Hale bit him to save his life following their near fatal attack by the feral Omega which Hale, Chris Argent and his team of hunters had been tracking, Scott had gone from asthma-prone to sports star and popular at their high school. It won him the interest of Chris' daughter Allison. And to be fair, Allison was a sweetie pie. It was her aunt that was the source of all Stiles' problems.

Kate Argent was the devil incarnate, and had proven to Stiles that she was more than equal to the task of making his life a living hell. So no, he did not want to be constantly reminded of how fantastic Allison was, and how his best friend now had regular invites to dine with the family that included Kate and his ex. He had left his home to get away from it and each conversation with Scott left him in a depressed funk for days.

So yeah. Not exactly busy, more like busy avoiding Scott.

"You know, vet school isn't a walk in the park either. But we promised to stay in touch and I'm making the effort Stiles." And yep, there is was. Thank you, guilt. Was wondering when you'd show up and force your way in. Hope you're proud of yourself.

"I said I was sorry Scott. So are you ready or not. I'm plugged in and ready when you are." Video game wars. They still played together, but online now as a form of bro-bonding. It was the only way to distract Scott before he got started on his one-track 'Allison Is Great' song that would lead Stiles down the path to Argent family hell.

----

"Good game bro," Scott grinned at him and Stiles grinned back - the evening saved. It was just like old times.

"We gotta do this more often. I could use the occasional break. You know, just because you're not pack anymore doesn't mean you can just drop off the map . . ." As he continued talking Stiles tried to stem the choking feeling, like his heart was caving in on itself.

For someone that knew him better than perhaps anyone else, except for maybe his dad, Scott could be oblivious to the things he said sometimes and the impact they had. Before he'd left Beacon Hills Talia had hugged him and told him regardless of what happened between him and Derek he was still pack if he wanted to be. He was the one that left it in question, telling her he didn't know if it was best. She'd told him to take his time and not to make his decision hastily.

Now his "brother" was declaring he wasn't pack. What the . . .

". . . I mean I know it sucks, you and Derek not being together, but Kate really isn't all that bad once you get to know her. She kinda reminds me of you, ya know. That weird sense of humour and all . . ."

Wow, the hits just kept coming. When he felt he could breathe again, he struggled out, "Scott, I gotta go man. See ya." And hung up the call without pause. His brain was mush now, his throat tight and no dammit he was not going to cry and he'd be damned before he had an anxiety attack tonight, no, no, just no.

He threw himself back on his bed and tried to breathe his way through it as the darkness closed in.

She was just like him . . . how could she be?

Chapter Text

It took three days of avoiding Scott, two long calls with his dad during breaks at work at the hardware store, and Sunday spent on the internet binging on random shit to calm his mind. So Monday afternoon found him in the Bookstore Cafe with a caramel latte and a hot cheesy pretzel, his work spread across the table.

"You must be Stiles."

"Not interested. Just like the last two, in case you guys are keeping count, so please, fuck . . . off?" Stiles finally looked up at the person standing beside his table. He knew this face, didn't he? But no, it couldn't be. "You're . . ."

"Yes, Peter Hale."

"You look terribly sane and alive for an insane person who was 'probably dead in a ditch somewhere'. . ." he recited. "Are you here to kill me?"

And what was it with the Hales and the judgey eyebrows. Was there a special werewolf school where they learned to look at people with snark? As if he'd read his mind, Peter Hale shook his head in what looked like remorse for the poor mortal in front of him, draped his jacket over the adjacent chair and sat down with a quick lap of his legs. Could he look any more douchey . . . or hot? Stiles wondered. Wait, what?! Douchey, stick with douchey.

"You're looking terribly judgmental for someone who's trespassing on another's territory," Peter said drolly, as one of the baristas set a cup of something pretentious-looking down in front of him, along with a plate with a confection that looked suspiciously like a pineapple tart.

Sorry, make that high maintenance douche. Stiles raised an eyebrow he just knew was an insult to judgey eyebrows everywhere. "How am I in your territory? Last I heard, this was the territory of the McAllister Pack, and most were supposedly wiped out some years ago. The rest scattered, reportedly fled the territory. So unless you're Charles McAllister returned from the dead, and seeing as how you're neither zombie nor red head with freckles, I'm going to say whatever it is you're up to, I want no part of it. I'm just here for school." For the first time since approaching him Peter looked sufficiently satisfied with himself; smug even.

"So the rumours are true, after all. Derek found himself one with a brain this time."

The strong whiff of pain, sorrow and disappointment that overwhelmed the lad's cinnamon and rainclouds, with a hint of corn chips scent, could only mean one thing. " . . . or not," Peter finished with another raise of the brows. That's how you do it. Maybe Stiles' brows were too thin.

"Look what do you want from me? I'm technically in limbo and not officially in anyone's pack, so if the Alpha of this territory wants to be assured I am safe and no rules have been broken, I can do that and have your sister back it up in writing. I didn't think my coming here would stir anything up. I'm sorry if I caused you any problems."

"Caused me problems? How do you figure that?" Peter queried, allowing Stiles to ignore the supposition about his relationship with Peter's nephew.

"I suppose as the elder member of the Hale Pack here, the McAllister, or whomever, pack that owns this territory would come to you to query my being here - hence your seeking me out?"

Peter's predatory smile was full of teeth and his eyes flashed briefly. "Now what would make you think I'm a member of the Hale Pack?"

Stiles' scent went sharp again, this time with an edge of fear at the flare of red in Peter's gaze. "You're the Alpha!?" he wheezed.

"I am the Alpha!" Peter confirmed, with another sip of coffee and a munch of his tart. Yep, douche.

"What do you want?"

"Easy there. I only wanted to meet you, since you still reek of the Hale Pack, and one of my own pack mates was curious about the "new cutie" on campus "who smells faintly of wolves". . . "

"I swear I'm just here for school." Stiles swallowed. "That's all. . . " Anyone with half a brain encountering Peter Hale and knowing his past would be foolish not to lay it all out there for the sake of the peace, and maybe their spleen. He had nothing to hide, nothing up his sleeves.

"Oh I do believe you, dear boy. I don't think that rabbit trying to beat its way out of your chest is particularly good at fibbing, at least not at this particular point. Although,” his eyes narrowed, “I'm sure you're no stranger to stretching the truth.

"Call this a courtesy call if you will - one Alpha to one former? pack . . . human? And jeez, would you calm down, your heart rate is starting to give me a migraine." When the youth swallowed and his pulse began to ease a bit, Peter continued. "I just wanted to let you know, if there's anything you need while you're here, my office is in the History Department. You'll probably meet a few other members of pack around campus, so try not to freak out or have heart failure if they greet you. You should be used to people like us by now. There's Erica, who's in the Law Department; Isaac in French and Italian; Boyd in Energy Resources Engineering, and Ethan works in the Athletics Department. The others are employed, so you'll probably meet them, if you decide to stay that is?" Peter ended in a slight query.

Stiles eyed him warily. "You have a full pack here. Another Hale pack. How the hell does Alpha Hale . . . the other one, that is, not know you're here?"

"You're too smart for such stupid assumptions, Stiles."

"But, if she knows, why does your family speak as if you're either dead or somewhere in a nuthouse . . . umm, sorry."

"Why indeed? But that's a discussion for another time and place, don't you think? Plus, you're late. You should hurry if you don't want to miss Dante's Divine Comedy, and what a shame that would be."

Stiles paused for a moment, surprised and puzzled that Peter Hale evidently knew his schedule. But then his comment hit home and Stiles glanced at his watch, flying up, stuffing books and papers into his pack, hoisting the computer under one arm. "Ummm . . . yeah."

"Nice to have met you as well, Stiles. I'll see you around." And he returned to his coffee and tart with a faint frown as he recalled Stiles' comments about his biological family in Beacon Hills. He watched Stiles juggle his stuff as he scampered out of the cafe.

So it wasn't going to be a dull semester after all.

++++++

Peter returned to his office, ten minutes before he was supposed to have office hours. He sighed as he thought of the task ahead. No doubt someone would come in thinking they were smart enough to get him to extend tomorrow's deadline. Someone else would try to preen and show their intelligence by discussing all the main points of the essay, for him to shoot down their ego by pointing out how much more was missing from said essay; and of course, there would be the idiot who didn't understand the assignment and waited until the last minute to seek clarification.

He wasn't a monster. Well, he technically was, but that was beside the point. Despite the claws and teeth that he kept hidden, the main issue was that he didn't suffer fools easily. This was bloody Stanford, and if they'd got pass muster they could damn well put the same brain cells to use for something other than scoring an invite to the next rave or weekend party. His faculty boasted one of the higher application records, with his classes on the European Witch Hunts and the Scientific Revolution continuing to be the most popular. Students appreciated the fact he didn't coddle them, expected highly of them and graded them accordingly, but still showed a measure of mentorship when required; though let it not be said that he was any kind of father-figure. He'd absolutely quashed that notion in his first week, and still remained extremely popular.

For someone that he understood was as well adept at in-depth research as his research claimed Stiles was, he was a bit surprised the boy hadn't already figured out he was here and why. "Most curious," he muttered to himself.

"Professor?" He turned as one of his students looking near tears knocked and entered. And so it began.

++++++

The only carnal sin beyond being late for one of Grimby's Dante classes, was not paying attention and Stiles, who was usually on top of his game, was in the dog house today (absolutely no puns intended). He simply could not concentrate. Every thought kept returning to Peter Hale. Sorry, Professor Peter Hale.

How could he not have known the Alpha's brother was here, and an Alpha himself? And a Professor to boot? Something was not right about this whole surprise package, and he itched with suspicion. He liked a good mystery just like the next person, it was just that he tended to go into situation with his eyes wide open and what he didn't know he found out. There wasn't even the slightest mention by the Hales, or more accurately, by Talia, about her brother being here with his own pack, and Peter Hale had intimated that he wasn't exactly hiding out from his family.

So why was he left in the dark about it? The man was even on the same campus for Pete's sake! Pete's sake, ha ha . . . well anyway, he needed to ensure he kept his head above the currents and out of the way of Alpha Hale, this Stanford one.

When Grimby called on him again he pinched himself to pay attention and struggled to put forward an opinion. He knew this material! Dammit brain, CONCENTRATE!

++++++

"Soooooo?"

"You know how much I hate it when you do that." Peter refused to look up from his work, as Erica slid into the chair opposite.

"Come on, Peter. I know you met with him. What's he like? Why's he here? Is he coming to pack night?" She asked in a rush, dropping one booted leg onto the edge of his desk before she clearly thought it through. The single eyebrow raised in her direction reminded her that Peter could and would sever said leg was it not hastily removed. She complied, chagrined.

"Erica, I have work to do. Isn't there somewhere you have to be, somewhere that's not here?"

She pouted at him, crossed her arms and slumped in the chair. In a few minutes he knew she'd begin humming that damn Taylor Swift or some such pop monstrosity that would drive him crazy to the point of wanting to throw her through a wall.

"Ok, two minutes. He didn't know there was a pack here. He'd heard of me, but I'm assuming it was the abbreviated version of Beacon Hills events. He doesn't have a pack anymore and he's no longer tied to my nephew. The rest you probably already know," he turned back to his papers.

"Wait, what? What do you mean? Wasn't he your nephew's mate? So he's no longer his mate? Did he say that? Did he say he wasn't pack? Is he looking for a pack?"

"Erica!"

"Sorry, sorry. Ok, I'll go and let you get back to work." She began to ease towards the door.

"Erica. You are not to go bothering that boy. If you scare him, I will be forced to take action and he's skittish enough as it is. Let's just leave him be and let him make the first move.” He glanced up to hit home his point. “And that, was not a suggestion by the way."

She looked at him with another pout. "You're no fun, you know that? I'll see you later." And she flounced out of his office, much like the teenaged version of her that he remembered. Jesus, sometimes he felt like he was running a day care.

He'd have to lay down a similar rule with the others by the end of the evening. Knowing Erica, she would take his warning as just applying to herself and would talk one of the others into doing her dirty work. He exhaled, and shuffled the papers on his desk. It certainly wasn't going to be a dull semester.

Chapter Text

It was another two weeks before Stiles ran into Peter again, and he just wished it wasn't quite so literal this time, but it seemed the vampire was extremely intent on sucking him dry. Who would have thought a sucky joke (ha! so not the time for irony), would have led to him fleeing down a back alley for his life. Didn't the supernatural this far west California have any sense of humour?

Trust him to find the one bar off campus catering specially to the supernatural, without actually knowing that. It was like since meeting Peter Hale he'd been noticing stuff he let pass before, like hey, the gay bar at the edge of town with the short bouncer was a haunt for the supernatural. Like, hey, his Logic professor might not be 100 per cent human after all - there was something shifty about the eyes; and he was pretty sure the girl with the ponytail working in the Bookstore Cafe was some kind of were, if the way she kept sniffing at him was any indication. But right now, he'd pissed off a vamp, however inadvertently, if there was any such thing as an accidental insult after he opened his mouth.

"Look, it was just a joke. No harm no foul, right? You go your way, I go my way and ne'er our paths shall meet again . . . and all that!? Huh?" he said when he realised there was nothing but wall in his way.

"Too bad for you that I'm hungry, little one, and your blood just smells so delightful."

"What? Eww, dude. That's gross, and so not right."

"Don't worry, all will be well in a moment. At least, for me it will." The blood sucker grinned at him, revealing pointy teeth that Stiles just knew would give him nightmares if he got out of this alive.

Hand behind him, he dug into his back pocket, closing his hand around the pepper spray he always carried there. He'd stopped carrying anything with a greater punch when he came to Stanford, and even since meeting the Alpha of the area he didn't think wolfsbane or mistletoe would send the right 'I come in peace' message. He was now revising his lapse in judgement. Well here went nothing. He whipped the spray up and pressed the button releasing a stream straight into the vamps open mouth and eyes.

A gasp followed, and he used the distraction to rush past his attacker. Gosh, why did he have to come to a bar off campus? He'd been doing so well minding his own business too. . . He turned the corner and ran into a solid chest.

"Sorry!" he tossed out preparing to run for his jeep just as iron hands gripped him.

"Stiles?"

His vision focussed. "Peter?! . . . Oh, of course, Peter!"

Just then the furious vamp rounded the corner, teeth on full display and Peter exhaled - a put-upon sigh. "What did you do?"

"Me? I didn't do anything! It isn't my fault Angelus over there can't take a joke. A perfectly harmless joke."

"Really? With the Buffy references? Is now the appropriate time, Stiles?"

"Hey, you got it, didn't you? And . . . wait, you got it! You're a man of mystery, Alpha Hale," he stressed the Alpha part, just a tad bit and knew he was rambling due to being lightheaded with relief and breathlessness.

Peter struggled not to roll his eyes. "Alright, Clayton. What's going on?"

"Wait, you know this douche canoe?"

"Stiles, now would be a good time to be quiet. Like, really quiet."

"Hi, Stiles," a voice belonging to a vivacious looking blonde, with wicked red lips, that Stiles hadn't noticed behind Peter chimed in. "Erica," she whispered as if telling him a secret.

"Oh, hey." Now he was more than a little embarrassed by his predicament to realise the Alpha wasn't alone, but clearly with members of his pack.

"Erica, also not the time . . . Clay, what's this?"

"Sorry, Alpha Hale, I didn't realise he was one of yours." The annoyed vampire breathed heavily, still shaking off the heavy pepper spray, fangs looking dangerous.

"Hmmm, put those away will you," he gestured with his chin towards the man's face. "Humans around and all."

"Sorry again, Alpha Hale. It won't happen again." The teeth retracted slowly to more normal looking canines. Stiles was a little impressed.

"See that it doesn't. Tell Angelo your tab is on me for the rest of the night, eh?"

"Thank you, Alpha Hale." With a final withering glance at Stiles, the vampire brushed past back into the club.

“Angelo?” Stiles sniggered most inappropriately. “The bartender is Angelo?”

Peter turned an unnerving gaze on his grinning, pale, mole-dotted, apparent trouble-maker. "So not only do you instigate riots in the Philosophy Department, but you manage to irritate one of the most level-headed vampires in the area. You really are a treasure, aren't you, Stiles Stilinski?"

"Riot, what riot." Isaac asked, looking suspiciously at Stiles.

"Seems our resident 'not-pack friend' here disagreed with one of his professors and instigated the entire class to riot until said professor apologised to the class."

"You see now, this is how erroneous rumours begin. That 'professor', if he deserves such a title, sought to berate a student in front of the entire class for having an alternate opinion on a theory we were discussing, when by said definition a theory is formed by which ever bright spark of the time decides to record said opinion that evolves into a theory by repeated testing, and we all know theories change when someone else tests an alternative view and proves that to also be true. So in fact, he was being a jackass to the girl who only sought to show him how she arrived at the opinion expressed. Instead of listening to her reasonings, he decided he didn't want to hear it and would give her a D for her efforts. Do you understand the concept of a D in your final year of study? He deserved to be boycotted. And how the hell did you hear about that anyway?"

"Jeez, he talks a lot," Boyd said quietly, and Erica cackled.

"Oh my God, that was you?!" Isaac said in something that sounded like awe. "You're the guy everyone's talking about? The one who staged a walk out on Phelps? Oh gosh, you're campus legend. Everyone wants to shake your hand, dude."

"I like him," Erica continued to grin. "Can we keep him, Peter?"

Yeah, definitely a hell of a semester. A long exhausting one by the looks of it.

++++++

"What in the hell are you doing?"

"Oh!" Stiles jumped away from the door. "I was, umm, well really, um . . ."

Peter shook his head and unlocked his door. "Come on." Peter shed his jacket and set his coffee on the desk. "What do you want Stiles. I have a class in less than 15 minutes."

"I wanted . . . shit. Look, I'm sorry . . . "

"For? What have you done now?"

"Nothing!" Stiles squeaked. He exhaled and flopped into one of the chairs in front of Peter's desk. "I just, I don't want to give you the impression that I'm some kind of a trouble maker. At least not more of an impression of that, than you obviously already have. I wasn't trying to embarrassed Phelps, I just got so damn mad because Tess, that's the girl he gave the D, she spent all of last week in libraries all over the place and I even went with her over to NDNU to talk to a family friend who teaches in Philosophy there and we spent a whole evening tossing the theory back and forth, poking holes in her argument until it was mostly solid and then spend hours typing it up, and Phelps didn't even give her the time of day. I mean all he had to do was listen, even if he didn't agree," his voice rose as he gesticulated.

"Take a breath, Stiles."

"Yea, sorry. Look, I didn't mean to cause a scene on campus and even less so at the club. Sometimes my brain-to-mouth filter malfunctions and, well, you've already seen the result. I just wanted to assure you as Alpha of the territory that I would not do anything to upset the balance. I'm doing my best to stay under the radar. And now I know you have a class so I'm going to go. Sorry again, Alpha Hale." And without waiting for a response the boy, no . . . man, the young man walked out of his office.

You're already upsetting the balance, Stiles Stilinski. You're too unusual not to, Peter thought to himself. And now more than ever he wanted to know what happened between Derek and the extraordinary human who’d just left his office, to have forced the boy into his realm.

++++++

Stiles rolled over and grabbed his phone, looking at the unfamiliar number flashing across the screen.

"Hello?"

"Stiles, hey, it's Erica."

How did she get his number? "I swear, whatever it was, I didn't do it," he said earnestly, wondering if he'd perhaps managed to upset the Alpha again, but Erica began cackling in his ear. "Oh my God, Batman, you really are a handful aren't you?

"I just called to find out if you were busy or if perhaps you'd like to grab a bite with the pack. We're heading over to Terun on Palo Alto. You could come with, if you're not busy." She sounded hopeful.

"Terun? Isn't that kinda ritzy and far to go for a bite?"

"Hey, it's Peter's treat and he's kind of a snob about his food."

"It is not snobby to have a discerning palate. It is not my fault you have the taste buds and sophistication of teenagers. Tell Stiles to throw on some clothes, we'll pick him up in ten." Peter's voice came through from some paces away.

"You heard the Alpha, ten minutes. And Stiles, he hates to be kept waiting." Without even waiting for his ok, she hung up. These people were crazy. Even as he thought it he scrambled from the bed, hunting for a clean shirt and jeans.

When he was almost dressed, his heart skipped a beat when it suddenly struck him. He was going to meet the pack. Was this even something he wanted? The last time he'd joined a pack it had all turned to shit. The Hale name wasn't exactly the most calming on his psyche either.

++++++

Peter was unsettled, he didn't want to examine why, but he was. For some reason he wanted his pack to like Stiles. Erica was ready to adopt the boy . . . man, and Isaac was a little in awe of him ever since the Phelps incident. Boyd was neither here nor there about it, he seldom was about anything not immediately environmentally related, but Ethan, Maria and Chase were anyone's guess.

They usually called ahead when they were bringing the pack in. The staff knew how much food they could consume and was sure to be prepared with a couple of pizzas on hand as appetizers while they decided what they would order for dinner.

The young man dropped into the back seat with a whoosh, grinning nervously at Erica in front and Isaac and an unknown member in the far corner. “Cool ride, dude.”

“Don’t call him dude,” the three other occupants in the car echoed.

“Stiles, Ethan, Ethan, Stiles. You've already met these two,” Peter introduced and took off down the street.

“So, caused any disputes lately," Isaac asked with a smirk.

"Come on, that was in the economics department. I was clear on the other side of campus when it happened. So clearly not me,” Stiles held up arms in surrender and Isaac looked a little crestfallen. “It's truly not my fault that when I suggested to Corey that they do something about the tutor that bragged about her failure rate, that he took it to mean some kind of industrial-type action. Which, by the way, everyone should know by now that failure rates are not an acceptable achievement for faculty in academia.”

“Knew it!” Isaac gushed, hero worship fully restored. “Told ya,” he smirked at Erica.

“Stiles, please stop instigating my pack to academic mutiny. I will hold you fully responsible if Erica gets another academic warning about behaviour and I promise you won’t like the repercussions. And how the hell could you be under the radar all this time and suddenly in the space of a month cause two academic disturbances and almost get yourself drained by the friendliest of neighbourhood vampires? Are you cursed, perchance?”

“Who me?” he blushed in the dark backseat most attractively.

“I can see the appeal now, Erica,” Ethan said, voice filled with mirth.

“Told ya,” was the only response she made as Stiles’ eyes ping-ponged questioningly between the two.

++++++

The evening turned out to be quite entertaining and enjoyable. Peter’s pack wasn’t at all like he was expecting, although to be fair, Erica and Isaac should have been enough of an indication of what he’d find. Talia Hale ruled her pack with a firm hand, and what she said stood as law, without question. It seemed Peter had a more democratic approach and his Pack all had a say. Most curious.

Boyd was the introvert in the crowd. He spoke when addressed but offered little else to the bubbly atmosphere. When he was asked a question though the whole group went silent for his response. He was clearly Peter’s number two, with a brain that Stiles was already envious of. Ethan, it seemed was shy, but quite the ladies’ man. Erica called him an equal opportunity dater and joked continuously about his latest batch of gentlemen callers, although it seemed he was somewhat particular about his tastes. Erica and Isaac were easy to read, definitely the clowns in the group, though both were clearly fiercely loyal to Peter.

Chase was the serious one. A day trader, it seemed he also frequently travelled to NYC for business, though his offices were in Stanford, and he guest lectured in the Economics Department often enough to be well-known and respected on campus. After ascertaining Stiles’ views on recent market activity, much to Peter’s surprise at Stiles’ informed responses, the man seemed satisfied he wasn’t in the presence of a complete idiot.

Maria, though, she was the hardest to read, and also seemed to be the coldest in the group. If Stiles had to guess, he would say she was only in the pack to avoid becoming Omega, which he would never figure was an easy position to have with a man like Peter Hale at the helm. She didn’t bond much with the pack, ate quietly and responded to attempts to draw her into conversation almost grudgingly. Stiles was perplexed.

After he took a bathroom break, he emerged to find Boyd standing just outside the door. “She takes some getting used to, so don’t take it personally. Both Chase and Maria were part of the former Stanford pack. Some day Peter will tell you the full story, it is not my place to do so, but a lot happened to them and they haven’t quite fully recovered, even after these past couple years – Maria moreso than Chase because she lost a lot more. So getting close to others is difficult. Don’t write her off because she doesn’t laugh as easily as the others.” Having said his piece, Boyd turned and walked back to the tables the group had commandeered upon entering.

Stiles took a moment to observe from a distance. Overall they were a happy pack it seemed. A mix-match of personalities that at the end of the day seemed to gel well together. It was not quite the same as Beacon Hills, but somehow just how he imagined a pack, a family should be. It wasn't that Beacon Hills was an awful pack, far from, it was just that sometimes it could be very self-serving. Maybe it was still to early to judge, after all, a human like him could not feel "Pack" the way a wolf did, could he? So what did he know? He sighed and returned to the tables.

++++++

“He’s alright.” Peter glanced at Maria. She’d taken Erica’s place in Peter’s car, after riding down earlier with Boyd. Boyd had taken Erica and Isaac, and Chase had put Ethan on the back of a surprisingly classy bike. Peter had just dropped off Stiles when Maria had spoken.

“Seems that way,” Peter responded to his packmate's endorsement.

“Are you making him pack?"

"Well that's really his call. He hasn't said one way or another and I'm not trying to force the issue. He has to feel comfortable enough to want it, and it's something we'd have to discuss as a pack. How would you feel about it?" Peter hedged.

"You trust him. The rest of the pack like him as well . . .," she paused. "He still carries the smell of hurt on him, so I can understand his hesitation about us. He was promised to your nephew, you said?" Peter didn't keep things from him pack, or he tried not to, not without reason. So they all knew as much about Stiles as he did. Personal stuff he kept if he felt it would not endanger anyone else, and also to allow those around him some measure of privacy, but an unknown like Stilinski, they'd all had questions and he'd sought to allay concerns, especially given their pasts.

"He was."

"So chances are he was hurt by someone like us. So I can understand him being skittish and suspicious of us. But he's smart; hell, he got Chase debating Star Trek versus Star Wars. No one debates Spock with Chase. No one ever knows from a first meeting that Chase even watches SciFi, furthermore is a geek. He spent the evening scoping us out, figuring out our likes, dislikes, analysing and categorising our personalities and that's just from one meeting. But I don't sense evil or subterfuge from him, just caution, and something else. . .  I can't quite put my finger on, but I will."

Yep, that summed up Stiles alright. Quite the little enigma. Peter smiled. Only one other person in his crew was as perceptive and analytical as Boyd and could sum up anyone in a single go and it was the little brunette sitting beside him. It was a skill learnt in fire, battle and blood and one he prized. So even though she didn't say a lot to the others, Maria was especially frank with him because she knew he understood where it came from. So he waited . . .

"To answer your question, I wouldn't have a problem with it. Just be careful with him Peter. He's even more . . . fragile . . . than you were when you first came, though he hides it well. I swear, your former pack," she said it with some derision, "really knows how to twist the screws in. They worked him over so good, left him so broken, he's questioning his own worth to himself and to a pack. That's low, Peter; almost as bad as what they did to you." It was something she would only say to him, to his face, and without anyone else around. "Don't hurt him. We can't hurt him like they did."

Peter was silent for a long while. They were just pulling into the pack residence off Cabrillo Avenue, Boyd's and Chase's, vehicles parked already, lights on inside, when he responded with certainty, "We won't."

Chapter Text

He stood deep on the walkway, paused near a shop window, all but leaning on it, watching. Stiles bit his lip and considered - should he approach or would Peter rather be left alone? If he was this far from Stanford and travelling alone, it was likely he wanted it to remain that way . . . didn't he? It's not that he was afraid. Beyond their first meeting, in the past months he'd been interacting with Peter and his Stanford Pack, especially over the Christmas break when he refused his father's invitation to come home for the holiday, insisting he had work to catch up on that was easier done near the campus than back in Beacon Hills. He knew his father knew better but would not challenge him on the veracity of it. So he spent his time getting to know this new Hale Pack and thus far, even as the new semester started, he hadn't been given much of a reason to fear them. In fact, they got along amazingly well, snark, ramblings and irritations included.

Before he could talk himself out of it, he crossed the street.

Cassie had taken one look at him on Thursday evening and given him her keys. She was spending the weekend with her boyfriend and said she wouldn't need the wheels. "Take it, go for a spin somewhere and sort out whatever has you looking like that. You're no fun when you're mopey. Check out Palo Alto, there's lots of easy places to just veg out. I'll collect the car on Sunday when I come back." And then she'd walked away from him. He didn't need to ask where she'd parked. She always parked in the same spot and no one else dared to take it when she didn't, not after "the incident". Stiles just loved bad-ass chicks.

So he'd called off work - he could miss one Saturday - got in the car with the GPS and just drove. He ended up at The San Antonio Centre in Mountain View. Spent the day window shopping and, well, vegging out. Imagine his surprise when he spotted Peter exiting a store with a bag in hand.

He slipped up behind the man, but before he could raise a hello, he heard, "Hello Stiles."

"Hmm," Stiles scoffed. "Forgot what interesting sniffers and ears you guys have." Peter smiled at him. "What are you doing down here?"

"I could ask you the same thing," Peter avoided. "Everything ok?"

“Hmm,” was Stiles’ only response as they moved off down the sidewalk. Ever so often over the next hour one or the other would pop into a store to check out this or that and the other would trail along. They’d just exited a sports store when Stiles asked, “So about this mates thing . . .” Peter glanced at him and waited. “Is it true that there’s only one for every wolf?”

Peter continued walking towards the Pearl Cafe as he took his time to gather his thoughts. “Depends on what you mean by one for every wolf,” he finally responded as they had placed their orders at the counter and took a table near the back to await their meals. “Mates are not a foregone thing. Every wolf isn't born automatically having a mate and it’s not like they show on TV or read in fan fiction or whatever, where your eyes meet across the room or sniff someone an instantly are bound for life. I'm not saying it can't be overwhelming and breathtakingly fast at times, but more often than not it's a gradual thing as your wolf gets to know someone and determines that person is it for you, is yours. The thing about wolves is that once a wolf has made a decision it's set . . . until one of you dies.” He continued softly, and he recognised the sharp scent of remorse from Stiles.

“Shit, Peter. Look I didn’t mean . . .”

A sad smile graced the Alpha’s lips. “It’s fine. You asked and I answered. If it was a problem I wouldn’t have answered. But my own history notwithstanding, and I’m sure knowing you that you’ve read some of this already,” he looked at the young man across from him in askance; when Stiles nodded, he continued, “A human may be able to walk away, but as long as that person breathes breath, there is no moving on for a wolf, which is why it is such a sacred thing; a most sacred thing. It’s also why some wolves die of heartbreak when their mate passes. Losing a pack member is like losing a limb, yes. Losing a mate is losing your mind. Loss of control, emotional instability, searing pain like you've never heard of. It’s horrendous and excruciating.”

Stiles held his breath.

“A mate is not someone you can just discard at will, especially not after physically bonding.”

“So I’m not his mate. I never was.” Without Peter’s enhanced hearing he would never have heard Stiles’ whispered words of despair. Peter watched him until he finally raised his head and Peter held his gaze. “It’s not impossible, but it is unlikely given the four years you were together.”

“You know,” Stiles said shakily, “I read everything about this when he first said the m-word. I had questions but I kept telling myself I was being paranoid, that someone would tell me if it wasn't so. I was in a pack with wolves after all, a family. So I thought that here was someone that actually wanted me, wanted to be with me, to claim me. It felt surreal you know, after being ridiculed at school for being too pale, too freckled, too smart, too mouthy, too hyper-whatever, just too everything – here was someone that saw all that and didn't mind in the slightest. Someone that wanted all that.

"It rocks your confidence, ya know? Just when you think ‘I've got it right and they were all wrong’, you realise what a fool you've been and it stings, deep down where nothing can ease it in the slightest. And then they all stand by and watch as you're eternally humiliated," he continued, toying with the laminated menu on the table. As if remembering he was talking with the Stanford Alpha, Stiles looked up and blushed. "Shit, sorry. Didn't mean to off-load on you like this."

Peter made an absent gesture in dismissal. "Have you talked about this with anyone? I mean really talked about it."

Stiles guffawed. "Who would I talk to?" He paused as their order was called and Peter got up, waving him back to his seat. Peter grabbed the two plates from the counter and made his way back to the table, returning seconds later for their drinks. Sitting across from Stiles, Peter gave him an impressed smirk at the volume of his order, especially given his sheer enthusiasm earlier that they actually had curly fries on the menu. Seems someone had given him an extra portion, and now Stiles' eyes gleamed as he looked at the treat before him, before he seemed to remember Peter’s earlier question.

"Oh right! Look, my dad's the Sheriff of Beacon Hills and he works closely with Alpha Hale. So all of this creates complications that I don't want to make his problem. My best friend is dating the niece of the woman who's now dating my ex and who tried her level best to eviscerate me emotionally, and most publicly before I gave up and left Beacon Hills. My second best friend is studying Microbiology and Genetics at Harvard and would probably invent something to eliminate Derek and all he holds dear if I even told her half of what's been happening. Plus, she's a member of said Pack; so no, I haven't been talking about this. I'm not even sure why now. . ."

"Can I make a suggestion?" At the nod, Peter continued. "At the risk of sounding like some pop psychologist . . . What you experienced, it never should have happened like that, whether you were Derek's mate or not. And even moreso because the wolves around you should have known better. That being said, you can't look to someone else to fill up your empty spaces. Eventually they will fail to make the grade. . . It's clear to me that you've had a hard time. For some reason the people around you convinced you you weren't good enough and despite being clearly one of the most intelligent people I've met, you foolishly believed them."

When Stiles went to interrupt Peter raised a halting hand. "I'm not saying you are foolish, but you believed their lies and as a teenager, even a young adult, I can understand that. At least in the beginning. So despite having questions about your 'mating'," Peter gesticulated on the last word, "you squashed your concerns and allowed yourself to go along for the sake of someone to call yours. Now I'm not saying this was your fault, because in all honesty, the Pack should have mediated this situation a hell of a lot better than they did, but you've also got to know your own worth Stiles."

Now the young man was staring at him, jaws ajar, so Peter simply picked up his fork and dug into his pasta with gusto. When Stiles' senses returned to him, he picked up his double decker BBQ Chicken Sandwich and bit into it deeply, dipping a curly fry into ketchup. The two ate in silence for a bit. "When you asked if you could give me advice I was sure you were gonna suggest a therapist . . . not . . . that!"

"Not what? The truth?" Peter wiped his lips. "Do you think you need to see a therapist, Stiles?"

"I . . . I honestly don't know. I don't think so. Sure this whole thing has messed with my head a bit, with my confidence a lot, but actually, until you said that stuff you said, I hadn't thought of it that way. It's always felt like something that happened to me, you know, but you're right, I do have a choice about what I do about it and how I allow it to affect me."

"I'm not saying you're going to wake up tomorrow with a new lease on life. Hell, it's still gonna kick your ass from time to time and make you want to curl up into a ball and cry your eyes out for the trust you've lost and the effect it has on other relationships in your life, but you can choose to move on and not let this experience determine all your future experiences. Learn to trust your instincts again. I've a feeling you have really good ones." Stiles was back to staring at him again, like he was a new life form floating in a test tube. But instead of some snarky comment, all Peter got was a solemn, "Thanks."

"You’re welcome." They finished their meal discussing classes and students at Stanford.

++++++

The next few months were illuminating. Easter came and he took a weekend trip out of town with Cassie, her boyfriend and a few of their common friends. It was easy, relaxing. And if Stiles found himself missing Peter and the others, he kept it to himself.

Exams after exams rolled around, and before he knew it, he'd been at Stanford almost his entire final year. It was gruelling and nearly caused him an accident for lack of sleep, but interestingly enough, Erica and Boyd kept him on track. They studied together, allowed him to toss ideas off them, especially final semester which caused him a few metaphorical gray hairs. Sometimes Chase even joined them in the den, as did Isaac and Maria occasionally, though she often said very little. She owned an antiques shop downtown, trading in supernatural books and artefacts, one of Peter's biggest interests. Turned out he was also partner in the business - a fact that should not have come as a surprise to Stiles, at all, but somehow did.

So exams came and went and he started preparations for Graduate School given his early admission, sure that he'd aced or at least passed all his classes. He picked up more hours at the hardware store; enough to live off of and save a bit, but not too many that he didn't have time to actually enjoy summer. And he allowed himself to start feeling a bit like his old self again.

Peter took the entire Pack, and Stiles, up the coast one weekend to Half Moon Bay and they spent an uneventful time at the seaside in what Stiles thought was a rental until he came across a single photo of Peter and his niece Cora on the dresser in the room Peter had taken for himself. It's the only sign he’s ever seen of Peter's former pack or family, and he wondered once again how Peter ended up out here.

While they'd spent a surprising amount of time talking about any and everything, Stiles had realised that Peter never talked about himself and no one in the pack did either. It was like an unspoken rule that unless Peter discussed Peter, no one else did and Stiles was fine with that, kinda. His brain kept trying to tease out scenarios as to what could have happened for Peter to end up here as an Alpha but nothing he came up with seemed plausible. He'd had bits and pieces from Beacon Hills and knew about the murder of his mate, and all of what he'd heard suggested the man was more than a little dangerous, but so far Stiles was befuddled. He didn't think Peter killed The McAllister, as the man was known, because he didn't believe after coming to know Chase and Maria a little that they would willingly follow such a man. But it all still left a hole in his analysis of the Hale Pack. So he let his brain have free reign and avoided asking any questions, regardless of how badly he wanted to.

By the time his grades were released proving he had one of the highest GPAs in the entire class, he'd already spent a part of the summer reading up for his new courses. Erica muttered about hyperactive brains and overachievers and Stiles grinned at her and chanted his end of semester GPA over and over until she quit the room. She did good in her classes too; he just did better. Boyd had been offered a job with a local firm that outsources to lesser developed countries and was considering taking it and putting off more studies for a while. Isaac was thinking about moving abroad for the next year but was torn about separating from the pack. They all left him alone until he wanted to discuss it. He spent some evenings in and out of Peter's study, just the two of them evidently thrashing out his options. Chase seemed busier than usual and the others explained that summer usually meant killer hours for him, sometimes even all-nighters. Ethan's contract with the sports department had been renewed for another two years and all seemed hail and healthy with the pack, but Stiles was restless. He couldn't quite put his finger on why.

His father calls about whether he's coming home for the last two weeks of summer, he tells him not. He's happy where he is, and his father lets it go again, for now. The new school year was sure to bring more opportunities for visits, especially Christmas, he says to Stiles, who simply grunts, neither agreeing nor refuting the possibility. But he's restless.

It's not until Lydia calls that he realises why.

"Why the hell didn't you tell me!" she all but screams at him. "That bitch! I could scratch her eyes out, with that fake ass smile and superior attitude. Who the hell does she think she is? How could you just leave and not tell me this was happening, had happened? Better scholarship opportunities, my ass. You lied to me!"

When she finally took a breath, Stiles said calmly, "I'm sorry Lyds, but it wasn't worth upsetting you over. I mean, what could I do? He made his choice and there was nothing for me to do but get out of dodge. I wasn't interested in playing her games and she knew that. If she's what he wants, he can have her."

Lydia was quiet for a moment. "Stiles, is there someone else?"

"What?!" Stiles asked shocked.

"Well for as long as I've known you Stiles, you've been salivating over Derek Hale – his perfect abs, perfect face, perfect scowl, perfect everything. There was nothing and no one but Derek Hale, and nothing you wouldn't do for him. Now after a year at Stanford, you're all, 'let her have him'? And not even bothering to come home for the summer to even see your dad? Nuh, uh! What's going on up there? Or more accurately, who's keeping you up there?"

Peter stepped out from his office, in a soft pair of jeans, a deep V-neck that had seen one too many washes and bare feet. Stiles tracked him with his eyes. It threw him back to their weekend trip when he'd first seen a completely new side of Peter – a side that wore ratty sweat pants with (and heavens help Stiles' very gay soul) no underwear and no shirt. It was a side to the Alpha that wasn't all douche. A side that laughed freely and had a vicious penchant for ducking anyone who annoyed him beneath the waves given half a chance. A side that loved moonlit walks alone on the water's edge as if the water over his feet eased something inside of him.

"Stiles!" Lydia yelled, and Peter's head shot up in his direction as if just realising he was not alone. The imperial eyebrow rose and Stiles blushed. "Sorry, banshee," he muttered by way of explanation, taking the phone out through the open doors and out into the spacious backyard.

“Who's that?” he could hear the suspicion in her voice.

"No one. It's nothing. Look, I just didn't feel like coming back to spend my entire summer dodging the happy couple. I needed time for me. So instead of focusing on them, I decided to look after me this summer and spend it doing the stuff I want to do with people I actually enjoy spending time with."

"Aha!" she yelled again, akin to a Eureka moment. "Who are these 'people' you're spending time with You mentioned friends after the first semester but I didn't realise you were so invested. I guess I should have asked more questions when I took off on my internship for Easter and didn't hear from you for months. So, when do I meet them? I know I should have asked when you stopped mentioning that dick-bag in our conversations."

"Please Lyds, don't make a fuss. I'm just getting to the place where I'm accepting that regardless of what happened in Beacon Hills, I deserved better and should have expected better. I'm trying to take care of me for a change. Let me."

"Wow. Whoever he is, hold onto him."

"Lyds . . ."

"Ok, ok. I'm not going to say anything more, but I want details, eventually. You know I've got your back, right? I'm always on your side, Stiles. I'm just relieved. I was a bit scared when I got here and found out all that's happened without me knowing and then realising how little we've spoken this past year. And, nobody told me a thing! I still can't believe nobody told me. I was feeling so guilty that I didn't even know or think to ask, especially when Alpha Hale kept asking how you were doing and when you were coming back."

"She's been asking about me?" Stiles paused, shocked. "When? Why?"

"I'm not sure; but you know I call back ever so often, just to keep touch with the Alpha. She brought you up a few times actually. It was kinda weird, but now I know what's been happening, it's like she was trying to determine how much I knew or what you'd told me or if . . ." Lydia made a frustrated sound. "I don't know, it just felt weird. Not the usual wolfy weird, but intense weird. Like she was searching for something but I'm not sure what . . . Maybe she was worried I'd leave the pack indefinitely too. But, you're ok and I'm going to believe that. You don't need this pack. I'm happy that you're in a good place, Stiles. That whoever he is, he’s taking care of you. . .”

“Lyds, there isn’t anyone.” Stiles said, with a gentle roll of his eyes at his best friend's words, even as her disclosures rattled around in his head.

“Ummhmm. Sure,” she laughed like she knew something he didn’t. “I'm glad we talked hun. But you need to start telling me things. We're friends Stiles. And before you ask, I've opted to stay away from the merry couple, although I haven't seen much of them around town lately like before and I haven't been up to the mansion in a while. Needed to cool off after I found out and all. It's rotten what she did and for the pack to have allowed it to happen." When Stiles made a sound of distress, she stopped. "Sorry, don't mean to rehash. Just take care of you, ok? I'll call you tomorrow."

"Bye Lyds. Love you!"

"Love you too, little brother. Bye"

He turned and made his way back into the house. “Everything ok?” was the first thing Peter asked. It was clear the man had been waiting for him.

"Yeah," Stiles said hesitantly, thinking back on what Lydia said about Alpha Hale's strange behaviour. But he decided not to mention it to Peter, and instead said a bit more assertively, "Yeah, everything is fine."

Peter smiled and his blue eyes softened. "Good." Turning he returned to his office and the army of books that were no doubt waiting for him.

And Stiles' restlessness settled, for now.

Chapter Text

Stiles shot up and looked around. He wasn’t certain where he was or what had woken him so abruptly, but something did. Then his phone blared again and he reached out and snagged it from partly hidden beneath the nearby pillow.

“Hello?”

“Dude, what the hell did you tell Lydia?” Scott yelled at him.

“What?!” Stiles’ brain was struggling to catch up, as he glanced around again confused. There was a sliver of light peeking through the slightly open door to the room. He then remembered where he was. In Peter’s pack house, in the room unofficially designated his for when he stayed over. Reaching out, it took him several tries before he managed to flip the bedside lamp on. The clock told him it was just gone 10 p.m. Then he recalled the rambunctious full-moon night of shenanigans that had led him and the werewolves in a game of tag teams through the trees behind the pack house before he’d called it quits and jokingly told the wolves to kiss his tired and not so hairy butt, but that he was exhausted and calling it a night. ‘You guys are mercenary!’ he’d yelled to what he swore were laughing howls. He’d come in flicked on lights downstairs and headed straight up to bed - and crashed.

“Stiles!” Scott yelled again.

“Scotty, pipe down man. What are you yelling for?”

“Lydia’s gone off on Kate. Since she got here she’s been a general pain in the ass. She had the gall to call me a fraud, Stiles! She called me Fraud McWonderBoy! I mean, what’s that about?! And then she insulted Derek and when Kate came to his defense she called her an amoral bitch. Stiles, what did you tell Lydia to make her behave like this?”

Stiles went silent. How dare they! How dare they behave like he’d need to incite Lydia to take his side in this shit. Hell, Scott should have taken his side instead of giving him the senseless spiel about being neutral with his future in-laws. How could anyone who even knew Lydia expect her to sit calmly by, even if she’d only heard the gossip about it? He recalled she’d said she would call him back today and he’d known then that he’d be expected to walk through the details of what really went down.

But damn, he rubbed his chest, Scott's accusations hurt. And just like that, it was like someone had snapped a finger and he was right back to the pain of before. Back to his depressed state of when he’d left Beacon Hills feeling like no one in the pack had his back. God, he just wanted to put this whole damn thing behind him.

He tuned back into the conversation to hear Scott add, “. . . like we don’t even know her anymore.”

And that hurt too. “What about me, Scott? Do you feel like you know me anymore?”

The softly asked question seemed to stop Scott in his tracks. “Of course I know you, Stiles. You’re my brother. You’ll always be my brother.” Now he sounded puzzled, like the question was totally out of left field, which it totally wasn’t.

“Then why is Lydia the only one who’s stood up for me? And for your information, I haven’t said anything to Lydia about what happened. If she’s only heard the other side and is reacting, then that should tell you something, shouldn’t it? I’ve been bearing all of this alone, Scott, alone for so long with no one in my corner. It took me leaving home to find people that simply accept me for me no questions asked,” Stiles was determined not to cry, but his chest felt like someone was sitting on it and his eyes burned.

“Buddy look. I told you I couldn’t pick a side. It wouldn’t have been fair to Allison or the pack to pick a side. Besides, there was no proof that Kate did anything. It would just have looked like we were picking on her, especially after you attacked her.”

“After I attacked her? After . . . I . . .” and the first tear rolled down his cheek. And now he’d gone and broken his promise to himself. He’d sworn he’d never be back in this place again; to never let them reduce him to this. He just couldn’t. This wasn’t fair, fuck life’s little diatribe about fairness. “Bye Scott.” With shaking fingers and blurry eyes he quit the call.

Stiles sat in the suddenly too empty, too silent, too solitary pack house and cried.

++++++

His phone chimed again for what seemed like the 100th time as he stared at the ceiling with gritty eyes. He didn’t know why but he picked it up, looking through sore eyes to see who was texting. It was Lydia at full rant. He pressed a single digit and speed-called her from his favourites.

“Stiles? Are you there? Jeez, I’m sorry, but Boy Wonder came back in there going on about how you hung up on his ass and I got angry all over again. I had to leave. Are you ok?”

“Hey Lyds.” He sat up, stuffy.

“Shit, you’ve been crying, haven’t you? I’m Skyping you and I’m not doing it over the phone. I don’t care if you’re butt naked, I’ve seen it all before, but you’d better answer with camera on or I’m driving, flying, hell I’m scuba diving up there tonight. I mean it!”

“Ok, ok, wait. Gimme a sec to grab my tablet.” He reluctantly rolled over and grabbed his bag from the floor by the night stand.

When the call came through less than three minutes later he answered, turning the camera on. She took one look at him and went full red in the face. “That fucking jackass!” Lydia rarely swore. She preferred, as she always said, to ‘use her own words’. The occasions she let the stingers rip were when everyone usually moved the hell out of her way. “Sometimes I don’t understand why he’s your friend. What did he say to you?”

“He wanted to know what I’d told you to send you off on Kate. What did you do, Lydia?”

“What you told me to. . .? That asshole. As if? God, I’m sorry Stiles. I’m sorry. I’m sorry to have dragged you back into this, but damn I can’t say I would have been any easier on them even if I’d known it would lead to this. It’s past time they stopped behaving like the sun shines out her ass simply because Derek seems to be smitten with her, stupid ass that he is.” At Stiles’ moan she cringed, closing her eyes briefly, then sighed. “Sorry.”

“I didn’t want you to get involved. I don’t want to cause trouble in the pack.”

“To cause trouble in . . .,” Lydia deliberately cut herself off and inhaled, deeply and audibly. Then he exhaled with an impressive growl and looked at him determinedly. “You listen to me and you listen carefully. I got involved because I had to. Someone had to step up and let them know what happened to you was shitty; it was wrong. You were pack, dammit!”

“But they didn’t do any . . .” Stiles started, but Lydia cut him off brutally when he tried to interrupt. “I. DON’T. CARE. that they didn’t directly have a hand in it. They sat by and allowed it. That’s enough even for me. She humiliated you, to the entire college, Stiles. That video should never have seen the light of day, and I don’t care who tells me there was no proof she leaked it. I’m not stupid enough to believe it. Hell even Chris knows it was her and he’s her fucking brother.”

“I should have known better than to let Derek record us. . .”

“Stop. Just stop. I’ve done sex tapes, Stiles. I know very few who haven’t at least tried it. And yes, you should have insisted Derek erase the damn thing after you were done and had your laughs or used it to get off or whatever, but she had no right to put it out there the way she did. And the dildos stunt in your damn locker after she’d already done her worse. Jesus, if I was you I would have done a hell of a lot more than knock her out.”

“Who?. . .How?. . ." he looked away embarrassed.

“Danny told me everything. I wanted to know why he and Jackson weren’t hanging out anymore and he told me they had a falling out over the whole thing. I promise I had intended to talk to you today and get all the details, but when he started talking he couldn’t stop. He was so angry. Still is angry even after all this time. He told me what he did. God bless that boy!”

Stiles looked up from examining his nails. “I figured it was him. A lot of people had to buy new phones and computers after even clicking on the video. I figured he’d done something to it.”

“Yeah, he did. A really nasty virus that completely erased all data on the devices. Jeez, Danny – who would have thought he’d be your defender?”

“He’s the only one I told I was leaving.” Stiles swallowed tightly, shifting topic. “So what happened tonight?”

“I was ordered to pack dinner by the Alpha,” she said the word particularly scathingly. “She said I’d stayed away too long and I needed to associate with the pack now I was home. I told her I would not sit at a table with Kate Argent and she said Derek and Kate would be out. I don’t know whose bright idea it was, after they realised Kate had invited herself to pack meal, not to tell me. So I come in and the Alpha mandates that I stay. Stiles, I would have walked right back out the door if Alison hadn’t begged me not to stir shit up. She was really apologetic and well, she is my friend; but I told her I would eat and leave, that’s it. I’m not bonding with that woman regardless of the fact that she’s her aunt.

“Dinner starts, it’s all fine, and that bitch keeps trying to display her supposed affection for Derek because she’s all over him and it’s confusing to me how she can be acting like this with the Alpha at the damn table. Sure Derek is his mother’s favourite baby, but still, you know?” Lydia was almost flailing now, most uncharacteristically. “Then the bitch says, loud enough for me to hear, that maybe she and Derek can have a little fun with his camera tonight. And I lost it!”

Stiles’ eyes went wide, as Lydia continued with a sneer. “Yeah, threw my wine in her face. I’m sure it splashed a few people, but who the hell cares. She didn’t have to go there. So I am officially putting myself on leave from the Beacon Hills Pack.”

“Lydia,” Stiles pleaded. "Is Talia going to allow that?"

“I don't care, mind’s made up, Alpha’s informed. She can do with it what she will. Why can you slip out and I not? I will not put up with Kate’s shit, even if the rest of them will. And I will not betray you the way the rest of them have, and regardless of what you say Stiles, they did betray you.”

Stiles was quiet before he said softly, “We were still together when the video came out, you know. At least we were still sleeping together. I couldn’t understand what was happening when everyone started giving me those looks. And then to hear someone say that Kate probably does a better job. I didn’t even know they were already fucking. And the Pack didn't do a damn thing about it. God, that was the straw that broke me. I knew she was gunning for him, she’d made it clear, but I was literally hanging on to him with my nails, Lydia. I thought for sure, as his mate I could win him back.”

“You shouldn’t have had to win him back! He’s the ass for not holding onto you! But don’t you worry, he'll get his. I don’t know what, but that chick is up to something and I don’t trust this whole thing. It makes no damn sense to me.”

“Lyds?” Stiles interrupted what he’s sure was turning into another rant. “Yes, hunny.”

“Thank you.” Stiles’ gratitude almost brought both of them to tears again.

“Don’t you dare thank me. It’s what you should expect from your friends. And if you can’t then you need new friends.” To distract from the solemn talk, Lydia switched gears. “So why are you in on a Friday night anyway? Shouldn’t you be out partying the night away? I’ve heard howling all night so I know some of the pack here at least is out and about.”

“Well, so are my friends,” he said softly.

Lydia gave him a puzzled look. “What do you mean?”

“I haven’t really told anyone back home, but I’ve kinda struck up something with a pack here. Right now they’re really just friends, good friends, cause I don’t know if the pack thing is for me right now. But they’re so different you know, from what we’re used to.”

“How so? I’ve heard lots of strange things about the Stanford pack.”

It was Stiles’ turn now to give her a look of puzzlement. "How in the world did you know there was a pack here and I didn't?"

She straightened and for a second looked apologetic. “Well, I did a bit of research about some rumours I’d heard when you told me you’d transferred. I heard about the new Alpha at Stanford and did some more digging, but not a whole lot is known about them. I heard most were killed out by some pack which they ended up slaughtering and that since then no one has pretty much messed with them They have that territory on lock and everyone knows it,” Lydia was practically whispering now.

“Yeah, well, I’m not surprised. I still don’t know all the details but the Alpha is . . . unique,” Stiles didn’t know why he didn’t immediately reveal Peter’s identity to Lydia. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust her because he did, he just felt like he should ask Peter first.

“So they’re all right?”

“More than that. They’ve really helped Lyds. This last year there were points where I felt like I was losing my mind every time I thought about Beacon Hills. But whenever I got too overwhelmed there was always someone I could just hang with, and the Alpha, he’s, he’s . . .” a smirk slipped through.

“Well now. What aren’t you telling me?”

“There’s nothing to tell really. He’s been good. Really good. We talk a lot about a lot of the stuff that’s happened to me. Even beyond the video, about the rumours she started and then all the trouble after I punched her in the quad. The college was all too eager when I suggested the transfer.”

“Ok, enough about Beacon Hills. I’ll probably leave by the end of the week to head back up anyway. I have no reason to stay any longer. I could pass through, if the Alpha would allow. I want to see you Stiles, like for real!”

Stiles broke out in goosebumps as he looked at his friend’s earnest face. What would Peter think of this? “Stiles?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he scratched his cheek. “Let me ask. It would be nice to have a few days together. You could even stay with me.”

Lydia frowned, looking alarmed. “Oh hell no. I love you, bunches, but I will not share a room with you, Stiles. I can more than afford to book myself into a lodge or something for the period. Plus, dad owes me for this damn trip home. I was more than willing to go to Cape Cod with some friends. But no, the Alpha wanted me home with the pack. Pack, my ass.”

“Lyds,” Stiles whined.

“Shit, sorry Stiles. Look I’m gonna go. I’m glad we talked. And hey, regardless of the fact that he can be an absent-minded asshole, I think Scott, somewhere deep inside, maybe under his Boy Wonder cape, still cares. I mean he has to be about something more than Allison, right and you guys have more history even than you and I do. So give it some time. And about the other thing, let me know if I should make a formal request to the Alpha about visiting and what’s the procedure since I don’t technically have an alpha to act on my behalf.”

“I’ll ask as soon as they return. Night Lyds.”

“Night hunny. Love you.”

Stiles smiled softly at her, “Love you too.”

Moments after the screen went dark, he heard a knock on the door and Peter stuck his head in the slit. “You’ve been crying.”

Stiles felt slightly embarrassed. “Yeah, a lot of shit has been going down back home?”

Peter’s eyes flashed ever so briefly, the wolf close to the surface. “Sounded like Lydia?” Peter asked, stepping into the room with an absent explanation. “Sorry, door was open. Soundproofing only works if it’s closed.”

Stiles hadn’t even heard the pack return and it was clear Peter had already showered. His hair was wet and he was wearing a pair of sweats. Only a pair of sweats. Sweet Jesus! He leaned back against the door, watching Stiles.

Stiles looked away to stare at the wall beside Peter’s head. Lord he couldn’t handle looking anywhere else, right now. “It’s ok. I don’t mind if you overheard. You know the background to it anyways; but it seems she was ordered to pack dinner and ended up in a fight with Kate. So she told Talia she was taking a break from the pack. Don’t know if the Alpha’s gonna accept that, but Lydia’s pissed about what happened. Danny told her.”

“Good. It’s time someone in that damn pack took your side. I like this Lydia already.”

“Well, that may be a good thing. She wants to visit on her way back to school. I told her I’d ask.”

“Of course. If she wants to visit you she’s more than welcomed. Maybe you could do with a friend near for a bit.”

“I thought I already had friends near,” Stiles gave him an exaggerated side eye.

Peter only smiled and Stiles’ heart skipped. Shit! “You know you do. I’m always here for whatever you need; so are the others. You know that.” Stiles’ said a silent prayer that his more obvious body parts would stay in control. “But you’re ok? About what’s happening back in Beacon Hills?”

“Well at least Lydia and I talked it out; but Scott called,” for a second his scent went sour. And there went any worries about misbehaving body parts. He was cold all over again. “It kinda took me back to it all. I guess you were right when you said it would kick me in the ass ever so often. I think I was kinda believing I was over it all and suddenly here was this call proving that I wasn’t.”

“Are you sure? It seems to me that you've been over the Derek/Kate thing for a while, but it's the Scott situation you've been ignoring. So is it that the call showed that you aren’t over it or that it revealed the disappointment you still feel about Scott and everything that’s happened with him?” Peter’s eyebrow raised slightly. “I still think that’s a conversation you need to have with him if you want to preserve that friendship; if you think there’s anything worth preserving in it. And it seems to me that you do believe there is. So talk to him Stiles. At least one way or another you will know how you go forward and only then, I think, will you stop being crushed every time something happens with him.”

Peter held his gaze for a long moment. “Think about it. Ok?” Stiles nodded and Peter turned to exit.

“Peter?” When the man turned, he nodded again, “Thank you.”

“Anytime, Stiles. You know that.”

++++++

The next day the pack all but smothered him. Any time he left the pack house, someone accompanied him and kept up a steady stream of dialogue, usually it was Isaac or Erica. And that night, while the moon was still high and it was obvious the wolves would rather have been out running again, instead they held a barbecue in the backyard and had a rowdy good time. Stiles hardly had a moment to himself, but he didn’t mind. He’d guessed that Peter had said something or that they had been able to smell his distress the night before, same as Peter did when he came in search of him. He was grateful for the distraction.

But then his phone rang again and he knew he had run out of time to think over Peter’s advice. The ‘Jaws’ ring tone, which he’d set specifically the night before, alerted him that Scott would be on the other end. Peter met his gaze as he excused himself to head inside to take the call.

“Hey, Scott.”

“Hey, Stiles.”

Then silence. Stiles could hear Scott breathing on the other end, but he was determined not to breach the chasm first. “So, ummm, I think we need to talk.”

“Yeah, we do.”

Scott swallowed, distinctly. “Look, Stiles. I don’t mean to be a bad friend. I really didn’t think I was being a bad friend until Lydia threw all that shit at me. I mean you seemed to be doing better, right? So I figured you understood why I didn’t take a side and that you were over all of it. I didn’t . . . Stiles, you know I love you like a brother, right? And that I’d never do anything to deliberately hurt you.”

“But that’s the thing, Scott. You did. And you just kept hurting me, every time you talked about dinner with Kate and Derek, and how you didn’t want to disappoint the Argents. What about disappointing me? And how could you compare Kate to me, I mean what the literal Fuck, Scott?! We’ve been friends since we could barely walk, before there was ever the Argents, hell before we even knew about Hales, Derek or otherwise, before Allison and suddenly the guy whose back I’ve always had didn’t have mine. Do you have any idea how that felt?”

Scott sighed, sounding crestfallen. “I do now. I’m sorry Stiles. Lydia cussed me out, then Allison bawled me out for the call last night. I thought she would want me not to take a side, it being her aunt and all. I mean she’s asked how you were doing, but I thought she was just being nice. I didn’t know she’d pretty much sided with you. I mean, not that it should matter whose side Allison is on . . .,” he rushed on. “Shit. Now I sound like an even worse friend. I’m so sorry Stiles.”

“It really hurt, Scott. I never thought, of all my so-called friends, that you’d be someone I couldn’t rely on. When everything went down, do you know it was Danny defending me to people? Danny?! And we were only friends by association. What does that tell you, Scott?”

“Tells me I’ve got a lot of making up to do, man. I mean, if you still want me as a friend?”

“I just want you to acknowledge that this wasn’t all my fault. I didn’t set out to make a spectacle of myself. Hell before she came along I was just the guy dating Derek Hale. Then I went from his boyfriend to the guy who . . . the guy who was performing fellatio on him to keep him interested, or so everyone thought. Then the guy whose best friend wouldn’t even defend him against people talking smack.”

“What can I say? I’m sorry Stiles. I really am!”

“I don’t just want the words, Scott. You’ve got to start showing me. Look, I’m having dinner with some friends. I’ve got to go, ok?”

Panic suddenly sounded in Scott’s voice. “I can call you tomorrow right? Please?”

Stiles was just tired, suddenly. How did his day go from frolicking barbecues to this? “Yeah, ok Scott. Tomorrow.”

Instead of rejoining the pack, he ventured into the kitchen and leaned against the black and granite island, mind whirling. He didn’t even look up when after a while he heard bare feet patting across the tiles. Peter stopped in front of him, but didn’t say anything, waiting for his signal.

“I’m ok, Peter. Just needed to catch my breath, settle my mind.” When he looked up Peter reached out and touched his face, brushing a thumb across his cheek. Stiles’ stomach tightened. But Peter continued to just look at him.

“All right. Come on back when you’re ready.” Peter dropped his hand and exited the house, to Stiles’ pounding heartbeat and a brief flare of a hint of arousal.

Chapter Text

Soooooo, maybe he had a little crush. On Alpha Hale. And maybe it wasn't so little.

After his call with Lydia and then Scott weeks ago, Stiles just couldn’t get it out of his mind – the image of Peter gently touching his face, smiling at him when he’d said he was ok, and then all the subsequent conversations and then the last two invitations to lunch. With the first invitation, Peter had stopped by the hardware and just asked if he’d eaten; the second, just out of the blue Peter had showed up at his apartment while he was vegging out. They’d eaten in, watching classic black and white films.

He refused to get his hopes up that the Alpha was interested in him. He didn't even know if he was ready for anything, especially not to jump right back into any kind of relationship. So much had happened in the past year and Peter had proved to be a very good friend indeed. He didn't want to ruin what they were building. He'd never forgive himself if he did. So he took the lunches to be what they were, meals with a friend – a very good, very sexy and attractive, friend. Damn he was in trouble, wasn’t he?

"Where are you today?" Peter's voice shook him out of his thoughts. He blushed and looked up from his book and his mug of coffee at the very man he’d been day dreaming about. It was just like the first time he'd met Peter. Same cafe on campus, same order. He had been trying to get some reading done before class at 4. It was still early days yet into his new Anthropology programme.

"Hey, thought you had classes all afternoon."

"I dismissed the last one early. Believe me, they appreciated it. I was about to start handing out D's because very few had done the readings; then I recalled that a certain professor had been boycotted the last time a D was freely dispatched and decided not to test your academic vigilante movement," Peter said drolly, sitting across from him.

Stiles grinned and executed a fake bow. "Thank you. Power to the people, and all that."

Peter smirked. "What are you reading? Am I interrupting? You seemed miles away just now."

Stiles blushed again. Stupid fair skin. "Oh, no. Just, just thinking. You're never interrupting."

The older man smiled softly. "So what's are you up to after class? More reading?” Then he remembered what day it was and wanted to swear a bit that he’d clear forgot what that meant. “ . . . Oh wait, it's the last Thursday. Tonight's your game night with Scott?"

The two had reinstituted game night to try to reboot their friendship. Tonight however, Stiles hedged, "Actually, I’ve called that off. I think I may just veg out a bit." And try to figure out what the hell he was feeling.

Peter raised his brows. "Anything wrong? Did you and Scott argue again? I thought things were getting back on track?"

"They kinda are. I just . . . I'm just not in that mood, you know? That's all."

Peter watched him for an uncomfortably long time, as if trying to decide if there was something more to it. Stiles didn't think he'd lied. It hadn’t felt like a lie. He really didn’t feel like hanging with Scott. His mind was a mess with these recent thoughts about Peter and he didn’t want to blurt anything out by accident while messing around chatting with Scott over online consoles. So what was that look from Peter about? Then Peter shrugged. "Ok. Then how about joining me tonight, for dinner?"

"Dinner? Oh, is it pack night?" Stiles' brow wrinkled in confusion. Pack night tended to shift according to when all or most of the wolves could get together.

"No, Stiles. I’m inviting you to dinner . . . with me. . . Just us."

Now it was Stiles' turn to contribute to the silence. After a moment, he said slowly, "I'm trying really hard here not to read anything into this, Peter, but you're making it kinda hard now. First lunch, now dinner?"

Peter took a breath and let it out slowly, but responded directly, "It doesn't have to mean anything if you don't want it to, Stiles."

"That doesn't help you know."

"I like spending time with you, Stiles.” His shoulders lifted slightly in an absent gesture. “I like you, and it just so happens I'm also attracted to you. I'm not trying to start anything because I don't think you're quite there yet. So dinner between friends is what I'm offering, but letting you know if you are interested in . . .” he paused, assessing the young man who was sitting across from him with slightly wide eyes and open mouth. He hoped he wasn’t pushing it. “If you’re interested in exploring anything more, I wouldn't be opposed to it. But for now, how about we start with dinner?"

Stiles gulped. “Are you trying to . . . court me, Peter?” He blushed.

Peter chuckled, and damn if that sound didn’t stir Stiles’ nether regions. "I’m offering good food and my company for the evening, and let’s see where it goes. If that’s ok with you.”

Stiles nodded. Tongue suddenly very heavy. “Good,” Peter responded, grinning, “cause I'm cooking. The house? 8?"

"The house?"

"Yes. I have it all to myself tonight. Or rather, we have it all to ourselves. Maybe I’ll do some steaks, or something?” His eyes briefly glazed over. “Anyway, see you at 8."

Realising his mission was complete, Peter beat a quick retreat, a huge smile on his face. And the butterflies in Stiles’ stomach turned into frantic bird fluttering away. How the hell was he to get any reading done now?

++++++

Peter checked the oven again. He'd explained to the pack that he thought it was time to talk to Stiles about his past and they'd all agreed to make themselves scarce. It was just time. It felt right, after all their time together. It was slightly scary how easily Stiles had fit into their lives in the past year. He’d gone from the kid who smelled faintly of another pack to a friend to most of Peter’s betas, a close friend to Peter himself, and someone who was quickly gaining respect around campus. Something about him tugged at Peter, deep down and he wanted to explore that.

When he heard a vehicle pulling up to the house, he glanced at the clock and yep, 7:56. Right on time. He opened the fridge and took out the steaks that he'd had marinating. He'd lit the grille about six minutes ago, just awaiting his guest before he threw the meat on to cook. The baby potatoes with carrots were in the oven and corns-on-the-cob were bubbling softly on the stove, salad keeping cold in the fridge. He'd kept it simple because he wanted to spend more time on the talk, than in the kitchen.

"Hey." Peter glanced up as Stiles greeted him, walking into the kitchen. He looked delicious, in a deep wine-coloured shirt and jeans, with just a dash of nerves.

Peter smiled to try to relax him. "Hi, Stiles. You look great." A red tinge blushed Stiles' cheeks, and the boy held out a bottle to him, hands slightly shaking.

Peter raised an eyebrow at the label. "Dragon's Tooth," he said a little awed, and very pleased.

"Yeah, knowing how you love it with your steaks, I said if that wasn't what we were having for dinner, then you'd at least have a good bottle for when you do have it again."

"Excellent choice, Stiles. You didn't have to, but thank you. This isn't cheap." Peter’s fingers brushed his lightly as he handed over the wine, and his cheeks blushed again, but he smiled easier this time.

With that grin, Stiles seemed to relax a bit, even though his heart was pounding in Peter's ears. "You want to open it and let it breathe. I'm going to drop these babies on the grille," he gestured out back. "You can come out when you're ready."

Peter opened the grille and placed the steaks on, listening to the sizzle, giving Stiles a chance to settle himself away from his presence. He was still amazed by Stiles' choice in wine. It was the one wine whose cherry and spice flavour perhaps so aptly reminded him of the lad. His heart squeezed a little as he considered the implications. The pack well knew it was one of Peter’s favourites and showed the thought that went into it. He wanted to tread carefully and slowly with Stiles, but damn if the man wasn't making it hard.

"Whatever's in the oven smells heavenly." Stiles exited, looking at him shyly.

"It's to go with the steaks. You'll like it. I'm sure."

"Hmmm," Stiles eyed him contemplatively. "So what am I really doing here, Peter?"

Cutting right to the chase, eh? Peter smirked, not sure why he would have expected any differently. "I thought perhaps we could talk."

"Gosh, I think we're all talked out. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that you've helped me iron out a lot of things in the past year that I didn't even realise I was bottling up, but if I have to talk about what happened with Derek one more time, I might just lose a few more brain cells and then where would we be?" Stiles smirked putting on the class clown persona he used when he was uncomfortable.

He was such a little shit, when he wanted to be. Peter returned the smile softly. "Not about you Stiles. We're going to talk about me."

Stiles' posture immediately changed from teasing to aware. It still amused Peter whenever that happened; how quickly he could go from all-out humour to serious and determined in the snap of a finger. It was like in that instance he put away all his boyish charm and became full man. Peter had to admit he liked this particular transformation best. "How much do you know about what happened with our family in Beacon Hills?"

Stiles ran a hand over his head, taking a seat at a nearby table Peter had clearly set up for them to dine, while the older man continued to tend the grille. He looked up hesitantly at Peter. "Not much. I know there was an attack of some kind on your family and some of the pack was killed, including your wife, and then you . . . left?"

Peter raised his head from the smoking grille again to look at this man, this man who was coming to mean so much to him in too short a time. He wouldn’t hold back. He couldn’t afford to; not with what he thought this could mean. "I didn’t exactly leave. To be more accurate, I was exiled. But we'll get to that in a moment. Let me check the oven quickly. Do you mind keeping an eye on these? I'll take them off when I get back." Peter slipped away. He needed a moment to breathe. Once he took this step there was no going back for him, or the pack.

Exiled? Stiles' mind was ringing as he watched Peter disappear back into the house. Whenever Peter's name had come up, and that hadn't been all that often, he was of the opinion that the man went mad and went off on his own, likely omega, dead somewhere at the hands of trigger-happy hunters or soon to be. He'd never been told that Talia Hale had exiled her own brother. And why would she exile him? And how had he ended up here, Stanford? And if she knew, why would she then not alert Stiles he was walking into another pack's territory? Admittedly she'd seemed hesitant to see him go, extremely so; had even tried to talk him and his father out of the move, promising the pack would finance his future studies if he’d stayed at BHC. But once she realised Stiles' mind had been made up, feet planted on intent, she'd changed her tune to tell him he could still remain a part of the pack, even so far away and if he needed anything to contact her first, they’d move the moon for him. By then he wasn’t interested in having them do anything for him.

He'd been determined not to need any of them. She'd tried to reach out to him after he'd been at the school a few weeks, but he'd wanted to be left alone by then and hadn't encouraged conversation, so she'd stopped calling. He wondered now if her early calls were to find out if Peter'd found him yet. Gosh it was all so confusing and had him second-guessing the people in his life that he'd considered friends and family. Maybe he was making too much of it. It didn't make sense working himself up if Peter was about to explain. He'd just have to wait.

He went over to the grille to ensure the meat wasn't burning in Peter's absence. The steaks smelled divine and looked even better. His mouth was watering just looking at them.

----

They were both seated over plates with a thick slab of meat, tender looking potatoes and carrots and corns with steam curling from them as the butter dribbled down the sides, and a green salad that made him think of his dad. A glass each of the Trefethen label was off to the side.

"Dig in," Peter invited and did just that.

After a few minutes of munching against the occasional moan of appreciation, Stiles couldn't take the suspense any more. "Why were you exiled? And how?"

Peter took a gentle sip, eyes flashing briefly against the deep blue V-neck he wore. "My wife, Amanda, was almost six months pregnant. She was human but she knew about us. Her family was in the know and by the time we married Talia had offered her the bite, which she refused. She wanted to remain human. As you could probably tell from your own experience, there weren’t many humans in the pack. Most of them opted to take the bite but Mandy saw it as an opportunity to teach tolerance and acceptance to our child, especially after she learnt what hunters sometimes did to our kind, most of the time through sheer ignorance or bigotry.

"The Argents were just getting established in Beacon Hills. Their house was just constructed as Talia had given them approval to move to the territory with the agreement that the peace would remain. I guess there were some that didn't like the idea that a wolf would parlay with a hunter.”

The fact was, everyone knew the reputation of the French branch of the Argent family was a little more than brutal butchers, but their American counterpart seemed different. Peter’s research as Talia’s second had shown Chris, his wife Victoria to be. With a young child themselves, the family had seemed to want to start anew, and the Hale pack had given them sanctuary in exchange for a peaceful pact, Peter told Stiles.

“There was a pack passing through town. They'd notified Talia, as is custom as Alpha. They were only supposed to be in town a few days, but they misled us. We didn't know it was an Alpha Pack. Those are so rare and were even more so back then, but usually wherever they went there was trouble. We only realised what they were when they crossed over the border of the Hale lands. Although I was Talia’s second, I wasn't there, as you can imagine with a cub on the way my attention was elsewhere, and we hadn’t had trouble in the territory in such a long time – at least nothing serious. But the Hale party that went out to meet this new pack found out they intended to stay two nights to rest and be on their way.

"Maybe the pack should have gotten rid of them the moment we realised it was five Alphas and not an Alpha and four betas; maybe they always intended to start trouble; maybe they wanted to test Talia's strength and that of her pack, or maybe the presence of the Argents just spurred things on, who knows? So many maybes." Peter's brow furrowed as he set his wine aside and sat up, glancing across the backyard out to the woods. Stiles wondered if he was thinking of just taking off. It was clear this was difficult for him.

"One of them caught sight of my wife conversing with Victoria Argent, Chris' wife somewhere in town and took offense, made a comment about a breeder whore and a murderer. My wife called me and I called Chris. He and I went to safeguard our respective families. Amanda was scared, but she was also livid at the things the Alpha had said. She always had such a fighting spirit. I tried to get Talia to respond, to get the pack out of town before they caused more trouble. Both she and Chris thought it would be foolish to stir up trouble, after all they were only staying one more night and they would be gone. In the meantime, we'd watch out for each other's families and no one would go out alone. I don't know if it would have worked, and maybe the pack would have moved on, but Talia's husband took Amanda and three others to the other edge of town for some venison. We'd decided no one would go out hunting until this pack was gone, so they went to buy meat because Mandy had a craving, and she was worse than any hungry wolf when she had an unsatisfied craving. And she would not allow anyone to choose her meats for her, ever.

“The car was attacked. David, Talia’s husband, and the others tried to defend, but while David was certainly strong and cunning, he was a beta, with three other betas and a pregnant human, against Alphas. They didn't stand a chance."

Stiles shivered at Peter’s bleak voice and the image he was painting of what transpired.

"I was in a meeting at work. She'd usually call and tell me if she was going out, especially after what had happened that first time, but she didn't this time. I'm not sure why. Maybe she knew I would have refused her leaving the house. I felt such pain lance through my head that it almost forced me to change in the middle of the meeting. I could only feign illness and excuse myself but I knew something was very wrong. It was like our mate bond had snapped and suddenly it was like standing in an absolute void, silence and it was deafening. By the time I got there . . .," Stiles realised Peter's nails were gouging marks in the table top. "It was too late. David, Cameron, and Adam were dead, Henderson was badly wounded, barely alive. My wife and cub . . . my family had been ripped apart.

"To say I went mad would be putting it lightly. The pack had fled town and Talia refused to give chase. For what they'd done to her husband and four members of her pack - the sons of one of her own pack, the wife of her brother – she should have responded, shown strength; sent a message down the coast to any who would challenge us in such a manner.” Peter’s voice grated, and his breath carried a heavy pant. “She was afraid starting a war with this pack would drag the rest of Beacon Hills into it, reveal our community to the world. So she forbade me, FORBADE ME to respond. When I couldn't follow her orders, she exiled me, away from the family. She thought I would incite others to retaliate; and that her precious home would become embroiled in conflict. But they deserved to die and I couldn't let it go. So I left."

Peter knew he could have challenged her then, his sister. He could have demanded that right and he probably would have won, become Alpha of Beacon Hills at the expense of his sister’s life and let the chips fall where they may. It would have wrecked the pack though. The pain already experienced in the pack bond was torturous after losing three in one swoop and a fourth barely clinging to life. To take the life of the Alpha, even if it was to claim the right for himself, would have severed them for sure. At the time though, he’d just had to get out. After the order of exile, there was no way he could have stayed and he would not beg his sister to do her duty.

Stiles' hand covered his on the table and he looked up at the young man whose face showed such sorrow, but thank God no pity. "I’m so sorry, Peter.” The claws retracted and Peter turned his hand to lace with Stiles’ own. “How did you end up here?"

"When I left Beacon Hills I followed their trail. They killed twice more before I even got close. I admit, it was sheer anger driving me and it took a while to even focus. I had no plan; but the last time they killed was here in Stanford. They almost wiped out the entire pack. Again this was a pack that had formed an alliance with hunters to keep themselves safe, keep the peace and other supernatural elements in check. But the Alpha Pack was splintered by then. Ethan wanted no more of the killing and was defecting from the group."

Stiles inhaled sharply. Shock evident on his face. "Ethan was one of them?"

"Yes. He used to be. He's the one who found me. I almost killed him but he swore to me the reason Henderson had survived the attack in Beacon Hills was because he'd intervened. He was telling the truth and he had the scars from his former Alpha to prove it. They'd kicked his ass, left him battered and on a short leash, but he'd been plotting how to get away from them because his own brother, his twin loved the kills, the mayhem they left in their wake. We were too late to save McAllister, but he helped me get my revenge. When I ripped out the throat of their leader, I felt only then could Amanda rest in peace.

"Most of the McAllister pack that hadn't been killed fled, only Chase and Maria stayed and we started to rebuild. The others came later, but I wanted a pack that had each other’s back in every way that mattered. I was Alpha, but they had to have a say in how we do things.”

“But I don’t understand. Why isn’t Ethan an Alpha, if you both killed the alphas. I mean, he was an alpha already, wasn’t he?”

“He was. But the only life he claimed was that of his brother, and after he took his life, he ceded that power to me. I didn’t even realise it until I felt the surge. He just wanted to live in peace and I could understand that. It's been hard, especially for Ethan, losing his twin and by his own hands and then trying to prove to the others that he wasn’t like the pack before. So he tries harder than most to prove himself, he always has. I couldn't let that pack continue doing what they were to other packs who were living peaceful lives, and honestly he’s better off away from that."

"You killed them all?"

"Yes. All but Aiden, his brother. I'm convinced it was luck more than anything because when I think about the fact that I killed three alphas, it's as amazing to me as it sounds to you, but Chase and Maria helped, though they didn’t strike the final blows. It also helped that Ethan saved both their lives in the end."

"And your sister knew what you'd done?"

“Of course, all of the supernatural coast did. It would have been impossible for her not to know, though I’m not too surprised she kept it on the down-low, after all we did wipe out a pack of Alphas. That kind of thing tends to get people nervous, even if the pack you destroy has been systematically murdering other packs. As a result, we formed alliances with the packs around us over the years, both werewolf and otherwise. It said to them that we were intending on living in peace and not stirring things up, especially since I now had the power of these five alphas flowing through me.”

“But it doesn’t make sense that she wouldn’t tell me or warn me about your ownership of the area, pack or not. I mean after doing everything to keep me in the pack, it doesn’t fit that she’d just let me walk in here with traces of another pack on me. You could have attacked and asked questions after.”

“Maybe, but it isn’t our style . . . Maybe she knew that.”

“Maybe she thought she could persuade me not to come.”

Peter paused. “She tried to keep you in the pack, even after everything? That’s interesting. Maybe she saw just what I do, that you’re valuable to any pack.”

Stiles smiled. “Yea. But for a while it felt like I was somehow betraying them leaving, you know. She even talked to my dad to get me to change my mind about leaving the pack. I mean I left without really severing ties, but the fact that I can’t really feel them anymore seems to bear up the fact that I may not be Hale Pack anymore. We’ve just never really discussed it that way to officially say I’m out.”

Peter was looking at him strangely. “You felt the pack bond in Beacon Hills?”

“Well yeah, kinda. I mean, obviously not the way you guys do, but sometimes I could tell when Derek was anxious, even when we were apart. I think that's one of the reasons I stopped questioning us being mates too, and then one time I could tell Nicholas was lying to Talia. She was really disappointed in him, but like I said it was nowhere what a real pack bond is supposed to feel like, I imagine. I mean, how could it be? I wasn't even any real connection to Derek, as it turned out, right?" Stiles frowned at Peter’s shrewd gaze. “What?”

Peter sipped his wine with a puzzled look on his face to give himself time to figure out how to respond to the bombshell Stiles had unknowingly just dropped.

Stiles hastily added, heartbeat rising, “I was pack for a while before Derek and I really started seeing each other. Deaton had introduced me to Talia, and she invited me over to the house you know, to get to know everyone, especially after what happened with Scott being turned and all. So I was officially in the pack for . . . ummm, close to four years? So yeah, I felt something. I was full-fledged pack then and Deaton said it wasn't impossible, even if it was rare.” The last thing he wanted was for Peter to think he was some kinda freak. He could take that from anyone but Peter.

“And my sister knew all this, about the bond?”

“Of course. She was the one that accepted me into the pack. Why are you being weird about this? Is it because I didn’t officially withdraw from the pack? I didn’t know if I wanted to at first and Talia told me not to worry about it even though I was mad as hell at them. I didn’t want to really think about it. If this makes you uncomfortable with the history you have with your family, I understand. I don’t even know what the real procedure is to withdraw form a pack.” He sighed. “Look, I can go, Peter. The last thing I want to do is cause problems.”

“No Stiles, you misunderstand me. I’m sorry, just give me a minute. I think I’m still trying to catch my footing here.” Peter looked at his with a long direct gaze that Stiles had come to associate with a completely forthright statement. “Stiles, you’re human. Humans can’t feel supernatural pack bonds – at all. It should be psychically and supernaturally impossible for you to bond on the level that you can feel it with a pack, and if Deaton told you you could, he lied. Sure humans can be pack, and Beacon Hills has had a few over the years, not many but a few; and a supernatural being can bond with a human mate, but that bond is purely felt on the supernatural side; not if you’re human . . . And you smell and look human to me. I can’t detect anything not human about you.”

Stiles’ throat suddenly felt dry. “What are you trying to say? What does that mean, Peter?” Stiles felt the edge of concern starting to spike in his stomach.

“From everything you’ve said I’m starting to believe that your supposed mating might not have been as innocent, or seemingly unfortunate as it’s been painted, but that something else is going on here. I’m not sure what, but we'll damn well find out.”

Chapter Text

His first course of action once he got back to his apartment was his dad.

He’d done his level best not to have to force his dad into a conflict over his leaving Beacon Hills. He still recalled the tears, on both sides, when he’d made the decision to leave. His dad had been threatening to go after Derek with a gun – a wolfsbane bullet-laced gun – over the wolf’s treatment of his son; but Stiles had begged and pleaded. He needed peace not more conflict. So his dad had acquiesced, afraid for his son’s emotional state.

It made the whole thing so much more sticky since the pack, or rather the Hales, had been responsible for paying off his mom’s hospital debt, from when she’d spent the last eight months of her life in a vegetative state. Even years later his dad had been drowning in sorrow and debt, but after Deaton introduced them to the Hales the debt had disappeared. His father had confessed that Talia Hale had settled it, since Stiles was pack after all. “And this is what pack does,” she’d smiled at the time, patting a beaming Stiles on the shoulder as gratitude showed in his father’s eyes.

After everything with Derek his dad wanted to pay the family back, but Talia refused, despite the tension that had started to play out with his dad. She had explained that even though Stiles and Derek were no longer together, he still was in fact “pack”. Stiles had known the years of interest that would have accrued since then, if his dad did as he wanted to, would pretty much bankrupt the Stilinski family, not to mention the fact that the pack worked with law enforcement and hunters in a kind of tripartite arrangement that kept the supernatural elements in check in the entire Beacon County. So Stiles did what he could and took the guilt and moved away, putting on a brave front for his dad, while assuring him he didn’t need to do anything rash for his sake.

It had taken a while for his dad and Talia’s relationship to return to where it was before Stiles left, without the lingering tension that had been there even after Stiles left. Stiles now wasn’t sure what would happen if it turned out that the Hale Pack had lied to them; and just thinking about it tied his stomach in knots.

His father answered his call almost immediately. "Hey kiddo. Everything ok?" was John’s immediate response after realising his son was on the other end of the line. Stiles could hear the worry in his father's voice, after all it was already gone midnight.

"I'm not sure. I need to ask you something dad, and I need you to answer me honestly." Stiles could hear his father sitting up, attention fully on his son.

"What's going on son?"

"Have you ever noticed anything different about me, dad? I mean, am I human?"

"What?" The surprise in his father's voice was unlikely to be feigned. "Of course you're human! Where's this coming from son? Has something happened? Are you safe? Do you need me to call Alpha Hale?"

Stiles' heart thudded, and he swallowed. "No dad. No reason to call the Hales. It's just that someone said something that made me question whether . . . shit," he ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "Now I just feel foolish for disturbing you."

"You're worrying me, Stiles. What's going on?" the edge in his dad’s voice could not be ignored.

"Can you feel the Beacon Hills’ Pack bond, dad?"

His father went silent. When he spoke his voice was cautious. "Of course not, Stiles. While I may be pack adjacent, I've never actually really been in Alpha Hale's pack, so I'd never expect to feel the bond. But I know Talia said when Deaton first introduced us that you would eventually. Why, should I feel it? What's going on Stiles?"

"What if I told you that someone recently told me it wasn't normal for a human to feel the bond?"

"I'd want to know who this person is you're talking to and why you're discussing the supernatural and Beacon Hills with them." His father's tone carried censure. "Maybe it's time you came home for a visit. Alpha Hale came by today to ask about it, about how you were doing and when you were planning to come home for a visit. She’s worried since this whole incident with Lydia stirred everything up again, and it seems she’s still holding out hope that you and Derek may iron things out. Of course I set her straight on that, that it has to be your decision and your decision alone.

“Is that what this is about? Because, frankly, after everything that’s happened, I'm not even sure I'd trust Derek Hale to tie your shoes, but you’re old enough now to make your own mind up. I mean, if he could cast you off so carelessly. . . I don’t know Stiles. And now this talk about pack bonds and whether you're human? Son, I'm worried."

"Talia Hale wants me to come back? She said that?" Stiles zeroed in on his dad’s earlier statement.

His father hesitated again. "So she’s Talia Hale now, eh? Can’t say that I’m all that surprised you no longer call her Alpha."

Stiles scrubbed a hand across his face. "Ever since I left it felt wrong to call myself pack, after all I had no more reason to be in the pack."

John asked slowly, "Are you thinking of leaving permanently? Is that what this is about? You thinking of joining this new pack there at uni?"

Stiles exhaled. "I don’t know. I think so. Maybe. I just don’t know whether the Hales have been what I thought they were. You know? It just feels like I have a new start here is all.”

While Stiles had told his dad about the supernatural element in Stanford, he’d purposely left out Peter’s identity. It had always seemed like not quite the right time. So he said instead, “The pack here, there are no expectations. I feel like a real part of something, like they listen when I talk and ask my opinion on things like it matters; and they don’t just want me around because I’m somehow connected to them, you know? That’s kinda important to me.

He shifted restlessly. “The alpha's really cool too dad. Like, he's been helping me work through a lot of stuff about Derek and they don't pry. It's such a relief to find people that don't pry."

"I know how hard this has all been on you, son. I keep thinking I could do more, should have done something more.”

“Dad, stop. We discussed this. It wouldn’t have solved anything.”

“I don’t know, son. I just feel like sometimes you’re taking on so much. Like you’re taking care of me, when it should be the other way around. I feel like I’m just such a failure to you, after everything after your mother . . .” Stiles throat burned at the mention of his mother and the fact that bringing all this up was casting his dad back to his alcohol days; but his father pressed on. “I just want you to be happy and healthy. If finding a pack there is what it takes to do that, then I can't say I'm disappointed, even though it might mean I don't get to see you as often. It's not like you've been back since leaving."

"I'm sorry, dad. I don’t want you to think this has anything to do with my not wanting to see you. I just wasn't ready to come back, and right now I've got a few questions I need answered."

"What can I do to help, son?”

Stiles had to force down his immediate negative reaction to getting his dad too involved in case this all started to go even more south. While his dad knew a lot of what went down with Kate, his dad never truly understood the dynamics of pack bonds (although it now seemed neither did Stiles really), or mates, or what that meant to wolves. So when he’d been prepared to raise hell at Derek’s cheating and later Kate’s antics, Stiles had been determined to move those he cared about out of the firing line – at the time mainly his dad and Lydia. It would have been nice to have his dad fully in the know and on his side, but he’d been trying to protect him from what it all meant in the long-run for the Stilinski family.

“I need to know more about my heritage dad. I need to find someone with answers about that.”

His dad paused, considering. “I don’t even know where to go for answers about anything supernatural outside of the Hales or Chris Argent or the vet, and I’m getting the feeling those aren’t the type of options or answers we’re talking about. Although . . . up to this week, when I told Talia you'd met some friends. She seemed very interested in that.”

Stiles’ heart skittered. “You told her about the pack dad?” He could hear the panic in his voice, but he didn’t know how to stop it. He’d only told his dad the bare basics, but if his dad had spilled the beans to Talia, she would know immediately that Stiles had fallen in with Peter and his betas, and for some reason that thought made Stiles nervous.

“Give me a little credit, would you son?”

Stiles swallowed and took a deep breath. “Ok. Ok. But she’s still asking about me? Doesn’t that seem weird dad, that suddenly she’s so interested in what I’m doing?”

"Maybe; but it’s no weirder than Alan Deaton, I suppose. I ran into him in the supermarket and he told me he was still convinced you and Derek would find your way back together, that you were meant to be.” Stiles could imagine his dad shaking his head with the pinched expression he usually had every time Deaton came up in conversation. “I told him regardless of whether you were mates, whatever that means to anyone now, I wanted what was best for you and wasn't convinced about Derek Hale. He seemed disturbed by that, but then he's always been a cryptic bastard, so you never know what he’s really thinking."

"Deaton? Deaton told you Derek and I were mates?" Now Stiles was baffled, because Peter said they couldn't be if Derek had abandoned Stiles the way he had. Peter wouldn't lie to him, would he? This whole thing was beginning to give Stiles a headache. He didn't know whom to trust, but instinct told him Peter hadn't been lying to him. Peter was the only one so far who'd been trying to help him get answers, to find himself again after everything that had gone so wrong. "Dad, could you maybe not mention anything about my friends here to anyone there. I just. . . I don't want it to become a thing that’s talked about in Beacon Hills right now, ok?"

"Sure son. So are you going to tell me why you're calling me at almost midnight in a panic about whether or not you're human? And all this about the Beacon Hills Pack bond?" There was a trace of the detective in his dad's voice.

"Soon dad, soon.” He couldn’t share any suspicions until he had more answers. “I promise however that I’m not in any danger and I’m completely ok. But could you do me a favour and just check to see if any of our relatives,” he hesitated, “on both sides, both you and mom, had connections to anything other than humans?” He paused to wait on his dad’s response.

“Ok son. I’ll see what I can do, although I’m sure if I called your grandparents out in Wales to ask if they were human or anything other than humans on your mother’s side of the family, they would probably fly out here to in a heartbeat. The last thing Nan or Grampy need is to worry about us anymore than they already do,” his father sighed.

“I know, but it’s important. Just, just be quiet about it ok?”

He could practically see his dad shaking his head. "Ok, go get some rest. I know you've got an early class tomorrow. Call me tomorrow, whatever you do, eh? And son, be careful."

"Sure dad." He knew this was a sign his dad was still worried. To be honest, he was worried himself. He had a feeling he was deliberately being excluded from something and it left him wary of the motives of the Beacon Hills Pack. Why would they continue to insist Derek was his mate? Shouldn't Talia and Deaton know differently by now? Was he judging them too harshly; being manipulated by a man he didn't really know? Would Peter have motives to manipulate him to get back at his sister? He didn't want to think Peter was trying to swing him away from Beacon Hills by lying to him. That made no sense whatsoever.

He glanced at the clock. His dad was right, they'd spent more than half hour on the phone and it was now almost 1 a.m. He needed to get some sleep. He had one more call to make before he confronted Peter again, but that could wait until daylight.

++++++

The phone rang once, twice and a third time before a groggy voice answered. "Stiles?"

"Hey, you got a minute?"

"Sure!" He could hear Scott sitting up, imagined him rubbing sleep from his eyes. "What's going on, man. Is everything ok?" He and Scott were still working on rebuilding their relationship, but they had committed to talking at least once a week. "Lydia said something about you finding new friends out there and Alison said Lydia was coming up to visit soon? That Lydia had to postpone a trip from summer because her mom fell ill?"

Wow, seemed more than Stiles had hoped had already leaked out. He and Lydia had only recently finalised new dates for her visit. Scott's voice sounded unusually serious.

"Yeah. We’re looking at Columbus Day, maybe. Listen, I need to ask you something ok, and I need you to answer me honestly."

"Stiles?" he could hear the slight alarm in Scott's voice; hesitation like he wasn't sure whom he was speaking with. "I thought we were past this. I've never lied to you. Where's this coming from?"

"Scott, just listen for a bit, ok?"

"Ok. But you're being weird."

"When I was in Beacon Hills, could you feel me in the pack bond?"

Scott was silent. Stunned silent. "What? Stiles, what's going on?"

"God, Scott, can you just answer me? Please?"

"Not when you're not making sense. I think I should call your dad or Alpha Hale. You . . . these friends don't have you doing drugs or something stupid do they? You haven't told them about us, have you?" Scott's voice had climbed several octaves.

"I would never tell civilians about the supernatural.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. “You know me better than that. I just want to know if you could feel me in the pack bond when we were in the pack together."

"Of course I could. We all could. You were pack. That's why it's called a pack bond, man!" Scott was exasperated now. Stiles was making no sense. "Stiles?"

"What did it feel like?"

"Huh?! Like pack. Like warm, and nice, and heavy and family. Remember after I got bit when that one time I got scared because the change was coming on and I couldn’t control it and it woke you at home? You called me because you said you thought you had a bad dream and something was wrong. I think it was the bond that woke you, because I was scared. Talia felt it too remember, and my mom told you she was on the way over? So of course I felt you in the bond, and you felt us. What's this about, Stiles?"

But this made no sense. But how much could he trust what Scott was saying? It wasn’t that he thought Scott was misleading him but Scott was still such a young wolf, and Stiles had never thought of the Pack bond like that, like what Scott was describing. Both his dad and Peter said humans didn't feel the bond the same way weres and other supernaturals did. So what the hell was going on? Why could he tap into a pack bond when most humans couldn't, or weren’t supposed to? He was not willing to believe it was because his link to either Derek or Scott had been that strong.

"I gotta go buddy. I'm sorry I scared you, didn't mean to."

"Are you sure you're ok, bro? Do you want me to call your dad or something?"

"No, Scott. Dad and I spoke for a long time last night, but thanks."

There was still some apprehension in Scott's voice. "Ok. Call me later."

"Sure, Scott. See ya."

++++++

After their conversation the night before, when Stiles revealed his connection to the Beacon Hills pack bond, Peter had begun paying more attention to the Stanford pack’s own bond, but he didn’t detect Stiles in it. This of course was no surprise since technically he wasn’t pack. Then he’d had a conversation with his betas, asking them if they’d noticed anything weird about Stiles, especially Erica, Isaac and to a lesser extent Boyd, with whom he’d spent quite a bit of time, when he was with the pack. It was Erica that jokingly and unknowingly gave the first clue.

“You mean like how he speaks in tongues in his sleep?” she laughed.

“He does?” Peter was baffled, but then he’d never been in the same room with a sleeping Stiles. That was a little bit more temptation than he needed.

“Oh yeah, and in languages I’ve never heard before. I mean one time it sounded like Klingon and then another time like I can’t quite describe it, kinda like Russian but not quite Russian, like Irish, but not really . . . Oh wait, I recorded him once to show Boyd ‘cause he didn’t believe me.” Erica had whipped out her phone.

When Peter heard the language he’d felt an uncomfortable chill chase up his spine. But it was Chase who spoke up immediately. “That’s not Russian.” And he should know, he was fluent in it.

“No it’s not. Nor is it Irish,” Peter responded. “That’s Elvish.”

“What? You mean this is an actual language?” Erica’s joking had faded away into shock and then anxiety, at the way her Alpha’s heartbeat sped up and the tone of his voice. “How is it that he can speak Elvish?” she whispered.

“You say this happens while he sleeps?” Peter was trying to maintain his own composure.

“Yeah, but not all the time. I’ve seen it happen when he’s really exhausted, like during exam season, when he was pulling those all-nighters? It only happened again the two times when he crashed-out after the finals in my room. What does it mean, Peter?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Could he be something other than human, then?” Chase had spoken up.

“The evidence seems to be suggesting it, but I don’t know what he could possibly be. I’ve detected nothing else to suggest he’s anything but. But this, this is . . . I don’t know what this means. Some of the words are from various species of Elves. Not quite all one language and some of the words I can’t identify. Not yet.”

“Are you going to tell him?” Boyd, ever the practical one, asked.

“I’ll have to at some point, but I need to do some research first. See if I can find out what it means.”

Maria piped in with a solemn look. “You do realise that this, whatever he is, might be why Beacon Hills tried to get him into the pack with that fake ass story about mates? And then to keep him even after he wanted out. This means that whatever he is, it is something they want, Peter. And if they tried to get him mated to one of their own, you can bet whatever that something is, it’s valuable to them, and therefore probably valuable to others.”

Peter scrubbed a hand over his face. How the hell had it come to this? He was just getting settled about telling Stiles how much he meant to him, now it would look like he was trying to make a play because Stiles was a . . . something. Blast it! Stiles was nobody’s pawn.

“This just became complicated, didn’t it?” Maria asked, and Peter saw a spark of the old fear in her eyes briefly.

“It might just have.”

“Whatever you need Peter. We’re here,” Boyd had spoken up. Peter had patted his second on his shoulder and retreated to his office. “Thanks guys. I need to think, make some calls to some of our contacts and allies, and find some answers fast.”

++++++

Stiles was confused. He couldn’t sit still for more than a few minutes; he couldn’t think straight; he didn’t know what to do. Who could he really trust? What did this all mean? Maybe he was just blowing this out of proportion, but why then was the Beacon Hills Pack keeping tabs on him.

And what about Peter. He’d been the one to approach Stiles, not the other way around, and Stiles now knew he had more than a few reasons to want to spite his sister, would he use Stiles to do that? Maybe Stiles was being an idiot and too sensitive and mistrustful. He didn’t even know that he was anything other than human. He’d never seen any signs of it and there would be signs wouldn’t there?

Only one thing to do now. He picked up the phone yet again and called Peter.

"I think we need to talk, now," he said as soon as the man answered his phone.

++++++

Minutes after hanging up from Stiles, with anxiety in his stomach, the phone rang again. Peter reached out immediately and snagged his cell without even checking the number.

"Stiles?"

"Hello brother." He recognised the voice well.

It brought him up sharp. Now this, was . . . unexpected. “Talia. To what do I owe this . . . I’d like to say honour, pleasure, but we both know I’d be lying.”

“Such hostility still, Peter? I hear you’ve been looking after something of mine.”

“And what would that be, Talia?”

“Let’s not play dumb. I know you’ve met Stiles, and I hear you’ve been trying to adopt him into that little pack of yours, if one can call it such.”

“Now what little birdie’s been whispering in your ear?” It gave Peter pause because it would seem like Talia had a longer reach than he remembered, but he’d never let her know that. “And why are you keeping tabs on who I’m hanging out with? I’m not trying to co-op or force Stiles into anything. Can you say the same?”

Peter heard Talia’s heart stutter over the line. Very interesting indeed. “What? I hope you haven’t been filling his head with nonsense."

"Hardly nonsense. He just has questions about his supposed mating and pack affiliation." He listened for a reaction.

It came swiftly. She tried to laugh it off, but he knew her too well. He could hear the strain under her voice. “Stiles is pack, Peter. My Pack. And it would do you well to remember that, little brother.”

Despite her easy tone, he knew he was getting under her skin, and she always used to lose her temper when he got under her skin – and oh well, they didn’t call him an asshole for nothing. “That’s deeply interesting, since he says he’s not in fact pack, and it bewilders me what you’d want with a human who’s no longer ‘mated’, if that’s the lie you’re still perpetuating, to your son and by all means should have no interest for the pack to warrant such a warning to me. I must say, dear sister, that my Spider senses are certainly tingling. Are you sure you want to go down this road?”

The amusement fled from her voice in the face of what he was sure now were flashing Alpha eyes. “I’m not afraid of you, Peter. Almost the entire west coast might be, but I’m not. Don’t think for one second that I believe this is anything but a scheme to get back at me and I won’t stand for it. Stay out of this. This is pack business and you know the rules.” With those sharp words, the woman he’d once thought of as his Alpha, his sister, his kin, hung up.

Most curious. What the hell had he got himself into with Stiles Stilinski? Now he was more desperate than ever to unravel this mystery. One thing was certain, he had no choice but to stick his nose where it might not belong now. No choice whatsoever, and for reasons he had yet to even reveal to Stiles. He called for his second whom he could feel nearby.

++++++

Talia snarled as she turned and looked at a weary Deaton.

"I told you that was a bad idea," the man drawled.

"Well what would you have suggested?" she shifted angrily, looking like she wanted to tear something apart but lacking anything within reason. “We needed to know what he knew.”

"We could have proceeded as planned."

"That plan went to hell when the Argent girl entered the scenario, and then with Lydia." She wanted to kick something, hard.

"Now our opportunity may be lost, especially with Peter involved. He won't let this go now. You know that. You just gave him ammunition. Now he knows he has something you want. That was stupid Talia. We have to let the others know." The vet and emissary turned away, not looking forward to what was coming.

The Beacon Hills Alpha gritted her teeth. She'd be damned if she let her brother get the best of her again. She needed this! And heavens help anyone that got in her way.

Chapter Text

Stiles walked into the pack house on edge. His skin felt too tight, uncomfortable. He was slightly afraid of himself at this moment. Afraid of things he didn't know; of whom to trust. He'd either leave this house knowing he had found people he could count on to help him unravel this web he was suddenly caught in, or knowing he had to leave Stanford immediately and seek a new haven.

One glance at Peter told him the man was uneasy as well.

"Hello Stiles." Peter greeted him with a searching look.

Stiles knew the Alpha could smell the wolfsbane and mistletoe he was now carrying on him. He understood the message it would immediately send to Peter and a brief flash of red in Peter’s eyes told him the Alpha’s hackles were up. It almost made his knees shake, almost; but right now he couldn't be worried about nerves or sensibilities. He had his own interests at the forefront of his mind and he needed answers and he needed to feel safe in seeking them. He realised half of his anxiety was the hope that Peter would at least understand that.

“Well. One can never say you’re not brave, even if it’s just bravely foolish to walk into an Alpha’s den with poison.” Peter forcibly held back from letting his eyes bleed full red at the implied threat, no matter how unsettled his wolf was. He was sure Stiles knew exactly the message he was sending. “Care to tell me what I’ve done to earn such suspicion and distrust, Stiles?”

A low rumble sounded from somewhere to Peter’s left, causing Stiles to startle. He’d fully expected Peter to be alone for their . . . conversation . . . confrontation? But there was Boyd, easing in front of the Alpha with glowing yellow eyes and lengthening canines. Now this was definitely not at all in Stiles’ plans. Stupid to be unprepared for this!

“Easy, Boyd. I’m sure Stiles has an explanation.”

“He walked in here with wolfsbane, Peter,” Boyd hissed.

“I know.” Peter rest a careful hand on Boyd’s shoulder and it seemed to ease his second. “But Stiles and I need to talk; so go on. He’s a right to exercise caution and I have an idea of why he’d feel the need to. I’m still capable of taking care of myself, you know.” Peter’s light tone belied the seriousness in his eyes.

“We don’t deserve this, Stiles.” Boyd huffed and stalked out the door Stiles had just entered.

“Been reading How to Alienate Friends and Create Enemies, by any chance?” Peter looked at him, raised brow. Shaking his head as if the whole situation disappointed him, he turned away. “Come on. I have a feeling this is going to require a drink. You can watch me pour it if you want one, make sure I’m not trying to kill you and all.”

Stiles’ stomach sank. He hadn’t intended to insult the pack, just show he was serious and prepared to defend himself. He couldn’t afford to take anything for granted. He couldn’t afford to allow his heart to believe something if it wasn’t true. He’d been there before and it didn’t end well. If these people, Peter especially, turned out not to be the friends he’d come to know, then he didn’t know if his shattered heart and trust would ever recover this time.

“What do you know about why I could feel the pack bond? Why would Talia and the others insist that I am Derek’s mate, but you say I’m not?”

Peter raised a questioning brow at him, as the decanter hovered over a second glass. Stiles wasn’t sure if the silent query was in relation to his questions or the offer of alcohol. He chose the easier of the two. “Yes, thanks.”

Peter poured and handed him a glass, taking a sip while gesturing to the den. “Now, let’s talk about this rationally like two adults who respect each other, without the posturing.”

Stiles glanced down at the glass between his fingers. He felt such a weight on his shoulders, such uncertainty in his mind, such fear at the unknown. He suddenly wasn’t so sure that he’d made the right move, the right approach. So many questions, and it hurt. He was oh so tired of hurting. “I didn’t mean to offend Boyd. I just . . . I . . .”

“What’s done is done. I’ll handle Boyd. But the real matter here is trust; how much you can trust us, trust yourself to listen separate truth from everything else and make a decision. Right now, I understand that we’re all a gray area to you and I can’t say it comes as a shock.” Stiles’ eyes climbed to Peter’s at the summation. “I’m honestly not surprised. Disappointed and hurt, yes. Surprised, not really.”

The smell of hurt and shame immediately enveloped the anxiety in the younger man’s scent, and Peter sighed. He wished they could go back to the easy laughter, the light teasing, the heat of attraction. God how he didn’t want it to be like this. But it was now, and they had to settle this before anything else.

Leaning forward Peter placed his glass on the table separating the two of them, resting both hands on his knees as he assumed a relaxed position that he certainly did not feel. “Look, Stiles. I swear to you on Amanda’s grave that nothing I’ve said to you has been a lie. I haven’t deliberately tried to deceive you and I certainly haven’t lied to you. Maybe I haven’t revealed everything you’d want to know, but I didn’t lie. I kept what I was thinking and have start to figure out to myself because I simply wasn’t sure. I didn’t want to cast aspersions on the characters of people you’ve known and trusted for a hell of a lot longer than you’ve known any of us because it felt a little too ‘sour grapes’ if you will, for my liking given that my ex-pack is involved.”

“So you know what’s going on?” The shocked hurt in Stiles’ voice turned Peter’s stomach. Hours ago they’d sat in this house having an intimate dinner, sharing confidences, revealing feelings. Now this? How the hell did it come to this? He asked himself the question yet again, even though he knew the blame to some extent lay in on the shoulders of the Beacon Hills Pack.

“Not entirely,” he answered Stiles now. “A lot of it has been guessing, and quite a bit of it still is guessing, but the good thing about teaching History and being Alpha of a territory that’s set up the way ours is, is that I know how to research. It’s one of my most favourite things, one of yours too I believe; but I also know where to look, who to talk to, whereas you don’t. And even so, I still don’t have most of the answers you want, although I do have feelers out there, and I wasn’t sure I had any basis for where my thoughts were leading me until earlier this evening.”

“What happened earlier this evening?”

“The Beacon Hills Alpha, my sister, warned me away from you.” Stiles’ eyes went wide with alarm.

++++++

Boyd paced. He never paced.

“What’s up with you? You’re giving me a headache,” Erica glared, from the sofa in her ‘sometimes dorm room’ on campus. It was a space that she retreated to when she needed space. Most of the pack had such comforts somewhere around the territory. But now her focus wasn’t on her independence, but the worry thrumming along the connection with her mate.

Boyd hated the idea of leaving his Alpha unprotected, especially after the call from Beacon Hills. He’d been preparing to leave the house on errands when Stiles had called. He’d overheard the tension in the boy’s voice as he demanded a meeting with Peter. Then before he could even move to ask his friend, his Alpha, what it was about, the phone had rung again and Peter had rushed to answer believing Stiles was calling again. Instead the person on the other end of the line had proven to be Talia Hale, Peter’s sister and former Alpha. The woman who’d pretty much cost Peter his own mate, almost cost him his sanity and his life and now seemed to believe she had the right to also make demands of him.

Peter had been his usual snarky self on the call and not given the Beacon Hills Alpha an inch, but once the call had been disconnected and Peter had called out to him, he could see the questions in his Alpha’s eyes. Questions that turned to uncertainty, and then concern and he could guess only one thing that would worry Peter now – the safety of Stiles Stilinski. So Peter had hurriedly dispatched Isaac and Ethan, sending them off to watch over the young man, from a distance. They were not to be seen but to also make sure Stiles was safe and that no one unknown or suspicious would intercept him before he could make his way to the pack house for his meeting with Peter. And if he knew Peter, the ‘unsolicited bodyguard service’ would not end with the meeting either.

It had been clear for some time now that the Alpha’s interest in Stiles was shifting to something other than strictly plutonic and when he’d told them his intention to tell Stiles his story, they’d all known Peter was getting ready to move their ‘relationship’ to another level.

So this, this pissed him off.

It pissed Boyd off that the boy would show up – after the pains his Alpha had gone through, threatening his own sister and safeguarding Stiles’ scrawny neck – with poisons in his possession as a threat to the pack. The very gall of him! He’d almost completely wolfed out and probably would have if Peter hadn’t calmed him the way he used to, with a hand to his shoulder.

He owed everything he had to Peter. His family owed everything to Peter. The fact that he could now look after his younger siblings and mother was because Peter stepped in after he had been bitten and left for dead. He’d been the provider for his family, as young as he was then after his father deserted them and his mother almost fell apart under the strain of caring for four children. If he’d died or gone feral after the bite, he shuddered to think of what it would have done to his family. He’d sworn an oath of loyalty to Peter.

“What’s got you so on edge.” Erica interrupted his internal monologue. “Look, Peter knows what he's doing. You need to trust that he does. Whatever this is, we’ll get Stiles through it."

"Maybe. But what am I supposed to do about the wolfsbane Stiles has with him, Erica? Our Alpha is in danger and he won’t let me even stay near to protect him." Erica's eyes went wide. This she hadn't known.

So Boyd began pacing again. This time with his quietly shaken mate just watching.

++++++

“Why would she do that?” Stiles asked fear evident in his voice at the news that Talia had threatened Peter over him.

“That’s what I’d like to know, and I have a feeling the answer lies in between the questions you yourself have about what’s going on. But first things first – you have questions.” Peter gestured to him to ask his full.

“Tell me what you know, please Peter. This is driving me nuts and suddenly things I thought I knew about myself, I don’t. It’s like I don’t even know who I am, or what I am or even the people I considered family and friends.”

So Peter told him what he knew. About Erica’s revelation, the calls he’d made since to contacts far and wide, even sending some of them the audio from Erica’s phone to try to figure out what language it truly was, and then about his search of his own library to see what he could unearth.

Stiles listened, glass forgotten in his fist. “So what am I? What does it mean? I don’t even know Elvish, although clearly I do, but how can I speak a language I don’t know that I know? And how do you know Elvish?”

“To answer your first question, I don’t know. As to what it means, I won’t know that until I’m able to determine if you’re human or something else entirely. And as for the Elvish, I learnt it as Talia’s second. The Elvish community can be one of the hardest to deal with. They are powerful, hot-headed, fast to anger, fast to fight, destructive when angered, but sure allies if you can get them on your side. A werewolf pack, hell any supernatural pack, allied to the Elvish community could be one of the strongest packs in the country, maybe even the world. So far, many have tried it, tried to force it, and failed, and crashed and burned for that failure. No one takes a heavy hand to the Elves, or their allies, without consequence. So I learnt the language so I could parlay with them from time to time.

“The thing about the Elves is that there were once nearly as many branches of elves as they are countries on this planet. And in the supernatural world of elves, there are also just as many planes that they exist on, but that’s a discussion for another time. Now you, you clearly know the language, because you speak it like someone born to it. And what you speak are parts of several Elvish languages. There are dialects within Elvish itself and some of what you said in this recording, I don’t know those words. I still occasionally edge my way around some of the language, but you speak it like a native language and that’s not something I can explain away for a human. I know none of this is what you want to hear, but I swear it is the truth.”

“What do you think it means, Peter?”

“I think that you may have some connection to the Elves, but I can’t yet say what that connection could be and more importantly, I don’t want to guess,” he said, holding Stiles’ gaze.

“But given what you’ve said about the importance of the elves in the supernatural community, whatever connections I may have could be significant right?” Stiles paused for Peter’s nod of affirmation. Then he took a deep breath and just plunged. There was no easy way to ask this – “So what does it mean to you? That I may be able to speak this language of people you say are so powerful and that I could somehow be something connected to the Elf community? Does that make me valuable to you as well?” The uncertainty and suspicion in Stiles’ voice tore at Peter.

“To be fair, Stiles. When we met you, we had no idea of any of this. So it would be unfair to now cast doubt on our motives for getting close to you when we had none. We still have none, at least none of an ulterior kind. If you want to blame me for not contacting you immediately with what I found out this morning with the recording, I can only say I’m still muddling through this myself. But if you want to blame someone, then fine, blame me for not calling you before you called me. The others though, they’ve done nothing wrong, nothing to deserve censure or suspicion on your part.”

It all sounded so logical, but could Stiles trust logic right now? Everything within him wanted to run and keep running; to somewhere else where no one knew him, where there were no supernaturals, where he didn’t have to second-guess everyone and what they wanted from him. Now he had to wonder how much his former pack knew and his friends and his dad and everyone. To wonder who’d lied to him, why, and what they wanted from him? He just needed time to think.

“I’m going to go. Tell Boyd I’m sorry. I never meant to offend. I just. . . I need, hell I don’t even know what I need anymore. I need to go. I’ll talk to you later Peter. Just give me time.”

Peter stood with him. “You can call me any time; the offer still remains. If you just want to talk, if you have questions, just call. I promise to try to answer them and I’ll keep digging Stiles. We will figure this out.”

“But how will I know what you find out won’t change how important I am to you and the pack?”

Peter didn’t have a response; he honestly didn’t know how to respond. And he’d promised not to lie and he couldn’t – not to Stiles.

So Stiles walked out the door.

++++++

Maria sighed in exasperation. She was tired of the whispering and the tiptoeing around the Alpha. Something had to be done. So she got up from the dinner table and she could feel the eyes on her as she headed into the inner sanctum (also known as the library) to seek out the man himself.

“How much longer is this going to go on?” she folded her arms and leaned against the closed door, glancing at Peter who was bent over three large tomes and a cascade of documents.

“And what exactly is the this you’re referring to?” Peter said without raising his head from what he was doing, voice dripping with that certain something that had warned the pack off forcing any kind of confrontation with him over these past weeks.

“This,” she threw up hands at him. “This absolute obsession of yours. If you want the boy Peter, go after him. But burying yourself under these books and papers, searching for a needle in this proverbial haystack that is the world of Elves, will only drive you crazy.”

“And what do you suggest I do when I find him, hmmm? He doesn’t trust me, doesn’t know if he can trust me. And what do I tell him when he asks yet again what he is and I have no answers for him? What do I say to make him believe nothing will cause my feelings about him to change? That nothing could? It’s like torture for him not knowing, and after everything life’s dealt him, the least I can do is lessen the torture of not knowing.”

“So who’s going to lessen yours?” Maria’s calm question put him to pause. “This is torture for you as well you know Peter. You’ve been distant, irascible; when’s the last time you slept through the night? And it’s been a stretch on the pack bond. I know you can feel that.”

Peter’s chin drooped to his chest and he took a long painful breath. His chest felt so empty. His wolf missed Stiles. Hell, all of him missed Stiles. It had been two weeks since he last saw the man and it was like an itch under the surface of his skin that he just could not seem to reach. “I’m sorry.”

Maria circled the large desk, and curled a palm around Peter’s neck. He allowed himself to be manipulated to rest his cheek against her stomach. “He hasn’t gone anywhere. You know he’s still here and he’s safe. We will keep him safe. But you need time with your pack Peter, time to settle your wolf, to settle yourself. Give it a rest for tonight. Tomorrow I will help, but give it a rest for tonight, and consider talking to him, even if just a text.”

The voice that responded was burnt, strained, so damn filled with pain. “I can’t. We can’t.”

Maria exhaled and allowed her Alpha’s arms to circle her waist. She knew the “we” referred to both wolf and man. He didn’t trust himself not to take what they both wanted. She knew how important it was for Stiles to come to them both of his own free will, Peter would accept nothing less. She just hoped the boy, no man, he was a man; she hoped the man did not leave it for too much longer. What she felt within her bones was that they did not have as much time as they would like. She didn’t trust Talia Hale or her minions, pack, whatever she called them; and Maria knew she’d protect Peter with her life if she needed to, just as he’d put himself on the line for her. And that protection would extend to anyone he considered his.

She also however, knew power and how it absolutely corrupted. She’d seen it, lived through it and the want of it and what people would do for it scared her. Probably the only thing that did. From the time she’d first met the Stilinski boy she sensed something about him and she feared to call the name of what she now believed that something to be, and what it could mean for their small, loyal pack. She just hoped they didn’t run out of time before they were ready for what was coming.

Chapter Text

It was a miserable three weeks. He knew that the pack was taking turns watching him. He figured Peter had given orders, but the man himself was nowhere to be seen. Not at the coffee shop; not by accident on campus; not even popping by Stiles’ work. It was like he’d vanished from his life. If it weren’t for the betas he saw from a distance time to time and a check of the History Department’s website that still listed Professor Peter Hale as current faculty, and his trolling the campus electronic message boards, he would have thought the man had left Stanford.

And Stiles, fucking dammit, missed him. He missed him like a limb. There was a void that hadn’t been there since he first came to Stanford. So when Lydia Skyped and took one look at his face, it was no surprise she told him to expect her at the weekend. He’d wanted to put her off, not sure she wasn’t remaining his friend because of some ulterior motive, but then he swiftly kicked himself for the thought. There was no way Alpha Talia would have planted Lydia in his life to keep him close. Would she? Shit, he had some serious trust issues (times 10).

She called back to tell him she had spoken with Peter – “And by the way why the hell did you not tell me it was Peter Hale?” – and received permission to visit Stanford. She’d already booked her flight and a room at the Stanford Park Hotel.

So Peter was alive, Stiles thought somewhat bitterly. Not like it wasn’t his fault the man was avoiding him. Of all the extremely dumb things to do! Of all the things he’d promised himself not to allow to happen. He suddenly felt even more depressed that he might have lost his friend. It was interesting that this somehow felt even more significant than his fractured relationship with Scott. He wondered why that was.

++++++

“Get dress!” Lydia brushed pass him and into his apartment. Swinging around she took in the place and him dispassionately, as if sizing him up, standing there as he was only in a pair of plaid boxers. “Chop, chop, sunlight’s a wasting.”

“What are you doing here so early?” Stiles complained. He was just enjoying wallowing in his self-pity, having awoken less than 20 minutes ago and making no attempt to leave his bed.

“It’s frigging 10 a.m. Stiles. Don’t get me started.”

“But it’s Saturday!” he moaned pettily.

“And I told you I would be arriving today, so let’s not turn this into any more of a pity party than it already is.” Looking him dead in the eye, she added, “I spoke to Peter. Now get dressed.”

That statement more than anything was what got him moving. He was curious about what Peter would have told Lydia.

“We’re going over to Ramona Street. There’s a café there I’ve heard good things about.”

“Coupa?”

“Yup, that’s it. Someone at the hotel recommended it. Come on!” she slid her shades back on.

“Will you stop haranguing me?”

Lydia paused on her peach stilettos and glanced over her Armanis at him, with a single raise brow. “Excuse me?” she said, with a dangerous squint. “I think you might want to take that back.”

“Sorry, Lyds. I’ve had a horrible week.”

“No hunny. You’ve had a horrible month, from what I’ve heard. But let’s get some food into you and talk.”

When they were seated 15 minutes later, and placing an order. Lydia of course had a salad, Stiles went for full breakfast. “Well it’s good to see you’ve still got a good appetite.”

“I’m hungry. Haven’t eaten since yesterday,” he attempted to smile at her. When it didn’t get a rise, he mumbled, “Sorry. It’s been really rough.”

“Sooo, Peter Hale.”

“What about him?”

She just raised another eyebrow while tapping out something on her mobile before tucking it in her bag. Giving him her undivided attention, she stated, “I’m not mad you didn’t tell me it was Talia Hale’s brother. After talking him, even over the phone and then of course Googling him, and can I say ‘yum!’, I understand why you’re a little gaga over him. But he says you two aren’t talking? That he’s giving you space?”

“Is that what he said?” Stiles scoffed. “And I’m not gaga over him.”

“Don’t be a brat. He said you were working through some things, trying to decide if you could trust him? He didn’t say what things you were working through.” She looked at him silently and waited.

“There have been some developments, things that have been revealed to me in the last few weeks. Things Peter kept from me, however briefly, that seems to point to the fact that I may be closer to yours and his side of the spectrum than I thought.” He looked at her cryptically.

“When you say our side of the spectrum, are you referring to the supernatural scale or the Kinsey scale,” she clarified softly.

“Supernatural,” he whispered.

Her brow furrowed. “In what sense?”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out.”

“And Peter’s been helping or hindering?”

“He’s, ah, tried to help, but I’m not sure how involved I wanted him to be.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know if he’d want to use that information against his sister?”

Lydia gave him a look of sheer puzzlement; sipped her water and gazed at him again as if trying to figure something out. “Let me get this straight. The man, who took you into his life and that of his pack to help you get on your feet, discovered you might be something ‘other’, was trying to help you figure out what that other was, but you don’t want him to because he might be too tempted to use you against the sister who’s been lying to us about his existence? That’s what you’re saying to me?”

“You make it seem like it’s nothing to worry about but Lyds, for all I know the Beacon Hills Pack,” he whispered, “wanted me as Derek’s mate for this whatever I am. How can I trust that Peter won’t?”

“Because you know him? Look, Stiles, I’m not trying to make light of what you’re going through, but as far as you’ve told me Peter’s always been up front with you. And he didn’t know about this thing before you two began going out or whatever that was. And then when he realised it, he told you. So what’s the problem?

“Ok, I know everything that’s happened in the past year has left you shaken, but come on. If there’s one thing you and Peter have always done well, it’s talk. So talk to him. Don’t just sit here and stew and fret and wonder. Talk to him.”

“I can’t . . .” Stiles moaned.

“And why the hell not.”

“Because I like him. Like really like him.”

“And that’s a reason not to talk to him.”

“Lyds. . .”

“Shit, stop, Stiles. We’re not in high school anymore. You can’t be afraid to talk to the guy because you like him. What kind of kid shit is that? How does that compute, anyhow?”

Stiles’ emotions ran hot for a second before he almost smacked his head into the table in frustration. Lydia was right, he was being a coward, an idiot and immature to boot. Dammit, he was always telling his dad he was a grown man now, maybe it was time to remember that.

Lydia stayed silent and dug into her salad. They ate in silence for a bit before she asked, “So what’s the plan here?”

Stiles swallowed his mouthful before responding with an exhale, “Talk to him I guess.” Just then his phone chimed.

Peter: <<I’m not trying to break my promise about giving you space, but I’m here when you’re ready to talk. I also think I may have some information you need. But when you’re ready.>>

Stiles: <<Thanks. I may pop by today, if that’s ok with you and the pack.>>

Peter: <<You know you’re always welcomed here. Stop by whenever you’re ready. I’ll be here.>>

Stiles didn’t know if it was coincidence or not that Peter had text him now, after three weeks of silence, or if he’d known Lydia would tackle the situation as she had. He hated being suspicious of the people around him; the people closest to him.

“I’m going out on a limb here and guess who that was . . .” She looked at him steadily.

“Yeah, it was Peter. I’m going over later. He says he has somethings to tell me. Can you come with me?”

“I’m able to, but you’ll have to ask Peter if I can.”

“Right, ok.” He tapped out the query quickly and got Peter’s permission. “So, we are set. After breakfast?”

“Stiles, this is brunch.”

++++++

“So he’s coming over, with the banshee?” There was no expression on Boyd’s face and Peter simply nodded. “Do you need us to make ourselves scarce again?”

“No. I think you guys being around might be good. He needs to know we don’t hold it against him, needing his space.” Peter looked up at his friend. “And we don’t, do we?”

“Nah, I’m over the whole poison thing. After all he did apologise.” Peter’s eyebrows rose at him. “You mean you didn’t know?”

“I didn’t know there was anything to know.”

“Well after the whole walking out, needing space episode with you, he cornered me in the supermarket. I mean, I knew he was following me, but I was letting him make the first move. So he came over and apologised. Said he hadn’t intended to offend, he just needed to know he had the right to protect himself if he needed it. We had a coffee after and talked it out. I figured you smelled him on me or something because when I came back you locked yourself in your office for the rest of the day.”

“Oh, that.” Peter said flatly.

“Ok, so if that’s not it, then what was that about?”

Peter looked sheepish for a second. “I thought maybe you guys were still hanging out with him though he clearly didn’t want to see me. I may or may not have reacted badly. Sorry.”

“Hey man, no harm done. At least you didn’t shred me for consorting with your mate.”

The Alpha went still and it was Boyd’s turn to raise his brows. “What? Surely you didn’t think we’d not figure it out? It fits, with your wolf’s agitation these past few weeks. The mood swings, short temper, moping. . . I still remember what it was like for me with Erica. I recognise the signs.”

“Does everyone know?”

“I haven’t spoken to them about it, but I’m sure they do. You did choose to surround yourself with a pack of intelligent people, Peter. This can’t come as a surprise that we’d notice. We were just waiting for you to be comfortable enough with it to bring it up, given your past history. I can’t imagine that this is easy for you, on any front.”

“Scary as hell is what it is. I never thought I’d get a second chance like this.”

“Well for some reason you did and I can’t say you don’t deserve it. Just don’t fuck it up!” Boyd left the study.

Peter sighed. He was trying. It was one of the reasons he’d done little but work and research these past three weeks without Stiles. He’d needed something to occupy his time and something to help ease Stiles’ discomfort with him and by extension the pack, but even so, he acknowledged he was straining his wolf’s composure, patience and control.

By the time he’d begun to realise his wolf had started thinking of Stiles by the term “mate” it was too late to do anything about it. Not that he could have stopped the process once triggered. His wolf had imprinted on the boy. It knew his smells, the sound of his resting and upset heartbeats, even the thread of his footsteps, and it had been pushing at him to claim what it now thought of as theirs. But Peter had hesitated. He’d hesitated to tell Stiles what was happening when he started courting him with meals, visits, his time, because he was conscious that the man was still getting over his own heartbreak and break of trust. So he’d kept silent and played the friend card.

Then a conversation that should have been about revealing himself and his intentions fully to Stiles, revealing his true feelings, took a left turn into unexpected territory and now he had a distrustful mate, an annoyed wolf, a wary pack, and a sister who would not hesitate to string him up from the nearest tree if she wanted Stiles back badly enough. Added to which, she didn’t even know yet that they were mates. What kind of punishment was this that had brought her back into his life?

He needed Stiles, and unless his research and summation of what Stiles was and what was happening between them were completely off, then chances are the Stiles was also feeling the effects of their fractured connection too. It’s just that the man likely had no clue what it was, even if he was aware he was feeling something. Oh what a convoluted web this was turning out to be.

++++++

He looked good. He smelled even better, and Peter’s wolf was so focussed on Stiles, Lydia had to clear her throat to remind the Alpha someone unknown had just stepped over his threshold into his den.

“My apologies, Ms. Martin. Hello, I’m Peter Hale, Alpha of the Stanford territory.” He smiled and extended his hand to the pretty, strawberry blond with the slight pout. Everything about her screamed money, privilege, confidence, even in a den of wolves.

“Alpha Hale,” she responded, shocking Peter at the use of the formal title, “it’s a pleasure to finally meet your acquaintance. I’ve heard a lot about you, all good I assure you, from Stiles.” She ignored Stiles choking scoff and hiss of “traitor”, smiling sweetly as she continued; “Thank you for allowing me into your territory.” And with that little ditty, she tilted her head just so in a sign of respect that brought an equally stunned silence to the room.

“Well damn, Lyds,” Stiles whispered.

“It’s respectful, Stiles.”

“I know what it is Lyds, and we’ll talk about this later.”

Peter raised an amused brow at the by-play between the two. If he hadn’t already known from his many conversations with Stiles, it would have immediately told him exactly what this pint-sized banshee meant to his mate, and his wolf preened in satisfaction. She would do. She would do just fine.

Stiles sighed and turned back to Peter. “You said you had something to tell me. I’d like Lydia to be there with me.”

“Actually, if you don’t mind, I think the entire pack should be here for this. I think it affects us all, and given your questions the last time we saw each other, I would say we have a few things to iron out amongst all of us if we’re even going to be friends in the future and this is one of those things. But it is of course up to you, as it is your secret to keep or share.”

“They don’t know?” The surprise was evident on Stiles’ very being.

“No. As I said, it’s your decision and yours alone what people do and don’t know in this instance.”

Stiles looked around the room at the others. His heart accelerated – what if after this everything changed? What if they treated him differently? How would he cope? Could he cope? He swallowed heavily and nodded at Peter.

“Thank you, Stiles. But first, everyone meet Ms. Lydia Martin. Ms. Martin . . .”

“Lydia, please. You’re aging me.”

Peter smiled, “Ok, Lydia. This is my second, Vernon Boyd; Charles Maitland; Maria Vasquez; Boyd’s mate, Erica Reyes; Ethan Carver; Isaac Lahey. Guys, meet Stiles’ friend, Lydia Martin.”

She nodded to each one in turn, eyes lingering for just a moment on Maria (hmm, unexpected) – “Glad to meet you all” – before returning to Peter.

“Why don’t you guys come in and take a seat. This is going to take a while.” Peter ushered them into the living area, before turning his attention back to Stiles, drinking in the sight of him. “How’ve you been Stiles?”

Stiles licked his lips and his eyes seemed to rove over Peter in much the same manner. “Nervous, on edge . . .”

“Pining,” Lydia coughed, covering her mouth discretely with a manicured hand, as Stiles sent a blazing glare her way.

“For Pete’s sake Lyds, werewolves.” Stiles whined, and the evil woman just grinned at him without pity.

“Well it is good to see you, Stiles; and as I said, I did have some news. After our last conversation I began doing some of my own research. I sent the audio to some allies of ours to see if anyone could decipher what was being said, without revealing your identity of course. We had some of the packs and groups we’re close to return with bits and pieces, and the gist of it is that it sounds like an oath or pledge of some kind. You use those words specifically, ‘pledge’ and ‘fealty’ and ‘High Court’, but other words I haven’t been able to pinpoint as easily, which led me to believe that maybe it wasn’t that the language was a mixture of other Elvish languages, but maybe a root language. Are you following me?”

“So rather than what I’m saying being a hodge-podge of others, you think its older than the others?”

A look of pride flashed in Peter’s eyes. “Yes, which led me in another direction. If it was older, maybe I needed to look elsewhere to find answers and I called a friend and had him track down a very old text for me. You see, the particular pronunciation you used for ‘pledge’ actually translates in the old language I found, as ‘of myself I give’ whereas current Elvish languages say ‘I give myself’ when they pledge. So I went back further than some of the languages even I am acquainted with and I think I found something.”

Peter reached out and slipped Stiles a sheet of paper. Stiles skimmed the information quickly, especially the images at the bottom of the page, and felt a frisson of surprise, alarm, curiousity, well up inside him. Lydia peaked over his shoulder and frowned. “Bretons? What the hell is a Breton?”

“A very old magical hierarchy of the Elvish community. They were thought to be derived from a combination of human and elf descendants. They were said to be some of the most powerful mages, with an affinity for alchemy, conjuration, illusion, speech and several other talents mostly of the magic variety.”

“OK,” Lydia spoke up, “I read a lot and I’m no expert on elves, but I’ve never heard of Bretons.”

“There’s a good reason for that,” Peter said solemnly, with more than a little wonder in his voice. “They’ve been thought to be extinct for more than 200 years.”

Chapter Text

Stiles’ heartbeat skyrocketed, and Peter rushed to his side, as the rest of the Stanford pack began to get antsy nearby. “Breathe Stiles, breathe.” He cupped the back of Stiles’ neck, brushing his thump against the rapidly beating pulse at the side, drawing the panic away from his mate.

Boyd slipped in close. "Anything we can do, Peter?"

The Alpha shook his head, and he pulled the pain out, beating the attack back. Maria brought in a glass with water, handing it off to Lydia for her friend, with a deep look of scrutiny at the strawberry blond. Lydia hiked a brow at her with a smile that was disturbingly similar to Peter's when he was being a tool. Maria shook her head as if to clear it, now was not the time, and turned away from temptation.

Peter continued to murmur quietly to Stiles, and even with his pain drain, it took close to five minutes before Stiles was calm enough for Peter to release him.

“So I’m a magical, extinct elf. Wonderful,” Stiles wheezed. Magical and extinct for 200 years? WTF was his life!?

“How is that even possible?” Lydia asked, for the first time seeming discomforted instead of the immense picture of control that constantly surrounded her. She gripped Stiles hand tightly, moving to sit closer to him, and handing him the glass of water to sip, as if her very presence could deflect the truth of the situation. “Are we even sure about this?”

“To be honest, right now it’s all conjecture based on a lot of things -- the language, his physical looks, as well as his ancestry.”

“What about my ancestry?”

Peter looked him dead in the eyes. “If my research is right, then the Bretons were Nordic with connections to England, Wales and other places over the centuries they existed. Their pale appearance was a trademark and they were always drawn to the supernatural. While your father is Polish, your mother’s family is from Wales, aren’t they? And as far back as I can trace your family tree, Stiles, I can’t find a true record of the birth of your mother anywhere. There are faked ones, very good fake ones, but faked none the less.

"As far as I can see your mother’s family has never lived anywhere else but Wales. They just showed up and stayed, with no trace of having come from anywhere else, but as far as I could find, your grandmother never gave birth to a daughter, or any child for that matter. She was barren.”

“But I don’t understand. What does all this mean? Where did my mother come from and if my grandparents aren't my grandparents then who are they?” Stiles brows drew together.

“Stiles, I believe your mother was either adopted, or placed with the Yates family at birth or a very young age for a reason. Do you know what the word Yates, actually means?”

“Gate keeper; dweller at the gate,” Stiles whispered, looking bewildered and scared.

The silence that descended on the pack was deafening.

++++++

“You told us you had this situation in hand, Talia, what’s changed?” Emmerson asked, annoyance tinged in his voice.

“We all knew it was a gamble going in, and with the Argent’s demands we couldn’t show our hand,” she argued, frustrated at having to give an account for herself to these old fogies. She was the Alpha dammit, a post that demanded respect.

“But you let the boy slip through your fingers,” it was Daphne this time. She knew the old bat had been expecting her to fail from the get-go.

The Council that was gathered before her was the law of the land, as far as werewolves were concerned. Various supernatural species had different high orders, and even then there was the High Court, on which sat a representative of most species. They were seen as judge, jury, executioner, and their power was absolute. This council reported to the High Court, and it chaffed that after all these years she was now once more being called to account. She wanted the Hale pack off the Council's radar for several reasons. Damn the Argents.

She gritted her teeth now. “He hasn’t slipped through our fingers. He’s still a member of the Hale pack and . . .”

“Really?” Daphne cut her off sharply, disbelief and disdain dripping sharp. “And which Hale pack is that?”

And that stung. Talia felt her teeth start to lengthen and she grit them tighter against showing any disrespect, and also to keep from telling the dried up prune what she really thought of her. Of course, despite being a werewolf of almost 100 years, Daphne looked nothing close to what her age suggested she should. The High Council's magic kept the other supernatural leadership structures functioning at their peak, in some cases extending life.

“The truth is you’ve lost your footing in this situation, and now your brother is in possession of the mage,” Daphne continued, determined to press her point home. Talia was trembling to press the points of her claws into the woman’s flesh and tear.

Deaton, realising how close the Alpha was to losing her temper, spoke up. “I don’t think all is lost. Peter Hale might be involved but we don’t believe he has a clue what he has in his possession or what it means. And let’s not forget that while one Stilinski is in Stanford, the other is still very much within our grasp.”

The Council went silent.

“What are you suggesting, Dr. Deaton?” Argile, the head of the Council, asked, and in deference everyone went silent. Only Deaton would answer.

“I’m saying it’s time to stop playing with the kid gloves and force the boy where we want him. We know he’d do anything for his father, he’s proven that. Let’s bring him home.” He felt Talia bristle beside him but now wasn’t the time to apologise for sensibilities. Now was time for action and if she wouldn’t act, he would. He could almost taste the boy’s untapped potential power, and it was intoxicating. They just needed to awaken it, control it, and the prospect of being the hand behind that vessel almost had him vibrating in his seat.

“Intriguing.” Argile glanced once around at the seven Council members and nodded, “Do what you must, but Talia, failure is not an option this Council will accept. You know why. Good day!”

And they were dismissed. No more could be said once the Chairman gave an instruction.

God she hated having to answer to these behind the times, short-sighted fools. She wanted Daphne’s place on that Council and by hook or crook she’d get it; but she’d have to keep an eye on the good doctor. He was getting too big for his breaches. She needed to cut him down a size, and soon.

++++++

Derek glanced at the sleeping form next to him. She was still so beautiful to him, but he also knew she had a devious streak a mile wide. It’s why they had so much in common. She wanted to step up and be seen as a force to be wreckoned with in the Argent empire away from the shining light that was her brother Chris, and Derek wanted to establish his own prowess away from his sister’s shadow. Yes, they were so alike. It’s why when she first attempted to seduce him, he let her.

He didn’t know what it was about the Stilinski boy that his mother was so adamant to push them together. For a while he’d gone along with it; the sex was good, the boy gave killer blow jobs and just a hint of the word mates had him pretty much salivating in Derek’s grasp. But it was all so cloying, so boring, so suffocating. He was sick and tired of perpetuating this perfect son image even as he knew it would never lead anywhere. He could never be Alpha, the fates had already spoken.

So he’d done the only thing he could to smash that perfect image. He’d fucked up the perfect little relationship his mother was cultivating for him for whatever twisted reason she and that shifty vet/emissary had planned. He was incensed they thought he was idiot enough not to realise they were pushing Stiles at him and pushing him at Stiles as some kind of plot. A plot he was expected to play a part in, but not be privy to. Well, fuck them and their plans. And he had. He had very well.

Mates? Who needed one, anyway? But as he thought it, his wolf reacted with a snarl, something it had been doing since Stiles left.


++++++

Kate shift beside Derek, her sensual body sliding out of bed, as she grasped the vibrating phone from the bedside table. It could only be one person and it wasn't a call she could ignore. She pressed the phone to her ear and grit her teeth. Disappointing Gerard was never a good thing. Nor was it a particularly healthy thing. But she closed her eyes, took a breath and forced herself to remember that she, and not Chris knew the details here. It was she their father had trusted with his plans.

“I told you I had it all under control. They can’t make a move without us knowing about it," she responded after listening to his end of the conversation for a bit.

“Really?” The voice on the other end drawled. “So then you are aware that she met with the Council this morning? And of course, you know the contents of that meeting?” Gerard paused for effect. His daughter was getting sloppy. This boy was making her sloppy. It was time to apply pressure. “The Council can give us what we need and they’ve been stalling. We need to force their hand now. We don’t have the luxury of time.”

Kate swallowed. She knew where this was going. “Of course. I know that. I will find out about the meeting. Don’t worry dad, I won’t fail.”

“See that you don’t.” And the old man hung up. Kate breathed in a shaky breath and felt Derek’s arms circle her from behind. After leaving the bed to take the call, she wasn’t the least bit surprised he’d followed – even unknown to her. Wolves, they always moved like the fucking predators they were.

She turned and smiled at him. “Everything ok?” he asked. He knew some of her motives, some, but not all. She could never reveal everything to him. It wasn’t an option. So she smiled. “Yes, of course.” She buried her face in his shoulder and inhaled, even as her brain continued to tick over how she could use him to find out about this morning’s meeting.

It was just too bad about Derek though. He was quite a good lay.

++++++

Scott shifted, shuffling his feet as he waited to be called in to see the Alpha. He was conflicted. Was he doing the right thing? He hoped so.

Immediately as the thought surfaced, the door across the hall opened and his Alpha appeared. “Scott!” She moved out to hug and scent him. “I was told you wanted to speak to me about Stiles? Is everything all right?” There was concern on her face.

“I don’t know Alpha Hale, that’s why I wanted to bring this to you. I think something strange is going on with him.” Scott’s eyes were wide, a little uncertain but determined to share this with his Alpha. He learnt early that it was not wise to withhold secrets from Talia Hale. She was ruthless to say the least.

Maintaining the smile he knew usually to be wary of, as much as it comforted and reassured at times, it was as much a sharp edge as it was gentle. “Come on in,” she gestured to her office.

He startled when he entered. He’d not expected to see his boss and pack emissary there. Deaton was leaning against a packed bookshelf behind Talia’s desk. He nodded in acknowledgement to Scott, and when Scott was finally seated, the Alpha turned expectedly to him with a raised eyebrow in question. “Now tell us, what’s happened with Stiles to have you so distressed, Scott?”

“It’s these new friends he’s hanging out with on campus. He called me a while ago asking if I could feel him in the pack bond, and of course I told him it was a stupid question to ask, that we could all feel him.” Scott’s gaze darted from the Alpha to Deaton and back. Both wore equally blank expressions, though the Alpha’s brows were still raised.

“How long ago was this?”

“I don’t know, maybe two weeks, maybe more.”

“So why bring it to us now and not then?” The Alpha’s voice made his stomach drop.

“Well, I discarded it as a one-off thing you know? Then I ran into his dad and I mentioned it to him and he got really tense, like really tense. He said he’d spoken to Stiles and everything was ok. But I don’t know, I guess I was still worried, and when my mom baked a casserole for him, I told her I’d drop it off you know, just give me a chance to follow up since Stiles had cancelled our last two online nights together.” Scott fidgeted again, eyes roving between Alpha and Emissary.

“But while I was there, the desk operator called him and said Mrs.Yates, Stiles’ grandmother, was on the phone, and he got tense again, like his heart went through the roof and he tried to get me out of the office as quick as he could. I just thought it strange you know? Like he was hiding something and I didn’t know what to do.”

“This call,” Deaton asked, suddenly breaking his deep silence, “when did it take place?”

“Last evening,” Scott frowned. Something about this whole thing was causing his werewolf senses to go on edge.

“And you didn’t hear any of the call?” he persisted.

“No. He said thanks for the casserole and he’d return the dish to mom but that he had to take this call. I tried to hang around in case I could overhear you know, but that deputy, you know the new strange one? He was there suddenly, talking to me and before I knew it he’d escorted me out the door. I don't even remember moving,” Scott shook his head, bewildered. There was something strange about Deputy Parrish.

Talia and Deaton shared a laden look, and once again it set Scott’s senses off. Something was off here, and now he was scared, worried and uncertain that he’d done the right thing.

“You did the right thing bringing this to us, Scott. Thank you. We’ve also been worried about Stiles and I know that John has been worried about his prolonged absence from home too. I promise we will do everything we can. I know the thing with Derek left him unsure of his place with us, but we value Stiles as much as you do, and we will make sure everything is ok with him and his dad. Thank you, Scott.” And with those words he was once again swiftly escorted out, his head wielding. What the hell just happened?

++++++

“We need to move and now. It’s clear both Stiles and his father have been doing some digging, and if he’s calling Wales, he may be closer to answers than we thought,” Deaton said.

“Which means chances are my brother is wrapped up in there somewhere.”

Deaton nodded, a brisk, sharp movement.

“OK, I’ll make the calls.”

++++++

Stiles frowned at papers once more. How did his grandparents, his mother feature into this? “Do you think my grandparents would know?”

Peter took a moment to consider. “I can’t say for sure, but I don't see how they couldn't. It may be worth a look.”

Stiles nodded, as his phone rang. He knew this ring, and with everything else his heart started beating fast. “Give me a minute.” He moved away, from the room, although he knew every werewolf there could hear it clearly.

“Dad?! What’s up?”

“Stiles, where are you?”

“I’m with the pack. What’s wrong?”

“I spoke to your grandparents yesterday, son, but they had promised to call back today and I didn't want to contact you til I had something to tell you. I just spoke to grampy . . .” The pregnant pause was so unlike his dad. “They’re on their way to Stanford now from Wales. I’m taking some leave and coming up to see you. Son, whatever you do, stick with your friends, do you understand? We’re all going to be there as soon as we can.”

“Dad? Dad, slow down, you’re scaring me a bit here.”

His dad took a breath. “Sorry son. I don’t mean to. Let me speak with the Alpha there a minute.”

Stiles hesitated. “Umm, dad, there’s something I haven’t told you that you should probably know first.”

“What’s that son?”

He paused again, running a rough hand over his hair and down his neck. How did he tell his dad this?

The decision was suddenly taken from him, when Peter removed the phone from his ear and put it to his own. “I think what he’s trying to tell you, Sheriff Stilinski is that I’m the Alpha here. This is Peter Hale, Talia’s brother.”

“Fuck! Of course. It makes sense now.” The sheriff’s statement raised the hair on Peter’s arm.

“What makes sense, Sheriff?” Peter asked, brow furrowed.

“Look, I will explain everything when I get there. Alpha Hale, Peter, I know you don’t really know me and you don’t owe me or my son anything, but if you care about him at all, I need you keep him close. Don’t let him out of your sight until I get there. I’m on my way. Can you do that?”

“Of course, Sheriff. I would never allow harm to come to Stiles. But what is it we are keeping him safe from?”

"Your goddamned sister, that's what. I'll explain more when I get there. Let me talk to my son.”

“Dad, what’s going on?” Stiles' voice was bordering on panic.

“We’ll explain when we get there but I need you to remain calm and observant. I love you son, with everything in me and I’m sorry. I’m so damn sorry I didn’t ask more questions before now.”

“Dad?” Stiles’ voice trembled, but it was met with silence. His dad had hung up. He suddenly felt so young again. He glanced at Peter, fear a tangible thing now. “Peter?”

The Alpha stepped forward and pulled him into a crushing embrace, as shakes took control of his body and he went into full blown panic. The last thing he remembered was Lydia's panicked shout of his name and Erica rushing forward before darkness claimed him.

Chapter Text

The Sheriff was hurrying and trying not to panic himself. He’d thought long and hard before he’d even called Stiles, but his first duty was to his son. He had to protect his son. These fucking people. He’d trusted them with his son, with his own life and his career and they’d betrayed both of them, and for what, power, position, prestige.

John grated out a sound of frustration as he shoved a pair of jeans into the duffle. He could just imagine his son smirking at him when he saw the awkwardly stuffed bag, after all, he was constantly on his son about folding clothes before packing. A smile flickered across his lips at the thought of the wicked glee in his son’s eyes, eyes that still reminded him so of Claudia. Why hadn’t she told him? So much of this could have been avoided if she’d just trusted him with what she was. She’d left them open and vulnerable.

He’d all but handed his son over to these “wolves” that had promised to protect him, to protect them both. They’d lied, and he wasn’t sure why that hurt as much as it did. Perhaps because he saw his own folly in the whole situation. In allowing his son to dictate how things would be handled, he’d given over the right to protect his family to his then barely of age son. And it just kept on from there, until Stiles was the one making the decisions. Well no more. That was past. He was Papa Stilinski again.

He just hoped he’d read Peter Hale right, or there would be hell to pay this time. He was still reeling at what had been revealed by his in-laws – and they were still his in-laws despite the death of his wife so many years ago. His stomach churned with anxiety. He’d missed all the signs, all of them. The ever present worry Enid and Dylan always had, the constant calls and questions about Stiles’ activities over at the Hale house and especially when he visited Scott at the vet’s. Although truth be told John had always had a funny feeling about that vet/Emissary. The calls and show of concern hadn’t let up, interestingly enough, until Stiles had left for Stanford. Hell, Enid and Dylan had even gone off on a brief trip themselves in the last few months, and had only just returned, hence his not having been able to reach them before. All of it should have been a sign, but he didn’t pay attention. And no one had told him a damned thing. It filled him with a new shame. But he’d worry about his feelings later. Now he had to get to Stiles, and Peter, to let them know what was going on; the danger that lurked.

He’d held back going into details over the phone. First because he was now suspicious of everything and everyone, and second, because he wanted to have his son close at hand from this moment forth and the information he needed to impart would take too much time. He would throw himself to the very devil now to protect what was his.

With one last glance around, he rushed downstairs, grabbed his keys and wrenched open the door . . . and skidded to a stop at the toothy smile and red gaze of the Beacon Hills Alpha.

“Where are we off to in such a hurry, John? And without any goodbyes?”

"Hello Talia." John couldn’t stop the involuntary shudder or the sudden spike of adrenaline. A vision of his smiling son flashed across his mind’s eye and he sent up a silent prayer he’d live to see that look on his son’s face again.

++++++

Peter paced. He never paced. His worry was always quiet and steady, but with Stiles stretched out across his bed, he paced. He’d not let the boy out of his sight for a minute, since the call with John. Even as he picked up the phone and made a few well-placed calls, it was with an unconscious Stiles in his sights.

He’d given instructions to Boyd and the others to patrol in twos. Lydia had volunteered to remain downstairs with Maria. The Alpha was also not to be left alone. Peter would have protested about needing them all on the streets on the lookout, that he could take care of himself – if it had only been his own life and limb at stake. He had no qualms about death or blood or injury. Stiles, however, any harm befalling his mate was another matter altogether. So he kept his lips tight on the complaint and accepted that Maria was going nowhere. Boyd had laid down that law.

He glanced again at Stiles. He would not worry at the man’s unconscious state just yet. This had all been a bit much and John’s panicked call had been the last straw to push him over into a full blown attack. Ethan had moved swiftly forward, using his own background in sports and dealing with injured and unconscious players to check over the Alpha’s mate. He’d been the one to calm Peter and reassure him that Stiles was ok and would come out of his state on his own. His mind just needed to reboot, so to speak.

Checks completed, Ethan had looked Peter in the eye and simply nodded. He was halfway to the door by the time Charles caught up with him. The two were always more prone to action than talk. Then Boyd had turned, had brief words with Maria, gestured to Erica and the two stalked out with serious faces.

“Stay in touch. Every half hour I want a report. Let Ethan know as well.”

“OK, but Maria stays,” Boyd had returned, “and it’s not a suggestion, Alpha. Isaac will join you here once his errand is completed.” With that the two mates disappeared and the door closed with a slam.

“I’ll stay too,” Lydia spoke up, as if anything could drag her away from where Stiles was right then. At the raise of Maria’s brows, she gave her a belligerent look. “What?”

“Didn’t say a thing, Princess.”

And Lydia sighed. “I’ll go make some tea. Anyone want a cup?” and stalked off to the kitchen without waiting for a response.

“Ease up a little, M.”

“Hmmm. Well, she sure is pretty. It remains to be seen if she’s got anything behind that snark.”

Peter shook his head. Ok, no, he wasn’t getting involved in that. Let the two figure it out themselves. Hell, there was never a dull moment in Casa Hale.

He turned and scooped Stiles up into a bridal carry, depositing him moments later in his bed and drawing the covers. He had calls to make. In moments he’d spoken with a number of supernatural packs, clans and covens between Stanford and Beacon Hills, sending up thanks that he’d had the presence of mind to go with it when Boyd and Ethan had recommended alliances all up and down the coast. Once the Sheriff left Beacon Hills, someone would be on his guard until he was ensconced in the Stanford house. He could not risk anyone entering Beacon Hills, though it bugged the hell out of him that this was the one place outlawed to him and any supernatural stepping foot into the territory now would surely be met with hostility, suspicion and danger given Peter’s reputation. He just hoped John could get out and quick.

Stiles shifted, his first movement since falling unconscious, but he didn’t wake. Peter refused to worry yet.

++++++

"Where are you off to, John?" She passed him into the house, as two men he’d never seen before took up posts on his porch, another at the end of his driveway.

“I’m going to see my son, Talia.” He was pleased there wasn’t a single note of tremor in his voice, no matter how much his brain stuttered at the sight before him.

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible John. I can’t allow that.” The smile had yet to leave her face.

“And why the hell not?”

“Because you’re going to help us bring Stiles home, where he belongs, John.”

The duffle slid unbidden to the ground with a thump as John’s heart flew straight into his throat. “Over my dead body,” he grated.

“Let’s not be dramatic, or that can be arranged. He would come back for your funeral you know. Don’t force my hand in this.”

“Like you’d need me to force you to do anything,” he said scathingly. “Would you really kill a Sheriff, Talia? How did you become this?” he gestured with a shake of his head. “I trusted you with my son. We trusted you.”

“And nothing’s changed. You will call your son, tell him to come home and I’ll take it from there.”

“You’re crazy if you think there’s anything you can do to me to make me bring my son back into your crazy ass clutches.”

The Alpha’s eyes blazed a deadly red. “Be very careful John. I don’t think the Rangers would have prepared you enough for the kind of pain I can inflict with just one of my claws. Don’t force me to become the ‘crazy’ barbarian. Besides, I promise you, I won’t harm Stiles. I have no interest in harming Stiles; quite the opposite actually. He’ll hold pride of place in our pack. I just need him home, where he belongs.”

John swallowed as the woman moved closer, aforementioned claws snicking out one by one. “No. I won’t. Do whatever you wish to me, but know that your brother won’t allow you to lay a hand on Stiles.” The statement finally succeeded where nothing else had. It wiped the smile from the Alpha’s face, as her nostrils flared.

“So you’ve been talking to my brother, have you? Oh, John, what have you done? And what am I now to do with you?”

Before the Sheriff could form an answer, the werewolf pounced and that was the last thing he saw.

++++++

Derek watched and listened from the edge of the Preserve to the back of the Stilinski residence. Since his chat with Kate, he’d been trying to find out what was going on. He didn’t understand any of it. What was his mother up to? The Sheriff’s scream was frightening, bloodcurdling and then there was silence. His closest neighbour’s house was in darkness. They were obviously out for the evening. So no one heard.

Derek could not tell what was happening from the back of the property and he could not risk getting closer. His mother would no doubt recognise both his scent and his heartbeat. He heard several car doors open and slam shut and then a vehicle pulled away. He listened for a while and heard movement in the house, and about 20 minutes later, all the lights inside the house went out and a second set of doors slammed. Shortly thereafter another vehicle pulled away from the premises.

Derek recognised the whir of this particular car. It was the Sheriff’s, but he knew the Sheriff was surely not in the driver’s seat. He listened for a few more minutes before he left his hiding spot and crept closer, scaling the side of the house as he’d done many times before and entering through Stiles’ bedroom window. The house was silent and there was a faint coppery smell, not as much as the scream would have suggested should be present, but there was also the bleachy smell of cleaning products. Whatever had gone down here, his mother’s henchmen had removed the evidence.

He felt a moment’s sorrow for the Sheriff. If there was one thing he knew about Stiles, it was that he was devoted to his father. If the Alpha wanted Stiles back in Beacon Hills for whatever dastardly deed she and that shifty Deaton was up to, then this would surely bring him.

The question now, was what he could do with the information. He had to find a way to use it to his advantage. Maybe Kate would know.

He left the house the same way he came in.

++++++

Downwind, Jordan Parrish watched as the Hale wolf exited the window. He sighed. This just got more complicated. A few minutes later a search of the Stilinski residence told him he was too late. He swore. Madam would not like this at all. Nothing but headaches lay in his immediate future.

He pulled out his mobile and pressed 1. The phone was immediately answered and he could hear bustling background noises. “Report,” the accented voice on the other end said.

“I’m too late. He’s not here, but the Hales have been, and Madam . . . I smell blood.”

He heard a swallow on the line. “Is it John’s?”

Jordan paused before responding. “I think so, but it’s not a whole lot of it. So maybe there’s hope.”

“With this alpha? I’m not so sure.”

“What are my orders?”

“Find John . . . or his body. We are on our way to Duinerth and we will make sure he stays put until we get to him at Stanford.”

“Madam, what am I allowed to do?” Jordan needed to make sure he had clearance to reveal himself.

“Whatever you must if it means we get John back.”

“The Underworld won’t like it if he’s gone and we really have to bring him back, Madam. The High Council won’t like it any better.”

“Fuck the Underworld and the High Council can go screw themselves. Let them take action for a change if they don’t like my choices. Out of fear they tied our hands all these years and look where it’s gotten us. We have a pledge to fulfill and I will be damned if we’ll lose my grandson in this mess. Now go. And Parrish, be careful. They’ll like it even less if we have to raise you as well.”

He allowed a chuckle to surface. Raising a hell hound, right! “Yes, Ma’am.”

And Madam hung up. He stretched and cracked his neck with a jerk of his head, a soft popping sound, as his eyes glowed in anticipation now the kid gloves were off. He really hoped this was a rescue and not a body retrieval. He hated those.

++++++

Ethan prowled, with Chase a silent shadow at his side. It was always like this between them – at least it was now. He still remembered what it’d been like in those first days. Even after saving both Maria and Chase, it wasn’t a case of open arms for the former Alpha. He’d been treated with some measure of suspicion, even when Peter had vouched for him to his new rab-scrabble pack.

Even after Peter bit and recruited Boyd and Erica, he’d still been on the outside looking in. His suggestion to Peter that they needed to shore up their position with alliances had been met with even more suspicion by the two former McAllister pack members; but surprisingly, it had been Boyd who’d backed up his suggestion as having merit when the others started uttering about Ethan wanting to stab them in the back. Only Peter, back then, had understood just how much pain Ethan was still in at the death of his brother at his own hands. He’d been prepared to die; had been convinced he would have died given his and Aiden’s connection to each other. It was the only reason his previous alpha and his wayward bunch hadn’t ended his life when he’d started defecting from the pack at Beacon Hills.

They’d left him battered, for sure, but his twin had stopped him from lancing the killing blow for fear of what it could do to his own life force. So they’d left him close to dead but healing ever so slowly. He’s still not sure why Peter hadn’t ended his life that day and he was always too afraid to ask. He wasn’t sure he deserved to hear the answer after what the Alphas had done to Peter’s wife and pack members.

But gradually he’d proven himself. It’d taken time and patience, but Peter’d been there every step of the way, building a loyal, trusting and strong pack and Ethan thanked whatever entity was looking out for them that it had worked. He might have taken his own life after his brother’s, had it not been for Peter. It was why they could communicate now with just a nod and knowledge of what the other was planning. Peter was like the father he and Aiden had always hoped for but never got.

The biggest shock though had been Chase. If Peter was the dad, then despite being somewhat older than Peter, Chase was like a brother. Somehow over the passage of time they’d become friends. It wasn’t all bro-hugs and man talk, but mostly quiet times playing chess, watching basketball, boxing or motorsports, and ever so often jogging together. Chase had become a silent boulder at his side and a strong muscle at his back.

“You’re getting maudlin over there,” the man in question spoke up now.

Ethan just smirked and resumed his perusal of the trees ahead of them, sniffing the air for anything unusual. They had an Alpha and his mate to protect. Once again he was pressed into soldier mode.

++++++

Stiles stirred again, but this time finally began to move, raising a hand to his head and squinting at the sudden light beneath dark lashes.

“Peter?”

It did something to him to note that his name was the first to pass his mate’s lips after regaining consciousness.

“I’m here.” He sat on the edge of the bed and leaned in, taking in the gentle smell of spicy cinnamon, the earthy notes like after a heavy rain, and that something else that always tickled his nose but which he could never quite pinpoint.

“Is my dad here yet? How long was I out?”

“No, not yet, Stiles. It’s been almost three hours.”

Did my dad say what time he’d be here?” Stiles’ chocolate orbs locked onto his blue ones and he could read the concern there.

“No. I’ve got people watching out for him and they will escort him all the way here.”

Stiles closed his eyes, “No, I understand. I appreciate you looking out for him, Peter, but I can’t relax until he gets here.”

Peter didn’t voice what he was thinking and that was that if the sheriff had been as anxious about leaving Beacon Hills as he seemed when he’d called, then he should have crossed the City limits out of the town by now, and his people had reported nothing.

He was worried. It had been hours since the call and still nothing. “How are you feeling? You’ve been out a while.”

Stiles startled. “I didn’t mean to totally lose it like that. It’s been a while since I had one that bad. I’m a little weak but that’s not unusual. Do you think my dad’s going to be OK? I can’t stop thinking about how nervous he was on the phone. I’ve never heard him sound like that, not since that time when mom collapsed.”

So the moment had come. He couldn’t lie. “I don’t know Stiles. Your dad seemed to suggest that my sister was up to no good, which doesn’t surprise me. It’s the same conclusion we’ve all come to, but it worries me that he could easily get caught in the middle of whatever she’s got planned and if I know my sister, she won’t let anything stand in her way.”

“ . . . not even a Sheriff,” Stiles whispered and swallowed audibly. “Have you tried calling him back? I need to call him.”

“I’ve tried twice but no luck. He’s not at his house nor at the station and the station hasn’t heard from him all evening. He did manage to call in his absence and put one of the deputies in charge until he returns, but still nothing.”

He could hear Stiles’ heart begin to accelerate, and his scent went sharp. “And your lookouts?”

“Nothing, Stiles. I’m sorry.”

“I have to go. I have to call him. I have to go. I can’t just sit here not knowing.” Stiles’ breathing hitched again as he sprung up from the bed while Peter tried to gently restrain his lanky frame. The young man was almost in tears. “Peter, please . . .”

“Ok, let me try something first. Will you let me?”

“What?”

“I’ll have one of the guys on the City limits go in and scout. I’m sure he can make it to your house. But beware Stiles, if I instruct someone to breach the Alpha’s territory, that’s as good as a declaration at this point, given that I’m exiled.”

“What kind of declaration,” Stiles asked stupidly, because he knew that he already knew the answer to this.

“An unwelcomed breach. A declaration of ill-intent. A declaration of war.”

Chapter Text

“Someone unknown has crossed into our territory,” Deaton said as soon as Talia looked up.

“Peter?” she asked with a sneer that somehow still managed to look like alarm.

“I don’t know. The wards were triggered, but they simply picked up that we’ve had a breach. It could be more than one.”

The Alpha’s eyes went wild red. “Find them!” she bellowed. It still chafed that even after all these years since the death of her parents that she still had to rely on the Emissary to tell when her territory was breached. Those senses had never passed to her and it was the most annoying thing. The Nemeton had never granted her its favour. “Wait!” she halted the henchmen already rushing for the doors to the dungeon. “Bring them to me. I need answers.”

The leader of the rab-scrabble group nodded and they rushed off.

++++++

Hank sniffed the air. It smelled of blood alright and there wasn’t a single thump of a heartbeat within the walls. The vampire turned and nodded to his colleague standing watch on the porch of the Stilinski house.

“We need to get out of here Hank. If anyone catches two strangers hanging around the Sheriff’s house and decide to call in reinforcements, we’ll be behind bars before we can scratch our asses. Call Peter, but let’s get the hell out of here!”

His vampire colleague nodded at the wisdom of the advice. “Ok. Let’s go.” He took out his phone and called Peter.

“Anything?”

“No, but there’s evidence of blood in the house. If he was here, he wasn’t whole when he left, if he left on his own. What do you want us to do. We can continue searching . . . “

“No,” Peter cut him off hastily. “Retreat the border for now. I will have more instruction later. I’m sure your breach has already been noted by the pack and the last thing any of us need is you in their clutches. Call me when you get out. Thanks my friend.”

“Anytime, Peter. Sorry we couldn’t be of more help.”

Hank hung up the phone feeling like he’d failed. So many years ago when his mate had been kidnapped and marked for death, they’d sent out a plea for help and only one pack had responded and it wasn’t even a vampire, but werewolves. Peter, Ethan and Maria. He still considered his debt a lifelong one, despite Peter’s reluctance to even engage the notion. So when Peter had called asking a desperate favour and outlining the risks, he’d said of course.

He’d never taken to the Beacon Hills Alpha. There was still too much uncertainty about that woman and the rumours that surrounded her rise were still too much to ignore. Despite Peter’s entreaty to return to the border, Hank rattled his brain for an alternative. The Sheriff’s station. Certainly they’d want to know the Sheriff was not where he was supposed to be?

“So back to the border?” Vampire hearing was not as acute as werewolves, but his cousin, Alfie had still been able to hear.

“No. We head for the Sheriff’s Station.”

“Hank!?”

“Alfie, Danielle is alive because of Peter and his pack. I won’t abandon them in their time of need. Now are you with me?”

Alfie sighed. This was going to get them killed. “Of course!” The two trotted off in the direction of their vehicle, ready to make it for the Sheriff’s office before fate caught up with them.

++++++

After almost 14 hours, Enid and Dylan Yates stepped off a plane in Los Angeles. It had been a long miserable flight filled with tension, uncertainty, fear. Both were anxious to get to Duinerth, now. Their grandson needed them, but they didn't yet know how they'd break the news that the Sheriff, Duinerth’s father, might be dead.

A stoic looking man greeted them with a mere nod. "Report?" she asked as he reached for the single bag she carried. Her husband carried his own.

"Everything's calm so far, Madam. We've been keeping our eyes on the young prince. He seems safe with this pack. Braeden is on the way to Stanford."

Enid breathed a sigh of ease for the first time since John called. It wasn't complete relaxation, but it was reassurance. She trusted Braeden to do whatever was necessary to safeguard Duinerth. "Well let's hurry. We're losing time."

"Yes, Madam."

++++++

Parrish walked into the station. Everything was quiet, but there was a hint of something in the air. He was sure something else was afoot. He just needed to check in before he disappeared for a few hours to search for the Sheriff. He couldn’t afford to raise suspicion, so he checked in with the acting number one and left “on patrol”.

As soon as he was out of sight of the station and any civilians he melted into the shadows. If there was one good thing about being a hell hound, it was the ability to blend into the dark seamlessly. He could disappear at the drop of a hat, masking smell, heartbeat, all signs that was there or ever had been there, and he used this ability now. He stalked the premises of the Hale residence, listening and looking for any sign of the Sheriff. He wasn't certain they would have brought John back here.

He still didn't know how many of this pack were in on this plot, but those that were would burn for it. If the High Court didn't see to it, Madam certainly would. No one messed with her family without consequence. He shook his head for a moment wondering whether Madam or Peter Hale or even Duinerth, would be the one to demand justice. Either way, this pack's days, or rather, the Alpha’s days, were numbered.

He'd been watching them for a while, trying to discern where the "bad eggs" were – so to speak. He knew for certain the Alpha and the Emissary were not to be trusted. Derek was an idiot of the highest order, but whether he deserved death remained to be seen. It was Laura who was the eternal enigma. Groomed to be the next Alpha, it didn't seem like she had taken on much of the leadership within the family as yet. If she had, there was no way her mother would have kept her in the dark about their debt to Gerard Argent, and that was what stayed his judgement where the heiress was concerned.

What a mess this was, and he was here to begin to clean house.

++++++

Ethan closed in from one side, Chase from the other, both shifted into Beta forms at the threat before them.

“I won’t ask you again. Who are you and what are you doing here.” They’d run into the woman not far from the pack house, marching through an old track to the back of the wooded area behind the house. The stance of the woman and the weapons she carried screamed fighter, as did her scars. She knew how to handle herself and the way she handled the blade she spun between her fingers said as much.

“Calm down boys. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I will if you force my hand. I’m here to see your Alpha.”

“Who are you and what do you want with Peter?” Ethan’s eyes glowed blue and that only made the woman in front of them settle into a loose fighter stance and somehow slip another weapon from somewhere on her person.

“That’s between me and the Alpha, but just to be clear, I’ll go through you if I have to.” Her eyes narrowed to slits. This was just slowing her down. When she got her call she had to have the Prince in her sights.

“If Beacon Hills sent just you, then they are even more foolish than we thought, and lady I’ve had worse than you try to get through me,” Ethan snarled and flipped a hand to extend his claws, readying for battle.

But then the woman threw back her scarred face and laughed, long and low. “Beacon Hills? Sweetie, Beacon Hills wouldn’t know what to do with me.”

Perhaps picking up on the avalanche of emotions strumming down the pack bond, within minutes Boyd and Erica rushed into the clearing. Boyd took one look at the situation and shifted, eyes gold, claws extended. And Erica’s phone rang.

“Boss?”

“What’s happening?”

“We’ve got an armed unknown in the clearing, a mile out from the back of the house.”

“Tell your Alpha I’m not here to cause trouble. I believe we are both after the same thing,” the woman responded, tossing the words at Erica even as her eyes summed up the situation, shifting quickly between Ethan and Boyd.

“He wants to talk to you,” Erica held out her cell.

“Nope, I’m no idiot. Put it on speaker and turn it up.”

Erica did as asked, turning the phone in her clawed hands towards the intruder who had breached their territory.

“This is Peter Hale. Who are you?”

“My name’s Braeden. I work for Enid and Dylan Yates. I’ve been sent as security for the Prince until the Guardians arrive. You can ask Duinerth,” she shook her head quickly, “ummm, Stiles. He knows me.” She heard Peter murmur in the background before he spoke into the phone again.

“Alright, Ethan, bring her up to the house. The rest of you keep sharp.”

“Will do, Peter,” Boyd said and Erica ended the call.

“You could have said his grandparents sent you.” Boyd said.

“I could,” she gave a lopsided smile, “but this was so much fun.” She trotted off after a pissed off Ethan, with a smirk on her face.

Erica tossed a considering look at her back, but before she could even voice her thoughts, her mate shook his head, “No, just no.”

“Spoil sport!” Boyd shook his head again and knew better than respond to that. He nodded to Chase and they broke up again, Boyd wondering if Peter was gonna call Isaac home from France given the shit-storm heading their way.

++++++

Hank breathed hard. They hadn’t made it to the Sheriff’s station. They’d been run off the road before they’d even hit the main street, facing off against three wolves. Together they’d managed to take one down, but the other two were hard on their trail and they were running out of options. Good thing vampires were often more agile than other weres.

The wolves had forced them into the preserve, territory that they undoubtedly knew better than the vamps. “What now? You know we just declared war on the wolves.” Alfie, ever the optimist, said.

“Thanks, I needed that recap. We need to find somewhere to lay low for a bit.”

“Lay low?” Alfie hissed. “We killed one of them. There’s no laying low. There’s getting out of Dodge, right the hell now. These blood hounds no doubt have our scent. They won’t stop til we are dead now.”

“No. They would have killed us if that was their intention. I think the Alpha may want us alive. They danced around us long enough for us to get the upper hand, so they know we mean business and still they didn’t kills us. No, she wants us alive.”

“If that was your pep speech, cousin, you suck at them,” the blond responded. They circled behind a house, making to head out onto the street. Certainly the wolves wouldn’t hunt them in their natural forms in the open, revealing themselves.

Just then a door opened and a tan skinned boy hissed, “Get in here! Now idiots, unless you want to be torn apart.”

The two vampires paused just enough to exchange looks before they dashed into the house. The boy leaned out and sprinkled something sharp smelling across the spot where they’d been standing and scattering the rest beyond. He then quickly and quietly closed the door. The house was in darkness, except for a light filtering down the stairs. They’d just opened their mouths when the boy hissed again at them, shushing both of them. Listening they heard hurried footsteps then a loud sneeze followed by another one. The boy - no, this was certainly a young man - waved a hand at them, pressing them down and back toward the living room to the front, away from the backdoor and into darkness, before he flipped on the outside light and threw open the door.

“Who’s out here?” he demanded. “Who’re you and what are you doing here?”

“We’re looking for two guys who passed through here, maybe moments ago,” a nasal voice said from beyond the back steps.

“You’re the only ones out here. Only you and your loud sneezing. What gives?” Well that wasn’t a lie. “I’m trying to study,” the irate young man said. Just then one of the wolves sneezed again, even louder.

“Sorry about that. Just something’s setting off my sinus, I think.”

“Look, just get outta here before I call the police.”

The two gave the youth a long measuring look before another sneeze interrupted. The man raised a brow and proffered a phone dialing 9. 1. 1. in slow sequence. The two then skedaddled not wanting to draw attention to themselves, and the young man closed the door soundly with a slam, hanging up the phone before it rang a second time. Just as before though, he waved his hand when Hank and Alfie were about to speak, shushing them. They stood in the darkness for another three minutes, then he took out his phone again and dialed. “Lydia, yeah, they’re here, but I think the Alpha’s soldiers are after them. Yea. Ok.” Then the boy held the phone out to them. Hank took the phone uncertainly, “Hello?”

“Hank?” a voice on the end asked, then exhaled audibly. “Thank God!”

“Peter? Jesus! Well I guess you know by now that our presence has been detected.”

“Yeah, just stay put for a bit. I’m working on a contingency.”

“Well hurry. Don’t know how long til those wolves circle back for more than a long sneeze.” Hank handed the phone back. “Thank you,” he told the young man. “You saved our hides there.”

“No shit,” the boy shook his head, turned away up the stairs towards the only light in the house. “I’m Danny, by the way. Come on, I think I can help you find the Sheriff.”

++++++

Peter Hale looked the woman up and down. She had the scars of a werewolf down one side of her face, but beyond that she was a beauty, or maybe it enhanced her beauty somewhat.

“Well Braeden. Care to shed some light on why you’re here?”

“As I said earlier, I can’t say more until the Guardians arrive. They will answer all your questions. . . Yours too, Stiles,” she glanced up sharply in the direction of the silent young man on the balcony above.

“Hello, Braeden.” Stiles walked to the top of the first stair. “So I guess you’re not an architect?”

Braeden laughed. She’d always liked this boy, and she knew if ordered she would lay down her life for him without question. “No, sweetheart,” and she smiled as the Alpha bristled at the endearment aimed at the young man. Interesting.

Half-an-hour later they were eating in near silence. Lydia’s and Maria’s eyes had barely left the scarred woman and she could all but feel their questions and censure. She had been a mercenary until she came into the full-time employ of the Yates. Over the years she’d done several jobs on their behalf, but she knew none was more important than this mission to protect the mole-speckled youth in front of her. The Alpha had excused himself shortly after the strawberry blond had handed over her phone and he’d spoken with the “Danny” or “Hank” on the other end. After having a few words with Maria, Peter had retreated to his office, probably to deal with whatever that call had been about.

She wondered how Parrish was doing. She had been unable to answer Stiles’ questions about his father, but she’d gleaned enough of what was not being said about that phone call to send off a quick text to the hell hound to let him know Peter had sent spies into Beacon Hills to scout for the Sheriff and whom he should seek out for information. She hoped it helped.

Now it was just a waiting game.

++++++

Parrish sat behind yet another house and waited, listening to the hushed conversation inside. Looking around he slipped from the edges into the darkened kitchen. The voices were coming from above. He hoped the information was correct. There was only one Danny he could think of who would have called Lydia Martin, or been willing to help Stiles, and he lived here.

He moved up the stairs, and had barely reached the portion where light invaded the dark when he was engulfed in a cloud of what smelled like mistletoe. He coughed to clear his nose and looked pointedly at the young man and two vampires above. “Sorry for the breaking and entering, but I think we can help each other and we may not have a lot of time.”

“Less than you think, Deputy,” the young man Danny responded. Danny stared at the Sheriff Office’s heartthrob of a Deputy and felt a stir. Soooo not the time . . . especially given that Deputy Jordan Parrish was in his house, skin glowing faintly red and yellow, with yellow eyes. What the hell, was everyone something other?

++++++

Talia growled, eyes red, fist clenched as she pounded the table. Vampires. There were vampires in her territory, and it seemed they had been looking for the Sheriff. She had no doubt they’d been sent by her brother. Well she had a few cards up her sleeve too, but she needed to find the meddlers first, and SOON!

++++++

“Dad? I think there’s something else going on that we don’t know about. Something to do with the Sheriff and his son. Derek said that Talia’s taken the Sheriff, but he doesn’t know where or if he’s still alive. She wouldn’t risk such a thing if it wasn’t important. I thought you should know.” Kate held her breath. Her father was quiet on the other end.

“Most interesting. How much have you told the mutt?”

“Nothing more than agreed.”

“Good. I’ve got a task for you. It’s time to tighten the screws. No more stalling. They’ve stalled long enough.”

“And Chris?”

“Leave your brother to me. He’s taken too much of a liking to these animals.”

“Of course, dad. Tell me what you need me to do.” And Gerard outlined his plan. The Hales owed him and it was time to collect.

Chapter Text

Enid was exhausted, but she knew her journey had only just begun. When the car made a turn before it would slide into Stanford, she dialed Peter Hale’s number, as the car slowed to the side of the road.

“This is Enid Yates. I’m calling to request permission for my husband and I, along with another individual to cross into your territory. The being with us is a Shape Shifter and we ask permission for him to remain in your territory with us.”

Peter was dumb struck for a second having not expected such a formal request. He however quickly found his tongue, nodding even as he spoke, “Of course. Stiles has been waiting to see you. I’m assuming you know where to find us.”

“Yes, we should be there in less than 20 minutes.”

“See you then.” Peter hung up and turned to Stiles’ whose eyes were the size of saucers and a nearby lamp exploded. Everyone flinched, except Stiles, whose focus was ever on Peter and only Peter. It was like the event had never happened.

“My dad?” he asked in a rush and Peter’s spirit plummeted. He shook his head in despair, staring in alarm and just a bit of trepidation at what once was a lamp. He didn’t know if to be scared or what to think. Little accidents like this had been happening since Stiles woke up. He hated the fact that he could not reassure Stiles, but until Hank and Alfie reported in, he didn’t think he should mention anything more about what he thought was happening or had happened to the Sheriff in Beacon Hills. He knew it was sheer stubbornness and denial that was stopping Stiles from admitting what he probably already knew in the back of his mind, that something had indeed happened to his father. And given recent evidence, that was probably a good thing.

“No, but your grandparents are on the way. They will be here soon. How are you holding up?”

“I don’t even know right now.” He ran his hands up and down his arms as if suddenly cold despite the outside heat filtering in. “Where’s my dad, Peter? He should have been here already, shouldn’t he?” The voice was that reminiscent of a child puzzled by something too big for him to understand, and the house creaked. All eyes were cast above, again except Stiles who seemed lost in his own thoughts.

Peter walked forward steadily towards the young man, whose skin had taken on a slight translucent glow, and Peter began to wonder how much of this was Enid’s presence in the territory. But surely that didn’t make sense. She would have been around Stiles his whole life and he surely would have remembered if anything like this had occurred before. He suddenly needed these “Guardians” to get there fast, because something in Stiles was either unravelling or waking up and his missing father seemed to be the catalyst.

Peter didn’t know what to do. Should he try to comfort, could he even touch Stiles who sat huddled in a soft single-seater, arms wrapped around himself and knees pulled up to this chest. Lydia, who’d been hovering all the while, walked over, seemingly unafraid, and perched on the arm of the chair, whispering comfort to her friend. Peter thanked whatever fate had sent Lydia to them as he was at a loss as to how to help his mate without physically tearing the world apart to do so and now was the time for answers and clarity before action. It was driving his wolf crazy to see Stiles like this.

Hang on, just hang on, was all he could think. He needed Stiles to keep it together until his grandparents arrived. Then they would hopefully have the answers they needed to know what to do next.

++++++

"You're sure this is the place?" Parrish's voice took on an urgent, worried cadence and Danny frowned at him, sorely insulted. Nobody questioned his hacking skills, not even an extremely sexy Deputy.

"What do you want, the Star of David leading the way? The CCTV footage showed the vehicle came this way. The satellite feed pinpointed that it parked at this spot for about 10 minutes before disappearing once more into the preserve in the direction of the Hale house. The 'good vet' has been in an out of the place as well as Talia Hale's goons, what else do you need? Are you sure you're a cop?"

If nothing else, the last hit would have finally clued Parrish in to Danny's pissed-off state. "Sorry, I didn't mean it that way. I meant that if they're holding him here and didn't bury a body, then it's likely we may yet find him alive. I didn't want to hold out much hope in case I was wrong. I'm not questioning your . . . Google-foo, Danny."

"Google-foo? Jesus, you do know Stiles." At that comment Parrish just smiled, and good Lord, it should be illegal for the man to crack a grin. Someone should have warned Danny because the blood shot straight south. "Sooo not the time," he muttered to his nether regions, forcing his mind back on point. A bit louder he asked the gang, "What now?"

"Now, we go get our man . . . and you stay here." Parrish gave him a glare.

"No argument from me, man. Human here and I my squishy bits on the inside, if you know what I mean. Besides I can be your ‘eyes from the skies’ so to speak.” Danny said, already settling into his desk chair and hacking into the appropriate satellites and surveillance. “Just keep your phones handy."

With a last glance at the back of the hacker’s head, Parrish turned to the other two men. "Ready?" There were firm nods all around as the three eased down the stairs.

Parrish was spoiling for a fight and that small vicious part of him that definitely came from the beyond was hoping they would run into Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. Then he could let loose a little bit because his hound was clawing for action.

++++++

The car pulled up outside the house and before the engine could even switch off, Peter had thrown the door wide.

Enid stepped out and stretched. She was a slim woman, tall and willowy, not at all what he’d imagined. She could in fact pass for the biological grandmother to the boy huddled in his living room. They had the same build, same hair colour with pale skin. Where Enid was pale and slim, her husband was almost the complete opposite. Dylan was brawny. Freckled with muscles of a man who still took care of his body even at his age. Peter guessed he could be somewhere in the late 60s or so. Enid’s age was harder to pin. There was a fragility to her small features, though the eyes that pinned him in place were as ageless as he’d ever seen.

“Welcome!” he reached out a hand to shake the one Enid was already extending, as her husband came forward and did likewise. Behind them was a non-descript man that one could tell spent his life just blending in.

“This is Eric,” Enid introduced, but the man made no attempt to shake hands with the Alpha, instead bowing briefly with a tilt of his neck. Again Peter was nonplussed by these people’s formalities – customs that had not been acknowledged in such a way in a long time.

Eric’s clothing, Peter could tell, hid a physique that was just as impressive, if not moreso than Dylan’s. These were men accustomed to action. “Come on in,” he said. There was no more time to waste.

The moment Enid breached the door, Stiles was up and out of his seat and across the room like a shot, leaving Lydia mid-sentence with a small moue of surprised annoyance on her face. Enid’s arms enveloped Stiles, and in that moment Peter had to adjust his view of the woman as fragile. Pale she was, no doubt, but those arms were anything but fragile and her flowing clothing hid the details. It was like the entire group travelled in camouflage while in plain sight, and that unsettled Peter just a tad bit.

When she opened her mouth to address her grandson, it was with words that none of them knew, and Stiles eyes rolled back in his head and went opaque before they blazed a deep blue, then purple, and settled into brown. It all happened so quickly, Peter did not have time to react. He was rooted to the spot as an immense energy swelled like a living, breathing thing in the house before it dissipated. Stiles slumped in her embrace like a puppet whose strings had been cut and it was then that Peter became unglued and rushed forward.

“Wait!” A raised hand from Enid stilled him, and it was only then that the Alpha realised he had shifted, face sprouting hair, claws at the ready, eyes blazing red.

“What did you do to him?” he snarled, the wolf very much to the surface as he tried to speak around his teeth, eyes fixed on his mate.

“Calm yourself, wolf. I’ve simply unbound him. If I’d left it any longer he could have leveled this house. His power was becoming too unstable.” Turning her head to look at her husband, she nodded and he came forward, lifting Stiles into his arms and depositing him on the nearby couch. Once that’d been done, the woman turned to the Alpha with raised and questioning eyes. “Does he know?”

“Know what?” Peter asked, puzzled, pushing his wolf back from the fore so he could think clearly. Certainly Stiles didn’t know anything about what they would reveal to him. The boy had been left in the dark, with only guesses about the nature of his ancestry.

“That he’s your mate.” The Guardian said simply. And Peter’s mouth feel open.

“Ah, I see. This complicates things, Peter Hale. Considerably.”

Peter swallowed, hard, suddenly worried although he was sure within himself that he would battle the devil himself before he let anyone take Stiles from him. “Just tell me he’s ok.” The Alpha choked out, eyes on the Stiles’ still form. It was the second time yet that he’d seen his mate like this and his wolf hated it. He was keeping himself in check by a hairpin. Everything in him told him he could trust these people, but this was his mate! He was the only thing that mattered.

“He will be, and we don’t have a lot of time.” She turned to Braeden who’d been standing back, everyone in the room in her sights at all times. “Any word from Parrish?”

“He’s tracking John now. His last text about 15 minutes ago said he had a location. We’re still not sure what he’s going to find.”

“Wait, who’s Parrish?” Peter interrupted.

++++++

When he pulled his hand back, Parrish was gripping a beating heart in it and he smiled viciously.

They’d run into Talia’s two “henchmen” – I mean really she should have sent more of them; two was simply insulting for a hound of his calibre – just minutes after leaving the Mahealani household and Danny behind. Parrish sent up a sudden wish for the young hacker’s well-being until they could return. It would be a shame if he helped them and ended up in hot water with the local Alpha. But enough with the absent thoughts, the slowing rhythm of the pulsing organ in his hand brought him back to the present and he was delighted once more. If he could get to avenge what was done to the Sheriff on this rescue/retrieval mission, then oh well, no one ever complained about a bonus, did they?

He glanced dispassionately at the carcass at his feet before growling and hissing alerted him that the task wasn’t quite done. The lone werewolf left was facing off against the vampire cousins, and they weren’t doing too bad at all. Kudos to them. But they didn’t have time to waste, so with a twist of his neck and a grin of glee, Parrish allowed his base form to take over. Skin begun hardening, splitting open at points with a pulsing red and yellow glow, as his teeth elongated and his ears went pointy. The two vamps fell back in shock, stumbling away from him. Had not for the seriousness of the threat before them it would have been considerably funny.

Parrish growled, a threatening sound low and deep, and he could smell the sudden fear on the werewolf. Good, excellent even. He hated having to explain himself with words. “Is the Sheriff alive?” he muttered at the mutt before him, as he eased forward with an otherworldly grace.

If at all possible it seemed the man was ready to collapse with fear and panic. Parrish wasn’t certain if it was his unusual appearance that did it, or the question, so he took another step forward, fully intending to haul the man near for further questioning. But the damn were turned tail, almost literally, and ran.

So much for diplomacy. If he only knew how Parrish loved a good game of chase. He guessed they’d just have to find that cabin and search it on their own. With that thought he took off after the wolf.

By the time the vamps caught up the wolf no longer had a pulse. The blood from his shredded throat was sinking into the floor of the preserve in the most interesting shade of reddish-black and he had long ceased his twitching.

“What the hell are you?” Alfie asked, baffled, and staring at the wide-eyed corpse.

“Someone who hates that fucking question. Let’s go!”

With one last weary glance and a comforting pat on the shoulder from Hank, Alfie joined in the jog towards the cabin – Parrish fully human once more holding Danny’s GPS device in his somewhat bloody palm. Danny probably would not appreciate the stains.

++++++

“A hell hound?” Peter’s eyes narrowed. “And he is . . . was a deputy in the Sheriff’s station? Did John know?”

“No. Parrish was put there to keep watch, nothing else. He could only intervene if the Sheriff was in danger or if he had the proof he needed that the Hale pack had been corrupted.”

“So what the fuck happened? If he was keeping watch, how is the Sheriff now missing?” Peter asked, ticked off.

“He was following a directive from the High Court, a lead when the Sheriff was taken. The High Court had been watching Talia Hale for quite some time, but then everything went quiet and it seemed the Pack had settled down. But then came the whole fiasco surrounding your exile, and later Talia’s interest in Stiles, also raised a few concerns. With you no longer around, Talia took a harder line and certain questionable things started happening in Beacon Hills. When Gerard Argent’s daughter moved into town and started attending the same college as Stiles and seemed to have her sights on your nephew, a few flags went up and Parrish was put in play.”

“What is he to you exactly? What . . . who are you, exactly?”

“I think that’s a question better left for once my grandson awakens. He’ll have questions and I’d rather do this once. If you don’t mind.”

“And when will that be? Should he be out this long?” It was Lydia that spoke up this time, from mere centimetres away from Stiles’ head.

“Patience, banshee. He’s almost there. Surely you can feel it.”

It, was like an itch beneath the skin that had them all moving restlessly. It was like a smell in the air, perfumed but not quite; old but ageless; a presence in the room, heavy but not cloying; but most of all it was like a feeling of anxiety, restlessness, uncertainty. Peter didn’t like it one bit and he could feel his wolf pacing with worry.

Then Stiles shot bolt upright with a gasp. The eyes that flew open were swirling mists, a kaleidoscope. Those eyes slowly scanned the room as if searching for something before locking onto his grandmother, then Peter. At Peter he cocked his head to the side for about 10 seconds before murmuring a “Hmmm”, and his eyes returned to their chocolate, whiskey brown.

“You should have told me you know?” he said to Peter with a wry twitch of his lips. “Although I must say I’m not sure I would know what to do with a mate anymore than you do.”

Peter almost staggered at the declaration. “I’m sorry. You weren’t ready and then this happened,” Peter threw his hands wide and Stiles nodded, eyes moving to hold his grandmother’s. “Yes, this . . .” Stiles trailed off. “What’s happening to me? I can feel . . . everything.”

“Your ancestors were close to nature. It’s why you can sense the things you do.” She smiled wryly at Peter before she walked over to sit next to Stiles, reaching out to take his hands in hers. “You are the Prince, and sole heir to a kingdom that no longer exists. At least not on this plain. Your grandparents were executed in a coup by the King’s most trusted advisor. After that the kingdom descended into a civil war that threatened the supernatural realm. The High Council, also sometimes referred to as the High Court, which rules the supernatural realm, tried to restore order and failed, so they ruled the army executed and the terrain . . . cleansed. Your grandfather held a seat on the Council. A seat that is now yours as his sole heir.

“When the move against your grandparents started, the death of your mother was ordered, but the man assigned to assassinate her was secretly loyal to the king. So instead he faked her death and hid her on Earth, with us. When the kingdom was destroyed by the High Court, your mother was living with Dylan and myself, hidden from the realms. She used her powers, the same ones you have, although yours for some reason are stronger, to keep herself hidden. She did the same once you were born. After her death there was no one to shield you, so the Council became aware of your presence, but they were afraid. Even so young your powers were considerable. So they thought it would keep the realms safe to bind you once more and left you in our care.”

“But I was eight when mom died. I don’t remember any of this. And if I didn’t know, how could Talia Hale or anyone else find out? Why is this so important to her?”

“There are several layers to that question, honey. What you are is a very, very, powerful elf. One of the most powerful the Council has ever seen. The reason your father sat on the Council was that there were few supernatural species more powerful than the highest Breton. Your ancestors’ gifts were envied in the supernatural realm and some even hinted that this was the reason the Council ordered the realm cleansed.”

“In that case, they could have threatened the entire supernatural world if the war continued,” Lydia whispered.

“Exactly. And that was something the Council would never allow. When they discovered you, I think it was part fear that made them bind your powers, but those powers have been waking up again for a while now. When I recognised that I sought the permission of the Council to reveal what you were, are, and who we are, but they refused. My hands were tied. And then Gerard Argent surfaced in connection with Talia Hale and they got antsy again because of what it could mean to have someone with your gift, your raw gift, under an Alpha such as that.”

“So why didn’t you just get us out of there? Me and my dad?” Stiles dragged his hands from his grandmother’s and shot to his feet. “You knew, you knew what they wanted because of what I could be capable of and you left me there!? Left him there!?”

The floor shifted.

“Duinerth, honey, I need you to calm down.”

“Is he dead.” The voice that asked it was broken, soft, almost inaudible and the ground rolled this time, forcing those in the room to either hold onto something or risk falling if they were standing. Pictures fell of the walls; possessions slid off shelves, vases crashed to the floor. When she hesitated to answer, Stiles’ eyes went right black. “Is he!” The voice that boomed out carried power, heat, promised destruction, and had weres and humans alike covering their ears.

It catapulted Peter into action. He rushed forward, grabbing Stiles face between his palms. “You need to stop. You need to breathe and calm down Stiles or there won’t be any foundation left beneath us. Please, my love, please.” Peter’s heart was in his mouth. The man between his hands could likely eviscerate him with a single thought and the heat beneath his hands told him as much. He could feel the pulse of energy, raw power coming from him.

But then Stiles gasped and his eyes returned to their natural colour. He hadn’t even been aware he’d been holding his breath. He burrowed into Peter as the Alpha folded him into his arms. “We’ll find your father, I promise you!”

“He’s dead, isn’t he Peter? She killed him, didn’t she? Because she wants me?” It was a question no one in the room could answer.

++++++

Laura was certain something was up. The what eluded her. But if her mother's and Deaton's actions these past couple months weren't enough of a giveaway, then Derek's refusal to meet her gaze certainly was.

She hated that prissy little bitch he'd brought into their home. She didn't trust her as far as she could throw her and her constant supposedly innocent questions were setting off every alarm Laura had.

Cora had been pissed off when Uncle Peter had been exiled, even though she’d only been 3 at the time, and too damn smart for her age. The loss of their father was an open sore. The loss of their uncle too much for the young pup to bear. She’d stopped speaking to the entire family for a while after that. No Uncle Peter to ease the way; to coax her out. So when Derek walked in with the Argent girl, Cora, long since given up all pretense of giving a damn about anything, had promptly left the room. They'd all received orders to be polite, even if they didn't agree with Derek's asinine choices, and Cora's version of nice was to say nothing. Her every remark to any question Kate posed, was to treat her brother’s mistress, or whatever, like a blond bimbo and a ditz. Laura was sure the latter was all an act on Kate’s part. That woman was anything but dumb, she’d bet her life on it.

The Argents were up to something. But what?

The "secret" conversations with Gerard Argent, that no one thought she knew about was indication enough that something was afoot. The first time she'd met the man, despite his easy smiles and sly "dear(s)" and "darling(s)", she'd left the meeting feeling like she needed to take a shower. It was the same with Cora. She didn't understand how the elders, and certainly the Alpha could ignore their instincts, which had to be raising a hell of an opposition to the man’s very presence, and let it slide. Their father would never have allowed this to stand. He was known for his mettle. Since that first meeting though, all others had been in private; but Laura was nothing if not sly, and Cora, even more so. She'd learnt well from Uncle Peter.

Laura sighed now, looking out into the preserve beyond. Uncle Peter, she missed him; felt shame at the fact that she'd said nothing when they had exiled him, at not insisting something be done to avenge their father. True, she was little more than a young pup herself, barely 18, a couple years younger than Derek was now at 24. She’d wanted to scream at the injustice of it. Had shed bitter tears at the loss of not only her father, but both her uncle and her favourite aunt, Amanda – a pain she still felt most acutely. But she’d been the next in line and her mother had insisted she “develop a backbone”.

“Not everything’s gonna turn out the way you want it to, and you can’t wallow when it doesn’t because there’s a pack to take care of.” Her mother’s words had been just harsh enough to dry her tears and force her grief to the backburner, though never too far from the surface.

But enough of the maudlin thoughts. There was work to be done. She needed to find Chris, urgently. He was the only Argent she trusted. She only hoped the past year of careful watching, listening, waiting, and her instincts about him were right or she would pay for it very dearly. No one crossed the Alpha without a price, not even her own kin. Maybe especially not her own kin.

Chapter Text

“Duinerth, hunny. You know your grandfather and I love you and would never have put you in harm’s way. It’s why we visited so much during your years as part of that pack.”

Stiles turned his head briefly from where it was buried in the warmth of Peter’s chest. He didn’t want to move. In fact, he wanted to burrow deeper and immerse himself in this man who held him so gently, tightly; like he’d never let him go. And damn he smelled good. Like spice, and forests, and all things nature-y.

He peeked from beneath a suddenly tired eyelid. Should he even feel so drained especially after falling unconscious twice so far? “Oh yeah. My holiday and mid-term surprise visits. Dad always said he thought something was up, but he put it down to your being hovering grandparents and us not coming to Wales often enough, especially with his job. He’s going to flip about all this . . . at least he would.” He inhaled Peter deeply and felt himself calming amidst the swirling thoughts of despair.

Dylan smiled, as he drew near and circled an arm around his wife’s shoulders, pulling her into his bigger frame. “Your father was the best thing that could have happened to your mother. She fell so fast for him it scared us for a long time. When she got pregnant with you, she was as happy as we’d ever seen her; just glowing. We had to remind her to tone it down in public. She loved you both so much. We would never knowingly sit by and allow anything to happen to you, either of you. You have to believe that, Stiles.”

His grandfather had been the first to embrace his new name after his mom had died. He had been born Duinerth Miłosław Stilinski, in honour of both sides of his heritage. The first name he could never pronounce and he used to introduce himself as Milo, until he got to school and the children started making fun of him. He’d promptly became Stiles and to this day few remembered him as anything but. After his mother’s death it had been hard for anyone to call him by his Christian names. He still recalled bursting into tears about it and his grandfather taking his small face in hand and telling him he could be whomever he wanted to be. He’d felt an unending love for the man since then.

“So what now?” he asked tiredly.

“Now we rest and wait for word from Beacon Hills. Parrish will turn that town upside down to find your father and he won’t stop until he has found your dad or has something definite to report. The most we can do is stay out of his way,” Dylan responded.

“I don’t think I can sleep.” Stiles muttered into Peter’s chest, looping his arms around the man’s waist and accepting, perhaps for the first time openly, what this man meant to him. He heard a small rumble that sounded suspiciously like a purr from deep in Peter’s chest and he smirked at it.

“You need to love. I can smell the exhaustion on you and it won’t help sitting up worrying. There’s nothing we can do for a bit yet. We will go to Beacon Hills if we need to, but not unless we need to. I’m not having you anywhere near Talia or Deaton until we know what it is they really want or unless there’s no other way to find your father. I don’t think I’d survive it if anything happened to you.”

Just then the door opened and the four missing pack members strolled in hesitantly, looking around the full living room.

“Peter?” Boyd said, looking at his Alpha and his armful of “not-so-human” Stilinski.

“Hi guys. We’ve got a lot to discuss, but let me get Stiles to bed first.”

“Nope,” Stiles muttered into his shoulder. Then he pulled back to look his mate in the eyes, “You’re not going anywhere without me from here on. I don’t go to bed until you do . . . and not without you.”

Peter’s eyes flared red and he knew every supernatural creature in the room could smell his desire for his mate. So he closed his eyes, reigned in his emotions and sighed. Just like Stiles to be contrary and to provoke emotional responses no one else could.

++++++

They’d searched every single room in the place, even the cellar below and nothing. No sign of the Sheriff, no indication of a body, not even his scent. It was frustrating the hound to no end. What did it mean? Madam would not be pleased and if she’d already reached Stiles, which she should have by now, the last thing he wanted to report to his Prince was that he’d failed yet again. He needed options.

He tapped in a quick number into his phone, as he looked in disgust at the mobile tracker Danny had given them.

“Yeah?”

“Nothing here.”

“What do you mean nothing there? Hang on.” Danny asked, voice raised.

“What more do you want me to say? He’s. not. here. Your directions were wrong!” Parrish’s voice deepened threateningly.

Danny rolled his eyes, turning on the speaker and dropping the phone beside his keyboard. “My ‘information’ is never wrong, simply delayed.”

Parrish growled, and he could hear Danny furiously typing in the background. “Hmmm, clever little bastards. Hold the forte. Let me try somethinggggg.” He dragged the last word out even as his fingers continued their dance across the keyboard.

“Danny, I need something now!”

“Hold the hell on, will you? I may be a miracle worker, but I’m no magician. Besides I’m out of hats . . . and bunnies,” Danny grinned at the cell laying on the table beside him.

Parrish shook his head. He’d ring that boy’s neck when he got back.

“Ok, I’m sending you new coordinates. They thought they were smart and could trick me, ha!” Danny finished with a flourish of satisfaction. Leaning back in his chair, he smiled and crossed his arms. That would teach them.

“What do you mean ‘trick you’? Does that mean they know you’re helping us and deliberately misled you? Do you understand what that means, Danny?” The phone went silent and the hacker’s pulse skyrocketed.

“Lock your door and stay put. I mean it, Danny. You move from that room and I will break your neck when I find you. Alfie and Hank are on their way back to you now. Don’t hang up!” Turning to Hank, he reached out. “Give me your phone and take mine. Don’t let him hang up until you get there.”

“What about you?” Hank gave him a side-eye.

“Haven’t you realised I’m the baddest thing out here tonight?” He grinned, all teeth. “Now go.”

The vamps took off back the way they’d come, barely a flash of movement even to Parrish’s trained eyes. “Hang in there, Danny. I won’t let anything happen to you,” he muttered. Looking down at the new coordinates that had been updated to Danny’s loaner device, Parrish set off at a pace towards the new locale.

++++++

Chris looked out the window, down at his daughter with the McCall boy. The two were sitting in Melissa McCall’s borrowed sedan, talking quietly. He still didn’t like it, but he couldn’t say why. It wasn’t the wolf thing; he’d gotten pass that. It wasn’t that his baby was growing up and branching out on her own; he’d trained her to be independent. There was just something about that boy that he couldn’t put his finger on. He was so black and white in his thinking; but then Chris had been the same when he’d first started out. So it couldn’t be that, even though his naivety chaffed a bit.

He huffed out a breath of frustration and Victoria’s arms encircled his waist. She leaned a cheek against his back and chuckled. “You gonna stand here all night and keep watch, daddy? She’s going to be ticked off if she finds out you’re sneaking again. She’s old enough to date now.”

He sighed and turned fully into his wife’s embrace, back to the closing curtain. “She’s barely 18. He’s 22. And I’m not sneaking. I was in clear view.”

She looked at his face for a bit before she frowned. “You’re worried. What’s going on? Why are you so worked up?”

“I wish I knew, but ever since Kate came to town I have not been able to settle. Who transfers in to Beacon Hills Community College from New York, when there’s an opportunity to study in France instead? Isn’t that like several steps backward? And I don’t like her interactions with the Hale boy. There’s something unstable about that whole relationship and I just keep waiting for the shoe to drop, for the Hales to call and say she’s gone off the rails and they had to put her down – something.

“Even when she became dad’s pride and joy after I left and they began hunting the rogues, and anything else, together, they hated supernatural creatures with a passion that just doesn’t simply vanish. He was training her to be the ultimate machine, then mom had her accident and suddenly dad’s opening his arms to werewolves? I don’t get it, Vick, and I don’t like it. Something’s not right about it.”

“Maybe he’s trying to turn over a new leaf. I mean he did reach out to us and then to the Hale pack after we moved here?”

“And that’s another thing – I know we’ve talked this over and over, but how is it he became so chummy with Alpha Hale? Everyone knows her parents hated hunters and for a long time everyone thought our family was responsible for Patrick and Lucy Hale’s deaths. To go from that to openly embracing us . . . I mean, it’s not that I’m complaining. After I left the family, there couldn’t have been a safer place for us to settle and raise Ali, but he . . . ” Chris let out something that mirrored a werewolf growl, lips fluttering in frustration.

“Is this about that call this morning? About him coming back to town?”

He buried his nose in Victoria’s hair. “He was here just a month ago and spent most of that time around the Hales. Now he’s back. What’s he up to?”

“Sweetheart, you know your dad is ill. Maybe he’s just trying to put his affairs in order, mend broken fences and keep close to his family, especially now. I mean, with your mother gone, you and your sister are all he has and you’re both here.”

Chris shook his head. “No, not buying it, Vick. I feel like he’s up to something and if he is God knows Kate’s involved.”

It was Victoria’s time to exhale now. She’d heard this all before but nothing, no amount of reason was able to calm her husband’s suspicion of his father and sister’s motives in Beacon Hills. To be honest, her gut had clenched when Chris had ended his call this morning with information that Gerard was returning, again. It unnerved her, just as Kate always had. It was a relief when she’d got an apartment of her own, and moved out of their home.

Now Vicky was the last person to have an issue with the wolves, especially since she and Amanda had formed such a close bond all those years ago. When that alpha had threatened them, Peter Hale had come quick to the rescue and then had even provided backup for Chris to look after her and her toddler in light of the threat. When Amanda had been murdered it was like a blow to her and she still missed her friend. She’d come to respect werewolves and later befriend them, much to the disgust of the wider Argent family. So she understood the angst of her husband at this roundabout turn of events.

She’d been keeping her eyes open, but so far it seemed like everyone simply got along. She wondered if perhaps her husband was looking for shadows and demons where they were none.

“Come to bed and make love to your wife,” she squeezed him a bit. “Ali has her key and she knows her curfew. We stand here too much longer she’s bound to stop speaking to us for a month this time.” So she drew her husband to their bed and kept him busy for the rest of the night.

++++++

Laura knew better than to act out of character. They needed groceries and it was hers and Theo’s turn to go on the supermarket run. But Theo had been bitching all morning about an assignment he had due, which Laura knew he had no intention of doing, but she didn’t mind. She liked it this way. Theo was Duke’s eldest, and a little prick of a beast to boot. She didn’t fancy him, even though she tolerated him – as was expected.

“Since you’re tied up, I’ll just drag Cora with me,” she said, from her position over the kitchen sink. Keep it together, keep it together, don’t push.

It felt like she’d had a lifetime of practice keeping things in. When you lived with weres they smelled everything. You couldn’t keep a secret unless you really trained yourself well. They’d sniff out the most minute uncertainty if you weren’t careful and these days things were a bit on edge. And she badly needed to get into town to see Chris, without someone at her back who would report her actions to the Alpha. Cora was her safest bet.

She felt eyes on the back of her neck and turned, seeming unconcerned as she wiped her hands in a dish towel, which she promptly threw over a shoulder in a show of ease, nonchalance, comfort. Deucalion was watching with an uncanny scrutiny. It was how most of the older members watched her these days. She still didn’t know why. She didn’t trust it.

“As future Alpha, you really should insist he does as he’s told, pulls his weight,” Duke smacked Theo along the back of the head to a brisk, offended “Oww!”

“You won’t get far if you let every little wretch renege on family duties,” Deucalion said slyly. He’d moved into the house as Talia’s left hand sometime after Peter’s exile – a member of a lost pack, looking for a home. He’d had a vicious streak that he tried, unsuccessfully to hide for a while. After he’d cemented his position in the Hale pack he’d cease to hide his true colours.

For the people who thought to cross Talia Hale, Duke was the last face they saw. He and the Emissary got along surprisingly well, considering both should have been bickering for second place in the pack at the Alpha’s side. Somehow though, they always saw eye-to-eye. Talia was the brain, Deaton was the strategist, Duke the brawn and what a deadly combination they made.

If she was strictly honest, it scared the pants off Laura and reinforced her need to exercise caution; but she needed out of this house, and soon!

“I heard my name,” Cora entered the kitchen, blowing loud bubbles with her gum, and looking for all the world like the sarcastic little shit she was. Surprisingly she was the one person totally unafraid of Duke. She simply didn’t care, and Laura envied her that steely spine.

“I was just telling Theo that since he had school assignments, I’d drag you to the store with me, and I don’t want any lip about it. You’re coming.”

“Fine,” Cora shrugged, picking up an apple from the bowl in the centre of the kitchen table. Spitting her wad of gum into her hand, she pressed it to the buckle of her jumper and watched with glee as both Duke and Theo crinkled their noses in distaste. She loved grossing them out. “I need to stop at the mall anyway, tore another jeans and mom insisted I throw it out. You ready?” She bit into the apple with relish and wiped the trailing juice into the shoulder of her T-shirt.

“Jesus, could you be any grosser?! Why don’t you try to be a girl for once?” Theo scoffed, disgusted and stalked away.

“Where’s the fun in that?” she called after him in glee.

“Lemme check with mom to see if she has anything to add to the list. Meet you by the car.” Laura walked towards the Alpha’s office. She and Deaton had been locked up in there all morning after getting in in the wee hours of the morning smelling like blood . . . and Sheriff Stilinski. Laura had asked no questions, but the tears had come quietly as she’d retreated to her room.

She knocked now. As much as she’s like to eavesdrop, with Duke, Deaton and Talia all in the house, it wasn’t advisable. Her mother was there opening the door a slither in seconds. That gave Laura pause. “Umm, supermarket run. Is there anything you wanted to add to the list?” She thrust the list in Talia’s view.

“Just some migraine pills. I have a really bad headache since yesterday and we’re out.”

“Ok, cool. We’ll be a while.”

“Alright, dear. Just be careful out there. The streets aren’t what they used to be.” There was something about the glint in the Alpha’s eyes with that warning that set Laura on edge.

“Yes, of course. Theo has work, so I’m taking Cora with me – the mall and then the supermarket.”

Talia’s eyes thinned. “You should insist Theo does his chores, Laura. You know the rules.”

“That’s exactly what I told her,” Duke said from right behind her, sending her heart galloping unexpectedly. This only caused the Alpha’s eyes to narrow at her once more.

“It’s a small thing,” she sidled sideways so her back wasn’t to Duke any longer than necessary. “And in this case I thought getting his assignment finished was more important, as it was my decision to make,” she finished firmly.

After what felt like forever, filled with a deep look that she dared not interpret, the Alpha said, “Very well. Hurry back.”

Laura didn’t wait for any more permission. She scooted.

++++++

“Where are we really going?” Cora asked as they left the Preserve behind.

Laura smirked at her sister. “To Chris’.”

“You sure that’s smart? Mom finds out she’ll strip the skin from your back again.”

“She hasn’t done that in a long time, Cora.”

“What, once wasn’t enough? What are you, a sucker for punishment?”

Laura rolled her eyes at her mouthy sibling. “I can’t not try.”

“Ok, but you need to get him outside and you can’t let him touch you. Duke even smells Chris on you and there will be hell to pay.”

“I know. I know.”

++++++

“She’s up to something,” Duke said as he entered the room. “I don’t know what but you should have Kali follow her.

“She’d spot Kali a mile off. Laura’s smart. You keep forgetting that. I trained her well but her uncle, my brother, trained her better. She hasn’t forgotten what he taught her and the only thing Kali will do is put her more on edge. Laura won’t try anything, she has too much at stake, and she knows the consequences.”

 "We can’t afford dissent in the pack, Talia,” Deaton said.

 “I know what my pack can afford, Alan. Perhaps you should remember that. Now, what are we going to do about Stiles and Peter? You can be sure he’s not going to let the boy out of his sights now.”

 “And whose fault is that?” Deaton asked petulantly.

The Alpha growled, and before he knew it she was holding him tight by the throat. “Do I need to remind you of your place, Alan? I’ve had just about as much as I will take of this attitude of yours. Either tone it down or I will be forced to do something about it.”

The man’s heart was galloping. How could he forget how quick she was to anger and action? How could she forget that friend or foe were all the same once they crossed her or were perceived to have crossed her? “Sorry!” he squeaked and meant it.

She breathed deeply, liking the smell of his fear. “Good, now where were we.”

Duke looked at them, bored. “Stilinski, the younger one.”

“Ah, of course.”

“Why don’t you just go at this head on? You know the boy will do anything for his father, and as of now you can be certain they know he’s ‘missing’. Carrot, donkey, dangle it!”

“That may not be the best course of action. You’ll still have Peter to deal with,” Deaton contributed, rubbing his sore throat. He was sure to have a hand-shaped bruise in his not-too-distant future, despite his dark skin. Talia was damn strong.

“Then we’ll have two asses for the price of a single carrot,” Duke grinned, a sinister looking cringe of his lips. “And we can take care of him then, like you should have before.”

Talia’s eyes narrowed at her left hand. She didn’t take criticism well. In fact, she barely ever tolerated it; but Duke had a point. Her pack was definitely stronger. Peter wouldn’t stand a chance.

“What if he’s started to come into his power?” Deaton attempted to throw another spoke in the wheel, and he didn’t need to say whom he was speaking of.

“It’s too early for him to have learnt control, even if he’s started to wake them up. We’ll get him unconscious as soon as we can and neutralise any threat he might pose.”

“I still don’t like it. There’re too many unknowns right now. We should do reconnaissance and find out for sure.”  

“And you’d recommend yourself for this duty, no doubt?” Duke sneered.

 “Well I am best placed to sense his power and what state it might be in. Besides I can hide, you can’t,” he said, most placidly. It never did well to fight with Deucalion. The man did not know the meaning of the words fair play.

“No, we don’t have time for that. Besides, Gerard is returning next week and we need to act now. We can’t afford to wait.”

“Why the fuck don’t we just kill the bastard and be done with it?”

“With his contacts we’d have Beacon Hills overrun with hunters and Lord knows who and what else in no time. No one touches him until I say so. Until the Elf is on our side.”

++++++

Chris pulled open the door with a look of surprise. “Laura? What are you doing here? Is everything ok?”

“No Chris, nothing’s ok and I think I need your help.”

“What’s wrong?” his eyes narrowed and his stance hardened, looking beyond Laura’s back for any sign of a threat; looking very much like a man ready to launch into action.

“We need to do something about your father and his alliance with my Alpha. If we don’t a lot of people are going to die. I think the Sheriff may already be dead.”

Chris reared back as if struck. “What are you talking about?” his voice went an octave higher with surprise/fear/concern.

“He and my mother have formed an alliance, but my mother’s trying to double cross him, and I don’t think he’s as clueless as she believes him to be. Furthermore, I think they are trying to lore Stiles Stilinski and my uncle back to town to use them against him somehow. I don’t know all the details, but I think I know enough to know if she succeeds in what she is planning, we’re going to have bigger problems with the High Court than we’ve ever had before.”

“Shit.” Chris knew Laura wasn’t one for fairytales nor overreaction. So if she was convinced something was going down chances were she had reason for her suspicion and he’d do well to listen. “Ok, ok, come in.”

“I can’t. If any of them knew I came to you then we’re both dead.”

Chris looked at her for the second time as if she’d grown another head, stunned beyond belief, and suddenly more than a little afraid. He had his suspicions about his father and the Alpha, but murder of the Sheriff and the Alpha’s heir, these were serious claims. Claims he couldn’t ignore.

“Let me grab a jacket. Don’t move.”

Laura almost sagged in relief. Her hearing picked up the quiet question from Cora who was serving as lookout. “Does he believe you? Will he help?”

“I think so. Yeah, I hope so.”

“Thank God.” Laura heard the slight tremble in her sister’s voice and was reminded how young Cora still was despite her maturity. She’d do everything in her power to preserve the good members of her pack. That’s what an Alpha did and she’d be damned if she’d stand back and let them all be swept away in this corruption. She breathed a little easier, at least until both she and her sister heard a very familiar rumble and Cora whimpered, “Laura?”

Her brother’s car pulled into the driveway and out stepped Kate Argent with a red-lipped grin. “Why hello, Laura. What brings you to my dear brother at this time of the day?”

She heard Cora whine from her position in the passenger seat where she was still serving as lookout, and she swallowed thickly. She wondered briefly if the Hale dungeons still looked as she remembered them, because if her mother didn’t kill her for this, she’d be lucky to see the light of day again.

Almost as if his sixth sense had been directing him, at that very moment Chris returned to the door in a light jacket. “Kate!” he said with obvious pause. “What are you doing here?” He glanced from Laura back to his sister, noting how still Laura was and the blank face she had assumed.

“Why if I didn’t know better brother dearest, I would assume you didn’t want me here; weren’t happy to see me.”

“Cut the bullshit, Kate. What do you want?” Chris’ blunt statement surprised Laura and her eyebrows rose in shock.

Kate seemed to pull herself up, sly grin turning into a devilish grimace. “Can’t I come see my favourite niece? Derek and I were hoping to take her out on the town today, unless you have reservations. I didn’t know Hales made business calls this early,” she said, clearly watching for a response.

“Actually I was the one who asked Laura to stop by. Since she was already on her way out and about, she simply thought she’d do that first. But you’re welcome to go up and discuss Allison with Vicky,” Chris grinned now. It would be a cold day in hell before Victoria allowed Allison out of the house with Kate and Derek, regardless of how old their daughter was. Turning to Laura in clear dismissal, he asked the young woman, “Ready? Let’s go.”

But as they made to turn away, Derek, whom no one had noticed exit the car and stand watching the discussion with avid interest said to his sister, “Everything Ok, Laura? I’d think mom would be the one to contact if there was something the family needed to know.” His eyes darted from Laura to Chris and his nostril flared, trying to assess their emotions.

“Mom was in a meeting when I left the house and Chris was a slight detour on our way to the mall. If there’s anything for mom to know, I will tell her myself, but I would think as the future Alpha I’d know the protocol.” She knew the hit would sting, but right now she didn’t care. Derek had chosen his lot and she’d be damned before she’d be outmaneuvered by a jealous pup.

“We really need to get going. Mom said we shouldn’t be long, Laura,” Cora, bless her, called at exactly the right moment.

Derek’s shrewd gaze followed them as Cora scrambled into the back of the car and Chris assumed position in the passenger seat. When the house was no longer in sight, Chris asked, eyes still firmly on the road, “How bad was that?”

Laura swallowed and for the first time allowed the tremours she’d been carefully holding at bay to shake her hands, “Only time will tell, but we need something legitimate to tell my mother.”

Chris turned to glance at her once with a firm nod, “OK. I’ll handle that.”

“Are you sure you want to get involved like that?”

“I’m already involved if my father and Kate are planning something, don’t you think. And I won’t leave you or Cora in any kind of danger because you sought help. Dammit, that’s what I’m here for.”

Both heard Cora exhale in the backseat.

Chapter Text

“Danny?” Parrish snatched up the phone on its first ring, pausing in his jaunt through the preserve to the isolated location.

“Who else would it be,” there was a nervous laugh on the end. “You’re assigned bodyguards are here and I’m still in one piece; but you need to slow up a bit.”

“What? Why?”

“Because if you keep going at the pace you are you’re going to run headlong into an ambush of sorts. The spot you’re heading to is guarded, and significantly so, according to the images I’ve secured.”

“How reliable is your information?” Parrish breathed heavily.

Only silence met his question. Silence and what Parrish was sure would be an incredibly raised brow. Danny would not deign to answer that insult other than to smack the man asking it. What the hell did he think this was? Blast the man! He’s lucky he’s handsome. Danny immediately recognised how hopelessly gone on Deputy Parrish he was.

“Am I going to have to apologise to you again, Mr. Mahealani?” Parrish asked softly, closing his eyes with a grimace. Danny was immediately turned on. How could the mere mention of his surname, one he’d carried his whole life and uttered by hundreds, said in that particular tone do this to him? he wondered frustratingly. “OK, tell me what you see,” the deputy said in lieu of an apology.

++++++

“That won’t work,” Cora grated. She was becoming more and more annoyed at the two adults in front of her. Sometimes adults pissed her off. “Mom will see through that in a moment, and besides, you can’t lie to her worth a damn. So keep it as close to the truth as possible. Or better yet, let me tell it.”

“NO!” Laura’s reaction was swift. “I’m not risking you lying directly to her. She can easily believe I lied and took you along. I won’t risk you, Cora.”

“You’re just being stubborn. If you fail we both will, you know that. Besides she can't tell the difference when I do it.”

“Jeez!” Laura ran a frustrated hand through her hair.

“Ok, hold on.” Chris finally spoke up, delaying the impending debate between the sisters. “For the last few weeks I’ve been looking into some increased activity in the Preserve. We’ve had more supernatural species passing through than I can remember in the years since I’ve been here. I can easily site that as the reason for my calling you up to see if your family has been worried.”

“It’s the Nemeton,” Cora muttered, and Laura glared at her.

“What Nemeton?” In all his years in Beacon Hills, he’d never gotten word of a Nemeton anywhere near. If there was, could that be what his father was doing here? Certainly he didn’t think that an old powerful tree could heal him did he? That was simply insane.

When the sisters said nothing more, he sighed. “Look, you came to me because you’re worried, which means to some extent you trusted me. Now trust me with this. You know that you can.”

Cora threw a daggered stare back at her sister and pouted, blowing bubble that smacked obscenely, as if to throw a gauntlet at Laura. “You do it or I will, Laurie. We don’t have a choice.”

Laura breathed heavily, the very picture of someone with a lot on her shoulders. “Beacon Hills is built around the Nemeton, and yes there’s one here. Our grandparents were more in tune with it than our mother now is,” and she paused for a moment and swallowed. “Now she gets information on when it gets active from Alan Deaton because of his Druid connections. It may be the only reason she keeps him around, because the Nemeton hasn’t tapped in with her like it has with other Alphas before. It’s . . . it’s kind of a sore point with our mother, so never tell her I told you this. Any of it." Laura looked at him seriously.

“Since the death of our grandparents it’s been drawing the supernatural here and even more so in the last year. It’s been more active than at any time anyone can recall and no one knows why. If Deaton knows he’s not telling . . .”

“Which might actually be smart on his part for once,” Cora chimed in. When Laura gave her a silencing look, she responded, “What?! It’s true! If he didn’t keep so much so close to his chest mom would have gotten rid of him long ago.”

“Is this what my father wants from your pack, from your mother?”

“No, at least not directly. We’re not sure if he knows about the Nemeton, or if he does how much he knows.”

“So, what . . .”

“The bite. He wants the bite, Chris. And he’s blackmailing our pack to get it”

Chris went stiff with surprise. But that would imply that Gerard had something to blackmail them with, didn't it? was his most chilling thought.

++++++

“Where are they? They should have been back with the intruders by now. Certainly it shouldn’t take a whole night to find a few stragglers in the Preserve?” Talia was pacing now.

“I told you I should have gone,” Duke said, inspecting his fingernails from where he was slouched in a single-seater. His unwelcomed comment was met with the Alpha’s red-eyed scowl, which had absolutely no effect on him. He slanted a bored look at her and firmly continued, “What? You know that’s true. We’ve wasted enough time already and if Peter Hale has minions on our territory, we need to send them back to him in pieces, including that meddling deputy.”

“If a deputy goes missing, then the station will be forced to make contact with the Sheriff, and if they can’t then all kinds of bells will go off. We’ve got enough trouble on our doorstep without courting more with the entire Beacon Hills Sheriff Department hunting for its leader,” Deaton grinded out. How could these two be so blind to the hole they were steadily digging for themselves, for all of them?

“What would you suggest, Doc, that we take the same approach we did when the hacker went snooping through our documents. He’s way too curious for my peace of mind, and we should have dealt with him the first time we realised he was watching our every move around town with those infernal cameras the Sheriff put in last year.”

“We didn’t know whom he’d told or what kind of network he’d set up, you know that, Duke,” Talia interrupted what was sure to become yet another argument. Over the past couple months relations between Duke and Deaton had started to deteriorate and she’d found herself increasingly drawn in as peacemaker. It was draining, but everyone was under strain. Thank God they were smarter than to show that kind of squabbling in front of the rest of the pack. That, she would not put up with.

A knock on the door had her bristling briefly. Kali opened the door and entered at permission to do so. Glancing from each of the pack’s leaders, she said, “I think I’ve found them. They’re with the boy, the hacker.”

“Why haven’t they been brought to us yet? What the hell have Justin and Jake been doing? Have they called in?”

“Not since we last heard from them when they chased the intruders to the hacker’s backdoor. I told you that boy was trouble. He’s been tracking our movements ever since last year; the intruders disappeared virtually at his door and now we know he’s harbouring them,” Duke summed up.

“Enough Duke!” Talia growled. She’d had it with the 'I told you sos'. She didn’t have time for all these distractions. “Pick them up. All of them,” she said to Kali.

“The two are vampires. I may need a little help,” she said sheepishly.

Duke sneered, then scoffed. “Help with vampires, really?!”

Kali’s face went red, and her gaze deadly. “Yes, if you want them all alive!”

“Well,” said Duke looking at the Alpha. “I think we only really need one of the vamps alive, don’t you think?”

She knew he was baiting her like he had been for a while now, but he had a point. Time for hard decisions. They couldn’t afford to waste any more time. “Bring me one of the vamps. If the boy becomes problematic handle it, but the vamp is a must.”

“Only one?” Kali asked, with a toothy smile, already relishing in the bloodshed ahead.

Talia sighed. “Only one is needed.” She left the room.

++++++

“What are you guys doing up already,” Stiles walked into the kitchen to find Enid at the counter and his grandfather behind the stove, cooking up what looked like porridge and bacon. At least it smelled like bacon.

“It’s after 9 a.m., sweetie.”

Stiles stretched, revealing a strip of pale skin, with what looked suspiciously like love bites across his stomach, as he moved in to hug his grandmother. “Any word?”

She’d expected it – that this would be the first question. Actually, she was surprised he’d slept at all without word of his father, but thanked every deity for Peter Hale dragging him off to bed just after midnight – just after Parrish had checked in to say he had a lead, a good one. Stiles had almost burst into tears then, clinging to Peter as the air inside the house once more grew thick. It was clear she needed to start training him to control his gifts, but she’d need his mate to centre him for what was to come. She suspected they didn’t have a lot of time left and Stiles was still too volatile.

“Not yet,” she responded. “We have a number of things to cover today. The first is that I’ve been in touch with the university explained that you had a family emergency and your father is ill, so you’d be taking a couple weeks off. The official paperwork is being dealt with by one of our allies on campus.”

“You have allies on campus? In Peter’s territory?” Stiles glanced around as Eric moved silently into the room. He was still amazed at how much he could feel. It was like waking up and stretching and knowing immediately that there were nine people in the Hale Pack house, and that another three, Braeden, Eric and Boyd, were walking the edges of the property, and that the nearest living thing, other than the bird bathing in the guttering of the house, was a squirrel searching for nuts in a nearby tree about 15 metres south. It was as impressive as it was scary.

“We have allies everywhere you are.” His grandfather said it with such finality it reminded Stiles that they were indeed his Guardians, and that while his grandmother was the leader, his grandfather also led an army of elite fighters whose sole aim was Stiles' safety. That these people had been charged with watching his mother before, and protecting him and his dad after her.

“When will we hear from Parrish?” Stiles asked.

“He promised to check in in two more hours. He thinks by then we will have a definite,” Dylan responded.

Stiles suddenly stopped and cocked his head. Peter was awake, but something else was teasing at his brain, like a dull buzz of a refrigerator with a faulty motor. It’d been there last night too, just after he’d woken up, but Peter had somehow soothed him enough to fall asleep. It was back now, more insistent, like it was trying to tell him something.

His grandmother’s face went still. “What is it?”

“I’m not sure. It’s like a buzzing in my head, but not loud, just there. It feels more urgent than last night though.”

His grandparents exchanged looks and he could feel their anxiety. “You know what it is, don’t you?”

Enid swallowed. It couldn’t be. It shouldn’t be. Certainly not from this distance? Goosepimples raced up her arms and she wondered for the first time in a very long time if she was adequately prepared to train this miracle of magic that stood before her.

“What does it mean?” Peter asked from the door, and his voice brokered no argument. He wanted answers and now. He was done being in the dark about his mate. Done!

“The Nemeton is calling him.” It was Eric’s first words since he’d arrived in the house. “He’s the Prince, the rightful heir to his grandfather’s place in the Council. With his powers awoken the imbalance will realign for him, and the call won’t stop until it is answered.”

"What imbalance?" Lydia asked, also from the doorway, Maria beside her.

"The universe. The imbalance in everything." Eric was a mystery. He was a picture of beauty with an angelic face and the body of a warrior, built with scars that could now clearly be seen beneath the vest he'd donned this morning, and muscled like no one in the room.

Stiles swallowed and the eyes that captured Peter’s own were more than a little scared. He moved to pull Stiles into his warmth. “How do you know this? And why is the Beacon Hills' Nemeton calling him? Do we have to go to Beacon Hills?” Peter did not like any of this. Not even a little bit.

“Eric is the grandson of the head of the Council’s Army. He’s been trained to know this and what it means.” Dylan explained, turning off the stove and wiping his hands on the apron around his waist.

“You misunderstand me, Peter,” Eric continued. “It’s not just the Beacon Hills' Nemeton calling him. They all are and soon the Council itself will know he's awake, if they don't already.”

++++++

12 of them. Parrish counted 12 so far. Now this was more like it. This was what he’d expected to be sent after them in the Preserve, but they hadn’t been because they were here, on guard duty. He wondered if the two early sacrifices had been missed already, and if that was the reason for the tension he could practically taste on the air. It wasn’t the only thing on the air though, he could smell the Sheriff. It was faint and strange, but John was here. He couldn’t tell with all the heartbeats if any of them belonged to John or if the man was still even alive, but his smell was here and that was good enough. More than good, in fact.

Just as he made a move to take out the first guard on the edge of the property, a phone rang and the tension hitched up a notch. He could hear clearly the voice on the end and the guard’s response.

“Nothing so far, sir. All has been quiet.” The guard said, listening for a minute to the questions about Justin and Jake. “No, we haven’t seen either one. Do you want me to send out a scout or two? We’ve got here pretty much covered and the motion detectors around the perimeter are functioning.”

The male voice responded in the negative but told them to stay alert, that things were afoot.

Hmm, motion detectors. Smart, but they wouldn’t stop him. The shadows were his bitch, he could call them at will, which was what he did now, crouched at the edge. When a guard came close, he simply reached out and took. The shadows muffled the cry of sheer terror as the hound ripped into its first victim. Maybe he’d have a little fun here after all.

++++++

Laura got out of the car, reaching into the back to grab a couple bags while trying to get her emotions under control. Even after a 15 minute stop before they turned into the road home for this very purpose, she knew she was still more rattled that she’d like. After dropping off a shaken Chris, she still was no closer to figuring out how to deal with the traitors in the pack. And now this . . . Damn Derek and his whore.

She stared hard at his car, parked innocently on the side lawns and wondered just what tale he’d already painted for the Alpha. How could they have gone from friends to such bitter enemies in the last few years? She couldn’t understand it. All she could do was make sure it didn’t kill her. She was no good to Cora or the younger members of her pack dead, but her sister was her real reason for living. She’d never leave Cora defenseless.

“Where have you been? It’s late Laura.” Her mother’s tone was soft, beguiling; and she knew better than to trust it. Talia’s soft words were more often than not followed by brutality, especially in relation to Laura these days. She knew her mother wanted to break her, so she could then mold her into what she wanted her to be. It was just that Laura was too strong-willed to be molded into evil.

“The mall and the store, like we planned. Oh, and Chris wants to talk with you when you have time,” she added like an afterthought as she continued to haul bags. She handed a few off to Cora as she tried to get her sister away into the house. A hand on the shoulder from the Alpha stopped any progress and Laura’s heart skipped for the first time. Stupid, she recognised that she'd err'd but there was nothing she could do about it now.

The mirthless smirk in her mother’s eyes told her Talia had heard the tell. Her mother knew Cora was her weakness. “You spoke with Chris? I heard you left his house with him hours ago?”

Laura wasn’t fooled for a moment into thinking that was a question. “We had errands and he had a stop to make in town, so we just carpooled while he told me what he wanted from us. He said he’d thought of coming to you with it, but he wasn’t sure if he was just being silly or it warranted a closer look.”

“So he came to you instead? Interesting.”

“Well he said you seemed to be busier than usual lately and the last thing he wanted was to add more to your plate unless it was necessary. I told him I thought he should speak to you after all.”

“Hmmm, so what is this thing that’s so important he simply had to bring it to you?”

Laura didn’t like what that question insinuated. If the Alpha thought for a second she was overstepping, she’d be removed, immediately and with prejudice. “He’s noticed increased supernatural activity through the Preserve in recent months. Since the omega three months ago, he said he’d run off two others.”

The Alpha’s eyebrows went up, and her hand tightened on Cora’s shoulder; the material bunching beneath her grip. Before she could check herself, Laura made an abortive step forward, eyes on her sister’s still, blank face, hands still clutching grocery bags.

“He ran them off? Didn’t kill them? And he tells this to you and not me, Alpha of the territory. He knows you’re not Alpha, no yet, if ever, doesn’t he? Not until I’m good and buried.”

“It wasn’t a slight mother,” Laura rushed on, as her anxious eyes skimmed the top of the porch where Derek was now standing, and a pleased expression on his face; Kate at his back. “I was already on my way into town when he reached me. Said he called your phone and didn’t get through. You said yourself that you’d called the utilities company two days ago because others were complaining of the same problem with the lines. I figured he reached me because I was already on my way into town. I didn’t think it was an overstep.” Laura finished strongly, although her eyes bounced between Cora, Derek and her mother.

She knew this was the only line to take with her mother, after all she was still set to be the next Alpha unless someone took it from her or killed their mother.

Then just as suddenly, the Alpha smiled. “Of course, I wasn’t accusing you of anything. He was right to reach out to one of us if he couldn’t find me. Maybe invite him and his family up for dinner tonight. It’s been forever since I’ve seen Victoria and Allison. He can speak with us then.”

Laura nodded and Talia patted Cora’s shoulder, letting go with a smile. “I hope you got those jeans you wanted dear," she looked at Cora's blank face and her daughter met her eyes head on. With a little dispair she called up, "Derek, help your sisters unpack the car.” With that she walked off into the Preserve. Laura’s eyes followed until she disappeared into the trees.

When she turned back Cora was at the top of the porch walking into the open door. A brief glance back revealed blazing eyes at Laura, and Laura slumped. She knew Cora would be angry and was prepared to suffer the backlash for dragging her into this.

She was unpacking the last bag on the kitchen table when her phone pinged.
Cora: << You’re an idiot for letting her use me to rile you into misspeaking. You’re stronger than that Laura. You can’t let mom bait you or we’ll all be lost. >>

Laura: << I won’t risk you getting hurt, no matter what I have to do, or what she does to me. >>

Cora: << I can handle our mother! LET ME! >>

Laura paused on the message for a while, indecision strong in her stomach as it roiled in response. She deleted the messages, cleared her phone history and returned to the task at hand. She could just imagine Cora’s pissed off face. It was a running argument between them and while she mourned the fact that her mother knew she’d do anything for Cora, she couldn’t change reality and wouldn’t even if she could. She could never leave Cora to this den of traitors.

She suspected if her mother did not succeed in breaking her, she would try for Cora. This was what Laura was trying to prevent. Cora was strong, perhaps the strongest of them, but she was still young. Beacon Hills would burn if ever Talia succeeded in converting Cora to her side.

She didn’t know how to feel about adding Chris and his family onto the Alpha’s surveillance list. Talia’s paranoia was something to fear and if she thought Chris was deferring to Laura in times of need that could become problematic. It could also cut off her only avenue of help for the pack.

She shook her head in despair. Cora was probably right; she was an idiot.

++++++

Parrish had managed to dispatch five of them before a single alarm was raised. Then he had no choice but to dispel with pleasantries and cut through the rest like butter. He painted the walls of the bunker-like facility red, using Danny’s little handy device to allow the hacker to control the cameras and disrupt the feed with only what he wanted recorded, which was a platoon of guards still patrolling the premises.

As he descended into the belly of facility, the scent of the Sheriff grew, along with other no so pleasant smells, until he stood before a single door. It was heavy metal and took considerable force to open it. It was clear that only a supernatural could move the door. In the far corner on the cold cement was a crumpled form and Parrish could detect something else too. He suddenly knew why he’d had such a problem holding on to the Sheriff’s scent from the early searches.

Parrish felt a surge of rage as he forced his base form back into that of a human. He could smell the wolfsbane on him. “John?”

The hunkering bulk moved and the brown eyes of the Sheriff that looked at him blazed yellow, pointy teeth bared for but a moment before he crumpled again, energy gone.

++++++

“Run!” Hank’s panicked cry pushed momentum into Danny and he picked up speed, but alas he just couldn’t outrun the barefoot, half-beast of a woman as she tackled him to the ground, perhaps bruising or cracking a rib or two. Just as it seemed that he was about to lose his spleen a voice stayed her bared, deadly teeth.

“We need him.” The wolf, Deucalion, was holding on to a bloodied and unconscious Hank. Danny had no clue where Alfie was and he felt a frisson of sorrow, because that could only mean one thing. The cousins had pushed themselves into the werewolves way so Danny could escape the house – and he’d failed them. Hadn’t even got beyond the fence.

“The Alpha said we only needed a vamp.”

“And I’m saying we need them both. The computers in his room have video feed of the bunker. The Sheriff has been found. We may need him as leverage.”

“The Sheriff belongs to the Alpha now, and she’ll never let him go. He can’t hide from her. We don’t need this human!” she said scathingly.

“Touch a claw to one hair on his hide and I will rip the head off your body and use it for soccer practice. Am I clear?" Duke bared his teeth. "Now get him into the vehicle before the neighbours call the cops.” He walked away hauling Hank over his shoulder to the waiting non-descript van.

Kali seethed, eyes glowing at the human before blackness claimed him and he knew nothing else.

Chapter Text

Parrish bared his hands in the universal signal of surrender as he approached the hunched and bruised form, ears pealed for any movement. Any at all. With the anger bottled up in him at the sight of his . . . “boss”, he was still primed to rip something, or someone to pieces and right now he wasn’t partial about who. He’d almost feel sorry if anyone dared to enter the bunker now . . . maybe.

“John,” he said, struggling for calm in his voice. “It’s Jordan, Parrish. It’s going to be ok. I’m coming closer. I’m here to help get you out of here.”

There was a muffled mixture of a mumble and a moan and a groan from John’s bulk but he otherwise didn’t move. The first attempt to do so seemingly sapping him of all strength. Parrish wondered if he’d been fed in the time he’d been held. It was certain that he’d been laced with the wolfsbane poison. He was still covered in the stuff. Whether to keep him docile and controlled or to slowly kill him, Parrish didn’t know and didn’t want to hazard a guess. The consequences of thinking about that too much might send him straight to the Hales compound and if he did that there’d be nothing and no one left standing, and Madam would be disappointed. He hated disappointing her, or worse, the look he’d receive from Mr. Yates. That did not bear thinking about. He still remembered the last time that had happened.

So he eased his way to John’s side. The older man seemed forced to try to keep his eyes open even to a slither, but something that might have been relief cross his face and Parrish almost smiled, almost. “Come on, John, your son’s waiting for you.”

At the mention of Stiles, sharp claws forced their way from John’s fingernail beds and a threatening growl rebounded around the room, weakened, but it echoed. “Hush now, he’s fine. Peter’s got him safe. So have his grandparents and they would give their lives before they allowed harm to come to him. You, however, we have to get you out of here, and now.”

Parrish grabbed an arm as the claws retracted and hefted the man to his feet. “That’s it. Time to go.”

++++++

“I’m not an idiot, you know. I know you’re up to something and that whatever it is, you’ve managed to drag Chris Argent and his family right into the middle of it. I know it and I’m sure mom does too,” Derek said, tone low at his sister’s back.

Laura forced her body not to respond. No tensing of the muscles, no increased heartbeat, no physical acknowledgement to this fishing expedition of his. Just a raised eyebrow with the slight turn of her chin in his direction that seemed to say, “You poor child,” in Laura’s special brand of condescending. It was a tactic she had recently started applying in relation to Derek and his many back-stabbing antics. It was sure to piss him off, but it usually meant him dropping whatever tangent he was on at the time.

This time however, he wasn’t so easily deterred. “She’s going to find out whatever it is you two are hiding and when she does, you’ll rue the day you tried to fool our mother.”

Laura huffed a mirthless laugh. “Suddenly she’s ‘our mother’? I thought you didn’t want anything to do with this family. Your recent actions seem to indicate that you were no longer interested in anything to do with the family. What’s changed, other than Kate whispering more sweet nothings and planting dissension in your ear?”

“You leave Kate out of this!” he hissed, hands balled into fists, behind his sister who stood at the stove stirring something, ever the picture of calm. He just wished he could rattle her the way their mother did.

“Oh sorry, puppy. I forgot what a touchy subject she is for you. Has she even said the ‘l.o.v.e’ word yet, or are you still waiting for her to decide what you mean to her without making any demands of your own?”

At the low growl behind her, Laura turned, eyes hard, spine stiff as she confronted this person who had the utter gall to try to one-up her; to bring danger to her and what was hers. “Yes, everyone but you can see she’s playing you for all it’s worth, and everyone knows the only reason this family even tolerates her is because of her father, otherwise she’d have been out on her bony ass long ago with a solid shove and boot. So you can continue to play the fool; let her drain you dry of whatever she wants ‘til she has what she came for a leaves you in her dust.

“But don’t you threaten me or mine with your childish sulking, and attempts at manipulation and treachery, because I can guarantee that it won’t end well for you,” she snarled at him, eyes slowly glowing gold and teeth bared. “I will protect what’s mine, even from you little pup, and if you think you can continue to come at my back with your claws and draw blood you’ve got another think coming because I will dance on the bones of your burning carcass, do you understand me? You don’t scare me, Derek Hale, and you’d do well to remember that as you continue playing your games.”

Derek took an involuntary step back in the face of his sister’s threat.

“Now, I’ve got a family meal to prepare, if you don’t mind.” She was once again all human; and with those final words she turned away, giving him her back, a clear sign that his gauntlet had finally been answered.

She was tired, damn tired of dancing around them all, always on edge, watching for every pitfall. If he wanted to come at her he’d better kill her dead because he’d live to regret it, she guaranteed it. It was time to start making her own plans to save what was left of her uncorrupted family because Hell was coming, she could feel it.

++++++

Talia descended to the dungeons. There was an access from the cellars beneath the main mansion, and another through the tombs about a mile into the Preserve. The separate access points had been built as a precaution, an escape if ever there was an attack on the house. In recent years it had also been used to keep the dregs of their ‘work’ from some of the more innocent members of the Pack.

It was the tomb access in the Preserve that the Alpha took now, ears pealed as she listened to the telltale sounds of scuffling and the wet echoes of a fists striking flesh. She stood by and watched as the vampire was punched again, bloodied now, eye swollen shut. “Enough.” She didn’t need to shout it in these confines.

She walked up and stood in front of the man, as the boy tied across the room from him struggled some more, even as his heartrate shot through the roof. It was a beautiful sound in the hollows of these walls.

“So, I’m guessing you know my dear brother.”

The vamp threw her a damning sneer but otherwise did not break voice, and she ground her teeth together. “It’ll be easier on you if you cooperate you know.”

Hank snickered and spat a loogie of blood in her direction and bared a blood-filled smile. It might have well had been his middle finger. The Alpha’s eyes glowed and nostrils flared. “Suit yourself.” Turning to Duke, she added, “Make him talk.”

As she turned to leave, Kali spoke up. “Ma’am? What about the boy?”

“Hold on to him. He could be leverage when John comes back. He’ll do anything we want to spare that one’s life, given his connection to Stiles.”

“So he really is gone?”

“Yes, our scouts reported that someone decimated the bunker, but it doesn’t look like it was the Sheriff that broke himself out and the cameras were tampered with,” she threw a withering look at Danny. “Don’t worry, they won’t get far,” a smile quirked at her lips. “He and whomever was brave enough to rescue him.”

“We could use talent like that,” Duke spoke up.

“Not if it’s someone loyal to my brother. That’s more stress than is warranted, but for Pete’s sake, find out who it is and kill them this time.” She cast a red gaze around.

“I sent the boys out. They were tired being cooped up,” Duke said, but didn’t tell her the real reason he’d released them. She’d flip if she knew that someone had escaped them.

Talia nodded uneasily. She knew by boys, Duke meant the strays he sometimes used for the messier jobs. They weren’t pack, just scavengers that lived from job to job, meal to meal, who loved and lived for the violence hunting waywards provided them. Right now she had a few such ‘waywards’ in her territory and she wanted them dealt with, but even so, the strays bothered her. They were werewolves without soul, without mercy, who just lived for the kill. And Duke commanded them.

That thought always gave her pause.

++++++

Gerard smiled at his daughter-in-law, kissing her cheek before she could even move away from the open door, or close her open lips.

“Ger . . . Gerard,” Victoria swallowed visibly. “We weren’t expecting you for a few more days.” Her voice, much to her chagrin came out in a squeak.

“Oh, I was sitting in that damned doctor’s office listening to him drone on and on, when I thought, why not just head straight for the airport. So I had someone meet me there with my bags and voila, here I am. Now where’s my granddaughter?” he asked, moving forward, causing Victoria to ease back out of the doorway as he set a bag down in the entryway.

“She’s at school, Gerard. A study session with some friends.” She tried to smile but knew it came up wanting. Where the hell was Chris anyway? He said he’d be back in a moment after Laura called with a warning and an invitation to dinner and he’d run off somewhere; leaving her with more questions than she had answers.

Thank God, Kate was no longer there, she thought spitefully. The bitch had come that morning sauntering into her home like she’d still lived there and asking questions about Laura’s presence, pretending that she was there for Allison. Luckily Ali already had plans with her friends, despite it being the one day of the week that she did not have classes.

Was she paranoid to think that her father-in-law’s sudden arrival with them expected up at the Hale mansion tonight was maybe not a good thing, especially since Chris had come back from his drive with Laura and Cora so pale he was almost translucent. She still hadn’t gotten the full story of what that drive was about, but she knew it had something to do with the man in front of her. It all made her very uneasy, in a way she hadn’t been since the early days before Allison’s birth.

Gerard meanwhile, was looking a little worse for the wear. His veins seemed so very close to the surface of his blotchy skin and his eyes were dark rimmed, although she struggled to think of a time when those eyes weren’t the doomed source of fear. There was always something just a little beneath the surface. He had however been trying lately to be a little bit more family-oriented than before, something she had been willing to embrace in the name of Chris reclaiming the family they had lost. But within the past couple weeks, she just didn’t know and after today, her trust was a bit shaky.

“Vicky dear, you aren’t going to keep a sick old man standing in the foyer are you?” Gerard smiled, revealing dark-coloured, unhealthy looking gums and yellowing teeth. The cancer was really doing a number on him.

She fought a grimace at his use of her nickname, one she only allowed Chris to bastardise. Gerard knew that. “Oh, sorry Gerard, of course. Let me help you up to the room. Is this your only bag? You could have called us to pick you up from the airport. How’d you get here anyway?” she rambled on.

“I called one of my contacts. He picked me up. It was no bother. I figured Chris would be at work at this hour, heaven knows that boy does not need any more distractions than he already has.”

Victoria wondered what he meant by that, even as she wondered which contact he had in town that would have brought him in and where that ‘contact’ was right now. But she stayed silent and ushered him deeper into her home with a sense of foreboding that had not been there before this morning. She wondered what he’d say about the dinner invitation from the Hales. She suddenly very badly wanted her husband home.

++++++

“Stop, please, just stop!” Tears ran unchecked down Danny’s face. Hank was bloodied mess in front of him, but the werewolf kept pounding on him harder and harder. The vampire had long ceased antagonising the brutish wolf who seemed to take special pleasure in the torture. In fact, it looked like Hank was finally unconscious.

Duke racked back on his heels, eyes glowing blue, teeth elongated as they had been ever since he’d begun his ‘persuasion’. Danny would not be surprised if the man and the evil witch of a wolf at his back got off on the violence.

“What’s wrong little human? Is it all too much for you? Don’t worry, your turn will come soon enough. I know you know who was in that bunker with the Sheriff, and I’ll just bet you’re bursting to tell me.”

Danny fought hard not to let his teeth rattle together. He was scared shitless and he knew they could hear his rapid heartbeat and smell his fear but he’d be damned if he’d show it. So he met the bully’s eyes front on and took a deep breath. “There isn’t anything he or I can tell you that you don’t already know, and that’s that Stiles and Peter’s pack will wipe you off the face of this earth sure as you’re standing there and no amount of beating on us is going to change that.”

He knew it was foolish. Knew he should have kept his mouth shut, but dammit he was so damn tired of keeping quiet; tired of the fear.

“You keep this up, you’re going to need to give him a transfusion to keep him alive,” Kali chimed in, stooping down to look the vampire in the face. “If you kill him with nothing to show for it, Talia’s gonna be pissed.”

At least one of them seemed to have a brain not addled by the thirst for bloody violence, Danny thought. He was just a hacker here. They were the crooked ones. The ones who were dragging Beacon Hills to the precipice, and if they thought Gerard Argent or his daughter would just go quietly into the night then they were even more stupid than Danny gave them credit for. The information he’d dug up on Argent Senior and his band of merry mercenaries was formidable. The man was scary as fuck, but right now, something even scarier was wiping Hank’s blood from his knuckles and walking towards Danny with a smirk on his face. It was the kind of look that promised pain.

++++++

Parrish led them to the first body of water he could find. He needed to wash the wolfsbane powder off the Sheriff quickly. He’d just begun stripping the man out of his tattered clothing, when his ears picked up movement not far away. By the tilt of his head, the Sheriff did too and his eyes glowed yellow.

The deputy lifted his head and sniffed. A hound’s sense of smell surpassed that of a werewolf. Their sense of tracking was unparalleled, which was why it had been so frustrating that he had not been able to track the Sheriff. The Druid’s magic was impressive to say the least, if he could hide someone from a hellhound. But right now, there was a vampire heading his way, a bloody one by the smell of him. He laid the Sheriff behind the nearest tree.

“Wait here John. I think that may be a friend in trouble.” With that Parrish took off after the sound and the troubling smell. He didn’t have far to go, because less than two minutes later he ran into an exhausted and bloodied Alfie and fear curled in his stomach as he clasped the man to steady him. It was clear he’d been running for a while, and by the sound of it, whatever was chasing him was close.

“What’s happened?”

“They’re chasing me,” Alfie said, utterly exhausted. He still didn’t know why he was still alive, other than the fact that these wolves seemed to enjoy the cat and mouse type chase. Each time they caught him, they made a few more swipes at him to ensure he had fresh wounds and let him go again. Who knew these woods were so massive. He’d been running for hours and he didn’t know how much longer he could hold up.

“Who’s chasing you? Alfie, where’s Danny?” As he asked the question Parrish’s skin started to glow.

++++++

Peter covered Stiles’ hands with his own. His mate had been biting his nails down to the quick for the last hour, watching the clock tick the time away.

“Surely he should have found him by now, right? That must mean something, right? The fact that he hasn’t called must mean something?!” There were equal parts hope, fear and worry in Stiles voice and the coffee table in front of them shook. Peter reached out to grab his coffee mug before it splashed all over the carpet.

“Control love. Remember, control. And don’t jump to conclusions. We don’t know anything yet.”

“Don’t know anything?” Stiles yanked his hands back, running them through his hair. “We know that your friends haven’t reported in and we can’t reach them. We know that Danny’s missing and also not answering his phones. We know that Parrish said almost three hours ago that he was closer to finding my dad and would report back soon and hasn’t. What else am I supposed to think other than that they’re all dead, every last one of them?”

“Sweetheart, we don’t know that.”

“What else could it be?” Stiles shouted and the chandelier above them exploded into light and glass. Peter dove for him, curving his body over Stiles as the glass showered down. And Stiles started to sob. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I just can’t sit here and do nothing. I’m going to Beacon Hills. I have to go get my dad, Peter.”

Peter raised worried and conflicting eyes to Dylan who came forward with a broom. “Son, hellhounds are not that easy to kill. I promise Jordan will find your father. Just give him a little more time,” his grandfather pleaded with him. The last thing any of them wanted was Stiles in Beacon Hills, anywhere near Talia and her crew.

Stiles simply shook his head.

“I’ll go.” All eyes flew to Peter. He couldn’t sit here and watch his mate in pain and helpless. “I’ll find them!” And real fear blossomed in Stiles’ chest at his mate’s declaration.

++++++

“What do we know?”

“There’s been a hell of a lot of activity out in the Preserve the last couple days. I think the Hales are under attack, but I don’t know from whom. That bunker they think no one knows about was Ground Zero a couple hours ago. They lost a whole crew out there; human though, and I have it on good authority that they’ve also lost a few wolves within the last day or so. Something’s going down, that’s for sure.”

“Keep me posted,” Gerard said and hung up, brain already ticking over. So the Hales had apparently got themselves in trouble again, and it could not have come at a better time. He smiled, a gruesome looking thing.

++++++

Talia stood outside the tomb entrance, listening to the Preserve and wishing she could feel the life of her own territory. Damn the Nemeton. She was rightful Alpha to Beacon Hills, dammit! As she thought it a frisson of anger bubbled up in her. Whoever had taken the Sheriff clearly didn’t know better. They couldn’t. As if she’d ever allow him to just leave.

She threw back her head and howled, a long high note that sent a chill through every wolf that heard it. It was a call, and all she had to do was sit back and wait. The one she’d called would answer. He had no choice.

From below her came a cry of sheer pain. The boy . . . he’d be pleading soon and telling them all they wanted to know, if he wasn’t already. She smiled and set off back to the main house. Time to put wheels in motion.

++++++

The phone rang almost as her butt touched the chair. She grabbed the receiver.

“Hello, Talia.” The voice on the line was not one she relished hearing.

“Gerard, what can I do for you?”

“I’m wondering if I shouldn’t be the one asking you that question.”

Right away her back was up. “What do you mean?”

“I hear you’ve got yourself a spot of trouble. The bloody kind. If you need a hand, I could, you know, help out – just like old times. This time it’d cost a little more, however.”

Talia almost swallowed her tongue. “Whatever you’ve heard I can assure you your sources are wrong. There is nothing to help with. I’ve got my territory under control, Gerard.”

“Are you sure? Because it seems to me that you’re losing resources faster than you can restock them. We both know I can help. I have before.”

The Alpha clenched her teeth and gritted out. “Are you threatening me, Gerard? I thought we agreed never to mention that again? Is this some kind of test? A shake-down?”

“Oh, perish the thought, my dear. Nothing of the sort. Besides, we already have an arrangement. Why would I need to shake you down on a deal that’s already secured? Did I mention I was in town to collect this week?”

Talia’s pulse skittered.

“I didn’t?” he said, with a sly laugh. “How forgetful of me. We know how these things can make one a little forgetful. I sure hope you haven’t forgotten our deal. My daughter-in-law tells me we’re invited to dinner tonight. I’m so looking forward to it. Perhaps we can conclude our arrangement then.

“Well I’ve got to get some rest. That flight all but knackered me out. See you later, Talia. And by the way, in case I wasn’t clear, your time is up! No more dallying or we’re going to have serious problems and your little rising body count is going to look like a drop in the bucket to when I’m done.”

Talia stared at the receiver like it was a rattle snake. How the hell did he know so much already? Dammit!

++++++

John sat bolt upright. That sound had hit him straight in the chest like a gunshot. His body was already starting to move, turn. His weakness, fatigue started to fall away. It was like the sound had rejuvenated him.

Looking down he realised his body was changing. He gasped as he felt a pop and his ribs seemed to expand. Fuck, that hurt! Then another, and another, and he screamed, unable to hold it in. What was happening? He needed to be somewhere, but where? He needed to go. He needed to go.

He screamed again and it came out as a howl, falling forward onto the forest floor on his arms . . .paws, watching as his knuckles popped and curled and claws extended from his fingers. He should be afraid. Hell, he was afraid, but the pain. So much pain. He howled again as his back arched. Please, make it stop! God, make it stop! That’s when the pain started radiating out from his hips. He begged to lose consciousness. Would have welcomed a dark void right about now.

Parrish. Where was Parrish? He tried to call out but another wave of pain slammed into him. He tried to stand, tried to move but it was crippling. His last thought before the wolf took over was of his son. Stiles, God please protect his son.

And then he was running back towards the Hale mansion and danger.

Chapter Text

Danny wasn’t sure what hurt more, his mouth, his stomach, his ribs, his hands or his feet. In fact, he was in that dull zone where you’re not sure it’s pain you’re in or if your nerve endings are so inflamed that they’re numb. What he was sure however was that he didn’t know how much more he could take.

“Gotta hand it to you kid. I didn’t expect you to hold out this long,” Duke grinned down at him, a reluctant pride shining in his eyes.

Danny wheeze in a breath and it burned. His throat was raw from screaming. In fact, he no longer had a voice to scream and he was tired coughing up blood. It was all just pain, everywhere . . . just pain.

“Leave the fucking kid alone, you sick fuck. He doesn’t know anything,” Hank spoke up from where he was tied to the chair. He drew in a long breath. “All he did was help a couple of stranded strangers. Leave him be.”

Duke turned slowly, an eyebrow raised because he could not detect the telltale heartbeat skip. That was the fucking problem with vamps, they weren’t really dead or alive, so the beat that pushed blood around their half-dead/half-alive bodies was always an exercise in guessing. But nevertheless, he didn’t believe a damn word, or chose not to. “Is that so? He doesn’t know anything, but you do, don’t cha? Why don’t you just tell me what I want to know and this will end. Come now, spare the weak little human. Is this any way to repay his generosity? How much does Peter Hale know?”

Hank gasped out what under other circumstances would probably have been a laugh, but the way he held himself up in the chair indicated his ribs might be too damaged to manage even a guffaw. He shook his head and said haltingly: “I don’t . . . have a goddamn clue. . . what Peter Hale knows . . . or anything about your little operation here.”

“Oh right, you just came out of the goodness of your heart when he pointed you in our direction.”

Hank raised his head and looked the wolf, full in the face. “That’s what you people don’t get . . . I don’t need . . . to know what Peter does . . . I don’t need him to feed me . . . the backstory . . . I trust him . . . I know he wouldn’t steer me wrong . . . It’s called loyalty, you sick fuck,” he gasped again. “Perhaps you should . . . try it sometime.” The effort cost him and he lilted to the side in his chair bindings, breathing in rasps.

But it managed to wipe the smirk off Deucalion’s face. He didn’t understand such reasoning, but he envied it. Someone willing to die for a man who only had to say go here or there and they obeyed. People obeyed Duke out of fear. He envied Peter his respect; and hated him for it.

Kali, standing silently against the tomb walls tilted her head as if puzzled. Loyalty would be a new concept for her because she knew they were both alike. Loyal only to themselves. He clenched his teeth as something that looked like awe entered her eyes. As he moved toward the vampire, a crackle sounded in the room and the radio on a nearby table picked up the Alpha’s voice. “Duke! Duke!”

He moved toward the radio instead. “Talia?”

“I need you up here, now.”

“I’m not done yet.”

“Then have someone else take over, I need you here.”

His hands curled into fists as he barely kept his growl back. He hated being summoned, but then her next words unclenched his ire. “Gerard is in town, and he’s coming to dinner tonight.”

“Fuck!” he muttered. Someone else he hated. “I’ll be right there.”

He turned to survey his victims. “We’ll continue this later.” Kali made to follow. “I need you to stay here, keep an eye on things.”

“Where the fuck are they going to go?”

“Stay. Here!” he growled, voice rising in the closed space. “And if you keep testing me, girl, I will feed you your fucking intestines.” She pouted, eyes going blue for a moment, but she quickly stumbled back when Duke made two steps in her direction at the slight. She dropped her gaze to the ground as he stalked out of the dungeons leaving an angry subordinate behind. If he’d only looked back, he would have seen the bright blue gaze of pure hatred pinned between his shoulder blades.

++++++

By the time Chris stumbled home, almost three hours after he’d left, he had no less than 12 texts and four missed calls from his wife. Even though her tone was ultimately calm in the voice messages left, the subtexts gave him pause. He straightened his spine, preparing for his father and whatever was to come.

When he keyed open the door, Victoria looked up from her position on the sofa. Her face was serene but her eyes were turbulent. He didn’t know how to apologise for this. For the danger he knew he’d now placed his family in in an attempt to help Laura and her sister, and perhaps members of the Hale pack, without the Alpha’s blessing. It was a dangerous place to be.

He’d spent the last few hours drilling his contacts, only the ones he could absolutely trust; and digging for information. It was his last call that had shed the most light though. If he needed to get himself and others out of town, he needed a way to do it that would not end up with his wife and daughter slaughtered in this hell of a war that was building.

He now understood the Alpha’s desperation; the Sheriff’s missing status; hell even Danny Mahealani’s – and he finally understood that a desperate Alpha was a most dangerous thing.

He’d stopped by Danny’s house on his way back and the wreckage he’d found had a tendril of fear curling in his stomach – one he knew he needed to get rid of before dinner with the Hales. If they even smelled uncertainty on him, he could count all this goodbye. He held his wife’s gaze, and whatever she saw in the look, her icy countenance thawed and she looked scared for a moment. She made to rise from the chair to come to him, but footsteps sounded on the stairs. He knew who it was without even looking.

Vicky sat back down, as if bracing herself.

“Well you’ve certainly had a long day,” Gerard greeted him, eyes keen and eagle sharp. “I tried to reach you at the office, but they told me you didn’t come in?”

“I had some errands to run. Sandra is very capable of handling things when I’m not there.”

“Is that so? Do you often run off in the middle of the day and abandon business?”

Chris inhaled and held his father’s eyes. “Was there something you wanted, Gerard?” He’d stopped calling him dad to his face after he’d been banished from the family. The word slipped in now and then if he and Vicky were discussing family, but he tried not to make it a habit. Even when Gerard had turned up at their doorstep with wishy-washy apologies and fictitious stories about mending fences, he’d still continued to call him by his name.

His father watched him for a minute. Chris refused to flinch under the hard scrutiny. “Vicky told me we’re invited to dinner with the Hales tonight. Didn’t know you’d gotten so close to them, boy. Glad to see you’re finally settling in.”

Victoria and I have been settled in for a while now.” He knew how much his wife hated the nickname, especially when used by anyone other than him. “The invitation is simply to discuss a few things that I’ve noticed and my need to ensure that the town remains safe for all its residents.”

“Is there a reason why you’d think things aren’t safe? Did Talia’s daughter say something?”

Of course Kate would have told him about Laura’s visit. Beyond Gerard’s shoulder he saw Vicky stiffen. Thank God she was to Gerard’s back and he couldn’t see it. “What would give you the idea that any of the Hales told me anything? I have eyes, and I’m observant.”

His father’s eyes went flinty again. “Then I’m glad your training hasn’t gone completely to waste.”

Chris turned away. He would not get angry at the censure in the tone. “Well, we’d all better get dressed for dinner. Don’t want to be late.” Turning to his wife, he held out a hand, “Honey?”

She rose quickly to take his hand as Gerard asked, “Where’s Allison? Haven’t seen my granddaughter all day. Is she not joining us?”

Victoria felt Chris’ hand tighten in hers. “Not tonight. She has a sleep-over with some friends.” Thank God he’d been quickly able to arrange it between running all over the place, and that his daughter was smart enough not to ask questions. “She has a big paper which she and her friends are preparing for, so she’s skipping tonight.” He was doing his damnest to keep their daughter out of harm’s way.

“Is that wise? Do you really want to offend the Alpha?”

“Are you trying to tell me how to raise my child, Gerard?” Chris’ tone was cold. “I’m sure Allison is up at the house even more than we are.”

Gerard passed off a fake grin. “Of course it wasn’t a criticism, son. Just saying we should be hospitable. Well, I’d better go get ready. See you in a few.”

When he’d retreated up the stairs, Victoria turned questioning eyes on her husband and whispered, “Where the hell have you been? All day, Chris. You left me here with him all day!”

He wrapped her tightly in his arms, turning his face into her neck and whispering into her ear, “Gathering information and lining up allies. We may need it before this, whatever it is, is over.”

“Allies?” she whispered and he felt the shiver that ran through her. “Who?”

Chris paused. “Peter Hale.”

++++++

“For the thousandth time, no Stiles.”

“I’m not letting you go alone and if you try I’ll just follow you!”

Peter growled and turned red eyes on his mate. “Why won’t you let me protect you? Why can’t you understand that it’d kill me if anything happened to you? I’m going so you don’t have to!”

“But I’m the one she wants. Why can’t you let me help? This is my dad we’re talking about, Peter.”

“Dammit, Stiles. I’m done arguing about this!” He turned away and shoved another pair of jeans into the duffle.

Ever since Chris’ call Stiles had been on edge. Hell, the entire house was now on edge. They’d done nothing but fight about it since. Chris was scared for his family, and after his chat with Peter, the hunter now understood that he had every reason to be. And with Gerard in town, things could go south fast.

Peter wasn’t sure if he was more afraid or relieved that Laura and Cora weren’t a part of what was unfolding, even if his favourite nephew Derek was an unknown in the whole equation. In fact, if the information Chris gave him was correct, Laura was trying to find a way to save the pack and get her mother and henchmen out. Peter just prayed he could help and that Laura didn’t end up dead before he could get there. He still had no clue what he would do once he arrived. One thing was sure, Talia would probably have him killed on sight.

“She’ll kill you.” It was said in a tearful sotto voce. Peter bowed his head and closed his eyes. If he looked at Stiles now it’d been even harder to leave him.

“I won’t let that happen.”

“It’ll kill me every bit as much if something happens to you.”

That forced Peter to turn and look at his mate. They stood like that for minutes, simply breathing, soaking each other in. Then Peter opened his arms and Stiles flew into them. “I love you, and I’m coming back for you, to you.”

“Good, cause I’ll kill you if you don’t and then get my grandparents to raise you from the dead so I can do it again.”

Peter smiled. He had no doubt that by the time Stiles truly tapped into his strength he’d probably be able to do it all himself, so he just smiled and devoured his mate with a kiss, as worry for his now extended family mounted.

++++++

Darkness was closing in and with the tree cover, it was falling even quicker. Parrish heard John’s screams but there was little he could do about it now. They were slowly being surrounded by the sounds of it and Alfie was in no shape to fight.

“I’m sorry, deputy. We tried to give him a head start, to get away, but they were too strong.”

“We’ll find him, if he’s still alive. Can you get up that tree?”

“What? I’m not leaving you here alone. There’re too many of them.”

Parrish turned to look at the bloodied and bleeding vampire, “You’d only be in the way. Now get up there, and don’t come down till the coast is clear.”

“You’re nuts. That’s suicide, even for you.”

“No, it’s suicide for them.” Parrish’s skin went from glowing to cracking open, showing blazing red beneath the surface. His form doubled in size as his face began forming into a muzzle, shoulder bulking, ears and teeth elongating. By the time the strays stalked out of the trees, the thing before them was no longer human, but all hound and its eyes blazed red.

They were eight of them approaching, and he could see a few more still hidden by the trees. By the time the first one rushed him, he was prepared, blood singing through his veins and whistling in his ears. He was born for this and they would pay dearly for whatever had become of Danny.

He didn’t even waste much energy on the first one. He tore through the idiotic wolf without hesitation or remorse, until entrails littered the small clearing and he was covered in blood. That’s when the next idiot landed on his back and he gave in to the call. It was time to let the hound really run free.

++++++

Deaton sat near the window, looking beyond at the gathering dark. It mirrored how he was feeling inside right now. There was too much happening and no time to breathe, to think, to truly strategise and Talia’s newest plan would only add fuel to the fire.

“I’m still in favour of killing him and being done with this.”

“Kill him and we’ll be overrun with hunters in no time.”

“My boys can take care of the hunters.”

“Your boys are mindless killers. The last thing we need is this spilling over into Beacon Hills. The Council would wipe us out without trial if the rest of the territory was put at risk.”

Deaton almost laughed at the absurdity of it all. “I think we went pass that point when you took the Sheriff, and then the boy, don’t you think?”

Talia turned a hard look on her Emissary. He’d been more and more quarrelsome in the last couple weeks. Each time they came up with a plan he shot it down for one reason or another. “What would you suggest then? That I give Gerard the bite, let him into our pack and then constantly have to watch our backs? You know he’s right now plotting how he can take over as Alpha if we even give him a chance and there’s no way in hell I’m giving that man access to my territory.”

“We could have levelled with Stiles, made him see reason. He still has people in this town that he cares about. I’m sure he would have wanted to help, instead of pitting him against us. There’s no way he’ll do that now?”

Duke laughed. “Oh, that’s rich, coming from you Doc. Aren’t you the one that first convinced him he was part of the pack. A mate of a member of the pack? Now you change your tune when it’s clear that you may actually have to get your hands dirty for a change? Well guess what, you’re in this every bit as much as we are, so suck it up and help instead of moping.”

“Right help? By setting a pack of ravenous animals loose in the Preserve and telling them to go hunt? Do you think they’ll stop there? If they decide they’re tired being tied down, what do you think will happen to Beacon Hills? You have a tenuous grip on them at best and without my magic keeping them to the woods they’d run amok and we’d all burn for it.”

“Boys!” Talia squeezed tired eyes closed. She could feel the beginnings of another headache. “Look, no one is talking about the Council coming in and taking over. So far we’ve avoided that and we’ll continue to avoid that. We’ll stall Gerard, just for a few days until we can determine what associates he has near and neutralise them. Then we can keep him out of sight until we get Stiles back.”

“You can’t lock the Sheriff into that beta form forever, Talia. It’s dangerous for someone newly turned.” Deaton had felt a brief surprising moment of pity when he’d seen John in the cage in the dungeons.

“I know that, Alan. It’s just until his son agrees to help us.”

The vet shook his head. “It’s a flawed plan, Talia. It won’t keep him loyal to us.”

“As long as I’m his father’s Alpha he won’t have a choice.”

Deaton wondered at the flawed logic.

++++++

Peter had just hoisted the bag over a shoulder, given instructions to Boyd when his phone rang. A glance at the caller ID gave him pause and much to his surprise, he felt his stomach roll with anxiety. He heard Erica whimper at his inadvertent emotion down the pack bond and he forced himself under control.

“Hello?” he answered hoping it wasn’t who and what his brain told him this had to be.

“Hello again, brother. Just what do you think you’re doing sending people into my territory? You know neither you nor they are welcomed here.”

Peter grimaced. He briefly wondered how the vampires would retaliate over the loss of two of their own. “Then let the Sheriff come to his son, and we can all live happily ever after.” He felt rather than saw Stiles go absolutely still.

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible. The Sheriff is a little indisposed at the moment, but I would love to discuss conditions with Stiles. Can he come to the phone?” Her condescending tone grated on Peter’s last nerve.

“What conditions?” He felt Stiles at his left, and the stench of worry, fear, anger, emanated from him.

What?” Stiles whispered, eyes wide.

“I’ll discuss those with Stiles, if you don’t mind.” Before he could hand the phone over Stiles was reaching for it. There was absolute silence in the room.

“Hello, Talia.” The calm in his voice amazed Stiles. He turned the phone on speaker for the benefit of his grandparents, who had moved closer. He felt overwhelmingly like breaking something. He badly wanted to break something, but he’d spent almost all afternoon working with his grandparents and Eric on his control. He couldn’t lose it now.

“Stiles, dear. It’s good to hear your voice. It’s been a while.”

“Cut the crap. Where’s my dad? What do you want?”

“I hear your grandparents have arrived all the way from Wales, so I’m sure you know the answer to the last question at least. I want you, Stiles. As for your father? He’s safe, for now. Alive. I could always set him free in exchange for a little help from you. What do you say?”

Before Stiles could even respond, Peter let loose an angry snarl. “Over my dead body. I’ll go to my grave before I let him walk to you like some sacrificial lamb.” Peter growled and he knew he was partially shifted.

“Are you sure about that, because it could be arranged. Besides, I think it’s Stiles’ choice to make, and he has until sunrise tomorrow to let me know his decision. His father, his little friend the hacker and your vampire will remain in my custody until his decision is made.”

“Danny!” Stiles cried out.

Any relief Peter had at knowing at least one of his friends was also still alive was immediately wiped away by Talia’s next words: “I promise your father won’t be harmed, but I can’t say the others are in the best of conditions right now. How much more they suffer is entirely in your hands, Stiles. We just want to talk, strike a deal in the interest of our pack and the rest of Beacon Hills. Surely it’s not unreasonable for an Alpha to want to protect her territory? And I will do whatever I have to for that to happen. I will be listening for your call.”

There was a deadly silence once she hung up and every eye was on Stiles, who was unnaturally still. It was like there was a buzzing just beneath his skin and for the first time Peter was scared to touch his mate. “Stiles?” when he moved forward, Eric called out a warning that Peter immediately heeded.

Eric moved forward, eyes on the Prince who had started to glow, even as the humming coming from him increased in pitch. His eyes were now a swirling rainbow of colours.

Braeden also moved silently forward, prepared to back up the shifter in any way she could. After today’s training exercises she knew they’d only tapped but a small portion of what the Prince was capable of, and that had scared the pants off her, and she wasn’t a woman who was easily fazed.

“Duinerth, I need you to hear my voice. I need you to listen to my voice now.” Even in training they hadn’t succeeded in having him tap into his real power, which came from the universe; from the life force of the Nemeta.

The bolt of lightning when it shot out, seemingly from nowhere, had everyone scrambling back in surprise and trepidation.

“My Prince, I need you to listen to my voice and hold on to your anchor. You need to ground yourself now, let them flow through you, open up and answer the call.”

Peter started when a hand landed on his shoulder. He hadn’t realised he’d been steadily moving forward as others were moving back. “Hang back, wolf,” Dylan warned. “He has to do this on his own. The Nemeta it seems are tired of waiting.”

“Prince Duinerth? Can you hear me?”

Suddenly Stiles’ head snapped up, and his white eyes fixated on the shifter. His head tilted to a side as if listening to something none of them could hear. Slowly his head rose, until it was pointed straight up. The sparks of lightning it seemed weren’t dangerous because they didn’t strike anything or cause any damage, but he created quite a sight, this glowing, pale skinned boy, emitting waves of lightning energy and heating the spot where he stood.

Then he gasped. His heart stopped. Just stopped, and Peter was so shocked that he roared before he could catch himself. Everyone around them clasped their ears as the Alpha full-shifted in the space of a single heartbeat; a massive beast standing before them ready to charge at no one knew what. Dylan jumped back at the bulk of the animal, as the wolf stalked his mate, circled where he stood and roared again. In the silence that followed came a steady heartbeat, gradually increasing in pace, until it sounded more like Stiles’ natural rapid rhythm.

“I can feel them,” Stiles whispered, reverent; eyes closed as he ran a pale hand through his mate’s ruff, revelling in the feel, the emotions there, the murmur of worry, in the thoughts he could hear, clear as his own. “I can feel all of them.”

Opening eyes that glowed golden now, the Prince fixed his gaze on his mate, his Alpha. In his mind he plucked at the pack bond and felt Erica’s gasp of surprise before she could even utter it. Felt Boyd’s strength, Maria’s concern, even Isaac, on a plane on his way home, foot jiggling in anxiety and reassured the young wolf there was no need to hurry. He felt Isaac’s gasp as Peter added his own comfort down the path.

He felt his mate, his love, his life, and smiled. They made quite the picture in what now felt like a very small livingroom - the pale Breton and his wolf.

He felt a foreign voice brush his mind, and knew immediately it was the Queen, the Voice of the Council. He acknowledged the wonder, the bewilderment, the questions, and sent his own warning. He would not be stopped until he had what was his, safe and secure.

He sought and found his dad, and felt his ire rise at his dad's pain, his fear -- and he told him he was coming.

Chapter Text

There was no movement, only blood and body parts. What before had been a clear space for a fight was now the dregs of a battleground. Parrish tried to catch his breath; tried to clear his head of the bloodlust. He’d thought briefly that maybe he should have kept one of them alive to give him information on Danny, but something told him he wouldn’t need their help – just their deaths. And it had been satisfying – oh so satisfying to rip every last evil one of them to shreds.

And Parrish knew evil. He was intimately acquainted with evil. He was a spawn of it, even though it didn’t rule him. These monsters that he’d rid the earth of were just that, evil incarnate, and he couldn’t spare a moment of sorrow that they all now lay in bits. His only issue was that some of those bits now covered him. He’d need to wash before he went searching for Danny and the Sheriff, and Hank if they were still alive.

A noise reminded him that Alfie was still up above and he cocked his head as he watched the wide-eye vamp survey his carnage with a sharp smell of fear. “You have nothing to fear here,” he told his ally, as he shifted back to human form. “We need to find the others.”

He felt a slight tremour in the earth and stood still, holding up a hand to halt Alfie’s descent. He inhaled, through the nose of a hound, and felt the earth respond. Goose pimples walked the surface of his warm skin and his scalp tingled, and he knew, he knew the Prince was awake and on his way.

Parrish signaled to the vampire and he dropped to the ground, seemingly trying to avoid the more disgusting and squelchy body pieces.

“What the hell was that?” As the words fell from his lips, the ground shifted again, and as if by magic, the body parts began to meld into the ground, like they’d been blasted by immense heat and were liquefying where they stood.

“That my friend would take a while to explain, but know that neither he nor it will not harm us. I need to clean up. There’s a river not far from here.” He set off in the direction of where he had left the Sheriff, knowing that his former boss was no longer there.

But the Nemeton was clearly on their side, or at least the Prince’s side. He would rejoice later. First, Danny.

++++++

Chris stopped the vehicle and sat there for a moment before he moved to exit the vehicle. He circled and opened the passenger door for his wife, as Gerard exited from the back, a small vicious smile on his face as he surveyed the massive mansion before them.

Vicky squeezed his hand, bringing his focus back to the present, and reassuring Chris as the front door opened at their ascent. The Alpha, in a formal gown was all smiles and Chris struggled to return the warmth.

“Chris, Victoria, so glad you could join us tonight. We have much to discuss, I understand,” Talia said, warmly touching Chris’ shoulder and nodding politely to Victoria who had bowed her head slightly in deference, as was expected. Then Talia’s attention was on the elderly Argent behind them. “Gerard,” the name was accompanied with a smile, but no warmth followed it. “Please, come in.”

“Talia. Thank you for the invitation. I see you still have as lovely a home as ever,” Gerard said, preceding Chris and Victoria into the house’s foyer.

“Thank you for the compliment, Gerard. Chris and Victoria are welcomed here, as I hope they always will be,” said the Alpha once more, smile still in place, even though the peculiar words gave Chris pause. “But enough chatter. Dinner awaits.”

As they moved deeper into the Hale residence, Chris spotted other members of the Pack. Some he was familiar with, others only in passing. It was a big pack, of about 30-plus people. Tonight it seemed as if only the older children and adults would be seated at the table however, Chris noted.

His eyes caught Laura’s briefly, but he didn’t dwell on it, but he noticed Cora was there, as well as his own sister beside Derek Hale. His gaze passed over the Emissary, Alan Deaton; Talia’s second, Deucalion; her brother, Andy with whom Chris had dealt on several occasions, as well as a few of the elders and their children. In all it looked like the massive table was set for about 20 people, and at least half of them watched the Argents’ arrival, especially Gerard’s, with wary eyes.

Chris did not like what that could mean. The hostility from Duke, his son Theo, and about seven others was quite palpable. Chris figured these were the ones he had to keep a keen eye on, and suddenly he was a little tenser than when he’d left the safety of his vehicle. It made him swallow in reflex and several eyes quickly swivelled to him. He tamped down on his physical and emotional responses. It was the only way to deal with werewolves, and maybe, just maybe, they would come out of this alive.

“Chris, Victoria, please.” The Alpha indicated to seats not far from her, and across from Laura, whose expressions were most muted. “Gerard, Alan will show you to your seat. Everyone please,” she opened her arms and everyone moved almost in unison to their appointed places. It still unnerved Chris somewhat, like something from the movie Body Snatchers.

++++++

"What the hell?" Erica's voice came out on a breath of awe.

Stiles turned in her direction and smiled gently. "I'm sorry Erica, I didn't mean to scare you. I'll try to dial down the connection a bit." Turning to Eric he bowed slightly. "Thank you."

Eric in turn executed a deeper bow of respect. "Of course, Prince. I need to contact my father. He will want to know you've arrived and send extra protection."

"Don't trouble yourself, Eric. He already knows. They all already know. We're going to Beacon Hills. They will surely meet us there."

A press of emotions invaded the room; everything from fear to confusion, to worry, uncertainty and resignation. The latter, he recognised, as that from his mate and shook his head at him. "We're going."

"I didn't say anything," he shifted into beta form.

"That may be, but some of us who are not supernatural in nature would appreciate it if you'd put some clothes on," Braeden said dryly. "As impressive as the view may be."

Her dryness startled a snort out of Lydia, who if she did say so herself, was thoroughly enjoying the rear view. God bless Stiles; he was a lucky fellow. Her friend spared her a cheeky look and she blushed, knowing he probably knew exactly what she was thinking. It was disconcerting.

It was just then that Peter realised he had indeed shed his clothes when his wolf burst free in shock and was now nude before his pack, and his guests, which included his mate's grandparents. Looking a bit sheepish, he moved to leave the room and suddenly found himself still barefoot, but clothed in a pair of jeans and a sky blue Henley that complemented his eyes. It would be slightly scary if it wasn't Stiles doing it. Plus, it helped that it also happened to be Stiles' favourite look on him.

"You're going back to Beacon Hills?" It was Maria that brought the seriousness of the moment back to the group; eyes moving between her Alpha and his mate.

"I can't not go, Maria." Peter walked towards his beta, "but I'm not going to ask that of any of you. If you choose to stay here, I won't think less of you. You will still and always be my pack until you say otherwise. But I have to finish this. I have to make sure my nieces and those I left behind are ok."

He looked at Stiles briefly and felt the young man touch his mind reassuringly. "Christopher Argent reached out to us earlier today." He looked around at all the people now gathered in his house. In their house and thought of everything they had to lose as well. "He told me my nieces are in trouble. They aren't corrupt the way some members of the pack are and have been quietly going behind the Alpha's back, their mother's back, to find a way to help the others get out."

He swallowed thickly. "If Talia finds out, she will kill Laura. I have no doubt in my mind that she will because it will scare any of the others who are even thinking of dissenting to think again. They would not dare challenge her if she could so callously deal with her own child and future head of the pack. I can't sit back and let my mate go in there to rescue his father and not go to rescue what is mine too; what I left behind."

Peter touched a hand to Maria's shoulder, looking directly into her eyes. "Whether you go with us or stay and look after the territory while I'm gone is up to you, but Boyd and Erica will stay."

"The hell I will!" Boyd exploded from close to the front door, where he'd come in quietly earlier. "I go where you go!" his voice boomed in the den, eyes glowing.

"You are my second, Boyd. If anything happens to me, the territory is yours. You and Erica will hold it steady and rebuild."

"No!" both Boyd and Erica said at the same time, echoing each other. "We go with you or we follow after you. There is no discussion about this," Erica replied, lips set and stubborn.

"As your Alpha, I am asking you to safeguard our territory."

"And as your second in command, I am telling you it is the one wish I cannot grant you." Boyd's face was as set as Erica's.

"It's not a wish any of us can grant you," Maria spoke up, causing Peter to swivel to her quickly. "Had not for you, Chase and I would be dead. There are no questions about that. If we had even a chance to save our families, we would have taken it in a heartbeat. You are trying to save yours, it's a mission we understand, intimately. We will go with you."

Peter turned startled eyes when Stiles touched his shoulder. "I promise you on my life that I will protect your pack."

"Stiles . . ."

"I will not allow death to touch them. To touch any of you, but we can't delay much longer."

"Ok, so what's the plan? How are we getting to Beacon Hills? How do we save your pack?" Chase asked in the quiet.

Stiles smiled eerily at the stock broker werewolf.

++++++

"Ma’am?" Parrish said after the phone connected. They'd gone back to the Mahealani residence to ‘borrow’ some clean and not I-just-committed-murder-looking clothes. He’d picked up his cell phone where Hank had perhaps dropped it. The screen was cracked in the melee that had obviously taken place here, but it was still functioning. It also seemed like Danny had uploaded some files to it before whatever had happened to him, had happened.

He’d watched the videos with a new sense of urgency.

“Jordan! Are you ok?” Enid Yates asked.

“Yes ma’am.”

“Ok, good. Hold on.” There was a brief rustle as she handed the phone over.

“Parrish!” Dylan Yates voice came through clearly.

“Yes, sir,” the hound responded to his boss, spine automatically straightening.

“Status report?”

“I’m ok, sir, but they’ve got the boy that was helping me, the Prince’s friend Danny and one of the vampires Peter Hale sent. I don’t know if they’re still alive but I’ve got their scent and I’m going after them, and the Sheriff. Hank’s cousin, Alfie is alive and here with me. According to some videos Danny uploaded for me to access, Gerard Argent is in town. He looks like he’s deteriorated since he was last here. My guess is the Hales have run out of time.

“I have no doubt that he will be giving them some ultimatums that they will have no excuse but to respond to, which puts his son and his son’s family in a very ticklish position. It’s become clear they are not involved and I think some members of the pack are also innocent, sir.”

“Ok. We’re on our way, Jordan. Just don’t get killed and try not to cause too much of a mess until we get there.”

“Ummm . . . May be a little too late for that sir, but the Nemeton took care of the evidence, I think. I assume this means the Prince is awake?”

“He sure is, Parrish.” Dylan looked to Stiles, whom he was sure could hear every word.

“There’s something I think you should know, sir. The Sheriff,” he paused for a moment and exhaled. “She’s turned the Sheriff.”

Dylan blanched, surveying Stiles’ face for a reaction, shuddering as he thought of the explosion to come. “Ok, Parrish. We’re coming.”

“Good, hurry, because I can’t make any promises about what I’ll do depending on what I find.”

“We’re on our way.” And Mr. Yates hung up.

Alfie looked at the hound. “Ready to hunt?”

“You damn bet I am.”

The two took off from the house at a run, with the hound’s nose leading the way, following a ripe scented path.

++++++

Stiles had closed his eyes at Parrish’s words. He already knew this, but some part of him had been in denial. When he’d touched his father’s mind he’d felt it, had known it, but he hadn’t wanted to believe it. Did not want to believe Talia could stoop so low. He would kill her for this. As sure as the sun had set, she would die for this, if nothing else.

“Stiles?” Peter’s gentle touch brought him back to the present. “Are you ok?”

“No, no I’m not, but I will be when that Alpha’s blood is running from my fingertips.”

The wolf’s eyes blazed red. “I’m sorry. I will take responsibility for your father when this is over. I will make sure he doesn’t suffer.”

Stiles felt the sincerity and anger in his mate. He turned and kissed Peter. He already knew this as well. “I’m not sure he’ll want to leave Beacon Hills, even now. Maybe especially now.”

“Ok.” He shook off his emotion. He’d deal with that later. Deal with the fact that his father had been turned against his will because of him. He couldn’t think about that now because then he’d flatten Beacon Hills and he still had people he cared about there. So no, think about this later. “Here’s how you all stay alive tonight.”

++++++

Dinner was a staid, stressful affair and everyone seemed relieved when dessert was finished and Talia invited a few into her study along with the Argents. It meant the rest of them could escape.

Laura made to move towards the kitchen, but the Alpha’s words stayed her hand. “Join us, why don’t you Laura? This impacts on you as well, right? Besides, I think Theo would be happy to help with the dishes.”

Laura’s hand, already reaching to clear a glass from the table shook slightly before she fiercely brought it back under control. Easy does it. Easy does it.

The little brat gulped audibly, darting a furtive glance at Laura as he responded to the head of the family, “Of course, Alpha. Gladly.”

Talia’s smile was brittle as she left the room. Laura following her, with Deaton, Duke, Andy and a couple others, along with Chris, Victoria and Gerard Argent at her back. It would be a tense, tight space for this meeting. But it was the one sound proof room, unless you knew how to listen and Peter had taught Cora how to listen when he’d once caught her snooping one summer, as young as she’d been then. Her sister in turn had taught her. It was how she’d managed to overhear as much as she did. She sometimes wondered what would have happened had she not been listening that fateful day. Would she have been better off in ignorance? Sometimes she thought she might’ve.

Then she would not have known that her mother was a murderer.

++++++

Kali crashed backward into the wall. Swiping the blood from her lips, she came up swinging at the half-shifted being before her. “I wasn’t the one who hurt the boy.”

She hurt all over. Damn Duke!

“Really, little girl?” Parrish asked. “You say that like you think I’m your priest. This is not a confessional and I’m not here to forgive any perceived sins. I am justice. Where’s the Sheriff?”

“I swear I don’t know where Talia has him. I just know he’s somewhere near the house. That’s all I know.”

“And why don’t I believe you?”

“I don’t give a fuck what you believe,” she snarled. “I’m telling the truth. I was put here to watch them, that’s all.”

Parrish bared his teeth. “If that’s all, why is it I can smell you on him?”

Kali went pale. She knew she was fucked. She’d got in a few hits in frustration after Duke left. I mean, after all the man wouldn’t care, especially if she got either one to crack. She hadn’t, but she’d be damned if she’d make it easy for this supposed deputy. She wondered how they’d missed it so badly. How had they not known he was something else?

Belligerence, her greatest friend, came to her aide. “I’m not going down like a punk, so come on, whatever the fuck you are. Give me your best shot,” she foolishly jeered.

Parrish almost crowed as the offer sent his blood singing and he rushed the cocky wolf. Minutes later she was no longer an issue. Just as he was about to break the wolf’s neck, Alfie laid a hand to him. “I’ll take care of this. You go help your boy. And bring Hank over here,” he said, as his canines dropped and he buried his fangs in the wolf and begun to feed.

It shocked Parrish right back to human form.

“What?” the vamp looked up, blood dripping from his mouth. “I haven’t fed in almost two days.” And returned to his meal, counselling himself to leave some for his friend.

Parrish shook his head and rushed to free the two, still unconscious and strapped to the chairs. He picked up Hank and took him over to Alfie and left the vamp to coax his cousin into feeding to replenish his energy. He knelt by the unconscious Danny, cradling his head in his lap and brushing strands of bloody hair from his face.

As he continued to brush his cheeks, Danny’s eyes fluttered, until they finally opened to slits. Parrish smiled down at him. “Didn’t we have a conversation about you staying put and in one piece?” he joked, soberly.

Danny coughed, a pained sound in the cold dungeon. “Sorry. They didn’t leave me much choice.” He tried to smile, flashing the deputy those dimples that had been the first thing he’d noticed on the dark-skinned man.

“We’ll have to work on your obedience.”

Danny snuffed what sounded like a snort. “Promise?”

Parrish smiled. “Yeah, promise.”

++++++

Erica stumbled for the second time. Jesus, she was never doing that again. “We are never doing that again!”

“I said I was sorry. Still getting used to a few things,” Stiles whined with an eye roll.

Erica’s stomach rolled, as she tramped along behind the troop.

One moment they had been standing in the living room of their den, the next they were under the shade of trees in the middle of Beacon Hills’ forest. Chase, Ethan, Boyd, and Dylan had already been dispatched to meet up with Parrish and the vampires.

The teleportation had been exciting for all of a minute, until her stomach had rebelled and she’d gotten nauseous. “Never again.”

“Last time I give you a ride,” Stiles snarked, his senses spreading far and wide keeping a tracker on everyone, as they made their way to the Hale mansion. It was with those senses that he picked up the tiny presence as he shot a glance at Erica. He didn’t know how he’d missed it. How they’d all missed it, and realised the perhaps none of them knew yet.

He sent up a quick prayer, promising that he’d try even harder to protect his new family, and his family’s new addition. He’d break it to them later, when they had more time. But now, it was past time to reclaim his father.

++++++

Laura listened with half an ear as Chris painted their careful story, watching her mother closely like she’d never seen her before. She watched every nuance of her expression, looking for any sign that she was a danger to Chris or his wife. Laura knew she would put herself between the hunter and the Alpha if it came to that, but so far it all had been calm, or relatively so.

“And you thought to bring this to my daughter, rather than directly to me?”

“Well, with all due respect, Talia, I had been trying to reach you before and couldn’t. I was thinking of coming up to the house myself but then I reached out to Laura and connected with her. She was heading into town, which saved me a drive, and as the next in line to take your place, I saw no harm in raising it with her so she could tell me whether it was worth raising or not.

“And honestly, I would think this increased activity was more a cause for concern than the protocols of whom I told and when, understanding that my first priority is to keep this county safe, every bit as much as yours is. It’s in all our best interest to keep the territory stable.”

“Have I ever given you reason to think that it isn’t?”

“No, of course not.” And when the Alpha’s eyes briefly flashed and her brows went up, he knew he’d slipped. He’d been damned careful to keep his heartbeat steady, but just then Kate had shifted at his back, throwing off his focus by just a fraction of a fraction. He hated having his sister and father at his back. He didn’t trust either one.

“Look, Talia. This is all quite pointless, really,” Gerard chimed in at the most inopportune time and the Alpha clearly pulled back from baring her teeth at the slight.

“I would deign to remind you whose house this is, Gerard. I control things here. Don’t you forget that. I make the decisions for this territory – not my daughter; not your son, and certainly not you.”

Gerard smirked a nasty expression. “Is that so? Maybe you’re forgetting how that power came to be.”

The Alpha was out of her chair in a flash, snarling at the audacity. “Everyone out!” They scampered like mice in a downpour. “Not you, Gerard. You stay. You wanted an audience with me, here’s your chance.”

Laura gladly vacated her chair and was one of the first out the door, distaste bubbling in her chest. Yes, let them kill each other and save them all the trouble.

It surprised her how badly she wanted her mother dead. She’d never felt it more passionately than at this moment. Well, maybe she’d felt it once before. When she’d overheard Gerard in one of his early visits to the Hale home, demand the bite to cure his cancer. Heard him threaten her mother to reveal how her parents had really died on that fateful night to the High Council. Heard him remind her that the Council’s investigation had been inconclusive. And threatening to reveal just how Talia had stolen the Alpha-ship before her time.

How she’d murdered her own parents to get it – and how he’d helped her do it.

Chapter Text

“You are testing me, Gerard, and in front of my pack. You’re lucky you’ve still got a head on your body right now,” Talia was seething. She knew it was for several reasons. For one, she couldn’t kill him until she’d assessed the risks and there were still too many unknowns. For another, it would be near impossible to get rid of Gerard’s body with there being as many witnesses as there had been at dinner and that was her misjudgment. And finally, she couldn’t risk alienating Chris any more than he already was and his scent during dinner told her that her long-time ally was wavering for some reason. She didn’t want to have to eliminate the entire Argent family in Beacon Hills – it would raise too many questions in France, for starters.

Add to all this the fact that she could feel Kali’s panic down the pack bond, and knew something had gone horribly wrong. She suddenly felt like everything was so out of control. She wasn’t sure how it’d all come to this.

Talia blew out a quiet breath, trying to calm herself. There were no cameras in the dungeons for a reason. She really hoped Duke had gone to investigate because she couldn’t pause this game now to give instructions. She couldn’t afford to appear weak. Not now - and especially not in front of this man.

She’d wanted to show this blackmailer power. Instead she’d accumulated a family of witnesses and not all of them were in line with the “family” way of thinking. Not all were in the know and she had to manage that carefully. There was murmuring in the camp, she knew that much. She just had to stamp it out now or at least keep it to a minimum until she could deal with it.

Gerard dropped into a nearby chair, smelling smug and self-satisfied. “You know what I want, Talia, and you’ve been stalling.” He abruptly leaned forward, overcome with a hacking cough. He took a deep gasping breath and forced the words out. “I want what we agreed to . . . or there will be hell to pay.” He heaved deep once again. “What will your precious . . . (*cough*) . . . pack think of you . . . (*deep breath*) . . . when they find out how you became Alpha?” He took another breath and seemed to settle his airways. Calmly he continued. “What will they think when they find out what you did to your own parents? Your blood. Your pack that you preach so much about,” he said derisively.

“I HAD NO CHOICE!!!” she yelled, wishing with all her might that he’d choke on his own spittle. “You know I had no choice. How dare you throw that in my face!?”

“Oh please, spare me the crocodile tears. You could have found a way to dissuade them from their course of action if you wanted to. The key being, if.”

“They would have started a war and the pack was too weak for it. Hell, most of the pack was either too young or too old to take on the hunter community. It was best to form a truce after the deaths of the Bryce pack. If the Bryces had handed over the boy none of it would have got as far as it did, but they chose to fight the Calaveras, which brought other hunters into our town. We could not have fought and won. This town would have been swimming in blood and you know it. We weren’t as strong then.” Talia turned a conflicted face to the window, looking on with a detached sense of sorrow at her forest beyond; at the traitorous ground that had cost her parents their lives.

The Bryce pack had lived at the edge of Beacon Hills and Beacon County. They didn’t quite have the prestige that the Hales did, and when one of the young adults had lost control and inadvertently killed a human, the Calaveras, one of the older hunter packs, had come to carry out ‘justice’, though noone believed for a second that they gave a shit about the dead kid. They were murderers, savages always ready for the hunt. The Bryces refused to hand over the youth and had asked the Hales to intervene on their behalf. Talia’s parents, always ones for real justice for the supernatural community, had sided with the Bryces, promising to get the Council to take a look at the case and rule instead of the hunters. The Calaveras had called in the Argents, despite the fact that they hated each other, and before anyone knew it, the two counties were almost at a stand-off with the hunters demanding the young man. When the Bryces had turned up dead, a whole pack eliminated, the Hales had rebelled and Talia’s parents, who led the pack at the time, were preparing to go to war at the injustice of the brutal murders. By the time the Council got to town, the Bryces were dead, so was the Alpha and husband from the Hale pack, and the Calaveras, who allegedly perpetrated the entire crime, had been butchered. Bodies left as evidence.

The Argents had provided “proof” of the Calaveras’ culpability and the new Alpha of the Hale pack was declared innocent, although the Council had been suspicious at the circumstances that led the couple to be struck down, alone in the woods, on Hale territory.

“We all would have been casualties of a war that was not ours,” Talia whispered as the memories assaulted her. She recalled that Peter had returned from New York then, to help stabilise the family and support his sister in her new position. Within a year he’d settled happily and soon married.

“Right,” Gerard sneered, “because unlike your kind parents you never subscribed to the Musketeer motto of One for All and All for One, am I right? It was all for the Hales and no one else; at least to your way of thinking.”

“You don’t get to sit there and judge me. I did what I had to for the survival of this pack. I’ve always done what I’ve done for the survival of this pack,” she swung to face him, angry at having to defend her actions; actions that to this day still caused her pain and guilt. Jesus, if Peter ever found out she was dead where she stood. She would guard her secret to her grave. It was only by chance that Duke even knew, and well, Deaton had been there at her side cleaning up the mess that day had created. He’d been her alibi.

“Prove it. Fulfill your part of the bargain, Talia,” Gerard dared.

“Not while we are in the midst of a full moon, Gerard. After this moon passes we can make the necessary arrangements, not before. I will not risk destabilising my pack by having an uncontrolled new wolf running around without proper care. In a week’s time we will make arrangements,” she turned to look the man in the face.

At the thought, she felt Kali’s lifeline drop from the pack and grasped her desk, shoving the pain to the back of her mind, attempting to shield her pack mates. She felt the pain rip along the bond and drew it toward herself, stiffening her spine. She felt Deaton join her efforts along the pack bond, blocking as much of the disruption as he could. She could not afford to be distracted now and she could not afford for the rest of the pack to panic. Not in the presence of this man.

Gerard stared at her long and hard. “You planning to double cross me, Hale?” It was asked in a deceptively soft, almost inaudible voice. Deceptive if one did not know Gerard Argent.

She straightened. “Don’t be paranoid. I already instructed Alan to make the preparations. He will give you the details as they are finalised.”

The gaze this time was hard, and only interrupted by a ping - Gerard’s phone. He glanced at the screen and something flickered across his face. That smug satisfaction was back but this time tinged with something much darker in nature. He rose from his seat with what looked like new invigorated purpose. “Well, as long as you say things are in motion, I will await your call with bated breath. Now, I think we’ve all had as much of each other as we can for one night. Thank you for dinner, Talia and I will be seeing you soon.”

Talia didn’t like the smile that followed those words. Didn’t like it at all. She needed to know who’d texted Gerard and what it was about. As the door closed behind the sickly, old, pain-in-the-ass, she kicked her chair across the room, watching as it smashed into the wall and overturned.

Deaton came in quietly and closed the door. Even with his usual implacable expression, he smelled worried.

“What’s happening out there?”

“Kali’s dead. Deucalion’s taken a few of the others to investigate, but it seems that our ‘hostages’ are gone. They’re going to try to see if they can trace a scent. Whoever conducted the rescue might also have taken out Duke’s wolves.”

The Alpha jerked physically at the revelation. That was impossible! “What?!” she snarled. She started to pace, mind turning over a mile a minute. “I don’t like the timing. Kali went into distress moments before Gerard got a text, something that was pleasing to him. We need answers Alan. That’s too much of a coincidence.”

“But what would he want with the boy and the vampire?”

“The same thing we fucking do . . . information. We need to find them and now. I think we need to call the others.”

“Talia, let’s not jump to conclusions. At least wait until Duke reports in and then we’ll know something more.”

Now! Something doesn’t feel right about this. Bring the others up to the house. They’ve been avoiding getting their hands dirty and simply passing judgement. That ends now.” Seeming to pause for a second, she looked at him speculatively. “Did the Nemeton give any indication that something was coming?”

Deaton gave her a blank look. “I told you after the deaths of your parents that the Nemeton was not reacting as it should. It has guarded the territory but only as it saw fit.”

“And it doesn’t see fit to warn us now that we’re being picked off by Gerard one by one? What, does it think Gerard would make a better keeper of this territory? A better Alpha? He’d raze this place to the ground in a heartbeat, not to mention what he’d do to the Nemeton itself.”

“I’m just giving you the facts. If the Nemeton didn’t warn us, it had its reason. I’ll get the others.” The Emissary executed a short bow and left to do her bidding.

“I want Gerard tailed, from this point moving forward. I want to know his every move.”

Talia fumed. Trouble had been coming to Beacon Hills for a while and it seemed it had finally arrived.

++++++

Gerard sat in the back of the vehicle, virtually whispering into the phone. Chris and Victoria would have to strain to hear what was being said by him or whomever was on the other end, but Chris was sure he heard the question, “Where?”

Whatever the person on the other end reported sent Gerard hmmm-ing down the line, and his body tensed in response. “Keep me informed of any further developments and send someone to pick me up.” He hung up and met his son’s eyes in the rearview.

No words were spoken. Frankly, Chris was afraid to ask and wasn’t sure he wanted to know. In fact, he’d be content to go home, pack his family’s bags and get the hell out of Dodge if it wasn’t for Laura and Cora. His conscience would not allow him to leave them behind. So what he had to do right now was come up with a plan. He just hoped to God that Peter kept his word.

He returned his eyes to the road ahead and continued home. When they got there, Gerard exited and proceeded back down the drive towards the road. “Gerard?”

The Argent patriarch’s eyes were hooded. “I’ve got some business to attend to. Don’t worry if I’m not back tonight.” A non-descript black van pulled up at the curb, the back door slid open and he climbed in.

Chris stood still until the tail-lights disappeared from view.

++++++

Stiles looked over at his mate when he remarked, “They’re home, safely.” Stiles nodded, thinking for a while.

“Ok, a little change in plans,” he addressed everyone, coming to a standstill and causing the others to pause as well.

“What change,” Peter asked looking concerned.

“I think we should send Erica and Lydia with Chris and his family. We already know Boyd and Ethan will head back to us once Danny, Alfie and Hank are safe. Now that Chris is home, and without the bothersome father-in-law, I think we need to put them somewhere safe.” He looked to Peter silently for the ok.

“Stiles, if you think Chris is going to sit at home and wait while all this goes down, then you’re sadly mistaken,” Lydia spoke up. “And his wife and daughter are every bit as stubborn as he is.”

“Which is why I’m going to ask you to go with them and sit on him. Make sure he understands that noone is safe until this is over, and the best place for him to be is protecting his family.”

“Sit on Chris? Are you serious Stiles?!” Lydia’s lips pinched into a straight line showing her displeasure. “If you think for one second that I’m leaving your side . . .”

“And why am I suddenly being put on human-sitting duty?” Erica, never one to hold her tongue butted in frankly.

Stiles bowed his head. He’d only thought of it moments ago and wish he’d had time to converse with Peter about it before he took the decision. He didn’t want to do it this way. “Because the Argents aren’t the only ones I need out of harm’s way right now.” Stiles raised his head and looked his blond friend dead in the eyes. He walked up to Erica and laid a calm hand against her stomach, startling her. “I need you both safe, and Boyd would lose his mind if anything befell either of you tonight.”

Erica gasped, her hand dropping immediately to cover Stiles’ as she tuned in for the very first time to the signal the Breton was sending down the pack line. “I’m. . .” she couldn’t even finish the thought as tears sprang to her eyes.

“Yes, love. And now I’m going to ask you not to fight me on this, ok?”

Erica cast a glance at her Alpha, seeking she didn’t know what – if permission, acceptance, what, but Peter smiled gently, like he hadn’t in a long while and nodded.

Maria, surprising everyone was the first to move to hug the expectant mother. “You’ve got more than yourself to worry about now, chica,” the often too stoic and closed off werewolf told Erica.

Maria’s mind replayed her own losses so many years ago. This, this was yet another rebirth for her new family and it only set a fire in her belly to fight, to give whatever she had to make sure they would all make it out of this alive to see this new little one into a safe, settled and happy pack.

Stiles turned and touched Lydia’s forehead, transferring knowledge that she previously did not have. She suddenly knew the way to the Argents’ home. “I’m not going to risk transporting you the way I did before, though heavens knows it’d be simpler. But get going. I’ll make sure you’re safe there,” he said, brushing a hand down her arm. He suddenly wished he knew more – like if transporting Erica and Lydia would harm the baby in any way or if he could just send them if he wasn’t with them and have them arrive where he needed them. Too many questions and no time to muddle it over.

“Wait, what about the father, grandfather, whatever the fuck he is. The old man?”

“At the moment he’s not your problem and he won’t be tonight. The Nemeton will safeguard your way. Parrish will meet you there.”

Lydia nodded to the others, shared a long look with Maria before turning away and taking Erica’s elbow. They set off in another direction.

“Should we really be splitting the pack like this, Prince?” Eric asked. It was a question they were all thinking but his appointed guardian just had to ask. As a strategist, just like Stiles’ grandfather, he was worried that Stiles’ attention and promise to keep everyone safe would lead his attention to being too scattered in the battle to come. There were already too many pieces on the chessboard and with every move the pieces were being split into smaller and smaller units. It was a good war strategy if each segment had a separate attack mission, but so far all they had were rescue missions. It was simply not solid war craft.

Stiles smiled at the shapeshifter as they moved off towards the mansion once more. He knew what the man was thinking; had been following his train of thought since his grandfather, as the next trained soldier, had left on the last rescue mission. He knew sooner or later the soldier would ask the question and wasn’t offended by it in the least. “It may not be solid war craft, but it is my war craft, Eric,” he patted the man’s shoulder. “Just go with it for now. I promise I know what I’m doing.”

Stiles hoped that was true.

As they trudged on, Peter’s hand brushed his own, sending a small frisson of warmth up his limb. “You gonna tell me what you’re thinking about so hard, other than what’s coming?” Peter whispered, conscious that it was unlikely the others wouldn’t overhear.

Stiles paused, senses straining at what he was picking up – the information the Nemeton was sending to him. “It involves Derek. It may not be good news.” He heard and felt Peter’s heart accelerate and wished he could reassure his mate.

++++++

Gerard glanced up at the werewolf hanging by his wrists, sans shirt, with a dribble of blood down his chin and across his chest. “Tell me you didn’t kill him?” he said drolly.

“No sir. He’s still got a heartbeat, just unconscious, but he tried to fight us; gave Brooks quite a clawing.”

“I told those idiots to let me handle it, but no. Jackasses,” Kate spat, looking at her drugged, beaten and tied up lover with disdain.

“Well what’s done now is done.” The family patriarch turned to his daughter. “Good job, by the way. I know this past year hasn’t been easy for you, but you did admirably.”

Kate preened under her father’s praise. This was all she’d ever wanted - to prove she could cut it with the best of them, better than the best of them. She wanted her own respect in the family and this would be her crowning moment. They would bring the Alpha begging to her knees and she would rue the day she’d treated the Argents like they were second rate trash. They were one of the most respected of hunter families and it was time to remind these high-and-mighty Hales of that fact.

++++++

Duke lashed out, up-ending the nearby table. He was furious.

“I think vamps drained her,” one idiot said, infuriating him even more. Duke reached out and grabbed the offender by the neck, dragging him close, eyes glowing blue.

“Was that an attempt at levity, boy? Does this look like the time for stating the obvious, for quips?”

The scared soldier tried unsuccessfully to gulp around the large hand squeezing his windpipe. The threat to his air passage resulted in his sudden sprouting of claws clutching at Duke’s hand. Duke tossed the soldier aside, startling the others into jumping back as the were crashed into the wall.

Just then another wave rushed down the pack bond. What the fuck was happening? This time he clearly identified it as Derek, and what he felt there had him hurrying back to the entrance of the dungeon. Glancing back over his shoulder, he glared at the five soldiers there. “Victor, find them,” he called to his number 2. “Find them now!”

Victor, a heavily muscled wolf with a similar penchant for violence nodded briskly, signaling the others to move out.

It was time to hunt, and heaven help anything that got in their way. Tonight was not a night for innocents to be out.

++++++

“Congratulations,” Lydia said quietly, hands still linked in Erica’s elbow. For some reason, despite being more mortal than the werewolf whom she acknowledged she liked quite a bit, she felt suddenly very protective of the expectant mother and her barely formed babe.

“I’m still a bit in shock, but thanks. I didn’t even know. How could I not know?” True to her word, Erica looked a bit shell-shocked.

“Do you wish Stiles hadn’t said anything? Until like, after?”

“I don’t know. I really don’t know. I mean, I’m glad that I know I’m gonna have a . . . a cub, our cub,” her voice went soft. “But it makes me feel so, I don’t know, so fragile now that I have more than just the pack to worry about, you know? And Boyd, he’s going to be hell to deal with. Already he never wants me getting hurt, now he’ll be manic about the baby getting injured and,” she threw up a hand to gesture their surroundings, “we aren’t exactly here on holiday, you know what I mean?” she sighed, a little wistful, a little exasperated.

“Look at it this way. We’re all going to make sure that this cub is extremely well taken care of. No doubt about that. The pack, now more than ever, has a lot to look forward to and if we can save the Hale pack and get rid of those who need to be taken out, we will also strengthen the supernatural community significantly.”

Erica snorted. “Ok Madam World Peace. You know you sound like you’re a part of our pack, don’t you? Will you stay or go back once this is over?”

Lydia continued, eyes firmly ahead as she mulled over the question. She couldn’t say it came as a surprise. Before they’d embarked on this mission to rescue Stiles’ dad and save the BH pack, she had already been thinking about transferring her alliances. But if this mission succeeded . . . no when this mission succeeded, would she still need to switch sides? She now wasn’t certain, and her brow wrinkled a bit in thought before she inhaled. “I don’t know. Let’s just get out of this alive first, huh?”

The two hurried toward the road to the Argents’ in silence.

++++++

“My mother will rip your throats out,” Derek gasped, trying to ignore the searing pain in his side. All his wriggling and snarling had done was irritate his captors who had stuck an electrified prong in his side for his efforts. The pain had been almost as excruciating as the cold look in Kate’s eyes and the realisation that his sister had been right all along. Hell, everyone had been right. He’d all but given up his family, and for what? For a woman who didn’t even resemble the woman he’d lain with that very morning.

“Be quiet boy, if you know what’s good for you.” Gerard said, face a picture of satisfaction. “Your mother will give us whatever we ask for to get you back. She thinks we don’t know she was planning to double cross us, like I’m that much of a fool.

“I may be sick, but I’ve never been a fool and would never trust a wolf further than I could stretch the roll of intestines I would yank out of its mangy corpse.” Gerard walked forward, scorn reflected in his eyes. “Like I would ever let my daughter prostitute herself like that without reason, with a wolf.”

“And yet, you want to be one of us.” Derek’s parry had the old man raising his eyebrows, turning to look at his daughter speculatively.

“I didn’t tell him anything. It’s not like it’s a secret anymore dad.”

“That’s where you’re mistaken, boy. I don’t want to become one of you. I intend to rule, all of you.”

Derek’s shock was a visible thing. They meant to kill the Alpha, kill his mother. He would never be Alpha, but then neither would Laura if Gerard’s plan worked. How could he have been so very wrong, about all of it? He’d colluded with this woman. Shared his bed and secrets with this woman . . . Gave up Stiles for this woman, and here she was, proving it had all been a lie, all been a ploy to get close to his family; to kill his mother.

He wondered if he’d pay for this with more than blood before it was all over.

++++++

A burst of panic, the second that night down the pack bond had Laura and Cora bursting into her office, without the customary knocks just a moment later. Casting an ear beyond her children, she could hear and feel the confusion amongst the pack. No one knew what was happening. This could just as quickly descend into chaos. This panic she could not as easily block on her own.

“It’s Derek, isn’t it?” Laura asked her mother, suddenly not as hesitant as before to approach her.

“Where did he go? Do you know?”

“He left with Kate about half hour ago. Said he was spending the night.”

“Dammit!” the Alpha swore softly beneath her breath. “Go check on the others. Calm them down while we find out what’s happening.” When both Laura and Cora hesitated, she put a little punch into her voice, “Now!

She watched a mask drop over Laura’s face. It was becoming too much of a custom as of late that she could hardly read her daughter unless she forced fear into her. She didn’t enjoy the tactic, but she needed loyalty now. Nothing else would do, and if, as she suspected, Kate was acting on behalf of her father, then a lot of hell was coming down the line.

The ringing of her landline brought her attention back to the room at hand. Before even picking up the receiver she already knew who would be on the line.

“Where’s my son?” She tried for calm, but knew she came off strained.

“Safe, for now.” The man did not even bother to deny it. “You can try to find him Talia, but I promise you will regret it. Until you give me what I want, he belongs to me.” Gerard looked across at the woman standing beside his daughter who smiled at him. The Druid had come to them like a God-send, offering her services, and her powers were impressive.

“You can’t be this foolish, Gerard. You would dare to challenge me like this?” the Alpha was proud at her own bounds of control.

“It’s not a challenge, Talia. Consider it merely an insurance policy; a withdrawal against the balance, if you will. And if your Emissary tries to free him I will serve the boy to you one piece at a time. And you know I don’t bluff.”

The Alpha roared at the threat. “I want to talk to him. I need to know he’s ok.”

“Don’t be silly. You’d know if he was dead, unlike the idiots you sent to follow me. Now those two, you can collect their bodies if you wish. I’ll text you the location. When you’ve delivered on your promise little lover boy here will be set free. You have my word. Call me when you’re ready to deal.”

Talia stood frozen at the dial tone.

Duke rushed in the door. Seems no one knows how to knock today, her mind supplied unhelpfully. “What do we know?” It was clear he’d been running. He was still half shifted. He took one look at her and lifted the receiver from her clenched fist back onto its cradle.

“Gerard.”

Duke barely restrained his ‘I told you so’. With the look in Talia’s eyes, it would only cost him his life.

“He’s planning to use him as bait until we deliver him his brand new werewolf status.”

“He’s trying to force your hand.”

“By taking my SON!” her speech was impaired by the dropping of her fangs. “I want to know who his allies are. I want eyes on the Argent house from this moment on. Two can play this game. I want to know who they’re in contact with and I need to know now. And once we’ve found Derek, I want them all dead. DEAD!!!” She glanced up with red eyes.

If Gerard thought he could hold her son’s life over her head and force her hand, then he clearly didn’t know whom he was dealing with. It was time to wake him up. “I want an example made of them. All of them, even the granddaughter!”

Finally, Duke thought as he exited the Hale mansion. Fucking finally!

++++++

Chris opened his door to find Deputy Parrish standing before him, with a bloody Danny Mahealani in his arms, and a number of unknowns at his back. One thing was for certain, at least two of them were werewolves. Before he could say a word, the black man spoke up – “Peter sent us.”

He swallowed thickly as he stepped back and opened his doors, calling to Vicky as he did. “Honey, bring the first aid kit!”

“First aid . . . Chris!” Victoria appeared at the top of the stairs eyes wide as she took in the fact that there were several blood-covered people in their living room. One look at her husband and she was hurrying into the bathroom off the main bedroom to retrieve the kit and several towels.

The black man introduced himself as Boyd, and the other man as Chase. Two were vampires, most curious – men named Hank and Alfie. Apparently they’d sent another two back to rejoin the rest of the pack after the rescue, he explained.

Rushing down the stairs Victoria waved off introductions, and all but shoved the deputy out of the way to get to the injured boy. She checked him over with quick sure hands, removing his shirt and taking in the cuts, bruises and possible broken ribs. “I’m going to need to clean him off so I can assess his damage. Soak one of these towels for me?” She turned to the young man at her knees. “Danny, this is going to hurt, but I need you to trust me, ok?”

Danny glanced up through dazed eyes at Victoria Argent before nodding. “I’m actually not in pain right now.”

She raise sharp eyebrows, startled, and concerned. She looked over at the deputy, worry etched on her face that Danny was actually beyond pain.

“The wolves drained him already. It helped ease his discomfort so we could get him here,” he explained.

Victoria nodded, relieved but still concerned. “We may need to take him to a hospital. He could have internal injuries and if he can’t feel the pain yet, he won’t be able to tell me to what degree he’s hurt.”

As Chase returned with a wet towel, a key turned in the door. Boyd stepped back, claws snicking out and ready.

Allison pushed open the door, took one look around at the scene before her and looked to her father, “What the hell is going on here?”

++++++

Erica was roused out of her daze by rustling somewhere to the east of their position. She laid a hand on Lydia’s shoulder indicating to the redhead that they should stop, as she listened and scented the air. “Werewolves,” she whispered, “and coming fast. We need to move.” She glanced down at Lydia’s cute but ridiculous shoes given their setting and took her by the arm. “Come on.”

They rushed behind a large tree that she would swear hadn’t been there before in their direct path. “We can’t stay here. We’ll be sitting ducks,” Lydia hissed. “I can’t let anything happen to you.”

“Nothing’s going to happen to us as long as you stay quiet,” Erica hissed back, dragging her behind the tree’s massive trunk.

Less than a minute later, four wolves burst through the brush, passing them in a blur of movement. Lydia held her breath, as Erica assumed a fighting stance, claws out, teeth elongated and face partially shifted. She seemed to glow in this new knowledge of what lay growing within her. Surprisingly the wolves simply rushed pass as if they couldn’t even see the two, hidden in plain sight.

When the surroundings returned to the stillness of earlier, Lydia eased out from behind the trunk, looking upward at the massive branches. “Wow. That’s some handy camouflage. Think this was Stiles’ doing?”

Erica snorted, “Or Stiles’ magic tree’s doing. . . Either way it saved our asses. Now let’s get them out of here before those fellas double back. They had our scent, that’s for damn sure. It won’t take them long to figure out it vanished into thin air and decide to retrace their steps.”

++++++

“It’s being handled,” Laura said, for what seemed like the 100th time.

“Is it, Laura? Is it really, or are you just telling us what she wants us to hear?” the mouthy teen in front of her struck up a belligerent pose, and Laura’s pulse spiked. “I say we go up to the house and find out what the hell is going on. There’ve been deaths tonight and we can still feel the echoes of someone else in trouble. My brother is out there with Deucalion and his crew, Laura. This isn’t right. Nothing’s right. Nothing’s been right for a long time.”

“Abby . . .” Laura tried again to console the scared girl. Abigail was more like Cora than anything. Their fear and uncertainty manifested in anger and aggression. Speaking of which, her sister simply stood there with raised eyebrows, folded arms and reeking of satisfaction at this unfortunate turn of events.

Several of the pack had returned to their respective homes which were spread out at intervals from the main mansion. The more curious and anxious stayed behind, not at all mollified by the words of calm from Laura in the face of what they knew were pack members in trouble.

At Laura’s stare, Cora shrugged, “They’re not idiots, Laur, and you’d have to be one not to ask questions anymore.”

Abby flapped hands as if to say, 'You see?!' “I say we go up there and demand answers. This pack is falling apart around us. Certainly the Alpha can’t expect us to just sit here quietly.”

“Yes she can,” a voice sounded from the dark, as the Alpha stepped into the light thrown from the porch light. No one had heard her approach and Laura briefly wondered how long she’d been hiding there, listening to words of dissent from her own pack.

Several of the remaining members stepped back, but Abby assumed a mulish posture. At the clear challenge the Alpha stared down the youth. Cora’s hands dropped to her sides as she moved closer to Abby. The girl was already dead if she didn’t sense the danger the Alpha was emitting and didn’t back down.

“What’s going on Alpha Hale? Who’s died? We have a right to know! My brother’s out there!” the teen shouted, stubborn tears rolling down her cheeks.

The Alpha, already challenged too many times today moved in a blur. Abby barely had a moment to register her a shocked gasp before Laura was also moving to cut off the attack. She slammed into her mother, shoving the Alpha back and assuming a fighting position.

God that hurt. Laura flexed her shoulder as it throbbed. Slamming into the Alpha was like running shoulder first into a semi, despite the fact that it sent her surprised mother skidding several metres back.

The Alpha roared.

“Please, mother. She’s just a kid. A scared kid. Please don’t do this. I can’t let you do this.”

“You dare to challenge me, Laura?” Talia’s eyes bled red and as Abby shook with shock, Cora unconsciously reached out a protective hand towards her as her eyes too turned gold. Heart beating steady but sure, Cora realised her claws were already extended as she shifted in front of Abby and to her sister’s back – her side chosen.

The Alpha visibly paused, a jerky movement as she exhaled through her nostrils heavily. Her eyebrows launched upward in silent question to her youngest. This would not do. This would not do, at all.

Not daring to look away from Laura, Talia was nevertheless aware that some of the pack had dropped their heads and bared their necks in submission to their Alpha, while others, too stunned by what was unfolding before them simply stared with bated breaths, mouths agape.

A hard lesson would be taught here this night, the Alpha thought as she lowered fanged jaws and rushed towards Laura with bared claws and teeth and with murder in her eyes.

Chapter Text

The rake of claws opened her shoulder and Laura howled even as she yelled in a pained voice at Cora who was about to enter the fray, “NO! Stay back!” Her left hand lay limp against her side, and she forced it to move as the searing pain brought a moment of nausea that could have driven her to her knees. Black spots dotted her vision, but she forced them back. She’d gladly give up her life if it meant stopping her mother from killing another innocent.

“Get them out of here,” she gasped to her sister, not taking her eyes off the murderous Alpha.

I’m not leaving you here!” Cora watched as Laura barely fended off another swipe. She was trying not to panic. She wanted to get involved but that would only distract Laura. She didn’t know what to do. Where could they run to that would be safe from the Alpha? There were too many of them and she wasn’t strong enough to protect them all against her mother. If Laura fell they were all doomed.

“Submit Laura. As my daughter I will sentence you to the dungeon, no more, no less, but I can’t let this stand.”

“And I can’t let you kill her.”

Talia snarled. “She challenged her Alpha; disrespected the pack. It’s treason, you know this.”

“She’s a kid. A scared kid who has no idea what’s going on other than that her only brother is out there somewhere, maybe hurt or worse. She's only asking for reassurance. She doesn’t deserve death.”

The Alpha growled, insulted at being told what to do. “Submit and I will consider sparing her and Cora for insubordination.”

Just as expected Laura’s heart skipped at the thought that her mother would turn vengeance on Cora for trying to back her up. What if she failed? Cora would suffer. She swayed.

The Alpha bared teeth. She knew this was Laura’s one Achilles heel and she was not above using it.

But Cora was having none of it. “Don’t you dare!” Cora’s voice was chilly as she glared daggers at their mother. “Don’t you listen to her, Laura! Don’t you dare give in. She’s bluffing you.”

“Am I? Really?” With the question, the Alpha rushed in once more, gaze fixed on her already bloody daughter. Laura dodged another swipe of the sharp claws, but she wasn’t as lucky when the Alpha simply swung, massive jaws wide and looking for purchase. They clamped on Laura’s collarbone. The Alpha locked her jaws a vice, and Laura bellowed her pain, as her blood filled her mother’s mouth.

++++++

Peter’s heart thumped. Goose pimples flew across his skin and his knees almost buckled at the chilling scream that rend the air.

That was family. That was kin. After more than a decade of not hearing her voice, he still knew it well. That was Laura, in agony.

They could barely see traces of light in the distance, less than a mile, he was sure. But were they already too late?

++++++

Allison shared out her father’s clothing like it was a Salvation Army distribution outpost. Hank bowed and thanked the girl, drifting off down the hallway in the direction that she’d indicated towards a much needed and hopefully scalding hot shower. His injuries weren’t all healed, but he was well on the way there. The she-wolf’s blood had helped, and Ethan’s draining his pain after had sped the process along.

Alfie hovered behind him as if still afraid he’d fall on his face before him. He shook his head, but considering how close he came to death, he wasn’t about to tell his cousin not to worry or to disregard his concerns. But he knew with what he’d seen of this Beacon Hills pack, he’d do all he was able to help Peter and his pack bring them down. In the interest of all supernatural packs nearby, they couldn’t stand by and do nothing. Alfie hovered all the way to the shower.

Allison turned to look at her mother as she secured another bandage with a clip. Danny hissed out a breath in pain, and Chase stooped to ease his discomfort again, as Boyd stood stoic and on guard near the front door. Victoria had been pulling the bandage tight with the help of the deputy, who still resembled someone who’d been dragged through a battle field and been dumped out on the other side. She wasn’t even sure how much of that blood was his. She wondered how the hell the bloody group had made it to their door without anyone calling the Sheriff on them, given the penchant for everyone to be in each other’s business in smallish towns.

She laid a set of clothes on the nearby coffee table and patted the Deputy on the shoulder, as the wolves looked on. Her hand itched yet again to grab her phone and call Scott, to make sure he was ok, alive, but she hesitated. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust him. It was that she knew after their talk he didn’t know whom to trust and he could end up spilling the truth to someone untrustworthy. That would never do, especially as her family was now smack dab in the centre of whatever the hell this was that was unfolding.

From all indications her grandfather had sparked off some kind of drama with the Alpha, and truthfully that did not surprise her much; that, nor the fact that her aunt was also in the middle of it. She’d once loved Kate, but over the years her jealousy of Allison’s dad had become too blatant. Her attempts to sway and prod Allison for information, a bit too obvious, and then the mess with Derek Hale. It just struck her as wrong, and she’d tried to explain it to Scott that it just felt wrong, but could never get her boyfriend to understand – which in itself was surprising given Scott’s “best friend” status with Stiles. After their talk yesterday though, she was convinced he now believed there was more to the Alpha’s focus on Stiles than anyone knew or suspected. Even so, she still didn’t know whose side Scott would choose in this, and that gave her pause even as it hurt. For now, she’d leave it alone.

When he’d come to her after his encounter with the Alpha about Stiles, she had a sick feeling in her stomach that all was not right with the Beacon Hills pack and when her grandfather showed up again so soon alarms went off in her head. It came as no surprise when her dad called and told her not to come home. But then earlier this evening Scott had freaked out when Kali had died, followed by near chaos in the pack bond. She could no longer pretend not to be worried about her own family. Allison just knew she had to come home. Had to see that her parents were safe with her own eyes. She didn’t trust Gerard or Kate any more than her father did.

“How safe are we here?” she posed the question to the werewolf, Boyd, who was clearly the one in charge of the supernaturals now littering her home.

“I’d feel a lot better if we could circle the house with mountain ash, but that’d mean we would also be trapped here if anything happened, and we have at least one more wolf on the way here. When she gets here, I need to go back to the others. Chase, Erica and Lydia will stay here.”

“Lydia’s in Beacon Hills?” Allison paused. Lydia hadn’t told her a thing, hadn’t even contacted her. She tried not to feel slighted by the omission, to convince herself that it wasn’t that her friend didn’t trust her.

Boyd looked a bit sheepish for a second before nodding. No doubt his trusty sniffer was picking up on her emotions.

“Is she . . . is she part of your pack now?”

“I can’t answer that question for you. Only she can.”

Chase, who’d gone to double check the house, came back into the room then, with a sharp nod to Boyd. “All secure, or as secure as it can be for now. We’ve still got too many places we can’t cover, with just the few of us, and we haven’t discussed what happens when the old man returns.”

“When ‘the old man returns’, we tie him to the nearest chair and get some information out of him. That’s what we do,” Chris spoke up, shocking the room into silence.

Boyd’s blank face watched him steadily. “Are you ready for what that could mean?” he asked the hunter. “If he’s as tough as all indications are that he is, he may not be coming back here alone, or be willing to give up what he knows without some . . . persuasion.”

“Dad, you can’t,” Allison protested. She didn’t like the man, but to have his own son take part in his torture? Her father already had enough stains on his soul. She wouldn’t allow this. “There has to be another way.”

Chase cocked an eye at the seemingly naïve teen. “And what would you suggest? Truth serum? Sorry, we’re fresh out.”

She bristled. “I don’t need your smart ass remarks. This is my family you’re talking about here!” Allison’s voice rose.

“Alli!” Chris closed his eyes with a sigh.

“No, dad. They don’t get to walk in here like they own the place and tell us what to do. Tell us we have to torture someone for information.” Her voice broke.

Victoria got up from her position beside Danny and walked to her daughter, wiping her hands in a clean damp towel as she did and finally clasping Allison’s face between two gentle palms. “Sweetheart, things are not as they were this morning. Right now it may be a choice between our own survival and your grandfather’s. Gerard, through his own inconsiderate actions, has put this entire family in danger and if it comes down to a choice between strapping him to a chair and torturing the shit out of him and the lives of the people I care about, I will volunteer for first crack at him. We can’t afford the blinders anymore sweetie, our very lives could depend on it.” She brushed a stray tear from her daughter’s eye with a steady thumb, noting absently that there was still a trace of Danny’s blood beneath the nail. She pulled Allison into her chest.

“I think it’s time to tell me the whole story. All of what’s going on,” Allison muttered into her mother’s bosom.

Chris came up behind them and wrapped his family in his arms. The wolves eased back as Parrish lifted Danny onto the towel-covered couch. When he’d ensured the sleeping boy was comfortable he turned to listen in to Chris’ explanation, before adding his own knowledge of just how dangerous Gerard Argent and his alliance with Talia Hale was to the balance of the supernatural community.

By the time the full story unfolded, or as much as they knew of the uneasy alliance, Allison was shaking, and her father pulled her into a full embrace until the shuddering ceased. “What do we do, dad?” she asked in a voice that thankfully was a bit steadier. She’d always been a strong girl, but even so he’d always tried to protect her and his wife.

Vicky was as much a warrior as he was. She wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and between the two of them they’d trained Allison well. It remained to be seen if they’d done enough to survive against the Hale wolves now. In the back of his mind he was sure of one thing – Vicky would have to get in line behind him if it came down to them versus Gerard, or anyone else for that matter, he would make sure of it.

++++++

“Have you found it yet?”

“I can feel it but something’s blocking me. I can also feel something else there. I’m not sure what,” the woman responded, eyes closed, face a harsh picture of concentration.

“Ok. Well, what do we do? How do we switch it to our side?”

“It’s not that simple,” the Druid told him. God she hated working with non-magic amateurs. “It’s not a store or a damn computer that you can just break in or hack into. You have to give it something it wants and coax it into accepting the gift and returning favour.”

“And what the hell does it want?” Frustration coloured Gerard’s voice.

“Usually blood, but mostly devotion, honesty. Before I got here I would have said the Alpha’s blood would have been enough . . . but there’s . . . there’s something different about it now. We’ve been trying to find this Nemeton for months now and we were close, I knew we were close. It’s one of the most powerful, maybe the most powerful one; but then something happened and it closed itself off, almost like it didn’t want to be found. It’s taken time to track the signature magically again and only time will tell if I’m able to get in.”

“In case you aren’t fully aware, we don’t have time to wait for it to accept us. We need to find its location and go make it listen. If you’re right about the Alpha not having control of it, then someone does and I doubt it’s that idiot Emissary of hers. He’d have discarded her if he had control long ago.”

“What about your contact on the Council? Someone that powerful could help. As I told you it’s about balance. You try to break the power of the Nemeton before it offers itself to you, it will eat you alive. You have to make it believe you are here in its own interest.” She had to convince it she was here as a servant. From the time she found out the primary beacon was here in the middle of Beacon Hills, she’d been salivating at the thought of being its mentor, of making contact, but the Nemeton continued to evade her, to spurn her offering.

Gerard and his group were simply a means to an end. Their mission here had upset the balance; that much she knew. Since he’d found out about the presence of the Nemeton, he’d been trying to find a way to control it – the idiot! As if it would ever let him near it. But Jennifer was able to use his ignorance to her advantage. He wanted its unbridled power, she wanted a direct line into the universe and she would simply feed them to it when she succeeded. Their deaths would go a ways towards returning the balance. She simply had to bide her time.

++++++

Duke stood in the shadows of the house across the street. He could hear murmurs from inside, raised voices at points, but not enough to discern the full extent of what was being discussed. The breeze down the street was warm, but brisk and even churning at times, and any hope of using his advanced hearing to his advantage was swept down the street like the very detritus caught up in the gales.

As he’d watched, he’d seen the Argent’s daughter arrive, throw open the door and the smell of blood reached him briefly. Yes, this was where his escaped captives were, but there was also the smell of werewolves on the wind, before the next breeze took the smell away from his nostrils and down the street. It was time to call for back-up. He did not know how many were in the house, but quite a few and he was nobody’s fool. He wasn’t afraid of spilling blood of a few wolves, but wolves and hunters together gave him pause. Work smart, he told himself. He pulled his cell from the back pocket and called in his crew which was already on the hunt with Victor, and sunk once more into the shadows to wait.

“Boss?” Victor responded in hushed tones. “We think we might have found a trail. Someone else is out here.”

“Forget that for now. I’ve located our quarry. Meet me across the street from the Argent place, now.” He hung up and waited. Whoever else was out in the woods they would deal with later.

As he thought it, he saw movement on his periphery. Surprised that Victor would be arriving so soon, he nevertheless made a move to signal them, before he rocked to a pause. He knew that strawberry blond hair. He knew it very well. He’d once tried to entice that particular blond, only to be shot down cold and with disdain. What gave him further pause was the equally attractive golden blond wolf with her. A wolf that smelled foreign. A wolf he was sure probably belonged to the one pack he’d like to eviscerate.

So, Lydia was working with the enemy, was she? She’d pay for that before he was done with her. But then, he came to another realisation. Did this mean Peter Hale was near? In the territory perhaps?

He slipped back into the dark, watching as the two women glanced cautiously all around, as if they were expecting to be accosted at some time. When no other wolves joined them from the bushes and he saw no further movement, he came slowly to the realisation that here might be the “someone else” Victor had spoken of a short while ago.

As they got closer to the Argents’ driveway, he saw the wolf’s head spring up, nostrils high in the air as she went on immediate alert. He was momentarily impressed. Boy, she was good. She swung immediately in his direction, eyes trying to pierce the dark where he was. He smiled, impressed again. He was going to enjoy ripping into that face.

As he prepared to spring from his location, he heard her frantically yell to her companion, “Lydia, run!”

++++++

Peter took off at a gallop, his heart pounding at the sounds of a fight and the smell of blood on the air. He barely paused to yell to Stiles, “Find your father. I have to save her,” before he was shifted and was gone from view through the trees.

Stiles startled when his grandmother laid a hand on his shoulder. They turned in unison, Eric taking up a protective position, as they heard galloping feet heading towards them. “It’s ok. It Grampy and Ethan,” Stiles whispered. Minutes later both came into view, and Ethan barely nodded in their direction before he rushed pass following Peter and Maria to the site of whatever battle lay ahead. His grandfather stopped, moved up to bracket Stiles on the other side. Stiles turned troubled eyes to Dylan, as a faint roar carried on through the otherwise still forest from somewhere ahead.

“Come on, son. Let’s find your father.”

A chill passed through Stiles and his skin pimpled with what he now identified as genuine fear. He was conflicted as to whether he should have let Peter out of his sight, but knowing he could not stop him rushing in to his niece’s aid. He wasn’t sure he could survive any harm befalling his mate. He turned to Eric with appealing eyes. “Go with them. Guard them as you would me.”

Eric spared a brief glance for Dylan before he simply bowed and obeyed, shifting into his chosen form of a centaur and racing after the Stanford pack.

With one last glance in that direction, heart still conflicted, Stiles swallowed thickly. “Hang on. I don’t want to lose either of you.” And with those words the three vanished.

++++++

Lydia’s body jerked into action and made perhaps three steps towards the Argents’ home before her brain caught up with the flight or fight adrenaline rush. She jerked again, this time to a stop as a dark blur shot out of the night, smashing into Erica before she could even brace for the impact. The young wolf skated across the pavement, before she grunted and sprang to her feet once more, eyes wide with surprise that she hadn’t even suffered a scratch.

She barely had time to take it in before four more wolves bounded out of the woods, just metres from the very path they had taken and rush to their boss’ side.

“Duke,” Lydia said with all the scorn she could muster. “Of course.”

“Lydia, I told you get out of here,” Erica grated through dropped fangs, moving up to cover her friend.

“Betrayal doesn’t look so good on you, Ms. Martin,” the man she called Duke responded, eyes barely flicking to Erica, discarding her as a genuine threat. “I’ll give you one last chance out of this path you’ve chosen.”

Lydia scoffed, “And what, become your whore? I’d rather have the flesh peeled from my bones while I watch.”

“That can be arranged,” Duke said before flashing blue eyes and hazardous looking teeth at Erica, and charged at her once more as the other wolves took off towards Lydia.

Erica had only backed up a few steps, when the sound of a crash reached her ears. The Argents’ front door smacked back on its hinges as the door flew open and Boyd came barreling out, angrier than Erica had ever seen him, with a beeline straight for the Duke. Chase was just metres behind him, with Chris brandishing a shot-gun bringing up the rear.

Lydia executed a perfect roundhouse, amazing given her very impractical footwear which connected with the jaw of the nearest wolf. The other two barely sprung out of the way in time to avoid their comrade falling into them with the momentum of the kick, while the fourth stood aloft, a look of confused uncertainty on his face. By the time she regained her balance, two of the wolves were already grabbing for her arms. The blast of the shotgun had the first one falling away with a howl of pain as the second tried to grab her into a headlock. And the third bigger one rushed towards Chase. The fourth, still did nothing. He simply dropped his arms to his sides and stepped back.

In a snap, Lydia had one of her heels in hand, an absent eye on Mr. Passive Wolf across the street, as she promptly smacked the wolf grabbing for her in the face with the heel. The man howled as blood sprayed, and just as quickly, he was hit in the chest with a buckshot, sending him flying into the street.

Chase meanwhile was slashing away at the huge wolf with impressive speed and agility. So fast was the fight that Chris could not get a clear shot for fear of hitting Chase by accident.

Porch lights came on and one by one doors up and down the street began to open and people began to move out to investigate the ruckus. Oh well, it was bound to happen sometime.

Lydia turned to nod her thanks to Chris, who only paused long enough to offload another shot into the wolf he’d first shot and the head of the second. Allison came steamrolling down the driveway, arrows at the ready and bow notched, with at least one of the vampires behind her. Hank had instructed Alfie to guard Mrs. Argent and Danny with his life. He knew there was nothing he could say to Parrish to keep the man back.

It happened so fast, it left them all stunned before kicking into action. One moment Boyd was battling with Duke, shielding Erica as much as he could; the next he was flying through the air and crashing to the ground with a resounding thud. Erica screamed before any of them could move, and launched herself at the wolf who’d seemingly just hurt her mate. Two seconds later she was flying in the same direction, as Duke shifted, his beta form larger than any of them had ever seen outside of an alpha.

There were screams from behind them as curious town folk who had spilled into the street scrambled back at the sign of a clear beast before them. It was clear all was not as it seemed and it sent some running as more gathered and gasps rose from those watching the spectacle unfold.

The big brute grinned, as Boyd brushed himself off and helped Erica to her feet, concern for her and his cub written clear across his face. As Erica moved to rejoin the fight, Boyd dragged on her arm, holding her back, fear replacing concern on his face.

Chase meanwhile lowered his head and rushed the large wolf, the surprise and force of the attack pushing the man back into the street as he took position near Duke, both ready to attack again, unconcerned that now the entire street would know all was not as it seemed in their small community. This was a no-no in the supernatural realm.

Lydia wasn’t sure if it was Boyd’s naked fear for his family, Chris’ obvious efforts to keep Allison back and out of harm’s way, or the lascivious grins on the faces of Duke and the man to his back, advancing with sure steps and clear mayhem in mind, but it broke something in her. She felt the rumble inside before she understood what was happening. The scream that burst forth was like nothing she’d ever done before. This was no forecast of death. This was a promise of it. This was pure rage, pure defense, and something she didn't even know she could do. She knew it emanated from deep within the bowels of herself, but the sheer force of it, the way it was channeled at their adversaries in a sustained vibration that should have emptied her of breath by now was nothing short of a miracle.

The wolves clamped hands against their ears before dropping them in shock. The scream didn’t hurt them. In front of her though, Duke’s mate at arms, Victor fell to his knees, hands clasped over his ears and writhing in pain, dragging his body and trying to escape the wave’s path. Blood trickled down the side of his face from his ears and the next breath had him coughing blood.

Duke bent almost in half from his waist, hands also covering ears as he tried to remain on his feet, taking halting steps towards the banshee. It felt like the vibrations, similar to the pulse of a bass speaker, were trying to pull the very flesh from his skin. He felt the first laceration tear open the flesh on his forearm and his cheekbone was laid bare, blood flaying away behind his right ear. He tried to straighten his posture and ended up tumbling backward, head over feet to sprawl in the middle of the road. The momentum of the soundwave toppled him out of the direct path of the scream, but as he proceeded to push himself painfully to his feet, a shot tore into his shoulder and another into his gut, causing him to stumble backward and fall again.

As Chris reloaded, Allison let loose an arrow into his right thigh. The pain was unbelievable and he was nothing but surprised that he could still feel pain amidst the sheer agony that engulfed him. It was then that he saw him, walking down the driveway with an expression that said he was there to finish it all. Deputy Parrish, in only a pants that was damp from his skin and still unfastened at the waist. Water across his shoulders and stomach and hair damp from the shower he’d apparently stumbled out of when the commotion started. His steps were unhurried, such was the magnitude of his rage, and even as he watched, the man’s skin began to smoke, the water evaporating into steam.

Parrish was in a haze. All his nostrils knew that in front of him was the man who’d laid hands on Danny. Before him, was the man that had caused the young man pain. This wolf had bruised his insides, fractured ribs, and caused him fear. Before Parrish, was a dead man walking.

Duke turned and gulped at the deadly promise that settled into his stomach like the lead that had already been delivered by Chris’ shotgun. He needed to make his retreat, but he was halted by two police cruisers with flashing lights screeching to a stop, a deputy exiting the first in a flash and drawing his weapon. The wolf, feeling cornered, simply pounced, ripping the man’s throat open before he could even yell “Freeze” and leaping, or rather fumbling, over the car with difficulty to beat a hasty retreat into the woods. Screams of witnesses rend the air.

The hound behind him bellowed his intent, as he saw his police colleague fall, and took chase, clothes melting off his massive shifting form into ash. Cops stood with wide eyes as the two “things” disappeared into the Beacon Hills woods.

Chris and Allison dropped their weapons on the ground, with reluctance, and raised their hands high as the second deputy, shaky gun drawn and pointed in their direction called in the emergency code. The woman looked at them with genuine fear as the air whistled out of her lungs in hurried pants and her mind spun. Her partner was dead, they all knew that. There was no aid they could offer and nothing to be done about it now.

The hound though was far from finished. The hound was on the hunt. It had a wolf to devour.

++++++

Stiles knelt next to the wolf, placing a hand on top of his head. With a brush of his hand down the wolf’s ruff and flanks, the chains holding him fell off and the wolf’s form slowly transformed into that of a human. The naked man raised a tired head to look at him, struggled to focus. When he did tears sprung to his eyes.

Stiles dragged his dad to him, oblivious to his lack of clothes and just clenched the man to him, sobbing into his neck as his dad also tried to clutch him close with weakened feeble hands, a sound close to that of an animalistic whimper punching out of his throat.

“Dad! Dad! I’m so sorry. So sorry it took me so long to find you.”

“Shhhh,” it was the only sound his dad made as he rocked Stiles from side to side, inhaling the scent of his son. He raised his head to look at his in-laws and attempted to smile, relieved, gratified. “Thank you,” he murmured, looking at the two elderly people. “Thank you.”

When Stiles’ tears tapered off he eased back from his father’s embrace, eyes flying wide as he realised his dad’s nudity. “Sorry,” he muttered, blushing and conjured a pair of sweatpants and a shirt that fit. “It’s all I could think of other than your uniform.” He shrugged, at his dad’s questioning look.

John looked down at himself tiredly, made a huffing sound and tried to stand. He stumbled into Stiles, as Dylan and Enid reached out to steady him.

“You’re going to be ok, John,” Enid promised softly as she fought her own outrage and sorrow at the condition of the man in so short a time.

Stiles meanwhile was just happy to have his dad back. He smiled at his dad’s efforts to right himself. “Easy there old man, I just . . .” whatever it was that Stiles had been about to say was immediately cut off as he reared back as if he’d been shocked, mouth open in a silent scream. He doubled over in pain dropping to one knee, one palm flat against the ground.

He hadn't even realised. How could he not have realised his shields had faltered? He'd been distracted.

When he raised his head again his eyes had gone white and the walls trembled. His body sparked, out of control, and the room heated. “Peter!!!!” he screamed and disappeared into thin air.

Chapter Text

Peter stumbled, stunned. He ached. He looked over at Maria, at the blood running from her mouth. At her scratches and injuries, some healing slower than others as she battled against the older but more experienced man. Ethan was limping from his own injuries against the two people that had him cornered and Laura was all but out of commission, crumpled off to the side, breathing laboured, as Cora roguishly wiped an annoying drip of blood out of her eyes, prepared to fend off another attack aimed at her and her sister.

Once Peter had arrived she’d tossed herself into the fight, but they were nevertheless still outnumbered, and badly. Eric was still going strong though and he thanked God for the man’s expertise in battle. It’d already saved him from the Alpha twice, and right now was allowing him to regain his footing.

This was always a danger, running into the compound with so few of them. The plan had been to rescue John, then battle the Alpha. By then the rescue team should have returned to shore up their numbers. The fight they’d found in progress when they arrived, however, had smashed that plan out the back window.

What they didn’t bargain for was the arrival of Beacon Hills’ corrupt Council of Elders’, moments after Peter and Maria rushed in. Nor that Deaton would be with them. What could have been a fight of one Alpha and his two betas against Talia, turned into a fight against a Druid, an Alpha, and seven senior and stronger weres. Weres reinforced with strength through their alliance to the highest of supernatural orders, the High Council, which also served as the supernatural judicial authority.

At the appearance of the Council of Elders, those in the Beacon Hills pack who looked ready to join the battle on Laura and the newcomers’ side, stepped back. It was one thing to fight against injustice by one’s Alpha; it was quite another to tangle with the Elders who could probably destroy many of them with a few well-aimed strikes. Even so, it would be a sure death sentence. Peter swore but could not regret his choice to get involved, even if these people were too afraid to save themselves.

And at the moment, Peter’s pack were getting their asses handed to them by the Alpha and a bunch of ‘old people’. The thought was as brief as the glance at his pack and kin, but his slip in concentration cost him as a wave of something struck him. He felt the reverberations down to his bones and found himself catching for breath. He looked up into the dark eyes of the Beacon Hills Emissary and knew whatever magic it was the man had hit him with, it was dark and would be his end in a matter of minutes if nothing changed. He went cold, as he felt his lungs seize up and a tug at his very soul. His last thought, Stiles!

Peter wasn’t even aware when he hit the ground and his eyes slid close, nor of the screams of his pack at the weakening bond; but the ground began to shake beneath the unconscious wolf and out of the nether came a thick swirling fog and lightning. One moment Deaton was standing over the wolf looking triumphant. He had brought down Peter Hale. The next he’d been thrown at least six feet into the air, landing with a jarring thud. He groaned, and felt sure that his shoulder had been dislocated, if not broken, at the fall. He lay winded, struggling to find his breath to get back onto his feet.

That’s when Stiles Stilinski appeared in front of Peter.

Talia bared her teeth as the elders stumbled in wonder, taken aback by the sheer magnitude of the power pulsing before their eyes and under their feet. Talia turned from Eric and made to rush at the boy, but found her feet glued to their position and could only watch as the boy knelt by her brother, pressing a glowing palm to his chest.

“I told you, you’re not allowed to leave me. Come back to me.” The air swelled, thick enough to make breathing difficult. The ground throbbed like a living thing and Peter’s body jerked and shuddered before he drew a deep breath. His eyes popped open at the same time that his hands came up to clasp the one still resting on his chest.

Stiles’ eyes focussed briefly, a torn look in their depths. “I’m sorry. I got distracted with dad,” Stiles apologised softly. He leaned over and pressed a soft, chaste kiss against his mate’s lips and heard collective gasps from the elders. “No! It can’t be!”

Stiles pressed a gentle hand against his Alpha’s cheek and rose to face the Beacon Hills traitors. He could hear the throbbing of the Nemeton in the back of his skull like a heartbeat. He could hear its call for justice, for vengeance, for balance.

He could also hear its cry for help, and felt the tickle of black power that was trying to break in, to poison what it was, to take what it would not freely give, and at this latter, his ire was unmatched. He spread his mind, reaching a hand out into nothing, and when he drew it back, a dark haired woman felt to the ground just metres in front of him. Gasps came from the Beacon Hills pack members as well as the elders at the show of power.

The woman glanced around furtively. The eyes that had moments before been glowing, went back to their natural blue and opened wide, her mouth agape, to find herself in another place than where she’d been a minute ago – and not of her doing. But Stiles gave her no chance to utter a syllable or lift a finger in her own defense. He tilted a head at her, his eyes swirling as white as sea foam.

“The Nemeton says No.” And he blinked her into non-existence.

++++++

Duke yanked the arrow out of his leg, but the throbbing pain told him there had been wolfsbane in both arrow and bullets. Of course, they were hunters after all. He forced his limbs to respond and pressed himself into moving again, as his ears picked up the rush of feet behind him. The hound was still coming.

For some reason it felt like he was being toyed with and that scared him as much as it raised his anger. Who the fuck did the deputy think he was toying with? He was sure the man/hound should have caught him by now.

From the time he saw the water evaporate from the man’s skin as his eyes turned to fire and his skin start to split open, he’d known what kind of beast he was facing. A damn hell hound in Beacon Hills. And none of them had known? Now he was about to face off against the creature. He’d have to be smart; to fight smart if he hoped to have a chance.

He pushed himself to move faster. He could almost feel the heat of the beast at his back and dared not look back. Such a mistake would cost him. He dashed around a tree ahead and found himself in an area of the woods he didn’t know. That brought him up for a second, confused. This shouldn’t be here! The split second of indecision had the hound on him and he crashed to the ground as he tried to spin to unseat the beast from his back.

Parrish allowed himself to be tossed off, but he shook his head, regained his footing and circled his prey. This place, he knew, shouldn’t exist in the middle of this wood, and he knew whom he had to thank, once again. But in this moment he was nothing but vengeance. He could barely think for the swirling bloodlust in his head. He’d never wanted to rip someone limb from limb like he did this wolf.

Duke snarled at the hound. Eyes glowing murderous blue. He would not go down without a fight, but he refused to attack, instead waiting to assess his opponent’s strategy, to determine his strengths and exploit any weaknesses. It was how he fought best – dirty.

Parrish ran at the wolf, a monstrous bulk of power behind the paw that struck at Deucalion. The blow connected, sending the shifted wolf crashing into a nearby tree. He righted himself almost immediately and waited on the next attack. Parrish didn’t wait, he charged again, smashing the wolf once more into the tree. The wolf stood again, but this time when the hound charged he was met with resistance, Duke pushing his weight off the tree, twisting in the air and raking his claws viciously down the shoulder of the hound.

Parrish grunted at the pain and skidded across the brush beneath him onto his side. He pressed onto earth beneath him, stopped his crash and bounced to his feet, brushing off the pain radiating from his shoulder and back. Clever wolf, but this was nothing new. Pain for a hell hound was second nature; it was home, and he grinned.

He heard the wolf’s heart accelerate at the gleeful show of his teeth as he licked his chops and sniffed the uncertainty and malice emanating from Duke. His grin sharpened. He was about to charge, when he felt a disturbance in air. The Prince. He could feel the Prince, and he was on the warpath.

The hound inhaled, and as he did, the ground seemed to rumble and he felt a surge of hot power rush through his veins. His form expanded and he saw the wolf’s eyes go wide. Time to finish this, his Prince needed him.

With a bit of sorrow that he was out of time, the hound pounced. The wolf suddenly beneath him stood not a chance as teeth closed on the junction of his shoulder and neck. The teeth that pierced the skin began to tear as the wolf screamed and howled and thrashed beneath it. The wolf scratched at him ineffectually, scratches healing as quickly as they were created. Parrish jerked his massive head back and tore the flesh caught between his jaws. Blood spouted, coating him as the thrashing lessened and the yelps died down to weak whimpers.

The blue that stared up into blazing orange started to fade, to go fuzzy at the edges. As it did, Parrish returned to his human form, watching the life leach out of the Beacon Hills’ second in command. He stooped next to the gasping wolf, meeting his watery eyes. “You should never have laid a hand on Danny Mahealani.”

He watched as the man’s throat continued convulse and pump blood out of the gaping wound. The blood slowed to a trickle as the eyes clouded over, went unfocussed and stayed that way. Parrish slowly returned to his hound form, licking the blood from his muzzle, before turning away to dash through the forest, following the direction of the beacon. The Prince was calling. He couldn’t not respond. The time for justice had arrived.

++++++

The Elders of Beacon Hills scrambled back, as if to get away from the danger before them, but like Talia, they found themselves stuck where they were, unable to shift, unable to run. The magical being before them was practically glowing, and behind him, the Stanford Alpha rose to full form, bigger than before, to stand at his mate’s side.

The Breton reached out a glowing hand to run it through his wolf’s coat, and Peter felt the bruises and cuts inflicted earlier by his sister knit back together. He licked his mate’s hand, red eyes returning to the people in his line of sight.

Stiles’ gaze turned to the Emissary. The one who had thought he could take his mate from him. The one who had lied to him from the very beginning. The only one whom he now allowed any modicum of movement. The man scrambled back with a groan of pain, fear evident on his face. He tried to turn, to scramble to his feet, to run, and found himself smacking into a solid wall of air. He had nowhere to run. Stiles paused in front of the man, and just looked at him.

“You, more than anyone could have had its trust. It was faithful to you, respected your power; respected your understanding of the balance and the need for it; respected your leadership and morals, but you allowed yourself to be corrupted by an Alpha that wanted power, more than almost anything.” At those uttered words, Peter roared, a pained cry that rooted birds from their nests, sent the animals of the preserve scurrying, sent chills through the bones of all that heard it. He could see clear as day what his mate was referencing as their minds met, melded together. The grief was near a physical pain in his core.

In that moment he mourned the loss of his parents, he mourned that his nieces had had to live with the pain of that knowledge; he mourned that he had not asked more questions when he’d returned all those years ago – had in fact help confront the High Council and what he’d thought were baseless suspicions. He mourned that he’d allowed his own need for vengeance to lure him away, to accept his lot in exile. And most, he mourned that he’d once been the Left Hand of someone so reprehensible.

But he would not take her life while she was bound like this. She would pay in blood.

Stiles sent comfort down the pack bond to his mate. He touched a finger to the Emissary’s forehead. “You have been found unworthy of the power you crave and the power you hold.” Deaton felt his power bleeding out of him into the earth, like he’d been stuck with a sharp knife and left to die. He struggled but there was no help for it. The Breton with the pale skin and chalk-white eyes kept a finger to his forehead until all he was was depleted. Everything but his life, gone in the touch of a finger.

The Nemeton accepted the gift, and Stiles felt its thanks in a warm brush against his core. “What becomes of you is left to the High Council and this Beacon Hills pack.”

With that the Breton turned to face the Elders.

His eyes slid over them one by one, laying all their secrets bare. Laying their corrupt natures bare. Laying their collusion in the deaths of the rightful leaders of the pack bare. By then, the entire Beacon Hills pack was in the clearing, standing between the homes they’d shared as family. Some with anger on their faces, others with guilt, more with surprise and pain.

“You have no right to judge us! Who do you think you are?” Daphne Krall spoke up in anger and defiance.

“I am your end.” With that he also stripped them of their power. The loss of power meant the loss of what had been keeping most of them alive and healthy for so long. Skin began to wither, flesh shrunk and wrinkles began to appear and bones became brittle, as they screamed their agony.

Argile, the leader of the Council was the first to collapse into a pile of dust, having lived for almost 200 years, but the Nemeton kept calling for balance and the Breton could do no more than adhere to its bidding.

As he turned his attention to the Alpha, there was a fizzle in the air and five people, with power to match his own appeared.

The High Court, the supernatural’s governing body, had arrived, and they were not pleased.

++++++

Boyd was conflicted, between ignoring the police and their simple lead bullets and answering the need to run to the Hales’ mansion in the middle of the forest. He, Erica and Chase had moments before had the scare of their life when the bond linking them to their Alpha had suddenly been broken.

The sudden nature of the occurrence, as well as the implications behind it had led Erica instantly to wolf out, causing the six cops in the Police Station, where they’d been taken to “sort this all out”, to rush for their weapons. The “suspects” were all handcuffed but not as yet behind the prison bars. Little did they know that simple, regular issued bullets and handcuffs would do nothing to stop them. Even a bullet to the heart was questionable.

He’d once seen Peter cause a man to piss himself with nothing more than a step in the man’s direction after he’d shot Peter in the chest. Peter still disputed it was to his heart, but to Boyd’s knowledge the drunken gunman had never again touched a bottle of alcohol after that night and his episode. Peter had been called in to deal with the matter because the woman the drunk had assaulted was the daughter of the head of a well-known mob of leviathan. She’d been underage and escaped from her guards to party with friends. It could have really gone badly had one of the friends she’d been with not known Erica and had her alert Peter instead. The girl was the apple of her father’s eye.

There would be a lot of hell raised tonight if Peter was indeed dead and that said nothing of the havoc they suspected young Stiles Stilinski would wreak on this town.

A hand to the back of Erica’s neck pulled the claws, teeth and transformation back, but her heart was still beating erratically. Lydia had shot to her feet when Erica had wolfed out, and then proceeded to calm the law officers with a few words. The banshee was slowly coming to realise that her voice had several more interesting powers within it than she’d ever suspected. It came in handy after the three remaining officers outside the Argents’ house had looked like they would rather shoot first and ask questions later, and again here. Now she came over to stand by Erica.

“What is it?”

“Peter. . . The bond is broken.”

Lydia paled. “And Stiles? Can you feel Stiles?” she asked urgently, fingers tightening without her realising she had gripped Erica’s arm even with the shackled wrists.

“Stiles is still there, but he doesn’t feel the same as before.” Boyd turned to the banshee. “Lydia I need to get out of here. I have to get back to them but I can’t . . .” his gaze strayed to Erica, down to her stomach.

“I’ll take care of them. I promise.” Then she scrunched her nose attractively. “The only problem is I’m sure you’ll be shot trying to leave here, but I can calm them down after,” she inclined her head to indicate she was talking about the officers now huddled in whispers. “At least I hope I can.”

“Baby, go! They’re still trying to figure out what to do with us or how safe it might be to lock us up until they can locate the Sheriff. He’s not answering his cell and Parrish, well they’re still not certain it was Parrish they saw or what to make of what they saw happen to him.” Erica told Lydia, after addressing Boyd.

“Ok. Promise me, no more heroic,” he looked at Erica in warm censure. When she nodded in acknowledgement and agreement, he smacked her on the lips firmly before glancing at the officers. “And watch out for the cambion,” he whispered racing for the doors. He was throwing open the door before a single one could even draw a weapon, but once the weapons were in hand, they were firmly pointed at Erica, Lydia and the Argents, who for the second time that night, raised their hands in a signal of surrender.

Two officers took off out the doors after the man who’d just escaped, but not certain after they’d already lost one of their own tonight if they really wanted to pursue him.

“Where’s he off to,” said a female officer. The one who’d lost her partner had stayed behind at the scene to await the ambulance that would declare her partner dead and transport the injured boy to hospital. The others were a mass of mixed feelings and suspicious.

“One of our . . . friends is in trouble. He went to help.”

“What is he? What are you?” the officer asked Lydia, who’d responded to her calmly.

Lydia looked the woman full in the eyes, taking measure of her before she responded. The officers were known to her, though not as familiar as they would be to Stiles. “The Argents are human, and it’s up to Erica if she wants to reveal anything about herself but I’m . . . something else. That’s probably the best way to put it. We’re no danger to you.”

When one of the officers behind scoffed, Chris spoke up. “What happened to Officer Tims wasn’t anything any of us wanted to happen. We would have stopped it if we could. In fact we were trying to stop it; trying to stop the man that did it. You simply arrived at a bad time.”

Another officer, a smaller slimmer guy with glasses said into the silence that followed, “That was Deputy Parrish chasing that man, that animal, right?”

“Yes.”

“Was he bitten by it or something? Is that why he turned into that thing?”

“Deputy Parrish, like Lydia and Erica are all a little more than human, but I can’t tell you any more than that.” Chris took a breath. “The reason they are here is because they came to rescue the Sheriff.”

That certainly got their attention and more than one hand flew again to a weapon, though none drew their guns this time. “What do you mean rescue the Sheriff? Where is he?”

“Chris!” his wife hissed.

He turned to look at her. “If we do this the old way we are only going to waste time.” He turned back to the cops. “Look, we don’t have time to explain everything, just trust me when I say that we need to be out there reassuring people until we get the Sheriff back.”

“And why should we believe a thing you have to say?”

“You saw it for yourselves. We’re not making up ghost stories.”

“What we saw was a monster kill Deputy Tims and make off into the forest, pursued by another monster. We brought you in here and instead of locking you up because we thought we could talk to you rationally but then one of you escapes. What’s to stop the rest of you from turning into whatever and killing all of us?” the woman asked, hand on her weapon as her voice shook.

Chris was stumped. Before he could answer, Erica shifted in beta form. “Why don’t you answer that?” She addressed her question to the back of the small pool of officers, who turned questioning eyes to look at each other. “You can feel it. I know you can. No one here is going to harm you, but our Alpha is in trouble and you know what that means for our kind . . . Please.”

One of the officers suddenly dropped his head. “The one I can feel. He’s with you, your pack?”

“Yes. He’s our Alpha’s mate.”

“Shit!” the handsome deputy with the carefully styled goatie said with some feeling. He added, “We can’t hold them. We have to let them go.”

“Dennis?!” the woman, Tara, questioned.

Then Dennis allowed his colleagues to see his true form. “Parrish and I are the only two supernaturals on the force, but not the only ones in town. We’re more common than you think and there’s not much more I can say without breaking a whole host of laws that could get me drawn and quartered.” His colleagues looked at him in shock. “I’ll explain later. Right now I think Mr. Argent is right. We need to get out there and calm people down before they take to organising themselves and going hunting. We’ll end up with even more bodies on our hand than we can count.”

Erica and the group stood, Erica calmly snapping the cuffs with a look of chagrin at the officers’ confusion. Lydia held out a hand for the key from Dennis. Then the Argents began reaching for their respective weapons. “We may need to borrow a vehicle. Some of us are just human, or partly human,” Chris glanced at Lydia.

“Wait! We can’t just . . .” it was the guy in glasses who spoke again, voice shaky.

Chris interrupted. “Look you can either trust us and let us get out there and stop this thing exploding into more of the community, or you can hold us here while the town goes to hell. Either way make up your minds because we’re out of time.”

The officers looked between one another. But it was Dennis who made the decision for them, handing over his keys and giving Chris the license plate of his jeep. “Just try to bring it back in one piece. And, Erica, is it? Just tell him, tell him that we’re no threat to your pack. Please tell him.”

Erica allowed a smile to ghost across her face. “He knows that. He’s the Sheriff’s son.”

Dennis’ mouth fell open as the other officers bombarded him with questions.

++++++

“Prince Duinerth.” High Queen Angelina, head of Council, stepped forward, tucking her wings in.

All around her the supernatural element fell to their knees in respect and fealty before the Queen of the Fairies and all things “other”. She looked around at the blood and carnage before her. The Beacon Hills Elders Council had been all but decimated and those that remained were old and feeble, could barely hold themselves up. “This is not how we do things. What have these people done to deserve this? They should have been and must be brought before our Court, before any judgement is taken.”

She looked once again at the injured wolves and finally at Alpha Talia Hale. “We will convene the Court to address all your grievances. Alpha Peter Hale, you will also appear before the Members of this Council to answer for this breach of territory. What is your purpose in Beacon Hills?”

“I would advise you to be careful at this time, Queen Angel.” Stiles voice was soft, but in the absolute silence of the area, his words easily carried.

The Queen stopped, stunned. It was the name his grandfather had always called her. He had been the only one to ever use the nickname and live to laugh about her response to it. His loss still pained her like a sister for her brother, despite them being only third cousins. But it wasn’t King Absolon of High Rock standing before her, addressing her with such familiarity. Yes it was his grandson, but still. She’d never been spoken to like this and she would not accept such insolence. “And I would admonish you to be careful how you speak to me, Prince. You may be King Absolon’s heir, but I demand and expect respect.”

At that moment, the hell hound stalked into the clearing. At the sight of some of the High Court, the wolf dropped to its knees in show of respect. The Queen inclined her chin, indicating the hound could rise.

Stiles though wasn’t finished. “You chained me, bound my powers, rendered me useless, and now you demand respect? While you have traitors in your midst and at your very back?”

Angelina paused again. What did that mean?

“This is all subterfuge, Queen Angelina. The Prince does not know our processes and he’s broken our laws,” a man behind her said. His aura bled of self-importance and power, but Stiles knew that was not all. His eyes hardened on the man and he started to glow, as an involuntary growl bubbled out of Peter at his mate’s distress.

But the Queen could detect no lie in Stiles’ words, no malice in his intent, only rage. And this close to the Nemeton, she felt its energy calling to her. She closed her eyes, opened her mind and listened, probed. The Nemeton never lied.

Unknown to her, at her back one of the Royals blanched, colour leeching from his face, as he felt the Queen tap into their most ultimate power source here in this realm. He had no doubt what was happening and his window of opportunity was closing. His eyes quickly shifted left to right as he drew his powers to himself.

Stiles moved before he was even conscious that he’d done so. At the speed of light, he placed himself squarely in the path of the Queen, the traitor and his deadly blast of power.

Peter roared, as did Parrish and both were already on the move, as Eric kicked into action, a sword appearing in his hand in a flash, but each knowing they could not possibly intercept what was heading for the Queen and Prince.

The shield, when it rose before him, came as a shock even to Stiles. He knew it was not his power doing this, and the Queen was just as surprised by the occurrence. She didn’t even have time to raise her defenses when Jasper fired his blast. She glanced at Stiles in wonder and a bit of fear.

One of her own had just tried to assassinate her, and this boy, this stripling of a boy had put himself in the path of death to save her life. She could not believe it, even as her eyes delivered the evidence. Without thought for himself he’d thrown himself in harm’s way. Despite the fact of what she’d done in binding his powers so long ago and his obvious offense at this action, he’d still saved her life.

As the realisation set in, so did the anger, the absolute wrath that her key enforcer, the Left Hand of the High Court and a member of its very own Council, had tried to blindside her with an attack. Added to which, the moment she’d tapped into the Nemeton, she’d realised that she’d been duped, they all had. Whatever it was Jasper had done, it had fogged their minds, and she didn’t know for how long. He’d been moving against the realm for some time, forming unholy alliances here in hopes of claiming the kingdom. Was everyone out for power now? Could no one be trusted? It was the tale of High Rock all over again. The same tactic that had cost her one of her best friends, who’d been a brother to her, had almost cost her her life. The Nemeton had reacted to save them both.

Her anger rose and she felt the shield part as she faced the traitor on even footing. The voice that addressed the expensively dressed man was as soft as it was deadly. “You would dare? Against your Queen? Against the realm?”

Her power swelled, and while Stiles’ power was impressive, what brushed him, standing as close as he was to Queen Angelina, had him wondering how she could withstand and still contain such absolute awesome power within her small frame, better yet within any frame.

What was unleashed on the poor fool of a Count would have been impressive if it wasn’t downright scary. The man’s ashes were already being carried away on the wind with a gesture from Angelina.

Chapter Text

“It would seem that I am in your debt, Prince Duinerth. I assume there is something you would want in exchange for this debt?" she said, face inscrutable, while her eyes shifted to and stayed on Peter.

“You insult him if you think he'd beg you to spare my life for this debt,” Peter spoke up, shifting back to his beta form. Turning to face Stiles, he added, “My mate would not be so reckless or selfish as to have saved your life for his own gain. Chances are he equally and recklessly did not even think or consider his actions before he indulged them. And for this we shall have a serious discussion about preservation of self and risks in the future.” Peter’s eyes were hard as he continued to regard his mate as he addressed the Queen.

Looking deep into his mates eyes, Stiles’ eyes went wide as saucers with a realisation. “I’m not giving you what you want, Peter,” he said, cutting off Peter’s scolding. They could argue its warrant at a future date – hopefully.

Peter just looked at him without comment and Stiles began to tremble. “No, Peter. Please don’t ask this of me. I can’t give you this. Let me finish it.” Still Peter did not respond, only held his mate’s gaze until Stiles clenched his eyes shut and dropped his head, inhaling shakily.

“You knew it would come to this.”

“So let me do it. LET ME! I have as much claim here.” Stiles’ voice rose and he took the steps necessary to bring him within a few spaces of Peter; enough that he could feel his warmth and all but hear his heart beating. Again Peter lapsed into silence, but raised a callused palm to cup Stiles’ cheek. They shared yet another moment of silent dialogue before Stiles capitulated. “Fine, but if anything happens to you I will kill you myself.”

“There’s my blood-thirsty little mate,” Peter said, a glimpse of a smirk on his lips.

Stiles spun away, trying to reign in his anger, facing the Queen who had watched the almost entirely one-sided argument with growing interest. “Your Majesty, on the issue of Alpha Talia Hale, I have one request, and that is that my mate be allowed to exact the justice to which he is entitled for the death of his parents as the second eldest sibling.”

Angelina raised a brow. “Alpha Peter Hale . . . you are aware that your sister is expected to be tried for her role in your parents’ deaths, as is the hunter Gerard Argent and any accomplices he has left, whom I’ve sent soldiers to acquire. Why should I deviate from my plans?”

Just as Peter opened his mouth to respond, Cora surprised them all. “Because the Alpha code demands it . . . Your Majesty,” she added the title like an after-thought.

Queen Angelina turned again to face the young, bruised Hale werewolf. “Go on.” She urged when Cora, who was kneeling next to her sister, who was still breathing erratically, looked like she was ready to say more. Talia snarled and the Queen’s nostrils flared as her eyes glowed in anger. “You will show respect in my presence, Alpha Hale, or I will end it all, here and now."

Talia's eyes flared but she lowered her gaze and remained silent.

“Go on, child,” the Queen encouraged.

“The Alpha code says when an Alpha has lost the respect of her . . . or his . . . pack due to actions deemed unworthy of such a post, that that Alpha can be challenged by either her or his, successor, or someone of equal rank and standing, as long as the challenge is just. This challenge is just.” Cora ended, looking balefully at her mother.

“Most unusual,” the supernatural leader muttered, impressed with the young Hale despite the tense moment. She turned to the remaining gathered members of the pack. “So say you all?” she questioned, looking at them.

Murmurs of “Yes” went up, and the leader of the supernatural realm nodded. “Very well. Alpha Peter Hale, you do understand what is at stake here?”

Peter knew his Queen was indicating that chances were Talia would be convicted by the court and stripped of her powers in any case, but that was not nearly good enough. He bowed to the leader, “Yes, my Queen.”

Her eyes landed briefly on the Prince, before she too nodded her acceptance. “Then your challenge has been accepted by the realm. While this law has not been invoked in several centuries, it is your right to demand it and the pack’s right to support without the Alpha in question’s complicity. Therefore it is ruled that Alphas Peter and Talia Hale will engage in battle, a fight to the death as a call for justice.”

Talia’s eyes turned hateful as she stared Peter down. “You will not succeed here, Peter, and I will claim your head for this.” Peter watched her steadily without response.

“Under the rules of challenge, no other supernatural or person of any standing may intervene in the challenge until it is completed and one victor remains standing. Only by that means can it be declared that justice, regardless of the victor, has been fulfilled. Is that understood?” Again her eyes were on the Prince, but everyone in the clearing nodded.

Suddenly she felt very heavy indeed, looking at the young man as he in turn watched his mate go into battle with no guarantee of a successful outcome. She had to admire his resolve. It was as if the earlier argument between the two had never taken place, as Duinerth refused to take his eyes off Peter.

Parrish moved to the Prince's side and the centaur moved to the other. One way or another, this would end now, tonight.

++++++

“Get your hands off me!” Gerard bellowed, struggling as the pale muscled soldiers captured his wrists, binding them supernaturally with glowing gold cuffs of pure light.

He had just been about to end the life of Derek Hale, as the commotion had been triggered. When Jennifer had suddenly disappeared it had been more than shock that had coursed through his body. It was fear, bright and clear. He’d at first assumed the Druid had indeed located the Nemeton and had abandoned them, but within minutes another thought had occurred to him, what if . . .

“Find her,” he’d screamed at several shocked associates. He’d be damned if he’d allow someone else to take what was his. But then a commotion had occurred outside and he’d heard one of his men get off a couple rounds before screams interrupted and all went silent outside the abandoned warehouse. When a couple of men, dressed in purple and gold robes appeared suddenly, he’d known what this meant and rushed to grab the wolfsbane tipped blade, meaning to plunge it into the werewolf as the last act of vengeance against the Hales.

He was stopped just moments after grabbing the blade and before he knew it, cuffs were on both him and his daughter and something like arrest rights were being recited to them both. This could mean only one thing - their alliance had been discovered and possibly neutralised. Damn the man. Jasper had told them he had everything under control – that the Queen would never realise what was happening as long as they stuck to the plan.

Two men moved to rescue the unconscious wolf from where he was still strung up by his wrists. He barely moved as they removed the restraints. There were shallow and deep cuts all across his skin. Cuts that had not had a chance to heal because of the wolfsbane that was tipped on every blade Kate had used. His daughter had always had a nasty penchant for pain.

He should have killed that fucking wolf when he had the chance. He should have killed all of them, in their fancy houses, as Kate had wanted to. Now he was trapped.

++++++

Talia was quick, he had to give her that. She was quick and sly and deadly and he had the bruises and cuts to show for it. She had the rage as well, the indignant feeling that she’d been wronged and he knew she’d never let it go, especially given that it came from her own children. That she would never forgive.

But Peter had something other than rage and tricks and deadly intent – that’s not to say he didn’t have these things, but what he also had was a reason to live. He had no doubt at all in his mind that Stiles had told him the truth and if he did not win here today the young man would resurrect him and kick his ass. Beyond that, he had a family, whose bonds he could already feel alongside his own pack. In fact, he could feel more than just his family bonds, he could feel the hope of the others who watched the battle as well, and that spurned him on.

By now, Talia had to be feeling it as well. He was sure of that.

++++++

Betrayal. She’d never felt it before this clearly. She could feel herself weakening, even as she fought her brother with everything in her. They both had bruises, both had cuts, some down to the very bone, but whereas Peter seemed to be getting stronger as they fought, she could feel herself waning. No transfer of power was allowed during this duel, but nothing could stop the transfer of allegiance and the strengthening of a bond that came with it.

Her pack was switching loyalty, the ungrateful bitches, after she’d sacrificed her very soul for each and every one of them. They would be DEAD, ALL DEAD, had it not been for HER.

With a roar she rushed back in, determined to carve her little brother into bite-sized pieces.

++++++

Peter was surprised. The last thing he expected was to earn the respect of the pack he’d been banished from. The one he’d left behind. As Talia rushed in again, opening a slit across his stomach, it barely registered, though he knew the resulting slash across her face did. She roared her anger at the insult.

Talia became wild and unpredictable. She barely took a moment after her brother sliced her left cheek open before she was charging at him again, hoping her speed would hold out. She’d always been the faster one, ever since they were kids, while Peter was the tactical head. He could plan an assault and execute with flawless ability. The opponent would hardly see it coming. He could also be ruthless, she knew that too.

So she did the unexpected. Charged right at him and slammed her considerable size into him, causing him to stumble back and go down. There were gasps from around the loose circle of people, human and supernatural watching the fight. There was however no reaction from Stiles Stilinski, even after two elderly people joined those standing near him as if to shield him from what could be a possible outcome here, and his father leaned heavily against him, hand around his son’s shoulders.

Enid and Dylan bent low on their knees before the Queen, acknowledging her rank. Stiles hardly took notice of any of it. His only movement was to hold his dad up, but his eyes never left the impromptu ring. It was like he was afraid to look away or blink, though every muscle in his body screamed tight confidence. He didn’t fidget, didn’t shift or respond in any way to Peter’s many injuries.

When Peter went down, Talia was immediately on top of him, jaws flashing bloody teeth as paws battered at him, slashing away as Peter fought to unseat her. She grinned. Finally, the upper hand.

Stiles’ only response was a narrowing of his eyes on Peter, but the Queen knew and could sense no leak of power to the pinned Alpha. She knew Stiles would respect the rules of the fight, as would his mate expect him to, and likewise the members of his pack would follow the lead of their Alpha’s mate, as hard as that might be. Anything else was a punishable offense. It took only the slide of a side glance and that was enough for her to realise they didn’t need to leak power to each other because their minds were one. Even in the midst of battle, they were constantly conscious of each other.

++++++

‘Enough now, Peter. You need to get up and finish this. I swear to God if she damages the family jewels it’s no sex for the rest of the month,’ Stiles whispered into his mate’s mind.

He heard what he was sure was an indignant sniff, before Peter’s powerful back legs came up, forcing space between him and Talia, and propelling the wolf off him. The shock in her eyes was telling, and it was that surprise that Peter used to his advantage, pinning her in turn, clenching tight jaws around her jugular and ripping, with all the power his teeth could manage. Her strangled howl and thrashing was enough to make tears spring to Peter’s eyes. Tears for the innocent children they had been; for the promise of what Talia could have been; for the useless loss of his wife and so many others under her unauthorised leadership; and for the pain he knew the pack would nevertheless suffer at her loss. He was orphaning his nieces and nephew with Talia’s death. He was leaving a hole that would gape for a while, maybe forever.

As his sister breathed her last, a teardrop landed on her cheek and he realised he was openly crying. He felt the surge of her Alpha power and with the quick tilt of his head in his mate’s direction, meeting his eyes, he rejected the gift, and both heard and felt Laura’s weakened gasp, and Cora’s surprised, “Laura?” as the new mantle of power settled upon her sister.

No sooner had the new Alpha flexed her claws than she felt the rift in her consciousness when Theo sprung. By the time he was within Laura’s proximity, she was already impaling the boy on sharp claws. She saw the shock in his eyes moments before he dissolved into ash, and turned surprised eyes of her own at the Queen.

“We’ve had as much upheaval as I will tolerate at the moment. Congratulations, Alpha Peter. Your family’s honour is restored in the eyes of the Council. Come Laura.” The Queen beckoned.

When the woman stood confident before her, Queen Angelina said: “The pack is now yours. Do you accept this responsibility?”

“Yes, gladly, Your Highness.”

Cora whooped a bit before she caught herself, at Laura’s wide, red-eyed censure.

“Is there anyone here that objects to this passing of power to Laura Hale?” When no dissent came, the Queen continued. “Congratulations Alpha Laura Hale. I will not suffer any more rebellion in this territory, so those of you who would wish to leave are free to do so by sunset tomorrow.” She looked around, pinning them all with a weighty stare. “Those of you who remain, I expect your loyalty to your new Alpha. I know you have a lot of work on your hands to rebuild your pack and reaffirm your territory, but I am confident, from everything that I’ve seen that you are equal to the task. If there's anything the Council can do to aid the process, do not hesitate to call on us. We owe you that much.

“For the next year, I am assigning Guardian Jordan Parrish and Guide Eric Mansoor, as your emblems of protection by the Council. You may use them in whatever way you wish to safeguard your territory. The Court will also notify all covens, clans, packs and the like that this territory is under High Court protection for the next year as you rebuild. We bare some of the responsibility, however unknown to us, for the depth of rot that was allowed to settle here; and I am sure your uncle will add his own protection to ours.”

Peter, arm around his mate, bowed to the Queen in agreement.

“You also have our blessing to convene your own Council to replace those you’ve lost this night, but Laura, choose wisely." Laura swallowed at the massive responsibility that was now sitting on her shoulders. But Cora stepped up to her side and brushed against her hand. The Queen smiled. “Seems you might already have strong counsel at your back, Alpha Hale. You, young Cora, I would see you trained and trained well. Eric? This is also your responsibility.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“You young lady, will make an excellent defender and protector of your pack one day, if that is yours and your Alpha’s wish. Now, there is one bit of business to which I must attend.” She laid a hand on Laura’s already healed shoulder before turning. “Prince Duinerth, walk with me.”

Stiles brushed a hand down Peter’s arm. The man bent and brushed their lips briefly. Stiles turned to follow his Queen and Peter went to embrace his family.

++++++

“I demand to know where I am and why I’m being held here.” Once again, the two guards ignored him as he paced the cell, yelling and complaining, while Kate looked around, her skin covered in goose pimples although the room was tepid in temperature, at best.

“Dad, I think you should sit.”

He turned a glare on her. “Don’t tell me what I should do! Don’t you ever tell me what I should do!”

“If I were you Gerard, I would listen to her.” Gerard swung around to face the familiar voice before him. There stood Chris, and at his back Victoria and Laura Hale. The pale skin Stilinski boy stood off to the side, still and silent.

Gerard’s eyes raked over his son in disdain. “So you’re a mutt lover now are you? You are such a disappointment,” the old man sneered at his son, while Kate curled her lip.

“Even here, with nowhere left to go, you insist on being a hateful racist jackass.”

“They have no rightful power over me. I demand to be set free. Put me before a human court. I demand a fair hearing. The family won’t stand for this.”

Chris laughed without joy or mirth. “The family has disavowed you both.” And watched as his father and sister both paled. For some reason it did not bring the resolution and relief he’d hoped. “I used to look up to you once. I used to think you were brave, that you’d hung the moon. The things you made me do, what you made me into are things I will have to live with for the rest of my life and I thank every day for Vicky and Allison. So call me whatever you will, I know at the end of the day that I’m nothing like you. We may have the same genes but thank God I’m in charge of shaping my own path. You could have been different. She could have been different,” he pointed at Kate. “But you made her believe she had to be like you to earn your love. You didn’t deserve love from either one of us. I’m only sorry I didn’t get her away from you.”

“Don’t you dare speak for me! You can lay down with those filthy dogs if you want, but I know who I am. What I am,” his sister yelled.

“And what you are is dead to us.” Victoria stepped up next to her husband. She wrapped a hand around his arm and turned him away from the opaque panels that encased the room Gerard and Kate stood in. Good riddance.

When the door closed behind Chris and Vicky, Laura stepped forward and allowed her eyes to bleed red. Gerard gasped. “For your role in the deaths of my grandparents, you have been cut off by the Argent family, surrendered by the Hunter’s Guild and found guilty by the High Court of the Realm, Gerard Argent. For your roles in the kidnapping and torture of my brother, Derek, and the destruction you had planned for the Hale Pack, you have both been found guilty. I hope you have better luck in the afterlife.” With those words Alpha Laura traced Chris’ and Victoria’s steps out the door.

Stiles stood back and watched the Argents. Gerard fumed and cussed, and Kate joined him – a spew of vitriol echoing in the room and still Stiles said nothing. But suddenly he stepped forward and both Argents fell silent.

“I wish I could say I’m not going to enjoy this. Had you shown even a modicum of remorse, the Court might have considered sparing at least your lives.”

“Who the fuck are you to lecture us, you little werewhore faggot!” Kate spewed.

And Stiles allowed his power to swell in the room. His jeans and plaid shirt became long flowing robes of purple and gold. He saw Gerard’s eyes bug out and heard Kate gasp. “I am Prince Duinerth; last surviving Breton from the realm of High Rock. Grandson to a King, son to a sorceress and a human Sheriff, well now a werewolf, but who’s keeping tabs?” he grinned. Looking at them both, his face dropped the visage of conviviality. His eyes turned hard as he watched the two, as he allowed his power to show before them. “And now I am the Left Hand of the High Court, your final judge and executioner . . . And your sentence is served.”

The two burst into flames as he uttered the last words. Their screams were piercing, as both ran around the room, scratching at themselves as their flesh melted. As their screams died and the blackened corpses dropped to the floor, the Prince turned away, walking slowly with hands clasped behind his back, a heavy but satisfied sigh in his heart.

When the Queen had asked if he would consider becoming her Left Hand, Stiles had hedged on making a decision until he could speak with his mate and his pack. He refused to leave the realm of Earth behind and it was considerable responsibility, what the Queen of the High Council was asking. The Queen had explained that regardless of the decision he took, the vacant space of his grandfather was his for the filling on the Council, whenever he wished. But now, she’d said, trying to sway him, she needed someone she could trust to be honest with her, to have the supernatural realms in their interest and having earned the favour of the Nemeta, Stiles was the natural successor for such a role.

He entered the Queen’s throne room to report that the judgment had been carried out and was dismissed to return to Earth.

Stiles walked into Peter’s study to find the man sitting in his window seat staring out the window at the deep orange sky. He had lately been left feeling melancholy about his parents, like he was grieving their deaths all over again. At Stiles’ approach his head came up and their eyes met and held.

“I’m fine, my love,” he reassured. At Stiles’ mental press and tilted head, Peter nodded holding out a hand for his mate to join him. Curled around each other they watched in contented silence as the night crept in, listening to the heartbeats of a settled, peaceful house as the dark blanketed Stanford.

 

EPILOGUE

16 months later

 

The Stanford pack was growing. They'd added two new members and they now had a lifelong alliance with Beacon Hills. The family pack was growing stronger and rebuilding every day. It had been declared by the High Court to be a stable pack once more and the calls between the Stanford and Beacon Hills packs were so frequent, it was like one big extended family covering two territories. And some days when Peter just felt the need, he’d leave his territory in Boyd's hands and visit his family for a while. Stiles knew it was Peter’s way of checking on things. He still felt the painful guilt of having left them in Talia’s hands all those years and felt the need for amends, despite his nieces’ assurances that none were necessary.

Derek had been sent to one of Peter’s alliances for care. He and Stiles had a closed door meeting, the details of which not even Peter knew. But the Derek that left Beacon Hills after the meeting was a quieter and less angry one. Peter had a feeling that it was the Left Hand who spoke to his nephew and his comments to that effect were only met by a still warning gaze by his mate. So he had let it go. He trusted Stiles implicitly, and knew Stiles trusted him equally. After Derek’s departure he turned his trip to Beacon Hills into an enforced semi-vacation/visit to make sure Laura and Cora were coping.

Sometimes his mate accompanied him on such trips. At other times his mate had his own Royal responsibilities to attend to. It brought him pride to know how strong they were both together and individually. They’d come far indeed from where they’d first started. And lately Stiles had been making noises about the pitter patter of little feet, about surrogacy or adoption. He wanted a little boy or girl with Peter’s eyes and temperament and their combined strength to pass their legacy, although little Everdeen was already looking like more than enough trouble for the entire pack for a while.

Erica had given birth to the healthy baby girl some seven months ago and had named her Everdeen Merinda Boyd. The little ball of energy had Stiles completely wrapped around her little finger and she knew it. She had a creamy brown complexion, evidence of her parent’s joint ancestry; a quick gummy smile, and equally vicious bite; her mother’s gumption and penchant for trouble, as well as her father’s calm in the face of a scolding. And the very first time some unknown muscled, tattooed bigot commented on the child’s race was the last time anyone commented on the child’s mixed-race. Stiles made sure of it.

She was the joy of the pack and beyond Stiles and her parents, Maria was her absolute favourite person. Sometimes when no one else could get her to sleep, the woman would pick her up and they’d disappear for half an hour or so, and when Maria came back it would be with a clingy, drowsy or unconscious babe. She never divulged her secret, not even to Erica who’d tried all kinds of skulking around and then bribes when that failed. Maria only smiled and accepted whatever new gifts came her way. She and Erica became fast girlfriends, like they’d never been before.

It surprised absolutely no one that despite being Laura’s chief strategist and stand in Emissary, Lydia seemed to spend more time in Stanford than anyone else. She’d finished up her year at Harvard, graduated early and moved back to Beacon Hills. The relationship between her and Maria was the worst kept secret, but until either one was willing to step out of their caution and make an announcement to the pack, Lydia was just accepted as an extension of BH in Stanford. What? It was good for cross-pack dynamics.

Enid and Dylan stayed in Beacon Hills for a while and assisted the new Alpha where they could, and helped John with his control and new abilities, before they returned to Wales; though suddenly, thousands of miles did not seem so far with a grandson who could visit with a mere thought.

The Sheriff, of course had elected to stay in his county, had run and won his post again. Beacon Hills’ supernatural element was no longer a secret, at least not to its residents, outsiders had better watch their backs if they came looking for trouble. But it was still not all smooth sailing. Not everyone was comfortable with the new status quo. Some families moved out and the High Council wiped their memories of any knowledge that could prove dangerous to the general public. It was an easy compromise.

Danny's recovery was slow, that is until he accepted Laura's offer and became her first new beta. Members of the pack to this day still turned red in the face every time the story of the wolf’s and hound’s naked shenanigans in one of the oft unused cabins came up. It was one of the pack’s unfortunate young cubs that stumbled across them, and the resultant scream had almost raised Defcon 2 type alarms. For weeks after, the cubs in the pack had inundated their parents with questions about sex that none of them were entirely comfortable answering. The Alpha thereafter laid down the law about locking doors when trysts were afoot. No one had a problem with that edict.

Scott’s and Stiles’ rift was far from mended, but they were on speaking terms again. When the showdown had unfolded, Scott had rushed to the hospital to his mom, needing to be sure she was ok, so he’d stayed out of the mess, well that mess at least. His relationship with Stiles and the rest of the pack was rebuilding. It was slow, but there was nothing wrong with taking things slow. Allison was the only one who still had his back all the way, much to her father’s annoyance. Vicky told him to just let it go.

Isaac returned to France and completed studies, then joined an allied pack there. He was currently dating a fairy and things were looking up.

Chase opened his own company, with Peter as a silent partner, and quietly drove everyone crazy with designing details. Ethan was the only one to truly tolerate him without involving food or bribery, or bribery as food. Meanwhile Ethan finally worked up enough courage to ask the campus coffee shop girl out. Their first date was a disaster, involving swamp water and algae and stuff no one wanted to remember. The second one was better.

Chris was called into a meeting with the Alpha about four months after his father and Kate were executed. When he left the Hale mansion, he did not even recall driving home or pulling into the driveway until his wife rapped knuckles on the side window with a puzzled look on her face. He took her hand and led her inside, then sat her down and told her of the unprecedented offer the Beacon Hills Alpha had made and what it could mean if he accepted. When Allison came home that night and they all sat down to dinner, his daughter smiled and agreed with her mother that he should definitely do it. And that’s how Christopher Argent, hunter and gun dealer by profession, became the third member of Beacon Hills' new Council of Elders. It was unprecedented.

And when he got restless on Earth and restless in the Royal Court, Prince Duinerth took a trip to his other home, the previously destroyed realm of High Rock that the Nemeta had one day simply recreated for him as a gift of thanks and as his birthright. As he walked the empty streets and gazed at the beautiful landscape, he dreamed of what could be possible; of a place where human and supernatural could live in harmony and peace, and he liked the idea.

So did the Nemeta.

 

-The END-