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Adult Wolf

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Sheriff Tom Stilinski has seen some shit.

It’s not exactly news that Beacon Hills is a weird place to live. The murder rate is only slightly higher than the national average, but the rate of disappearances is three times higher. In terms of demographics, it seems like your typical northern California town, but the population fluctuates wildly. In some years, people move out in droves. Then unsuspecting people move in and the population gradually builds up again until there’s another exodus.

So when Tom gets a call about a jogger who found half a body out on the preserve, it doesn’t exactly shock him. It’s been quiet for almost two years now, and the longer it’s quiet, the more he feels like he’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sometimes he wishes that he had moved out Beacon Hills during the last evacuation, the year of the Hale House fire. But the idea of moving Stiles away from his best friend had stopped him. His son had such a hard time making friends.

Of course, if he had realized said son and said best friend were going to wander around the forest looking for a dead body, he might have rethought his decision. And he doesn’t believe his son for an instant when Stiles protests that he’s out here alone. “Scott, you out there? Scott?”

There’s no answer, but a quiet coughing fit gives Scott away. Tom rolls his eyes to the heavens and then collars the little miscreants. “You two are going home. Right now. Tara will take you. I swear to God, if I see either of you out here again, you will both be grounded until prom.”

Scott doesn’t protest the threat even though he’s not Tom’s son. To be honest, what Melissa will do to him if she hears about this will probably be much worse, so it’s a better idea not to rock the boat. They slump off into the distance with the deputy, and the sheriff goes back to work.

He’s seen some shit, sure. Looking for a dead body isn’t new to him. Looking for half of a dead body, well, that’s a little less ordinary. Even so, everything seems to be relatively routine until the deer herd practically tramples him. Morley, the police dog, is practically hysterical as Tom gets to his feet. “I’m all right, girl,” he says, but she’s yanking at her leash, trying to get away. Tom tests his weight on his new twisted ankle and winces. “Hey, settle down, settle down, Morley – hey!”

The dog has jerked free of him and taken off into the woods. From an untrained dog, such behavior wouldn’t be too surprising, but from a police dog? Tom slowly withdraws his gun from its holster, scanning the dark woods for any sign of movement. Then he hears it. Just a low growl. There’s a dim gleam of red eyes and then a figure easily three times as big as the biggest dog he’s ever seen comes rocketing out of the trees.

Tom lands on his back hard, and lets out a sharp cry of pain despite himself as the creature’s jaws sink into his side. He jams his gun into the monster and pulls the trigger twice. It snarls but lets go, turns, and runs off into the forest.

“Jesus Christ,” Tom says, trying to aim his flashlight so he can see the damage. He doesn’t think it’s fatal, but there’s a lot of blood. “Shit.”

It’s serious enough that he suspects he needs stitches. He tests his weight on the twisted ankle again, and it twinges but holds. He finds a stick to lean on and limps his way back to the car. Morley is standing there, head down. She whines when she sees him, a clear apology for abandoning her post. He scratches behind her ears and gets on the radio. “Guys, I took a nasty fall and got bitten by this loose dog, so I’m going to head over to the hospital to see if I need any stitches. Keep doing the sweep, call me if you get any hits.”

The hospital is quiet, which is lucky. The doctor takes a quick look at the wound and proclaims that he does indeed need stitches. “You said it was a dog that bit you?”

“Not sure, to be honest. It was dark, and the thing moved fast. Could’ve been a cougar or even a bear, I guess.”

“Gonna need some shots,” the doctor says.

Tom sighs. “Isn’t rabies the one you need to get nine shots in the stomach for?”

“Not any more. It’s just four that you get over the course of the next two weeks.” The doctor picks up his clipboard and heads out.

Melissa comes in a few minutes later with a suture kit and a syringe. “Tom, ouch!” she exclaims, when she sees the wound. “That’s no dog bite, or if it was, it was the biggest dog I’ve ever seen!”

“Yeah, I know. Now that I’m thinking about it, I guess it must’ve been a mountain lion.” Tom sighs and lies down so she can start cleaning the wound out. It stings, and he winces. “I hope it wasn’t someone’s dog, since I shot it.”

“I think you had pretty good reason to!” Melissa shakes her head. “I’m going to give you a local anesthetic for these stitches. The puncture is pretty deep. It’s gonna sting.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Tom grits his teeth as Melissa gets to work.

It’s about an hour later before he gets out of the hospital and heads home. It’s nearly midnight, but he’s not surprised to see that Stiles is still up. His son has had trouble with anxiety since Claudia’s death, and any time he thinks that his father is out on a dangerous job, he won’t even try to sleep.

“Dad! You got attacked by a dog?!” Stiles is immediately on his feet, demanding answers.

Tom rubs both hands over his face. “Seriously? We just talked about your invasion of privacy, and you’re still listening in on the police radio?”

“Well, I have to, if you’re going to do things like wander around the forest and get attacked by rabid animals!”

“It’s my job to – you know what, I’m not having this argument with you. I’m fine, and you need to stop listening in on my phone calls, my radio calls, and any other sort of calls. We don’t know that it was rabid, and even if it was, I’m getting the shots. So I’m going to be fine.”

Stiles huffs out a sigh of relief. “Okay, can I see it?”

Tom rolls his eyes. He wants to say no on general principle, but Stiles will just badger him incessantly until he allows it. So he lifts up his shirt and peels a little bit of the tape off so Stiles can see the wound.

“Wow, gross,” Stiles says, in a tone that’s more admiring than anything else.

“Yes, son. It is very gross. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve had a very long night, and what I really want right now is to get some sleep.”

“No, yeah, definitely,” Stiles says. “I probably should sleep too. You know. Practice tomorrow. Scott has this weird idea that he’s going to make first line, so I need to get my beauty sleep so I can comfort him after his inevitable failure. Night!”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom starts the next day with a headache. Every little noise seems to be a drill to his ears. He can’t even run his coffee grinder, and winds up drinking the station coffee, which is as terrible as always. He’s looking over the report on the half of the body they found. There are bite marks on her lower body. He looks down at his side, and sighs, then gets on the phone to Fish and Game.

“No, I don’t know what it was. Big. I think it was more likely to be a bear than a cougar.” Tom sighs as they demand more details. “Look. It was dark. It happened fast. All I know is that it was big, and angry, and it bit me. I’m going to have the hospital send the pictures of my bite down to the medical examiner’s office so they can determine if it was the same animal. In the meantime, if it’s randomly attacking people, maybe it won’t be that hard to find.”

He hangs up feeling grumpy. Restless, even. The scent of the burnt coffee, the lemon furniture polish the janitor uses, the perfume of the mugging victim who was there the day before – it’s suddenly all too strong, and making his throbbing head feel worse.

Men are still out in the field searching for the other half of the body, so he decides to join them. He has a brief word with his administrative assistant and heads out into the woods.

Immediately, he feels better. The air is clean and crisp, and he’s able to move without feeling restricted. The wound on his side twinges a bit, but it’s really not too bad, given what it had looked like. He knows how lucky he is. He heads back for the last place he had been, hoping that he can see some sort of trail that the animal had left.

Instead, what he sees is a man in a leather jacket, who greets him with, “This is private property.”

Tom gives him an incredulous look and then points to his badge. “So is this.”

The look on the man’s face is more of a sulk than anything else. “Yeah. Sorry.”

“I take it that this is your property?” Tom asks, keeping his hand close to his gun. People returning to the scene of their crime is a cliché, but it has its roots in truth. He doesn’t know this man, which is unusual, although there’s a strange familiarity to him. He knows almost everyone in Beacon Hills. And although he might have wandered off the Preserve, nobody lives near this section of it.

“How is that your business?”

Tom points to the badge again. “Son, a body was found in this area last night,” he says, and the young man stiffens. “Now you’re wandering around close by. So I’m going to have to ask you some questions like who you are and what you’re doing here.”

After a long silence, the young man shoves his hands down into his pockets. “My name’s Derek Hale, and yes, this property belongs to my family.”

That makes Tom blink. “Derek Hale? I didn’t even recognize you. Last time I saw you, you were just a scrawny – anyway,” he amends, as Derek starts to scowl. “What are you doing back in town?”

There’s a beat of hesitance, which Tom recognizes instantly as a man deciding what lie to tell. “I came to visit my uncle. He’s still in the long-term care ward over at Beacon Hills Memorial.”

“Mm hm.” Tom nods. “How long have you been in town?”

“Just since yesterday.”

“And where are you staying?”

“That Howard Johnson on the north edge of town.”

“Where were you yesterday evening between the hours of seven and ten PM?”

“At the hotel. By myself.”

“Okay. Got a phone number I can reach you at, in case I have any more questions?” Tom asks, and Derek supplies it. “Good. Don’t leave town.”

Derek turns and walks away without another word. Tom watches him go, considering his options carefully. Derek turning up in town right now is too coincidental to ignore, but if whatever killed the girl was a rabid animal, it probably doesn’t have anything to do with him. He files it away and gets back to his sweep.

That evening, the sensitivity to sound has decreased a little, although the smells are just as strong. That’s not as bad in his own house, or at least it wouldn’t be if his son wasn’t trying to feed him brussels sprouts. He cuts them into small pieces with the edge of his fork and wonders how his life has come to this.

Stiles is chattering away about this new girl in school that Scott is crushing on hard, and about the abysmal failures they had at lacrosse. Tom is glad, as he always is, that his son won’t be endangering his life on the lacrosse field. He loves his son, and he knows Stiles wants to play, but he’s just such a klutz. He’d manage to break something before an hour was out.

He’s proven right less than an hour later, when Stiles is trying to put the dishes away, balancing a pot and the roasting pan that go on the top shelf and managing to drop everything. Without even thinking about it, Tom hops over the table and grabs them before they can hit the ground with a clatter.

“What?” he asks, when he sees Stiles’ jaw hanging open.

“Did – did you just vault over the table?” Stiles asks.

Tom looks back across the kitchen at where he had started. “Didn’t have time to go around.” He puts the dishes away and tousles his son’s hair. “You know, you might think I’m a stodgy old man, but I am a police officer. I do have physical training.”

“Yeah, I guess, I just – I’ve never seen you do anything like that before.”

“Then you don’t pay enough attention.” Tom finishes with the dishes and says, “Now go do your homework. Don’t skype with Scott all night.”

“Uh – yeah, okay, sure.”

Tom shakes his head as his son jogs away. He goes upstairs himself not long after. He needs to change the bandages and take a shower.

But when he peels away the bandages, the wound is gone.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

“Dad? Dad!” Stiles’ mouth is full of cereal as Tom turns to see what’s upset his son this time. “You shouldn’t be reaching over your head like that! Putting the dishes away was bad enough, how can you even – ”

“Kid, I’m fine,” Tom says firmly.

“I know! That’s what worries me. You shouldn’t be fine, you shouldn’t be able to move like you did last night, not while you’re injured! Come on, let me see how it’s healing. Just give me a peek.”

“It’s healing fine. It’s basically gone already.”

“Okay, now you’re just lying to get me not to worry,” Stiles says, and starts grabbing at his father’s shirt. Tom sighs and tries to shove him off, but his son is like an octopus, with flailing limbs everywhere. Somehow, he gets Tom’s shirt pulled up to see that the bandages, and the wound they had covered, were gone. “What.”

“I told you it was basically gone,” Tom says. “I’m fine.”

“But . . . it shouldn’t be.” Stiles’ tone is worried and uncertain. “I mean, that was a really nasty bite, you had to have stitches and everything, it should have taken weeks to heal – ”

“Look, kid,” Tom says, taking Stiles by the shoulders and steering him back into his chair, “if you want to get worried because something isn’t healing well, that’s fine, but there’s no sense in worrying when an injury heals faster than you expect. Now eat your breakfast and go to school. I might be working late today, so don’t you dare stay out past curfew. Don’t forget that you’re grounded.”

Stiles whines, but Tom is long inured to that, so he finishes his breakfast and goes to work. To be frank, he is a little weirded out by the fact that the wound is already gone. He thinks about calling Melissa but decides against it. At least the noise sensitivity seems to be settling down, though he finds he can hear things from further away if he focuses on them.

The report from the medical examiner is in, and she’s confirmed that the bite Tom got matches the bites on the victim’s legs. That means that her upper half, whoever she is, probably got dragged back to the lair. But there’s a long series of conflicting correspondence between the ME and Fish and Game. The latter says that the only animal with the strength needed to bisect a human being is a bear, but the ME is insistent that the jaw size isn’t big enough for a bear. Plus, the hair analysis came back showing that it was a wolf. Fish and Game is even more contrary about that, saying that there haven’t been wolves in California in decades.

With no better ideas, he goes down to see Alan Deaton, who’s technically a veterinarian but smarter than most of the other people Tom knows. “Wolves are highly migratory,” he says, “so it’s possible. But I don’t think those are wolf bites.”

“Why not?” Tom has included a photo of his own wound in amongst the ones on the body, but hasn’t told Deaton why it’s different.

“To start with, the jaw size is too large. Also, these aren’t the kind of wounds a wolf would make. They would go for the ankles to hobble their prey, and their throat to finish them off. This wound here,” he says, tapping the picture of Tom’s, “looks like it’s on the side. It’s an odd place for a wolf to bite down if he wasn’t in the middle of an actual meal.”

Tom glances down at his healed side and says, “What if it was rabid?”

“Well, rabies can make an animal unpredictable, that’s true, but it wouldn’t make an animal forget its basic hunting instincts.” Deaton shrugs. “But you never know.”

“Thanks,” Tom says, brooding over all of this as he heads back to his car. None of it makes sense, and he doesn’t like it. Strange things happen in Beacon Hills, but this is strange even for their town.

On a hunch, he calls the Howard Johnson. They have no registered guests under any Hale name. He calls the hospital, who tells him that yes, Peter is in the long-term care unit, but Derek has not been by to see him. So he was lying about that, too. Tom thinks about going out to look for him, but it’s getting late.

He’s about to go home when he gets a phone call saying that one of the deputies has found, not a body, but where they think a body was. There was some crushed foliage and some blood. They’ve taken samples to send to the lab and should have results in the morning. They’ll have the dogs follow the blood trail in the morning, too, to see if that leads them back to the animal’s lair.

It’s not a lot, but it’s progress, so Tom packs up and heads home. He finds Stiles pacing a track in their living room floor.

“Okay, so,” his son greets him, and Tom groans. “Come here, you gotta see this – I’ve been doing all this reading – ”

“Son, how much Adderall have you had today?” Tom asks, because he knows his son’s propensity for abusing his medication when he feels like there’s important research to be done.

“What? A lot. Doesn’t matter. I was thinking about what’s been happening, with your bite wound disappearing and that strange animal attacking people in the woods, and then Scott said today that he thought he heard a wolf howling that night. Which there shouldn’t be, because there are no wolves in California anymore – ”

“Stiles . . .”

“ – plus there’s what happened in the kitchen last night, and don’t even front with me, Dad, I love you, but you’re not Bruce Lee, you don’t just vault over tables to keep me from dropping pans. I know this because I’ve been dropping stuff since infancy – ”

“Well, that’s true enough.”

“ – and never before have you gone over a table to catch it before it hit the ground. Something really weird is happening, and yesterday you were complaining of a headache, of everything being loud – ”

“Not to you!”

“Come on, Dad, everyone at the station talks to me, don’t try to sidetrack me, you’re clearly having enhanced senses, and we have to talk because the full moon is tonight.”

Tom folds his arms over his chest. “Stiles. The point.”

“The point is that you got bitten by a werewolf!”

There’s a moment of silence while Tom chews on that. He thinks of all the fun make-believe games he used to play with Stiles. The kid has always had an active imagination. He’s about to say something when his phone rings. He holds up a finger for Stiles to wait and then picks it up. “Stilinski.”

“Hey, boss,” Tara’s voice says. “Got a disturbance down at the YMCA, Higgins is already on a call. Can you respond?”

“Ten-four, I’m on my way,” Tom says, and hangs up.

“Dad! No!” Stiles moves between his father and the door. “You absolutely cannot go anywhere tonight! From what I read, it’s not just that the moon will cause physical change. It’s when your bloodlust will be at its peak!”

“Okay, kid, I know you did not just use the phrase ‘your bloodlust’ to describe me, your father and the sheriff of this county.” Tom grabs his jacket. Then he sighs, turns and faces Stiles, and grips his shoulders. “There’s no such thing as werewolves. I’m going to be fine. You’re going to stay home. Yes, I know Scott’s going to that party, you told me. I don’t care. You’re staying here. If I catch you putting one toe outside this house, I will take away your laptop, your video games, and your phone. For two weeks. Am I making myself clear?”

“Yes,” Stiles groans, but then can’t help continue with, “But Dad!” as Tom shuts the door over his protests.

“That kid of mine, I swear to God,” Tom says with a sigh, as he heads for his car.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Despite all efforts to put them out of his mind, Stiles’ words nag at him. It doesn’t help that he’s starting to feel – odd. There’s no better word for it. He’s restless and edgy. It’s not bloodlust, he tells himself firmly, and he certainly has no trouble arresting the kid who’s vandalizing the walls over at the YMCA.

He’s fine, everything’s fine, and then he gets home and finds an empty house.

“God damn it, Stiles – ” He slams the door on the way back out to the Cruiser. He wonders if sixteen is too old to receive a spanking. The last one was when he was four and tried to run out into the road without looking. Still, if anything deserves one, it’s this. “How can he feed me all those carrots and talk about my cholesterol and then spend every free minute trying to give me a heart attack!”

He’s back in the car but he can’t stop that feeling creeping over him, the sense of danger pounding at him from every direction. Something’s wrong. Something’s very wrong. He can’t think straight. He can hear everything, from the thud of his own heartbeat to the neighbors two doors down having an argument. The assault on his senses is going to drive him mad. He needs to get away.

Without stopping to think, he gets out of the car, breathing hard, and takes off at a dead run. He doesn’t even think. Can’t think.

He’s deep in the forest by the time he regains some sense of self. His hands don’t look right. It takes him a minute to process that there are claws coming out of the tips of his fingers. Somehow, the thought that goes through his head is, Stiles is never going to let me forget I told him that werewolves don’t exist.

Then there’s a gunshot.

He whirls around with his hand on his own gun, and then sees at least four shadowy figures emerging from the trees. He hesitates, and then hears someone behind him. “This way! Run!”

Derek Hale grabs him by the wrist and pulls him along. Tom can feel how much faster he is, can sense the new strength as he leaps over a fallen log. He’s surprised he doesn’t fall. He follows Derek for several minutes, until everything is quiet, and then stops to catch his breath. He’s nowhere near as winded as he thinks he should be. “Who were they?”

“Hunters. The kind that have after us for centuries.”

“After us? You’d sure as hell better not be including me in that ‘us’!” Tom’s temper gets the better of him. “You know, two days ago I was just a normal county sheriff and my biggest concern was making sure my son didn’t trip and break his neck before he was finished with his growth spurt. Now all of a sudden I have bodies torn in half, claws and fangs I didn’t ask for, and people shooting at me with guns!”

“It’s not that bad,” Derek says. “You can hear better, move faster than any human could hope. The bite is a gift.”

“Well, I need to return it to the store, asap,” Tom retorts. “And it sounds an awful lot like you’re the one with the gift receipt.”

Derek shakes his head. “I’m not the one who bit you. I don’t know who is.”

“Why the hell should I believe you?”

“I can help you. You’re going to need me if you want to learn how to control it. We’re brothers now.”

Tom stares at him in disbelief. “Kid, I think that sounded a lot better in your head than it did in real life.”

Derek blinks at him. It’s clear that he doesn’t know how to react to Tom’s attitude. “I don’t – ”

Distantly, they hear the sound of a wolf howling. Both of them look up, and Tom starts to feel every hair on the back of his neck stand up. The feeling makes his skin crawl and itch. He has an undeniable urge to run towards the noise, to find whoever’s calling him.

Derek grabs him by the arm. “That’s the alpha,” he says. “He’s trying to call you out.”

“What does that even mean?” Tom asks, frustrated.

“Come with me,” Derek says, and Tom reluctantly follows. He finds himself inside the ruins of the old Hale house. Derek lets them inside through the half burned out front door. “You need to find an anchor. Something you can focus on, to help you keep your humanity.”

Tom nods. He rubs his fingers over his wedding ring. “My family,” he says, without thinking. Derek looks away. But there isn’t really time to worry about his hurt feelings. Tom takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, concentrates on Stiles and the worry in his eyes and his silly rants about cholesterol. The crawling under his skin abates a little.

It takes more effort than he would have expected. There are times when he feels his new claws digging into the skin of his palms. Every breath needs to be carefully measured. But gradually, the feeling stops. There’s no more howling. He’s left drained and exhausted, and eventually falls into a restless sleep.

When he wakes up, it’s because light is shining in his eyes. Derek is nowhere to be seen. Tom picks himself up off the ground, groaning as he eases the kinks out of his shoulders, and walks back towards the road.

He’s barely been walking for five minutes when a Jeep pulls up alongside him. “Oh, thank God!” Stiles is out of the car before his father can say anything, latching onto him for a hug. “Don’t freakin’ worry me like that, Dad, I’ve been out here looking for you all night – ”

Tom opens his mouth to say he wouldn’t be out here if Stiles had stayed home like he was supposed to, but then just sighs and hugs him back. “Yeah,” he says. “I guess we have to talk.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Stiles doesn’t even care that his father is eating bacon with his breakfast. His father is a werewolf. Life is suddenly amazing, and he can’t stop staring at his father, waiting to see if he’s going to sprout claws and fangs right there in the diner.

“Stiles, will you cut it out?” Tom asks, annoyed. “It’s hard to eat with you staring.”

“Oh, right, right. Sorry.” Stiles taps his fingers against the table, making little drumming noises. Then he bursts out, “Dad! Tell me what happened!”

Tom sighs, and Stiles nearly goes out of his mind with anticipation. His father had refused to say much on the car ride to the diner, saying he needed time to gather his thoughts. Stiles hopes he’s managed to gather them, because he can’t wait to hear the story any longer.

“Yes, apparently, the animal that attacked me was a werewolf.” Tom’s mouth purses on the word. “Apparently I am now also a werewolf. Last night, yes, I did shift into some sort of nightmare creature because I got upset when I came home and found out that you had left the house despite my explicit instructions otherwise.”

“Oh, crap,” Stiles says, and winces. “But I had to, didn’t I? You could have been in danger!”

“What the hell did you think you were going to do about it if I was?” Tom replies, exasperated.

“I, uh, I hadn’t thought quite that far ahead,” Stiles admits.

“Well, color me completely shocked.” Tom rubs his temples for a few moments. “Look. We are going to be fine. There’s obviously a lot that we need to figure out, and we’re going to figure it out, and we’re going to be okay. But I don’t want you telling anybody about this. Okay?”

“Okay,” Stiles says.

His father eyes him suspiciously. “Not even Scott.”

“Okaaaaaay.”

Tom sighs. “You know I don’t believe you, right? I mean, you could at least put in a token protest or something.”

Stiles makes a face. “Scott doesn’t want to hear about it anyway, because all he can talk about right now is Allison. I mean, it’s kind of adorable, but I have to hate her on general principle because she’s stealing my best friend and I’m bitter. And salty. I’m both bitter and salty. Packed with flavor, that’s me.”

“Eat your breakfast,” Tom says, and Stiles does.

“So how are we going to catch the other werewolf?” he asks, his mouth full of eggs.

“‘We’ are not going to do anything,” Tom says, and Stiles groans like he’s in real, physical pain. “I’m working on a solution, and it’s one that will not involve high schoolers. Is that clear?”

“Okay, but you can’t leave me out of this completely. I mean, I need to know that you’re safe. That this whole lycanthropy thing is under control. I mean, what about the full moon? Did you just wander around in the forest? Do you need to be locked up? Or chained up? I saw a movie once where they chained a monster to a radiator. Will I have to chain you up and feed you live mice? I had a boa once. I could do it.”

“Do you really want to bring up the time you traded your Pokemon deck and came home with a snake and I had to talk your mother off the ceiling?”

“Um, no. I probably don’t want to remind you of that. But still, all I’m saying is that I have to be sure that you’re okay.”

Tom sighs. “I’m going to be fine. And I’ll keep you in the loop as much as I can. I didn’t figure out a lot last night besides how not to lose my mind and go running around looking like something from a fifties B movie. Hopefully, I’ll learn more today, and then I can tell you about it when I get home. Okay? And I want you home today. To be sure that you stay home, I’m going to write down a list of chores for you. If they aren’t done when I get home, tomorrow I’ll be chaining you to a radiator. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Stiles moans.

“Good.” Tom finishes eating his breakfast and then has Stiles drive him home. The cruiser is still in the driveway, so after a quick shower and a change of clothes, he departs.

Stiles waits until his father’s car is around the corner before he grabs his bottle of Adderall. His father said he had to get his chores done – not get them done well. And the faster he can wrap this up, the sooner he can keep his dad safe.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom calls every hotel in Beacon Hills, and none of them have a Derek Hale registered. Without any better ideas, he heads out to the Hale house. Derek Hale seems like an odd duck, to put it mildly, so he wouldn’t be surprised to find that he’s living in those ruins.

Now that he’s a little more in his right mind, he takes the time to explore the premises more carefully. The wood creaks uneasily underneath his feet. There’s no sign that anyone’s been living there, but he can smell that Derek has been there. It’s hard to explain exactly how or what that smells like. It’s a specific scent, a Derek-scent, that permeates the atmosphere.

Outside, though, he smells blood. Blood and freshly disturbed earth.

He follows the scent around to the side of the house. It’s been covered well, but someone has definitely been digging. That’s not what catches his eye, though. Instead, what draws his attention is a bluish-purple flower. He reaches out to it, and the moment it touches his skin, he hisses in pain and jerks his hand back.

“Dad! Don’t touch that! It’s poisonous!”

Tom spins around, looks at his son, and then looks at the Heavens. “What part of chained to a radiator was hard for you to understand?”

“The . . . part where I knew you wouldn’t actually do that because it would be child abuse? Anyway, don’t touch the flower. I think it’s wolfsbane.” Stiles jogs over and kneels down so he can get a good look at the offending plant. Tom thinks about telling him to back off, but then figures if Stiles is going to show up and make trouble, he might as well make himself useful. “That’s weird, it’s like it’s tied to something.”

He pulls on the flower gently, and along with it comes a rope. It disturbs the fresh earth, coming up in a spiral pattern that makes Tom’s skin crawl for reasons he can’t explain.

“Uh, Dad?” Stiles says, jerking Tom’s attention back to the present. “Am I disturbing a grave here?”

“I think you are,” Tom says grimly, and gets on his radio. Animals don’t bury their victims, and they sure as hell don’t plant flowers to mark the grave. Once he’s talked to dispatch and they’re sending people with equipment to see what they’ve found, he gets his hand around the back of Stiles’ neck. “Now. What. Are. You. Doing. Here.”

Stiles hesitates. “Well, uh, I called to check on you and Sandy said you’d gone out to look for a suspect, and I thought you might need help. You know. In case you went all werewolfy.”

“We’re not going to have to have a talk about you using the phrase ‘blood lust’ again, are we?”

“No. Absolutely not. But I thought you might be looking for werewolf stuff, not murder stuff, and I did all that research, so – come on, Dad! You didn’t even know that was wolfsbane. You’re woefully unprepared for this. You’ve gotta let me help!”

“Apparently I do,” Tom says, and gives up. “Fine. But you stick right by me or I’ll duct tape you to the car.”

“Again with the threats of child abuse, I – okay, right, what are we doing here?” Stiles asks.

“I was here last night. Derek Hale found me. Apparently he’s a werewolf too, but he’s not the one who bit me. I need to find him. He lied to me about where he was staying, and now I’m pretty sure there’s a body buried on his property. I think he’s been staying here. There are tire tracks over there, and I can smell him in the house.”

“You can smell him? That’s awesome!” Stiles is practically overcome with glee. “I can’t believe my dad is a freakin’ werewolf!”

“You’re enjoying this way too much,” Tom says, feeling his headache looming again. He looks up as a cruiser pulls up and two of his men get out. “Go sit on the porch while we work, do not leave my sight,” he tells Stiles, who obeys. He greets the other officers, one of whom looks quizzically at Stiles. “I couldn’t find a baby-sitter and apparently he still needs one,” Tom says.

“Not cool, Dad!”

They get to work. Two more men arrive, and they take turns. It’s a shallow grave, so it doesn’t take long to reveal the half of a body that’s there. It’s a woman, with long dark hair and more bite marks on her body. Tom looks at the one across her throat and thinks about what Deaton had said about wolves. He doesn’t know if that applies to werewolves or not.

The medical examiner shows up, and takes careful pictures before they lift the body out of the grave. She’s still working when a black Camaro shows up and Derek Hale gets out. His expression is neutral, carefully closed off.

“Ah, Mr. Hale,” Tom says. “I’m afraid I’m going to need you to come with me and answer some questions.”

Derek looks at the grave. He looks at the police cruisers. Then he nods silently.

Tom gestures to Stiles and then points at the car. “You, in the front.”

“Yes, sir!” Stiles springs to his feet and practically bolts over to the car, throwing himself into the front seat. Tom has barely shut the door on his own side before Stiles is saying, “So you’re a werewolf? What’s it like? Can you transform all the time or only at the full moon? The sources I found on the internet conflict.”

Derek just stares at him.

Stiles, who’s used to such behavior, isn’t fazed. “How did you become one? Were you bitten? How old were you when you got bitten? Do you know any other werewolves? What about the girl who died, was she a werewolf?”

“Stiles, for God’s sake, how much Adderall – never mind, I don’t want to know.” Tom focuses on the road. He has a lot of questions for Derek, but he’s not going to ask any of them in the car with his son present.

That doesn’t stop Stiles from asking questions, pretty much the entire drive. He’s completely unperturbed by Derek’s refusal to answer them. He seems to think that if he just keeps finding new things to ask, eventually he’ll hit on something that Derek is willing to talk about. This gets him exactly nowhere. When they reach the station, Tom ushers Stiles into his office. “Now, you’re going to stay here, right? You’re not going to sneak out and watch the interrogation, and you’re certainly not going to go running off. Right?”

“Right,” Stiles agrees.

“And you understand why I don’t believe you when you say that, right?”

“Right.”

“So you’re totally okay with the fact that I’m going to handcuff you to the desk.”

“Ri – what?”

A few minutes later, Tom walks into the interrogation room, secure in the fact that for once, his son will be where he left him in an hour. He sits down with a pad of paper and a pencil. “First things first. I’m going to advise you of your rights. Then I need you to sign a statement saying that you’ve been advised of your rights and that you understand them.”

He launches into the practiced spiel. Derek signs the paper without a word.

“So who’s the girl?”

There’s that moment of hesitation again, where Derek is thinking about what to say. “My sister. Laura.”

“Okay.” Tom knows that at least two deputies are watching this interrogation, and one of them will already be going to pull up everything they can find on Laura Hale. “How did she come to be buried on your property?”

“I don’t know.”

Tom taps his pencil against the desk. “Are you sure about that, son? Because I have a feeling that your fingerprints are going to be all over her.”

Derek shrugs. “She’s my sister.”

“Mm hm.” Tom files that away, thinking about what they can and can’t prove. A lot is falling into the second column, unfortunately. They can’t charge him with the murder. The body being on his property is suspicious, but nowhere near evidence, let alone proof. Given that the ME is almost certainly going to rule that an animal killed her, there’s no way Derek could be held responsible. If they could prove that he moved the body, they could charge him with disturbing a crime scene and other related things. But that will be difficult to prove, especially with no motive that Tom can ascertain. “Do you want your sister’s killer caught?”

“Yes.” This time, Derek answers without hesitation.

“Then why would you hide her body?”

Derek says nothing, avoiding the trap.

Tom taps his pencil against the table again. “What was your sister doing here in Beacon Hills?”

“She came to visit friends.”

“And when was the last time you talked to her?”

“A couple days ago. She texted me, letting me know she had gotten in okay. But I didn’t hear from her after that, so I came to see if I could find her.”

“Do you have any idea who might have wanted to hurt your sister?”

Derek shakes his head.

“No ex-boyfriends, jealous coworkers, nothing like that?”

“No.”

Tom sighs. This case is going nowhere fast. “Okay. Why did you lie to me about where you were staying?”

At this, Derek actually flushes a little and looks away. “I, uh . . . I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to stay at the house. It’s been condemned and it’s not safe. So I said I was staying at a hotel. It had nothing to do with my sister being dead, I just . . .”

Tom waits. He’s found that sometimes it’s better to just let a suspect talk.

“I hate the way hotels smell,” Derek finally mutters.

Tom’s eyebrows go up, but actually it makes sense. He knows his own sense of smell has made it difficult to tolerate a lot of things lately. “Okay, Derek,” he finally says. “You’re not being charged with anything, right now, but if your fingerprints are on that body, you’re going to have a lot to answer for. Whether she’s your sister or not. And legally, you can’t stay on that property. So you’re going to stay here until my shift is over, and then you’re coming home with me.”

“I’m . . . what?” Derek asks.

“Coming home with me. I have a perfectly serviceable sofa. And I don’t want you going anywhere.”

Derek looks so befuddled by this that it’s a little entertaining. Tom gathers his notes and leaves the room. He’s gratified (and honestly a little surprised) to find Stiles where he left him. “I can’t believe you handcuffed me to a desk!”

“I can’t believe I had to!” Tom takes out his keys and gets the cuffs off of him. “Okay. You’re the . . . werewolf expert,” he says, wrinkling his nose. “Why would a werewolf tear someone in half and then run off?”

Stiles chews on his fingernail. “Well, it was probably another werewolf, right? Maybe you have to do that in order to make sure they’re dead.”

Tom nods slowly. “Okay. The deceased is Derek’s sister, Laura. Can werewolfism run in families?”

“Werewolfism isn’t a word. You’d want to say lycanthropy – oh, right, and yes. I think so, anyway. I mean, I’m not sure how I would know if any of what I read on the internet is true, but if it is, yes. There are families of werewolves.”

“Then why would Derek hide her body?” Tom is frowning. “Wouldn’t he want her killer caught?”

“Well, in the movies, it’d be because he wants to catch the killer himself,” Stiles says.

After a moment, Tom nods. “That makes sense, actually. Whoever killed Laura Hale is a werewolf. I know that, because they compared my bite wound to the ones on her legs. So it might be impossible for a human to capture it, let alone imprison it.” He considers that for a minute. “Okay. I’m not going to get Derek to talk about that while he’s in an interrogation room. So if I promise to let you contribute to that conversation later today, will you promise me that you’ll go home, do your chores, and make something for dinner?”

“Yes, sir!” Stiles springs to his feet. “I’ll need time anyway. To compile my questions. I’m going to have a lot of questions.”

“I bet,” Tom says, but he can’t keep the fondness from his voice.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Stiles not only compiles questions, he does the grocery shopping, cleans the house, and starts making dinner. He’s had a lot of Adderall, so sitting down and doing nothing is intolerable. It’s just past five thirty when he hears the door open, and he jogs over to make sure that everything’s okay. His father looks the same as always, and a little pulse of relief goes through him.

Then there’s Derek. He saw him in the car, but he has to stop and take a minute to soak in his attractiveness again. Derek Hale is hot like the sun. Or the moon, Stiles supposes, and chuckles despite himself. His father gives him a look but then just rolls his eyes. “What’s cooking?”

“Uh, beef stroganoff,” Stiles says, dragging his eyes away from Derek. “Do you have any allergies? Or are you a vegetarian or anything? Is there such a thing as a vegetarian werewolf? Or a werewolf with food allergies? I mean, you obviously heal, so – ”

Derek is again looking at him like he’s from another planet. He looks awkward and out of place in the cozy Stilinski home, like he’d rather be back in the forest. “I’ll eat whatever,” he finally says.

“Okay, good,” Stiles says. To his father, he adds, “Did you figure out anything else?”

“Not yet. But I have a lot of questions for a certain someone.”

Derek looks like he wants to crawl out the window.

Ten minutes later, they’re sitting around the dinner table. “Okay, Derek,” Tom says, not touching his food yet. “I’m going to ask you some questions that, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t ask you at the station. This is not an official interrogation. But I would like to advise you very strongly to cooperate, or else I will let my son start asking questions, and you do not want that.”

“Dad, you said I was going to be able to ask him questions,” Stiles says.

“Shush,” Tom replies, and Stiles sulks.

Derek doesn’t look up from his plate. “What do you want to know?”

 “You said that you didn’t know who bit me. Right?” Tom says, and Derek nods. “What about whoever killed your sister? Is that the same werewolf?”

“Yes. It’s the alpha.”

“Meaning?”

“The alpha is the head of the pack,” Stiles can’t stop himself from chiming in.

Derek glances at him and rolls his eyes. “It’s more than that. The alpha has power beyond any beta werewolf. They’re stronger, they heal faster. Laura . . . my sister . . . she was my alpha. But whoever it was in the forest killed her and stole her power. That’s what made him so strong, and why he bit you. He’s trying to build a pack.”

“So he’ll probably attack others,” Tom says.

Derek shrugs. “That would be my assumption.”

“And why would he be doing any of this?” Tom asks.

“How should I know?” Derek asks.

Tom decides to let that slide in favor of asking a question Derek will like even less. “Why did you bury your sister?”

Derek says nothing.

Tom sighs. “Off the record. I’m not going to throw you in jail. I need someone to help me out with all this werewolf garbage. Anyway, your fingerprints weren’t on her body. I assume you were wearing gloves. I’d have a bitch of a time proving it, and this conversation would be inadmissible because I haven’t read you your rights. Now talk. Why did you bury your sister?”

“It’s a werewolf tradition. If someone we love is killed. You bury them and mark their grave with a spiral to show that . . . you’ll avenge them.”

“And you plan on doing that how exactly?” Tom asks, and Derek shrugs. “I assume you plan on finding the alpha and killing them,” he continues, and Derek shifts uncomfortably, “which isn’t going to fly, legally speaking.”

“But Dad,” Stiles speaks up again, “I know you’re all like a lawman and stuff, but you can’t just put an alpha in jail. A prison cell wouldn’t even hold a regular werewolf, let alone an alpha.”

Derek blinks at Stiles, clearly surprised that the teenager is on his side. He clears his throat as he sees Tom’s eyes narrow. “He’s right. And any attempt to catch the alpha would only result in a lot of cops being killed.”

“Yeah, which is why I ask how you intend to do it,” Tom says. “I don’t see you coming out of that fight a lot better, to be honest.”

“It’s none of your business,” Derek says. “I don’t have to answer to you. He murdered my sister. I’ll find a way.”

Tom regards him in silence for a long minute before he decides to change the subject. “Why is the alpha trying to call me out? What does that mean?”

“Just what it sounds like.” Derek settles back into his chair, jaw setting into a mulish expression. “But don’t ask me why he’s doing it, because I don’t know.”

“Do you know anything?” Stiles asks.

Derek’s scowl becomes even more ferocious. “No, okay? No, I don’t. All I know is that my sister was murdered and whoever killed her stole her power and is using it to hurt innocent people. That’s it. That’s all I know. Are you fucking happy now?”

Tom winces, and Stiles’ jaw sags a little. “Whoa, dude, I didn’t mean – ”

“Never mind. Whatever.” Derek pushes back from the table.

“Derek,” Tom says, also standing up. “I meant it when I said you can stay here. I don’t want you staying in that house, it isn’t safe – ”

Derek snarls at him.

Tom doesn’t flinch. “At least let me loan you a sleeping bag and a tent, if you don’t want to sleep on the sofa.”

At this, Derek slumps back into the chair. “No,” he mumbles. “I’ll stay.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Stiles has a suspicion that his father would be very annoyed at him if he knew that it was midnight and Stiles was still up, but how can he possibly sleep when there are werewolves in the world? Specifically, when there’s a super hot werewolf sleeping on their sofa? He’s come and gone to the kitchen and peeked into the living room so many times that Derek finally gets frustrated and snarls, “Will you just come in here?”

“Yeah, uh, sorry. Sure.” Stiles keeps his voice low to avoid waking his father, who he hopes is sound asleep and dreaming of sugar plums. He settles on their easy chair, across from the sofa.

“And don’t stare,” Derek mutters.

“Dude, sorry, I just, you’re a werewolf,” Stiles says. “Let me see, come on, please? My dad doesn’t know what he’s doing and I don’t think he can shift on purpose yet. I wanna see what a werewolf looks like.”

Derek just glowers at him.

Stiles sighs. “Okay, fine. But if I make you some cocoa will you at least answer some of my questions? It’s just . . . he’s my dad, you know? I’m worried about him.”

Derek continues to glare for so long that Stiles thinks he’s going to say no, but then his shoulders slump inward and he mutters, “Fine. But I don’t like sweet things very much. Do you have any tea?”

“Sure.” Stiles heads into the kitchen with Derek behind him. “You know, microwaves should really have stealth settings. I’m always afraid that the beeping is going to wake him up. Especially now that he has super hearing. Which is really unfair, by the way. I guess I can kiss my days of sneaking in at night goodbye.”

“You shouldn’t make tea in the microwave anyway,” Derek says. “Don’t you have a kettle?”

“Uh, no?” Stiles says, looking around. “We’re more of a coffee family. The only reason we even have tea is because Dad doesn’t like to have caffeine after dinner.”

Derek mutters something that sounds suspiciously like, “Philistines,” but doesn’t protest as Stiles fills a mug with water and puts it in the microwave. “Decaffeinated tea is disgusting.”

“Yeah it is,” Stiles agrees, “but Dad thinks green tea is low-caffeine enough to count.” He takes out a box of tea bags and sees Derek’s nose wrinkle again. “I take it that you’re a tea purist.”

“I don’t like low-quality anything,” Derek says. He shifts uncomfortably and then says, “What are you doing up so late, anyway? Too much caffeine?”

“Caffeine calms me down and helps me sleep,” Stiles says, and sees Derek give him the side-eye. “Scout’s honor. It’s the ADD. Anyway, no, I’m just running on nerves. I do that sometimes.”

Derek glances over at the stairs and says, “I guess I can understand that.”

“So you’ve always been a werewolf?” Stiles asks, and Derek nods. “And your whole family, they’re all werewolves?”

“No.” Derek looks away. “I mean, the only living family I have now is my Uncle Peter, and he’s a werewolf. But before . . .” He clears his throat. “Both my parents were, and my siblings? But my father’s brother wasn’t, and neither was his daughter. Uncle Peter’s wife wasn’t either. Their son was too young to know for sure.”

“Yeah, when do you find out? I mean, how can you tell?”

“Most kids start shifting for the first time around four or five years old. Sometimes it’s just the claws or just the ears at first. Before that, it can be hard to tell. Nathaniel probably was – lycanthropy runs very strongly on my mother’s side of the family – but there’s no way to know.”

Derek looks away, and Stiles remembers that they’re talking about his real family members who died horribly. “I, uh, sorry. I don’t mean to pry. I’m just worried about my dad. Uh, more relevant questions. He seems stronger and faster, more agile. And that bite wound disappeared within a day. Do all wounds do that? Because that would make me super happy, seriously.”

“Most wounds will. Anything routine. But there are weapons that can be used to inflict wounds that won’t be.”

“Like wolfsbane, right? And silver?”

Derek nods. “And wounds from the alpha. Those don’t heal.”

Stiles chews on his lower lip. He doesn’t like that at all, since the alpha is clearly a bad dude and his father clearly has every intention of trying to apprehend him. He ponders this while he takes the mug out of the microwave just before the timer can go off, and dips the tea bag in it before handing it off to Derek. “You really have no idea who the alpha is?” he asks, and Derek’s scowl intensifies. “Why do you think he was trying to, how’d you put it? Call on my dad?”

“Call him out,” Derek says, and shrugs. “I don’t know. Alphas are stronger when they have betas.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. That’s just how it is.”

“Okay, but is it like, cumulative? Or is it exponential?” Stiles sees Derek giving him a look. “Like, does having three betas make an alpha worth four total, or does it make him worth eight? Or does – ”

“I knew what you meant, I was just surprised.”

Now it’s Stiles who scowls. “I’m not an idiot, you know.”

Derek doesn’t respond to that. “It’s a little of both. I wouldn’t say it’s dramatic enough to be exponential, but it’s more than cumulative, too. The alpha gains power from each pack member, and the more pack members there are, the more he gains from each one.”

Stiles nods. “So this alpha, whoever it is, is probably gonna want to turn more people.”

“Probably.”

There’s a thud upstairs and Stiles whips around, practically tripping over himself as he heads for the stairs. Derek grabs him by the wrist before he can start up them and collide with his father on his way down. He’s wearing only a T-shirt and boxer shorts, and he’s shifted, claws and fangs out. Stiles gets as far as, “Dad, are you – ” before seeing the werewolf features and blurting out, “Holy shit!”

“Stiles – get away from me,” Tom manages through gritted teeth.

Derek is immediately on his feet, getting Tom by the arm and stopping him before he can get to the door. “The alpha’s calling you again,” he says, his voice even, but tight with anxiety. “You have to fight it. Focus.”

Tom lets out a string of swears that, under better circumstances, would have sent Stiles running for a dictionary. His claws are digging into his palms, and blood is running down his hands. “Jesus, Dad,” Stiles says, feeling helpless. He should be doing something. There had to be something he could do. But there isn’t. He just stands there, uselessly, while Derek talks his father through several deep breaths.

After what seems like a small eternity, Tom relaxes slightly and looks up. His gaze fixes on Stiles and he says, “What are you still doing up?”

Stiles breathes a sigh of relief. He doesn’t bother lying, since his father would see through it anyway. “Couldn’t sleep.”

Tom sighs. “Been a long day for all of us, I guess.”

“Are you . . . okay?” Stiles asks, not sure whether or not he really wants an answer.

“For now, I think I am. Tired, but okay.”

“I’ll make you some tea,” Stiles says. He frowns, thinking all this over as he goes into the kitchen. Derek is still helping keep his father upright, that broody scowl fixed on his features. “Maybe, you know, if we want to know what the alpha wants, maybe you should let him call you out. Go find him.”

“That wouldn’t be a good idea,” Derek says immediately. “Alphas are dangerous. If we got to him and we weren’t prepared, it would be . . . bad. And the closer you are, the harder it is to resist. You could wind up doing what he wants no matter how much you try not to. Whatever that is,” he adds, shaking his head.

“Let’s talk about this in the morning,” Tom says. “Whatever we decide to do about the alpha, we’ll do it together. Okay?” he adds, and stares Derek down until he gives a sullen nod. Then he reaches out and gets Stiles by the back of the neck, in that combination of affectionate gesture and commanding scruff that he frequently subjects his son to. “Forget the tea. You need to get some sleep. I think we all do.”

“Okaaaay,” Stiles says, but leans against his father for a few moments before they head up the stairs.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom sleeps restlessly, afraid that if he falls asleep again, he might end up somewhere in the woods. He tosses and turns until it’s nearly dawn, and then his cell phone rings. “Hey, Sheriff, sorry to wake you but we’ve got a 187 down at the high school.”

“I’m on my way,” Tom says, getting out of bed. He throws on his clothes and doesn’t bother to shave. He can do it later. Stiles will still be asleep at this hour, so Tom leaves a note to explain his absence. It’s not normally necessary – if Stiles can see that the Cruiser is gone he’ll assume that his father is out on police business somewhere – but things are weird and he doesn’t want Stiles to worry.

Derek is still asleep on their sofa, and Tom hesitates a little. He’s not in love with the idea of leaving Derek alone in the house with his teenaged son, but he can’t quite bring himself to wake up Derek just to throw him out. He’ll have to trust his estimation of the man’s character.

He heads down to the high school and finds a dead body on a school bus. It’s practically been torn apart, like Laura Hale’s was. The medical examiner is on the scene and says that the estimated time of death is about one o’clock. Tom frowns down at the body and wonders why he was here in a parking lot at that time of night.

“Any ID on the body?” Tom asks.

“Looks like his name is Garrett Meyers,” Tara says, tapping on the computer in her squad car. “And this is his school bus. He drives for the county.”

Tom frowns. “Is there an address on him?” he asks, thinking that might have been homeless and living on his bus.

“Yep,” Tara says, pulling it up. “Divorced, two adult kids. One lives in Reno and the other in a Seattle suburb. Wife moved all the way to Florida. So no immediate family in the area. Lives in an apartment on the west side of town. I’ll run by and check it out, see if I can figure out what he was doing here so late at night.”

“Okay.” Tom shakes his head and turns to the medical examiner. “Looks like the same animal that got that woman in the woods.”

“I can’t say for sure until I get him back to the lab and measure the bite wounds,” the ME says, “but yeah, that’s a pretty good guess. Not that I know why the hell it would have chased him onto a school bus.”

“Me neither.” Tom thanks her and says he’ll wait for the report before heading back to the office. There are a lot of reasons he doesn’t like this, but the biggest one is that this man was killed at the same time the alpha had been trying to call him out. What had the alpha wanted? Help murdering this man? It doesn’t seem like he had needed the help. So what was the point?

He had been back at the office for about twenty minutes when his phone rings. He glances down at the screen and sees that it’s Stiles. “What’s up?” he asks. “You got my note, right?”

“Yeah, I did, but I wasn’t sure if Derek had gone with you? Because he’s gone.”

Tom sighs a little. It was probably too much to ask that Derek would stick around. He wishes that he had a way to get in touch with him, because he wants to ask him why the alpha might have called him. “No, he must have left after I got up. He probably heard me leaving. Look, go to school and keep your nose clean. Yes, someone was killed in the parking lot. I’m working on - ”

“In the parking lot?” Stiles bursts out. “Of the high school?”

“Yes. Take a deep breath. There’s a lot I don’t know, and I don’t want you getting in trouble over it.”

“But you’ll keep me in the loop, right? If this is werewolf related - ”

“Go to school,” Tom says, and hangs up the phone. He shakes his head a little and starts looking through Laura Hale’s phone and financial records to see if he can find any connection between her and Garrett Meyers. As far as he can tell, there’s nothing. They have virtually nothing in common. Without a phone number to reach Derek at, he can’t get a hold of him to ask if he knew Meyers at all.

“Did you pull phones and financials for Meyers?” he asks, when one of his deputies goes by.

“Isn’t it another animal attack?” the man asks.

“Until we get confirmation from Fish and Game, it’s a possible homicide,” Tom says, “so get me his information, please and thank you.” He looks up as Tara comes in. “Any luck at Meyers’ apartment?”

“Nothing interesting. Just your average middle-aged bus driver. No drugs, no large stacks of cash, no guns, nothing out of the ordinary.” Tara shakes her head. “Why are you so convinced that it wasn’t a cougar?”

“Just a feeling,” Tom says.

“Did you get a good look at it when it attacked you?” Tara asks.

“Yeah, and it didn’t look like something that was going to follow a man onto a school bus,” Tom says, and shakes his head. He’s not about to tell Tara about werewolves, and he doesn’t want the others asking too many questions about why he’s convinced that this wasn’t a rabid cougar.

He wishes he had a sounding board, someone he could talk to about all of this. Stiles would be happy, he’s sure, but he wasn’t going to involve his son in this any more than absolutely necessary. Since Derek isn’t stable enough to hang around, that doesn’t leave Tom with a lot of options. After some thought, he heads down to the animal clinic.

“Sheriff, what can I do for you,” Deaton says, smiling when he sees Tom.

“I’m still trying to figure out what kind of animal I’m looking for,” Tom says. “This time it chased a man onto a school bus.”

“Not as unusual as it sounds,” Deaton says. “The animal chased him and he went for somewhere he felt was safe, and it followed him. That’s all.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I just can’t figure out why Meyers was down at the school to begin with.”

“Maybe he was meeting someone,” Deaton says. “If he was involved in something, that might be a good place, somewhere he was familiar with and knew had no cameras.”

“Yeah, but there’s no evidence of that,” Tom says, rubbing his hand over the back of his head. “I mean, what kind of nefarious activity is a school bus driver going to be involved in?”

“Well, Meyers wasn’t always a bus driver,” Deaton says. “He used to be an insurance investigator.”

Tom blinks. “Was he? I guess that could be important. Why did he stop doing that and become a bus driver, I wonder . . .”

“That I don’t know.”

“Well, it’s something to look into. Thanks for your help, Alan.” Tom waves and heads back to the office. The background check has come in on Meyers, and he looks through it with interest. He had indeed been an insurance investigator up until six years previous, quitting in October of 2005. Tom frowns down at that. “I don’t suppose . . . hey, Tara? Can you pull the file on the Hale house fire for me?”

“Sure.” She brings it in a few moments later. “Dare I ask why?”

In response, Tom flips it open and pulls up the investigator’s report. The signature at the bottom is one Garrett Meyers. He shows that to Tara. “First Laura Hale. Now the man who investigated the fire. Does that seem like a coincidence to you?”

“I’ve got to grant that it doesn’t.”

Tom rubs a hand over the back of his head. “Put out an APB for Derek Hale. I haven’t seen him since he left here yesterday,” he adds, even though it’s not true. “I don’t think he’s the perpetrator, but I want him in protective custody. If the Hale House fire was arson, it could be that whoever did it tying up loose ends.”

“Why now?” Tara asks.

“I’m not sure. I think Laura must have found something. She came back to town for some reason, and that’s how this all got started. But if she did, there’s no evidence of it in her records, and her brother isn’t talking about it. Still, I want him found before he gets himself into trouble.”

“Will do, sir.”

Tom rubs a hand through his hair and looks at the Hale fire case file. It’s going to be a long day.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

A few days later, Stiles is looking forward to an afternoon of video games and avoiding his homework when Derek stumbles out in front of his car. He slams on the brakes, and the jerk behind him hits the horn. Stiles gets out of the car and flips him off, grabbing Derek before he can hit the ground. “Whoa, holy shit, dude,” he says, seeing Derek’s pasty complexion and reddened eyes. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, I just – ”

“Yeah, sure you are.” Stiles quickly hustles Derek into his car before anyone can see him, then starts down the road. “Why did you come here? Why not go to the station?”

“I don’t know the people there.” Derek leans forward, his entire body shivering. “No one was at your house, so I thought . . .”

“Right, okay, that makes sense. What’s wrong? You look like shit, are you dying? You look like you’re dying – ”

“I was shot,” Derek says.

“Holy shit,” Stiles says again. “Why aren’t you healing? You said werewolves could heal – ”

“It was a different kind of bullet.”

“A silver bullet?”

“No, you idiot,” Derek says, through gritted teeth. “I don’t know what kind of bullet, probably some kind of wolfsbane.”

Stiles nearly steers into a tree as Derek pulls his sleeve back to reveal the wound, puckered and inflamed and decidedly disgusting. “Oh, God – what is that, is that contagious? You know, I’m putting up with a lot here, maybe you should just get out – ”

“God damn it, Stiles,” Derek says. “We need to find out what kind of bullet it was.”

“Oh, okay, I’ll just grab my magic eight ball. Should we take you to the hospital? I mean, I don’t think Echinacea and a good night’s sleep is gonna fix that – ”

“Do you ever stop talking?” Derek asks.

“Uh, no, not really, it’s kind of a nervous habit if we’re going to be honest. Okay, okay, how do we find out what kind of bullet it was?”

“We need to get into the hunters’ house and find it.”

Stiles blinks at him. He opens his mouth to retort that this seems like a really stupid idea. At the last second, he thinks of everything that’s happened over the past week, about how hard it obviously is for Derek to ask for any sort of help. He grimaces a little. “Okay, and since you’re saying that, I assume you know who shot you,” he says, and Derek nods. “Great. That simplifies matters considerably.” He pulls over to the side of the road and gets out his phone.

“What are you doing?” Derek asks, grabbing his wrist.

“What, ow, I’m calling my dad! Let me go, asshole.”

Derek doesn’t. “We don’t need to get anyone else involved. Just do what I say and – ”

“Look, jerkface, if I break into someone’s house and start stealing their shit, my dad will ground me until the earth crashes into the sun. You’ve been shot, dude, do you really think my dad wouldn’t want to know about that?” Stiles searches for the words that will make Derek calm down. “You’re scared, okay, I get it, but my dad can help you. He will help you. Okay?”

Derek looks away and doesn’t reply, but he does let Stiles go, slumping back into his seat and shivering. Stiles dials his father, who picks up on the second ring. “Hey, uh, hey Dad, I have a small problem.”

“Oh, Lord,” Tom says.

“Well, his name is Derek Hale and he’s in the passenger seat of my car and he’s been shot.”

Shot?” Tom’s voice rises. “Okay, I’ll meet you at the hospital – ”

“I don’t think we can take him to the hospital, Dad,” Stiles says, and talks over Tom’s protest. “It’s just his arm, he’s not bleeding out or anything, but the bullet must have had some kind of werewolf Kryptonite in it because it’s not healing and he looks wrecked. Derek says if we can get one of the bullets, he’ll know what was in it and then he can, you know, fix himself up. And I very maturely decided to call you instead of breaking into someone’s house and I expect accolades for this.”

Tom gives a snort of laughter despite the circumstances. “I’ll grant that’s far more restraint than I would have expected from you, especially lately. Okay. Put me on speaker.”

“Okay.” Stiles taps the screen.

“Derek,” Tom says, “do you know who shot you?”

Derek’s quiet for a minute before he throws in the towel. “The hunters in town are the Argents. It had to have been one of them.”

“Argents?” Stiles interrupts. “Like, the Allison Argent that Scott is dating? Oh, swell.”

“Where were you when this happened?” Tom asks. “And when?”

“Downtown. Around Sixteenth and Washington. It was late, around two thirty in the morning.”

“What the hell were you doing running around downtown in the middle of the night?”

“I was after the alpha,” Derek says through gritted teeth.

“The alpha we had agreed that you wouldn’t go after by yourself?”

Derek says nothing.

“Okay, we’re definitely going to have a talk about that later, but for now there are clearly more important issues at hand. I’m going to go get you this bullet. Stiles, take him back to the house and make sure he doesn’t get himself into any trouble. Derek, go with Stiles back to the house and make sure he doesn’t get into any trouble.”

“That’s very unfair, Dad, but – ” Stiles sees the way Derek is glowering. “But we will do that, yeah. Just, uh, keep me in the loop so I don’t worry, okay?”

“Okay.” Tom hangs up.

Stiles pulls back onto the road and heads back home. “Look, uh, my dad will come through. You can count on him, you know?”

Derek clutches at his wounded arm and says nothing.

“Right,” Stiles says, and resigns himself to a long afternoon.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

It takes Tom about a few hours to get what he needs together, and by then, he’s pissed. From the angles of the traffic cameras, he can’t work out exactly what happened, but he’s one hundred percent sure that shooting Derek was completely unnecessary. He makes a few calls and gets his things together before calling Stiles. “How’s he doing?”

“He, uh, he’s surly and uncommunicative, which I think means he’s panicking,” Stiles says. “And he’s obviously in a lot of pain, I tried giving him some Tylenol but he just looked at me like I was a moron. Which he does a lot, I don’t know if you’ve noticed that.”

Tom can’t help but smile a little at that. “Put him on.”

“Okay.”

A few moments later, Derek says, “Hi,” which might be the most pleasant greeting Tom has had from him yet.

“I’m on my way to the Argents to get that bullet,” Tom says. “Shouldn’t be another hour. How are you feeling?”

“Like crap,” Derek says. His voice trembles a tiny bit. “If you can’t get the bullet, we’re going to have to cut off my arm – ”

“Well, Jesus, don’t say that in front of Stiles. He’d pass out right on the floor. I tried to take him fishing when he was nine and he fainted and then cried for days. Over a fish. Which he then made me throw back anyway. No one will be dismembering anybody else in my house.” Tom shakes his head. “It shouldn’t be long, but I wanted to ask you a quick question. What happened to your car?”

Derek’s silence is telling. Finally, he says, “What do you mean?”

“I mean, I’ve been watching traffic cam footage for the past two hours trying to figure out exactly where you were shot and who you were shot by, and yes, before you ask, that was necessary if I’m going to get this bullet without losing my job. Your car’s window is broken. What happened to it?”

“Someone broke it.”

“Yes, I gathered that, Derek,” Tom says. “Who, and why?”

“One of the Argent lackeys, because I wasn’t properly subservient when Chris ‘you don’t have much family these days’ Argent decided that cleaning my windshield wasn’t threatening enough.”

Tom’s jaw tightened. “I see. And where and when was that?”

Derek sighs. “It was at the Circle K on Route Eleven, the night after Garrett Meyers was killed. Probably around eight. It’s not really important.”

“I’ll be the judge of what is and isn’t important,” Tom says. “Hang tight. I’ll be back soon.”

It only took another fifteen minutes to get that camera footage, and then he heads over to the Argents’ house. He heads up the walk and rings the bell. Chris Argent answers it a moment later and looks at Tom somewhat warily. “Can I help you, Sheriff?”

“I’m looking for Kate Argent. Is she here?”

“She’s in town, but not here at the moment. I can give you her number.”

“I’ll take that, but in the meantime – ” Tom produces some paperwork. “I have a warrant to search the premises.”

Chris takes it and studies it, frowning intently. He clears his throat and says, “Is there a problem I should be aware of?”

“Well, I’m so glad you asked,” Tom says, and walks into the house since it’s becoming obvious that Chris isn’t going to invite him. “At around two thirty last night, a young man was shot downtown. I’m looking for the gun and the bullets that were involved in this crime, so if you could direct me to your sister’s belongings, it would probably cut down on the time involved considerably.”

Chris clears his throat. “Why do you think my sister was involved?”

“I can’t share information about an ongoing investigation with you. All you need to know is that a judge found it compelling enough to grant me this search warrant. Your sister’s room is . . .? I’m going to assume it’s upstairs, so . . .”

Tom heads for the stairs, but Chris hastily blocks his way. “Sheriff, I’m sure you’re just trying to do your job, and I’m sure you’re excellent at your job, but there are things you might not be aware of that might affect your opinion on this case. If Kate shot at anybody, I’m sure she had a very good reason.”

“Is this where you try to talk around ‘werewolves’?” Tom asks. “Because I’ve got to admit I’m curious as to how you might do that.”

Chris blinks, taken aback, but then clears his throat again and says, “So you know. Well. That does make things easier. Kate was attacked last night.”

“Yes, I know. I have the camera footage. It shows an alpha werewolf attacking her vehicle. It then shows her exiting her vehicle and shooting at someone who is clearly not the same person who just attacked her. Which means, at the very least, she shot an innocent man in pursuit of a guilty one, which still makes her liable for assault. I’ll let a district attorney and a jury sort it out after that. In the meantime, I still have a search warrant to execute, and let’s be honest, we both know that I’m using it to get a bullet so I can heal Derek’s injury.”

Chris mouth tightens. “Sheriff, I think you’re confused about exactly whose side the law is supposed to be on.”

“Enlighten me.”

“Werewolves are dangerous. They hurt people. We – my family – we’re in the business of making sure they don’t hurt anyone. Sometimes that means we have to get our hands dirty. We have a Code.”

“Oh, really?” Tom stares him down. “Show me where in that code it recommends breaking a scared kid’s car windows to intimidate him, just because you think he might have been involved in a crime.”

“Derek Hale is hardly a scared kid.”

“He’s twenty-one. His sister was just murdered. I’m pretty sure I’ve spent a lot more time with him in the past week than you have, so yeah, I’m gonna trust my own judgment on this one. Derek Hale is a scared kid, and now he’s a scared kid who’s dying from a bullet that your sister shot him with for no reason. I’m not leaving this house without the means to help him. Now, I’m going to give you one chance to get out of my way before I arrest you for obstructing an officer. We can continue this discussion down at the station with you in handcuffs, if that’s really what you want.”

After a long moment, Chris steps aside. “You’re in way over your head, Sheriff.”

“And I’m too old for this shit on top of it. What’s your point?” Tom heads up the stairs without another word. It only takes him a few minutes to figure out which room is Kate’s, find the gun and the bullets. He thinks about taking them for evidence, but decides against it. Charges against Kate won’t stick, because Derek’s injury will heal, and he sure as hell can’t show the video of the alpha attacking her car in a courtroom. He’ll have to settle for what he’s got. He dials his son and says, “Okay, tell Derek that the bullets are Northern Blue Monkshood.”

Stiles confers quietly before saying, “He says if you can bring him one, he can use it to cure the injury. And you’d better hurry. He asked if we have a table saw. A table saw, Dad.”

“I’ll be home in fifteen minutes.” Tom jogs down the stairs and resists the urge to tell Chris Argent ‘thank you for your cooperation’ as he goes by. Chris is studying him with narrowed eyes, but Tom really couldn’t care less about the hunter’s opinion of him. He gets back in the car and turns on the lights although not the sirens, and makes it back to his house in record time.

Derek looks every bit as terrible as Stiles had said, pale and sweaty and just overall unhealthy. “I need a lighter,” he says, leaning over the kitchen table. Stiles scrambles for their grill supplies, where they keep one. Tom watches in interest as Derek empties the contents of the bullet onto the table, sets them alight, and then rubs the ashes into the wound. The dark lines that have branched out from it start to vanish immediately.

“That – was – awesome!” Stiles declares.

“Are you okay?” Tom asks, looking at Derek in concern.

“Except for the agonizing pain, yes,” Derek says between gritted teeth.

“Use of sarcasm is a sign of good health aaaaaaand I’ll be over here, getting you something to drink,” Stiles says, heading for the refrigerator.

Tom studies Derek, at the way his shoulders are hunched over and his body is trembling. He gives him a few minutes to wrestle with the aftermath of what had just happened. Tom’s never been close to death, not really, so he can only imagine the fear and the adrenaline and the relief that’s coursing through Derek right now.

Finally, he sits down across from him. “Derek, I’m not going to say anything about you going after the alpha alone. What I’m going to say is this: we are in this together. No, I didn’t ask for this. But I don’t think you did either. You don’t have to do all of this alone. We’re brothers now, remember?”

Derek looks up at that, and a weak smile passes onto his face. “I thought that sounded a lot better in my head.”

“Oh, it did,” Tom says, “but I guess it doesn’t sound too shabby out loud, either.”

“Oh my God, this is awesome,” Stiles breathes out. “My dad is a werewolf and we’re gonna have werewolf adventures and I’m psyched, you don’t even know.”

“Stop talking,” Tom says.

“Yes, sir.”

Tom thinks about telling his son to get lost for a little while, but he can’t help but notice that when Derek was hurt and needed help, he went to Stiles, not to him. That might change after tonight, but for now, he’ll take all the advantages he can get. Besides, hiding things from Stiles never ends well. His son might even have some valuable input – he’s done a lot more research on werewolves than Tom has. “Derek, we need to talk about the fire.”

Derek looks away. “I don’t see why.”

“Because whatever’s happening now goes back to that somehow, and we both know it. Did the Argents set the fire? Bribe Meyers into hiding it?”

After a long moment, Derek nods.

“And that’s why you and Laura left town, right? In case they came after you.”

Derek nods again.

“Laura came back here – was lured back here, to be honest – and was killed. Now the arson investigator is dead, too. That’s not a coincidence. Whoever the alpha is, he’s killing people who were involved in the fire. He went after Kate the instant she got into town.”

“That’s a lot of stuff I already knew,” Derek says.

“Do you know who else was involved in the fire?” Tom asks. “Who else the alpha might go for?”

After a moment, Derek nods. “Well, maybe. The last time I talked to my sister, she was close to figuring something out. She talked about a guy named Harris. He’s a chemistry teacher at the high school.”

“He’s my chemistry teacher, and the world’s biggest asshole,” Stiles says.

Tom is frowning. “Well, a chemist would be the sort of person to go to, if you wanted to know who might be able to start a fire that would spread quickly. Minimize the possibility that people would be able to get out. So we’ll have a chat with him.” He gives Derek another glance and says, “But not tonight. You need to eat something and then get some rest. How about I go grab us some cheeseburgers?”

“Dad,” Stiles huffs. “You can’t . . . oh my God. Can you?”

Derek frowns between the two of them, unsure of the sudden change in dynamics. “I would assume he can.”

“But – but! Cholesterol! Atherosclerotic heart disease! Are these things werewolves need to worry about?”

Still frowning, Derek shakes his head. “No. It’s just like any other illness, really – the werewolf healing would prevent any long-term damage.”

“Well, hallelujah,” Tom says, and turns to his son. “You. Not a single word. I am now allowed to eat as many curly fries and cheeseburgers as I want, forever and ever, world without end, amen. I’m going to In and Out. I’ll be back in twenty minutes with enough for everyone.”

“Fine,” Stiles says, with a dramatic sigh, but he’s grinning, and Tom decides he’ll take what he can get.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

After dinner, Stiles falls asleep on the sofa. Tom has grown somewhat used to this over the years, how his son will fall asleep midsentence on whatever piece of furniture he’s sprawled on. He can be upside down, bent in half, it doesn’t matter. Then when asked, he’ll insist he can’t fall asleep without his pillow, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Tom spreads a blanket over him and heads into the kitchen. Derek, who has been listening to Stiles chatter with more patience than Tom would have expected, follows him. Tom gets them both a beer out of the refrigerator, then hesitates. “You are twenty-one, right?”

“Yes,” Derek says, “but I’ll pass on the beer. I’m not much of a drinker. Metabolism is too high to get drunk, anyway.”

“Oh.” Tom looks at the beer, shrugs, and pops it open anyway. Then he gets Derek a soda. “How are you feeling?”

“Okay,” Derek says.

Tom sighs a little. He doesn’t blame Derek for being uncommunicative. He can’t imagine that it’s easy for him to trust, after everything that’s happened to him. Stiles has told him a little about what happened that afternoon – about how Derek showed up and demanded his help, obviously thinking he wouldn’t get it if he didn’t try to bully Stiles into it. “I’d say you could sleep on the sofa, but once Stiles passes out, I don’t move him. If I do, he’ll rev right back up. You can crash in his room.”

“Okay,” Derek says again.

“You gonna be there when I get up?” Tom asks, and Derek looks away. Tom sighs again. “Derek, we’re going to get to the bottom of this. Just throwing yourself up against the alpha isn’t going to help anything.”

“He killed my sister,” Derek says.

“I know. But I don’t think she would want you to join her on the other side, okay? So we’ll tackle this together.” Tom looks up as he hears a wolf howling, and his skin starts to itch and crawl. “Jesus,” he mutters, fists clenching and unclenching. “When I get my hands on this asshole, I swear to God . . .”

“Focus,” Derek says.

Tom nods and takes several deep breaths before he manages to speak in an even voice. “What do you use for your anchor?” he asks, hoping to distract himself.

Derek stares out the window. “Anger.”

They sit in silence for a moment. “Well, that just sounds unhealthy, son.”

Derek glowers at him, but then gives a reluctant snort of laughter. “Yeah. I guess it is.”

Tom studies him thoughtfully. “What did it used to be?”

The question was a mistake, and Tom realizes that a moment too late. Derek turns away, his face twisting with the effort to hold back the agony and grief that the words brought to the surface. Tom reaches out and then hesitates. He’s not sure if Derek would appreciate physical contact, but can’t suppress the feeling that it’s something he needs. He settles for a middle ground, putting a hand on Derek’s shoulder and giving it a squeeze, saying, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Derek says tonelessly.

“No, it isn’t. And you don’t have to pretend that it is.” Tom lets his hand drop back into his lap. “I knew your family, you know. What happened was a tragedy, and there’s no timeline on grief. You don’t have to be okay with it.”

Derek shrugs a little, but he sneaks a sideways look at Tom as if gauging his sincerity. “How . . . how did you know them?”

“Your mom and I, through mutual friends. Dr. Deaton, you know him, right? He was pretty tight with your mom, and he and I actually went to high school together. Your mom was a few years older than both of us. I was never quite clear on how she knew Alan, although now I’m starting to think I might have an inkling.” Tom shakes his head a little and says, “Your Uncle Peter, now, there was a different story. I used to arrest him a lot.”

A surprised smile curves at Derek’s face. “What, really?”

“Oh yeah. All the time. Peter liked to cause trouble. I don’t want to cast aspersions, but . . .”

Derek shrugs. “I know that my uncle was basically a career criminal. You don’t have to try to tiptoe around it.”

Tom studies him for a minute, then nods. “Yeah, I picked him up for assault a couple times, and theft more than once. Never had enough to charge him, though. He was good at what he did, your uncle. There were lots of times when I knew he was involved but also knew I couldn’t prove it, so I’d haul his ass to the station just to make him suffer. He never seemed to mind too much, though. I think he thought it was funny.”

“That . . . sounds like Uncle Peter.” Derek’s face closes off again, looking away before Tom can see him cry.

Tom’s quiet, letting him have that until he composes himself, before asking, “Have you been to see him yet?”

“No. I just . . . I know I should go, but . . .”

“It’s hard. I know that. When Claudia was sick . . . sometimes facing that was the hardest thing in the world.” Tom squeezes his shoulder again. “And it’s tough to do alone. Maybe I’ll swing by with you tomorrow, how does that sound?”

Derek tries to smile, though he looks like he’s still close to tears. “I guess if it’s not out of your way.”

“Nah. Now, we should both get some sleep, okay? I’ll have to be up early.”

“Okay,” Derek says, and quietly adds, “Thanks.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom isn’t a fan of hospitals. He supposes that nobody is, but he also thinks that there’s a special hatred for them among anyone who’s lost a loved one to a chronic illness. Every time he sets foot in one, it’s like losing Claudia all over again. It’s been eight years since she died. Some days, he doesn’t think about it very much. Just a few moments here and there, like when he sees her picture on the mantle. Other days, it’s like the world is conspiring to remind him of his loss, and the pain ends up just as fresh as it was on the day she died.

He knows it’s the same for Stiles, and that’s just a fraction of where Derek had lost. Both his parents, his aunts and uncles, his brothers and sisters. Tom can’t imagine the weight of that much loss. It’s no wonder that Derek uses anger as his anchor. Tom knows that he would be angry, too.

Claudia had died eight years ago, and the Hale fire had been six years ago. He was functional again by then, but still deep in grief. He wonders if he missed things he wouldn’t have missed, if he had been at his best. If this all could have been avoided, if only he had been doing his job right. Maybe not. Clearly the arson investigator had been bribed, and it would have been hard to argue with his conclusions. But maybe.

The long-term care ward is quieter than most hospital wards. The people here aren’t acutely ill, most of the time, just unable to care for themselves. Derek trails behind Tom, reluctance clear in his every step, when Tom inquires which room is Peter’s.

When was the last time he saw Peter Hale? Tom thinks back. About six months before the fire, he thinks. After Peter had married and had a child, either his exploits had toned down or he had gotten better at hiding his involvement. Tom had brought him in after a jewelry heist. It had Peter’s fingerprints all over it; unfortunately, those fingerprints were metaphorical rather than literal. Peter had laughed about the nostalgia of it, denied involvement, and gotten away scott free, as usual.

Seeing Peter now is a shock. It’s not the burns, which Tom had been prepared for, but that slack expression, the utter blankness on his face. Derek sucks in a breath when he sees him, but squares his shoulders and walks into the room. He sits down in the chair next to Peter and manages to say, “Hey, Uncle Peter,” in a rough voice.

Tom leans against the wall and says nothing, knowing there’s nothing he can say but wanting Derek to know that he’s there. He watches Peter, unmoving, not even looking at his nephew, and wonders what, if anything, is locked away inside his head. Peter had been there the night of the fire, the only survivor in the house. If he had seen something, he could be the key to the whole thing. That made him vulnerable, too. If someone involved in the fire was tying up loose ends, Peter would be an obvious place to start. So why not start there?

There’s something he’s missing. It’s not as simple as it seems, even with werewolves in the equation.

He watches Derek talk quietly to his uncle, telling him about how Laura had been killed, asking for any sign that he’s awake and listening, that he cares. He’s holding Peter’s hand, gripping it so tightly that Tom is afraid he’s going to hurt him. He walks over and gently pries Derek’s fingers away, giving his shoulder a quick squeeze with his other hand. Tom lays Peter’s hand back on the arm of his chair. Then he does a double take. There’s dirt underneath Peter’s fingernails.

Tom frowns. He studies Peter’s slack face. How would a catatonic man in a nursing ward end up with dirt underneath his nails?

While Derek is talking, Tom saunters over to the window. They’re on the ground floor, but it doesn’t look like the windows open. That doesn’t surprise him; hospital windows usually don’t. If Peter is coming and going, he’s doing it through the door. That means that someone is helping him, or at the very least, looking the other way.

“I’ll be right back,” he says to Derek, and goes out into the hallway. There’s a security camera at the end of the hallway, but when he gets closer, he sees that there’s no blinking light on it.

“It’s been broken for ages, why?” the nurse asks, when Tom inquires about it.

“Just curious. I thought you might not know.”

It’s tempting to wave his badge and get an employee roster and start snooping. But if he does that, and if someone really is helping Peter murder people, he’ll tip his hand. No, there will be a better way to do this. And in the meantime, he needs to go have a chat with a chemistry teacher.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Harris is about as useless as Tom would have predicted him to be. He tries to deny everything, then says all he remembers was that it was a blonde lady. After some prodding and threatening, Tom gets him to cough up a picture of the necklace she was wearing. But it’s nothing that would stand up in court. He can’t arrest Kate because six years ago, someone vaguely matching her description talked about arson in a bar.

Of course, he could arrest her on Derek’s testimony, but Derek is either unwilling or unable to do that, and Tom hasn’t wanted to push him. He’s fragile, hurting, and if Tom pushes, he’s just going to take off again. Besides, even with Derek’s statement, it would be shaky. Kate had no motive, and Tom doesn’t think he can talk about werewolves in court. There has to be a better way to do it.

And none of it solves his current problem, which is a man who was murdered in a video store of all places. Fish and Game is very insistent that cougars don’t rent videos. Tom tells them not to worry about it. The camera footage from outside gets a wonderful picture of the alpha werewolf transforming back into a person, but it’s too grainy to identify the person in question.

One thing he finds interesting about this is that between this and the incident with Kate, the alpha clearly doesn’t care about getting caught on camera, or even changing forms on camera. That kind of reckless disregard isn’t like the Peter Hale that Tom had known. But then again, very little of this is.

As things stand, Peter is really the only suspect he has. Kate might have decided to tie up loose ends, but she wasn’t in town when Laura was killed, and she definitely isn’t an alpha werewolf. If the alpha is going after people involved in the fire, Tom simply can’t imagine who else it would be.

There’s always the possibility that Derek and the alpha are working together. Derek has been helping Tom fight the alpha off, that’s true, but Tom doesn’t even know why the alpha is even calling him out. Maybe he’s doing it just so Derek can help him and gain his trust. Derek’s presence is unaccounted for during the first and third murder, and during Garrett Meyers’, he was sleeping on Tom’s sofa. He could have slipped in and out.

That made sense, but Tom can’t shake the idea that Derek would never work with his sister’s killer. He’s genuinely grieving over her death – Tom can smell his grief, something that makes him deeply uncomfortable. Anything’s possible, and he supposes Derek might put it aside if it meant taking down the people who had killed his family, but it seems unlikely.

Given all of that, Tom heads back down to the hospital and finds Melissa. “Hey, I was wondering if you could do me a favor.”

“Sure, what’s up?” Melissa asks.

“Let’s just say, hypothetically, that I suspected a hospital employee of doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” Tom says and Melissa gives him a look. “And let’s say that, hypothetically, I didn’t have enough evidence to get a warrant to prove it. In this hypothetical situation, could you get me some personnel files to take a peek at?”

Melissa pinched the bridge of her nose. “Hypothetically, it would depend on what sort of information you needed. I’m not giving you home addresses and medical histories unless you have a damned good reason.”

“How about the names of people who worked a certain shift in a certain ward?”

“That I could do for you.”

“Hypothetically.”

“No, actually,” Melissa says, smiling. “When and where?”

Tom writes down the approximate time frames of the three murders for her and hands it over. “For the long-term care ward.”

Melissa, who isn’t an idiot, looks at the list of times and frowns. “You think one of the staff here is involved in these murders?”

“I’d prefer not to say.”

Melissa gives him the side eye, then says, “Give me a few minutes,” and walks over to the computer. She types quickly, writing down a few minutes before coming back. “There are three people who worked all of those shifts. Good luck.”

“Thanks, I owe you one.”

Tom takes the list back to the station and gets to work. Unfortunately, none of the easy answers he had hoped for jumped out at him. None of the three hospital employees have any connection to either the Hales or the Argents. Nobody started working there just before the murders began. If one of them is helping Peter Hale, he doesn’t know why. He thinks about interrogating them, but decides to table that for now. He doesn’t want to risk tipping Peter off.

He’s pondering his next move when he comes out of the station and sees a dark SUV parked next to his Cruiser. Chris Argent is leaning against the bumper, arms folded over his chest. “Sheriff,” he says, as Tom approaches. “I was wondering if I could speak to you in private.”

“Sure.” Tom nods towards the Cruiser. “Let’s go for a drive.”

Chris looks a little uncomfortable with the idea, but he gets in the passenger seat of the Cruiser and waits until Tom has backed out of the parking space and is on the road. “I feel like we got off on the wrong foot,” he says, “and I admit that was my fault. You came around asking about my sister, and it put me on the defensive, thinking that you might arrest her. I reacted badly, and I’m sorry. I think it’s going to be important that you and I be able to work together.”

“Well, I appreciate the apology,” Tom says. “But I want to make one thing perfectly clear. The reason I didn’t arrest Kate wasn’t because I felt what she did was justified. It was because the wound was supernatural and couldn’t be documented, and the video footage had werewolves on it and couldn’t be aired in court. If evidentiary logistics hadn’t been a problem, your sister would be in a cell right now. She had no reason to shoot Derek.”

Chris’ mouth thins like he had just bitten down on a lemon. “A werewolf attacked her car. Yes, the one she shot was a different one, but in the same place at the same time. Obviously they were working together.”

“Obviously?” Tom says. “Okay, this is a fun thought experiment. You were in the military, yes?”

“Yes,” Chris says warily.

“Did you see combat?”

“Two tours during the Gulf War.”

“Okay. Let’s say that while you were on patrol, a car nearby was bombed. You see the man who planted the bomb fleeing the scene, so you know who did it. Not far away is another man, same ethnicity, also running away. Do you shoot him? Or do you assume that maybe he’s running because a car just exploded?”

Chris breathes in and out slowly. “That metaphor isn’t anywhere near as accurate as you think it is. Werewolves are predisposed to violence.”

“See, I just don’t think that’s true,” Tom says. “I think they have different instincts from humans. Maybe they’re a little harder to control. But if werewolves were really as dangerous as you make them sound, there’s no way that ninety-nine percent of the population would be in the dark about them.”

“Sheriff, I respect your position, but I doubt you’ve dealt with as many monsters as I have.”

“Oh, you do, do you?” Now it’s Tom who has to take a deep breath. “Two months ago, I arrested a man who raped his four-year-old cousin. Over the summer there was a guy who brought a gun into a diner and shot eight people. I think I’ve dealt with plenty of monsters, Mr. Argent, and let me tell you that none of them had fur and fangs.”

Chris pinches the bridge of his nose. “I’m not saying that every werewolf is going to inevitably cause harm. Like I said, we have a Code. We hunt those who hunt us.”

“Well, you’ve got one hell of a flexible interpretation of that,” Tom says. “How about the night Laura Hale’s body was found, when you shot at two men in the forest?”

At this, Chris looks startled. “How do you even know about that?”

“Derek told me. So, how about it? You couldn’t have even seen who those two werewolves were, let alone be sure that they had committed the sort of crimes that would warrant the death penalty.”

“They can heal injuries, and they don’t usually stick around to chat. You take them down, so you can interrogate them, and then if they’re innocent they go free.”

“So you literally shoot first and ask questions later.” Tom shakes his head in disgust, and talks over Chris’ sputtering. “Why did you break Derek Hale’s car window?”

Chris takes another deep breath. “It was a pre-emptive move to impress upon him that he wasn’t going to be allowed to cause trouble in Beacon Hills.”

“And you see how, from my perspective, it was absolutely unnecessary, right?”

“From the perspective of someone who hasn’t spent their entire life hunting werewolves, yes, it would seem unnecessary.”

“How about from the perspective of someone who actually knew the Hale family? Which, by the way, while we’re on the subject of people who didn’t deserve the death penalty, I’m interested in your explanation of why they were murdered.”

Chris frowns slightly. “The Hale house fire was an accident. An electrical fire.”

Tom pulls the car over and puts it in park. He turns to look at Chris with his jaw slightly ajar. “Okay. I’ve clearly been coming at this conversation all wrong. I was under the impression that you weren’t an idiot.”

“Excuse the hell out of me – ”

“No, I’m pretty sure there’s no excuse for this. Are you seriously going to sit in this car with me, look me in the eye, and tell me you had no idea that your sister murdered eight people, three of whom were children? We’re going to have this conversation?”

Chris holds his gaze. “It was an electrical fire.”

“You’re kidding me, right? You’ve got a house full of werewolves. None of them went through a window? None of them kicked down a door? To save not only themselves but their children? You think the faulty wiring put some sort of spell on their house to keep them inside? Do you think the fire spread so quickly that they all got burned to a crisp in their beds before they even smelled the smoke? That would be one hell of a damaged circuit. You know Kate lived here at the time of the fire. You know she likes shooting werewolves who haven’t done anything wrong. Do the God damned math!”

Chris says nothing. It’s hard to tell in the dim street light, but he looks paler than before.

Tom starts the car and pulls back onto the road. He drives in silence for a long minute, heading back to the station. “I don’t quite have enough evidence yet, Mr. Argent, but I’m going to find it. When I do, your sister is going to be held accountable for her crimes. And I don’t much care about whether or not you have a problem with that.”

“If you – ” Chris lets out another breath. “If you find that evidence, bring it to me. We police our own.”

“No, that’s not how this works. I wouldn’t trust you to police an ant colony, and I certainly don’t trust you to see that your own sister faces justice for killing people you clearly don’t see as worth protecting.” Tom pulls into the parking lot and jams the gearstick back into park. “Now get out of my car.”

Chris departs without another word.

“Jesus.” Tom pinches the bridge of his nose and heads for home.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Two nights later, two men are found dead in the forest, practically ripped apart and set on fire. Both of them have a record, and they’ve both been suspected of arson in the past. Tom digs deep trying to find any connection to Kate Argent, but she was careful, and there’s nothing. He’s beginning to face up to the fact that it’s going to be damned hard to pin anything on Kate when someone is murdering all her accomplices faster than he can find them.

And that’s if there are any left at this point. Tom doesn’t think it would have taken more than three or four people, not including the arson investigator. If he’s right, Kate’s going to be the next target.

“What I really need,” he says to himself, “is the hospital security footage.”

“Well, you know,” Stiles says, and Tom practically jumps a foot in the air, “I might know a guy who can get that for you.”

“Jesus, Stiles!” Tom rubs both hands over his face. “No. You are not involved in this investigation. Scoot.”

Stiles’ response to that, predictably, is to plop into the chair next to Tom and ask, “Why the hospital security footage?”

“You know I’m not going to tell you that, right?”

“Uh huh.” Stiles starts shuffling through his father’s papers. Tom smacks his hand with the pen, but it’s too late. “Hospital staff, too. You think someone at the hospital is involved?”

Tom moved on to massaging his temples. “Stiles. Come on.”

Stiles makes a face at him. “Okay, but I’m serious about the hospital footage. There’s this guy I know at school who can do computer stuff. He was arrested for it once! But he was a juvenile and I definitely haven’t looked at his sealed record – ”

“That’s it,” Tom decides, getting Stiles by the ear. “We’re done here.”

“Ow, ow, owwwww, Dad!” Stiles protests, as Tom hauls him to his feet.

Tom has gotten Stiles into the kitchen and is trying to distract him by making him do the dishes when his phone chimes with a text. He glances down to see a text from Derek that reads, ‘Can you meet me? Need to talk. I’m at the high school.’ He frowns a little, wondering what Derek is doing there, but texts back to say he’ll be there in ten minutes. Then he looks at his son and sighs. “You’re just going to follow me if I go out to meet Derek, aren’t you.”

Stiles looks at the ceiling. “Is there a right answer to that question?”

“Try the truth.”

“Yeah, I totally will. Are you gonna handcuff me again?”

“No. Get your shoes, come on.”

“Yes!” Stiles did a fist pump and ran for the hallway. Two minutes later, they’re in the car. “What do you think Derek is doing at the high school?”

“He didn’t say. Could be it has something to do with that chemistry teacher.”

Stiles chews on his lower lip. “He’s probably the only accomplice left, right? But he obviously didn’t give you enough information to arrest Kate. How are we going to do that if some crazy guy keeps murdering everyone who might be able to incriminate her?”

Tom sighs but doesn’t bother to protest the inclusive pronoun, because that’s not going to get him anywhere. “If I knew that, I would have done it already.”

“Okay, fair, but you’re clearly onto something, because you’re investigating the hospital, and nobody else is,” Stiles says. When Tom doesn’t reply, he continues, “C’mon, Dad. Tell me what you found. Dad. Daaaaaad.”

“For the love of God, Stiles,” Tom says. “You’re already more involved in this than I like. I’m already regretting bringing you with me right now. Shut your trap before I handcuff you to the seat while I go inside and see what Derek wants.”

Stiles sulks, but does as he’s told. Five minutes later, Tom parks in the school’s empty lot and jogs up the steps. The front door is unlocked, and he frowns at it. “I feel like I should report this to somebody. Doesn’t the school close at seven?”

“Maybe Derek unlocked it from the inside,” Stiles says. “Did he say where he was?”

“No, just that he was at the high school. I kind of thought he’d be waiting outside.” Tom’s starting to get a bad feeling about this. His hand is resting on the butt of his gun before he had even thought about it. “Stiles, stay behind me. You have Derek’s number?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says. He seems to realize that his father is serious, and he does as he’s told without comment. “Want me to call him?”

“Yeah. See where he is.”

“Okay.” Stiles pulls his phone out as his father shines a flashlight up and down the empty hallway. “Hey, Der, where are you at?”

Tom notes the friendly nickname and tries not to give his son the side-eye, because there are more important things happening right now than Stiles’ crush on a twenty-one year old. His werewolf hearing allows him to hear Derek say, “I’m in the cafeteria,” and he relaxes a little bit, knowing that Derek is actually here and they’re not walking into a trap.

“Okay, be right there,” Stiles says, hanging up. He starts ahead of his father, relaxing for the same reasons. “It’s this way.”

“I know where your cafeteria is, Stiles – ” Tom says, rolling his eyes as Stiles jogs ahead.

Despite the fact that Derek is here, Tom can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. His skin is starting to crawl and itch, and he realizes that his claws have come out without his permission. It’s getting hard to breathe, to focus. He stops walking and watches Stiles through a haze of red. He has to remind himself that it’s his son, not an enemy. The rage, the violence, it’s not him.

“Hey, Derek!” Stiles says, waving as Derek emerges from the cafeteria. “What’s up!”

Derek takes one look at Tom and stops walking. His eyes gleam blue and he says, slowly and deliberately, “Stiles, get behind me.”

“What?” Stiles half-turns to look at his father. Tom can’t imagine what he looks like, but it’s enough to knock the breath out of Stiles, his eyes going wide with fear not just for his father, but of him.

“Tom,” Derek says, still keeping his voice calm, “you need to lock it down. Take a deep breath.”

“Shit,” Tom snarls, his claws digging into his palms. The pain is grounding, but the rage he’s feeling underneath his skin only abates a little. “Derek – take – take Stiles, get him out of here – ”

“No way, we’re not leaving you alone – ” Stiles protests.

Tom snarls again, but Derek stays calm. “It’s not a good idea, Tom. If we run, you’ll chase. It’ll only make matters worse. Stiles, we’re going to back away slowly, down the hall towards the exit. Do you understand?”

“Y-Yeah,” Stiles says, and miraculously, does as he’s told. His gaze never leaves his father as he’s doing it, though, and he seems to have gotten a firmer grasp on the situation, because he says, “It’s okay, Dad. I know you’re not going to hurt me. I’m not afraid of you because I know you would never hurt me, no matter what this piece of shit alpha wants you to do. I mean, okay, there was that time you spanked me because I ran into traffic, but that’s different – ”

“Stiles,” Derek groans, but it’s working. Tom is focusing on that, on his son’s ridiculous rambling and the confidence in his voice. He takes another few deep breaths and starts to get it under control, a little bit at a time. The claws go in and he shifts back to his human form.

“Better?” Stiles asks, and Tom nods. He’s feeling okay about this, he’s got it under control and they’re going to be all right, and right about then is when the alpha barrels out of one of the classrooms with a howl.

Stiles yelps and takes off at a run on complete instinct. Derek tries to stand his ground, but the alpha slams him into a row of lockers and then takes off after Stiles. Tom doesn’t even think about shifting before he’s done it and thrown himself onto the alpha’s back. His claws sink into the alpha’s shoulder, and it roars, going to its hind legs and throwing Tom off. Then it takes off down a different hallway.

“Shit – Stiles!” Tom scrambles to his feet and grabs Derek by the wrist, dragging him to his feet. He catches up with Stiles just as he ducks into the locker room. Derek slams the door after them.

“The fuck!” Stiles manages, his voice high and a little hysterical. “You didn’t tell me that thing was the size of freakin’ Godzilla – ”

“It’s okay, take a deep breath, calm down,” Tom says, trying to do the same himself. “It went down the other hallway, it might not – ”

Before he can finish the sentence, the alpha’s hand slams up against the door’s window. All three of them flinch away involuntarily. Derek grabs a bench and shoves it up against the door to keep it from opening, although Tom has a feeling that won’t stop it for long. He turns and grabs Stiles by the shoulders, giving him a little shake to ground him. “Is there another way out of here?”

“What? Oh, uh, yeah. The door on the other side lets out into the gym.”

“And from the gym there are doors outside, right?” Tom asks, and Stiles nods. Tom unholsters his gun and holds it level with the flashlight. “Okay, let’s go. Stiles, behind me, Derek, you’re on rear guard.” He heads out into the gymnasium. The lights are all out, so it’s almost completely dark, and he feels exposed and nervous. He pans the flashlight slowly. One minute there’s nothing, the next, the alpha is between them and the door. He’s not moving, but just blocking their way, eyes gleaming red. Tom hears Stiles let out a quiet gasp behind him, and suddenly he’s five hundred percent done with all of this. “Enough!” he shouts, using his best ‘cop’ voice. “Playtime’s over. I want you to shift back to your human form and put your hands on your head, or I will open fire.”

The alpha growls, low and menacing, and stalks forward. Tom aims down and fires a shot at his feet, and he stops. “Don’t test me, you overgrown mutt. Do you think I’ve been dicking around the last two weeks? I figured out how to fill these bullets with wolfsbane, and I will put an entire clip in you if you take one more step towards my son.”

The red in the alpha’s eyes glows even brighter, and Tom feels that crawling underneath his skin start again. “Listen to me,” he says, “we aren’t doing this. There’s no power on this earth that could force me to hurt my son. Would you have been able to hurt yours? His name was Nathaniel, right? Is there any power on earth that could have forced you to hurt him?”

The growling stops. Then the alpha’s body starts to shrink and transform. A minute later, Peter Hale is standing there, completely naked, burn scars somehow standing out in the dim light. He studies Tom for a long minute, and then the red in his eyes fades away. “No,” he says, “I suppose there isn’t.” He takes a breath in the silence that follows. “Hello, Tom. It’s good to see you.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

“Uncle Peter,” Derek chokes out, and Tom risks a glance over his shoulder. He sees Derek’s face move from ‘that’s impossible’ to ‘not only possible but plausible’ and then to ‘oh God, it’s true’ in the space of a few seconds. “You killed Laura?”

“I’m sorry, Derek,” Peter murmurs. “I lost control.”

Tom doesn’t buy that for an instant, but he’s not going to interrogate Peter on the subject in front of Derek. He sees Stiles come up beside Derek, hesitantly slide a hand around Derek’s forearm in a clumsy gesture of comfort. He turns back to Peter. “So we’re in agreement that you’re going to cut out this alpha bullshit, right?”

A smile touches Peter’s face, almost a smirk. “You haven’t changed, Tom. This makes me think of the good old days. I’ve changed, of course . . . but that isn’t the point. I agree, I will stop attempting to force you to hurt your son. But I won’t stop trying to force you to help me.”

“You know, I’m going to be honest with you, Peter, it doesn’t really seem like you need my help,” Tom says. “You’ve murdered five people without getting a scratch.”

“True. But Kate won’t be the same. I can’t take her on alone. I need you – both of you – to help me.” Peter sighs and pushes a hand through his hair. “And then it will be over.”

“Peter,” Tom says, keeping his voice calm, “I’m not going to help you murder Kate. If you have evidence that she was behind the fire, I will arrest her. She’ll be charged and go to jail, probably for the rest of her life.”

“Is that supposed to matter to me?” Peter doesn’t look impressed. “No, thank you, Sheriff. Do you know what someone like Kate will do in jail? She’ll take charge, she’ll bully her way to the top, she’ll probably kill some of her fellow inmates. She might not have her freedom, but she’ll still have her happiness, because someone like Kate will love jail. It’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel. If we want Kate to face justice, there’s only one way to get that done.”

“Be that as it may,” Tom says, “I’m still not going to help you kill her.”

Peter regards him for a moment. “You love your son,” he says. “I see that in you. You love him more than anything else in the world. You love your wife, too. I remember seeing you two together, while you were friends with Talia. So I want you to take a moment and imagine, if you would, that Claudia and Stiles had died in that fire, the way my wife and son did. Would you be saying the same thing? Would you be satisfied with Kate in jail?”

Tom has to take a deep breath before he can reply, because the thought of Stiles being gone, burning to death while he screams, is so vivid. “Would I be satisfied? No. But I would still see it done. Because that’s the law. Societies need laws in order to function. The important thing would be to make sure Kate couldn’t hurt any more innocent families, and that’s what the law would accomplish.”

After a moment, Peter nods slowly. “You’re a good man, Sheriff. Always have been. But I’m not. So if you won’t help me, you had better at least stay out of my way.” He turns to walk away, then stops and half-turns back. “What about you, Derek? Are you going to help me bring justice to the person who killed our family? I’m only going to ask once.”

Derek’s face twists in agony, and Tom has to resist the urge to snarl. “No, you don’t get to do that,” he says to Peter. “Derek can make his own decision. He’s heard both sides. But you don’t get to put him on the spot and force him to choose sides before he’s had a chance to think things over.”

“I suppose if you insist,” Peter says, and walks away. A bare moment later, he’s gone.

“Jesus, Dad,” Stiles says, hyperventilating a little. “That was so awesome, like, you just shut him down cold – ”

“Focus, Stiles,” Tom says. “Derek, you okay?”

“I . . . honestly have no idea,” Derek says.

“That seems fair.” Tom frowns and adds, “Why did you ask me to come down here, by the way?”

Derek blinks at him, some of the anguish fading as he focuses on the situation at hand. “What? I didn’t ask you to meet me – you texted me and asked me to meet you.”

Tom looks down at his phone and then looks at the door through which Peter left. “I guess it probably shouldn’t surprise me that Peter Hale knows how to clone someone’s cell phone.” He shakes his head. “For the time being, don’t trust texts. If you want to talk to me, call me, and I’ll do the same. Stiles, that goes for you, too.”

“Okay,” Stiles says, a little subdued.

“Come on, let’s get you back to the house,” Tom says, reaching out to squeeze Derek’s shoulder. “We can talk more about this later.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Stiles’ heart doesn’t stop racing for nearly an hour after they leave the high school. His father is quiet, pensive. Stiles isn’t sure what to say to him. Tom clearly wasn’t surprised by the identity of the alpha – from the fact that he had been trying to get hospital security footage, Stiles assumes that he had figured it out but just couldn’t prove it yet – but he does seem upset by it. That makes sense to Stiles. Peter Hale hadn’t exactly been a friend of his father’s, but they had known each other, and this Peter Hale sounds very different from the one Tom had described.

He doesn’t know what to say to his father, and even less does he know what to say to Derek, but it’s the latter that he’s really worried about. Derek has been silently brooding every since they got back to the Stilinski house.

Fortunately, Stiles is at least a little prepared for this. He makes Derek some tea and then carries it out to the back porch, where Derek is staring into the backyard. “Hey, I, uh . . . I made you some tea. With a kettle. It’s Earl Grey. Loose leaf. I bought it off the internet.”

Derek glances over at him, and his expression is more confused than anything else. “You bought tea for me?”

“Seemed like you might be around for a bit, so yeah.” Stiles shrugs a little. “And to be fair, holy shit, were you ever right. This is so much better than the stuff I was getting at the grocery.”

Derek tries to smile. It falls flat, but at least he put in the effort. Stiles sits down next to him on the porch swing and lets him have his silence. He sips his tea and says, quietly, “It’s good.”

“Thanks. I mean, I didn’t really put in a lot of effort. Making tea isn’t that hard. Although actually the internet seems to think it is, there are like entire websites devoted to how to brew tea. I’ll stop talking now.”

“What would you do?” Derek asks abruptly.

“About the tea? No, obviously not about the tea, you mean about your uncle and Kate.” Stiles clears his throat. “Look, uh . . . I’ll be honest with you if you promise you won’t tell my dad I said any of this.”

At this, Derek gives him a sideways glance, but then he nods. “Okay. I promise.”

“I think justice is important. My dad’s right about that. Going outside the law – it’s not a good idea. Vigilante justice shouldn’t be tolerated, because it’s important to have an unbiased system in place.” Stiles huffs out a breath. “That being said, if anyone ever killed my dad, I would burn down the whole motherfucking world, you know? I don’t know if I could do what he’s recommending. Just . . . be okay with the person going to jail. It doesn’t feel like justice even though it is. I’m sorry. I don’t know if I’m making sense.”

“I think you are.” Derek hunches up a little. “I know that we aren’t the only people that Kate has hurt. I’m sure she’s killed lots of people. But there’s so much that she did that can’t be proven. So I feel like, if we sent her to jail, what if she escapes? What if she gets out on parole in twenty years and goes right back to doing what she was doing? What if she bribes a jury and gets declared innocent?”

Stiles nods a little. “And, I mean, we could talk about the flaws in the justice system, or we could talk about recidivism statistics in Scandinavia – don’t look at me like that, I happen to know a lot about this topic – but statistics are, are for groups. Kate is one person. She’s not the sort of person who can be rehabilitated. And if that’s really the case, I don’t think she should live. But at the same time, I don’t think that should be up to us.” He rubs a hand over the back of his head. “I don’t know, man. I don’t know what I would do.”

“Thanks. For being honest.” Derek takes another drink of his tea. “Part of it – it’s harder because it – it’s Uncle Peter. You know? I feel like – I should help him. But I don’t know why – ”

His voice broke a little. Stiles says quietly, “You don’t know why he killed Laura.”

Derek nods. “Because that – that ‘I lost control’ – that’s bullshit. Laura came back here because someone was leaving neon signposts that there was something going on. He lured her back here, and then he – he killed her. I need to know why.”

“Maybe you should ask him,” Stiles says.

“I don’t think I would a straight answer out of him if I asked a second time any more than I did the first.”

“I could ask my dad to ask him. He seems to listen to my dad. Which is, you know, weird.” Stiles shrugs a little. “But if I were you, I’d want an answer to that before I made my decision. Because if Peter – if he killed Laura for her power, so he’d be strong enough to get to Kate – that sort of changes things. I mean. It makes him . . .”

“The bad guy,” Derek says. He sighs. “Yeah. I guess I’ll talk to your dad. Thanks, Stiles. I’m . . . glad you were here for me to talk to.”

Stiles flushes bright pink. “Oh, yeah, no problem.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom’s not surprised when he goes to the hospital the next day and finds it in an uproar over the fact that Peter Hale has disappeared from his room. He assigns two of his deputies to ‘investigate’, then looks at the staff roster from the day before. Only one of the three employees that had been working the previous night shifts had been there when Peter had left the evening before. It’s a woman named Jennifer, who lives in a small one-story house on the edge of town. Tom heads over to pay a visit.

“So, is Peter Hale staying here?” he asks, wanting to get things off on the right foot. She immediately sputters and protests. “Relax, you’re not under arrest. I’m asking for werewolf reasons, not sheriff reasons. You do know he’s a werewolf, right?”

“Of course I know he’s a – ” Jennifer continues sputtering, then looks around nervously before standing back to let Tom in. “No, he isn’t staying here. I, I offered, but he said he would make his own way.”

“Did you know he was killing people?” Tom asks.

“No,” Jennifer says, a little too quickly.

Tom lets it go. “Do you still have a way to get in touch with him?”

“No,” Jennifer says, and her eyes flick to the side the exact same way.

“I just want you to pass a message along to him, okay?” Tom says. “I’m not going to insist you give me his phone number. Just tell him that I want to talk to him. Things were a little . . . intense, last night. I want to sit down with him, and talk things over. He knows where to find me.”

Jennifer looks suspicious, but she doesn’t argue. She takes Tom’s number and says she’ll pass the message along the next time she sees Peter, but she isn’t making any promises. Tom is curious about why she chose to help him, but she’s already suspicious enough without him pushing the issue.

That evening, it’s déjà vu all over again when he walks out of the station to find a man leaning against his car. This time it’s not Chris Argent, but Peter Hale. Tom gestures to the station and says, “You know that people are looking for you, right?”

Peter shrugs. “They’re looking for a man covered in burn scars. They’re not going to look twice at me.”

“Fair enough.” Tom gives him a critical look. “Why hadn’t you done that earlier?”

“Well, I still had a cover to maintain, didn’t I? But after last night it didn’t really seem worth it, and I was getting sick of hospital food.”

Tom shakes his head and points to the Cruiser. “Get in.”

“Do I get to ride in the front? That’s a difference from the old days.”

“If you really want me to handcuff you and put you in the back of the car, we can do that.”

“Maybe later,” Peter says, smirking at him. Tom looks at the sky and prays for patience. He gets into the car and starts down the road. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

“I have some questions for you that I didn’t get the chance to ask last night. I was a little stressed, you know, what with you chasing us around the high school and trying to make me lose control so I would hurt my son.” Tom gives Peter a sideways glance. Peter stares straight ahead. “So, first things first, I’d like to know why you bit me.”

Peter shrugs. “I knew I would need the help of at least two people to take down Kate. That meant turning at least one beta. You were the lucky person in the right place at the right time.”

After a moment, Tom decides not to bother arguing the definitions of ‘lucky’ and ‘right’. “Does that mean you’re going to bite somebody else, now that I’ve refused?”

“Oh, I haven’t given up on you yet, Tom.”

“You never did know when to quit.” Tom shakes his head. “Why did you kill Laura? And don’t even try that ‘I lost control’ garbage. I know damned well that you lured her back to Beacon Hills. Derek knows that, too, by the way, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t find your answer satisfactory, either.”

“Derek doesn’t want the real answer,” Peter says. “The truth would be more painful to him than any lie ever could be.”

“We can argue about that later. Regardless of how you feel about Derek’s opinion, I still want the truth.”

“What makes you think you’re entitled to it?”

Tom takes a deep breath. “Listen to me, you arrogant little prick. You made me entitled when you attacked me in the forest and turned me into some sort of movie monster. I want answers, do you understand? You owe me that.”

Peter sighs quietly. “I needed the alpha power in order to heal and regain my strength. I knew Laura would let her guard down around me.”

“Okay.” Tom considers. “But that’s not why, is it? Derek’s already figured that much out; it’s the simple explanation. So what’s the part you’re hiding from him?”

“Can you imagine being in as much pain as I was in?” Peter asks. “And I’m just talking about the physical pain for the moment. Burns all over my body. Lungs scorched by superheated air. Imagine being in that much pain, and waking up in the hospital. Who’s the first person you see?”

Tom’s not sure where this metaphor is going, but at least Peter is talking, so he answers. “Stiles.”

“Of course. Your son would never leave your side. From what I’ve seen of him, he’d sleep and eat in your hospital room, waiting for you to wake up. But when I woke up, I was alone.” Peter’s breath catches. “Laura abandoned me. We weren’t that far apart in age, you know. She was closer to me than she was to Derek, actually. She was like my sister. And she left me in that hospital to rot. No family, no alpha, no pack. The wolf gains strength from the pack. If she had been there – she and Derek – I would have recovered faster. I spent far more time in that burned out coma than I should have, thanks to her.”

Tom thinks this over for a long minute before he says, almost gently, “Maybe Laura was just frightened.”

“Of course she was frightened. But she was an adult, and she was an alpha, she was my alpha. She had no right.” Peter’s hands curl in his lap, his claws digging into the skin. “If you had an uncle – if someone murdered his family – wouldn’t you bring him with you when you ran away?”

“Yeah,” Tom says. “I would.”

“Derek idolizes his sister. He doesn’t want to hear this. And I don’t want him feeling guilty for the decisions that Laura made. But you asked why I killed her and that’s why. I don’t care what you think of it. I don’t need your forgiveness – or anyone’s forgiveness. All I want is understanding.”

Tom nods slowly. “I think I can give you that much.”

“Good.” Peter relaxes a little, the wounds on his hands disappearing. “What else?”

“Well, I’m curious as to whether or not you intend to murder anybody else.”

“Besides Kate? No. I thought about killing that pathetic chemistry teacher, but he didn’t seem worth it. Have you seen his life? I think it’s a greater punishment.”

Tom snorts despite himself. “And you’re going to let Derek make his own choice about whether or not he’s going to help you, right? He’s been through enough. He doesn’t need you making it worse.”

“I suppose if you insist. Although if he doesn’t help me, I’d have to make another beta. You understand.”

“You bite anyone else in this town, and we’re going to have a long talk.”

“Longer than this one?”

Tom sighs. “I know I can’t put you in jail, Peter. But – ”

“But what?” Peter snarls, his eyes flaring crimson. “What are you going to do, Tom? You can’t arrest me, you can’t talk me out of this. Are you going to kill me? Put one of your wolfsbane bullets in me? You might not approve of what I’m doing, but look at what Kate Argent is. She’s killed before and she’ll kill again. She’ll never stop killing, not as long as she draws breath. Put her in jail and she’ll kill guards or other inmates, or she’ll break out and go right back to killing werewolves. She took everything from me. Don’t pretend you can understand that. She murdered eight people, including three children. So between Kate Argent and me, who deserves to live, Tom? Are you going to kill me to stop me from killing her? Is that what you would consider justice?”

“You know,” Tom says evenly, “you could let me finish my sentence instead of making assumptions.”

Peter blinks. Then he says, “All right.”

“I can’t put you in jail, but I don’t want to watch you drag anyone else down with you on your vendetta. No more betas.”

“I can’t kill her without help.”

“Then why did you attack her car the night she got into town?”

Peter shrugs. “Just for fun, really.”

Tom pinches the bridge of his nose. “You got Derek shot doing that.”

“Yes, well, that wasn’t exactly my fault,” Peter says, annoyed. “I figured she’d shoot at me. You know. The alpha who had just attacked her. Why the hell she shot at Derek, I couldn’t begin to tell you.”

“Fair enough,” Tom says. “But I’m serious. No more betas.”

“I’m fascinated that you think you’re in a position to give me orders.”

“Look, Peter, we’ve already agreed you deserve to live more than Kate. I won’t even try to stop you from killing Kate, mostly because I know I can’t. But if you destroy any innocent lives on your way, my position on your longevity is going to drastically shift. And don’t give me any ‘the Bite is a gift’ crap. Being a werewolf is an improvement in some ways, I’ll admit that. But being turned into a werewolf and then being mind-controlled into participating in a murder? That’d be a recipe for a lifetime of therapy.” Tom pulls the car over. “Kill Kate Argent. Do it yourself, do it alone. And we’ll be good. Are we clear?”

“So this is what it looks like when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object,” Peter murmurs. “We’re clear. I won’t make any promises, but we’re clear.”

“Good. And Peter – ” Tom takes a breath, and lets it out. “I’m glad you’ve healed. That you’re back on your feet. I’m not glad you killed Laura, but . . .”

Peter’s lips quirk into a smile. “Did you miss me, Tom?”

“Get out of my car,” Tom says. Peter laughs and does so, vanishing into the forest without another word.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Stiles examines all the evidence in front of him. He considers all the factors. It’s complex, to be sure. There’s a lot of nuance. He can’t just leap to a decision that way he normally does; everything needs to be carefully examined and weighed.

After several long moments, he says, “Nope, not doing it.”

“Stiles!” Scott protests, employing the puppy eyes. “Come on. I can’t go shopping with Allison, because I don’t want to see her dress ahead of time.”

“Okay, right, I get that,” Stiles says, “but I don’t see why it means I have to go. She’s going with Lydia. I fail to see how my presence would be anything other than an annoying distraction.”

“Come on, don’t be like that. Allison likes you.”

“And I like her,” Stiles says. “She seems like a swell person. But I’m not going to sentence myself to carrying dresses for four hours in Macy’s for her, unless someone can give me an adequate reason.”

“I thought you’d want to go,” Scott says. “I mean. Lydia. Trying on dresses. You would have given your left nut for a chance like that a month ago.”

“Okay, fair,” Stiles says. He’s kind of forgotten about Lydia lately. Is he really that fickle? Or is Derek Hale really that gorgeous? Maybe he’s just been distracted from all the normal high school bullshit because of the far more important werewolf incidents. “Good lookin’ out, buddy. But no.”

“I kind of already told her that you wanted to go, though,” Scott says.

Stiles shrugs. “So I’ll tell her that I changed my mind.”

“No! What if she thinks I don’t want to go to the dance with her?”

“Oh my God!” Stiles says, because Scott is way too worried about this and he has more important things to deal with. But in the end, he says fine, because Scott is his brother and he wants him to be happy, and if for some reason this screwed things up with Allison, he would feel bad. So he agrees to go shopping with Allison and Lydia even though he’s not even planning to go to the stupid dance. Scott has made a variety of horrified noises about that, too, but Stiles hasn’t budged. He can’t think of many things worse than going by himself to a dance and watching Scott and Allison blush at each other for hours.

Lydia treats him like a shopping cart, which to be honest is one of the most civil interactions he’s ever had with Lydia. She seems determined to try on every dress in the store. Allison is a little more discerning, thank God. Stiles, who still isn’t even sure what he’s supposed to be doing, lets her run her own show.

A few minutes later, he hears a familiar voice saying, “That’s not your color.” He cranes his head around so he can see over the racks to see Peter smiling at Allison. “Sorry if that was intrusive, but considering your skin tone, I’d go lighter.”

“Because I’m pale?”

“Fair!” Peter says, still smiling, and now even holding up a dress as a suggestion like he actually cares about this. Well, maybe he does. Stiles supposes he doesn’t know for sure. Maybe Peter Hale honestly just saw a fashion emergency about to happen, and leapt into action. But he finds it far more likely that Peter has nefarious, revenge-oriented purposes, which is definitely not going to happen on his watch. He ditches Lydia’s dresses and scampers over to the customer service desk.

“To the owner of a Blue Mazda – ”

“That’s my car!” Allison practically dumps the dress back into Peter’s arms and runs off.

Stiles breathes a sigh of relief, but the moment is short-lived, because then Peter turns and looks right at him. Stiles freezes, like maybe Peter won’t see him if he doesn’t move. Of course, that doesn’t work at all, and Peter walks over and remarks casually, “Like father, like son, hm? I’m impressed, Stiles.”

“Yeah, well, you can stay away from my father,” Stiles retorts, and adds, “and you can stay away from my friends, too.”

“You deserve better friends, frankly,” Peter says. “So! A dance, hm? That sounds fun.”

“It sounds like one of the circles of Hell,” Stiles mutters.

Peter looks amused. “The second, I would assume. Lust.”

“Well, this conversation got awkward fast!” Stiles says, giving Peter a thumbs-up. “I’m out. If I see you near Allison again, I’m going to pepper spray you. Later!”

He finds Lydia, who excoriates him for leaving her dresses in a pile, and then Allison comes back in confused about how her car definitely wasn’t being towed, and then they try on a bajillion more dresses. Suffice to say, Stiles isn’t in the best of moods when he gets home, and immediately tells his father about how Peter was creeping on Allison at the Macy’s.

Tom is pissed, naturally, and says he’s going to talk with Peter about it later. Stiles doesn’t foresee that getting him very far, but he’s not about to tell his father that. He shakes his head and starts cooking dinner. Derek comes in about an hour later, skulking through the back as he’s taken up the habit of doing. He still often looks ill-at-ease and nervous during the Stilinski family dinners, but at least he’s showing up to them regularly enough. “What are you making?”

“Cottage pie,” Stiles says, and Derek blinks. “Most people think of it as Shepherd’s Pie, but Shepherd’s Pie actually has lamb, not beef. You know, sheep, shepherd – ”

“I know,” Derek says. “I just . . . I don’t think I’d ever actually met anybody else who called it the right thing.”

Tom shakes his head, amused. “You’ve finally met your match when it comes to obscure trivia.”

“We’ll see,” Derek mutters, and Stiles laughs, delighting in the pettiness of that response.

After dinner, Tom takes off, saying he needs to go leave a message for Peter with their go-between. Stiles thinks about asking who that is, but instead settles for waiting for him to leave and then saying to Derek, “So, wanna follow him?”

Derek blinks at him, then frowns. “Why?”

“You wanted to talk to Peter, remember?”

“Yeah, but . . .” Derek’s voice trails off. “I don’t know. I thought about it. Do I really need to ask him why he killed Laura? I know why he did it. He needed an alpha’s power to heal, and he knew that he could take her off guard, that’s all. I don’t think hearing him say that out loud would really make me feel better.”

Stiles nods a little. “What do you want to do, then? About Kate.”

“I don’t know.” Derek looks away. “I just want to not worry about it. Which probably makes me a fucking coward. I want Peter to kill her, and I don’t want to be involved, but I don’t want him to get hurt, either. If he did, it would just be – it would be my fault, just like when Kate killed the rest of them.”

“How was that your fault?” Stiles asks, frowning.

“It just was.” Derek stands up. “I’ve got to go.”

“Derek, wait,” Stiles says, nearly tripping over himself as he follows Derek to the back door. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. I mean, I want to help, but I don’t want to pry. Okay, actually I do, I’m like, an incredibly, irrepressibly nosy person, I’m sorry, it’s a character flaw. But you don’t have to leave. You can just tell me to shut up. It works, I promise.”

“Shut up, Stiles.”

“See, there you go. Besides, it’s your turn to do the dishes.”

Derek gives him a politely incredulous look.

“I cooked, which means that Dad cleans, only now you’re here too, so you and Dad get to take turns cleaning.” Stiles thrusts a dishrag at him. “Have at it.”

Derek takes the rag and looks at it. “Also, are you an idiot?”

“Oh, yeah. Big time. Almost always. Why?”

“Follow your dad? I mean, I assume you want to find out how he’s getting in touch with Peter, but come on. If nothing else, he’d catch you in fifteen seconds and then he’d ground you until Christmas.”

“Maybe then I wouldn’t have to get dragged to this stupid dance,” Stiles says.

Derek starts rinsing off the dishes and putting them in the dishwasher. “Why don’t you want to go?”

“Ugh, are you kidding? As a sixteen year old boy, going to a semi-formal dance by myself, playing not just third but fifth wheel when two of the other wheels think of me as some sort of disgusting insect, is really not my idea of a fun evening.”

“Why don’t you ask someone to go with you?”

“Because I like my dignity intact, thank you very much.” Stiles moans and slumps into a chair. “But every time I just say I’m not going to go, Scott looks at me like I murdered his puppy. Why the hell he needs me to be a cheerleader, I could not begin to tell you. He and Allison have been dating for almost a month now and she looks at him like he hung the moon. You’d think he could handle himself by now.”

“So tell him you’re going and then don’t go.”

“I’d hear about it until my ninetieth birthday.” Stiles gives a dramatic sigh. “Nope. I’m just gonna have to knuckle down and suffer.” He springs out of his chair. “Hey, do you like Ho-Hos? My dad thinks I don’t know where he keeps his emergency stash but he is so wrong.”

“Those things are over-processed crap,” Derek says, watching Stiles dig out the package.

“God, you really are a foodie. Oh well, more for me.”

“I didn’t say no,” Derek says, snatching a Ho-Ho out of his hand, and Stiles laughs until his sides hurt.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Peter is waiting for Tom at the nurse’s house, which really annoys Tom on general principle. Peter is obviously well aware that Tom is going to be angry at him, and has delivered himself up for the tongue-lashing that he clearly knows is coming. “This is nostalgic,” he says, as Tom gets out of the Cruiser, from where he’s sitting on the hood of the nurse’s car. “It’s just like being twenty again. You know, I never apologized for all the trouble I caused you back then. I just enjoyed getting arrested by you so much, I couldn’t help it.”

“I really do not want to hear another word on that subject,” Tom says, rolling his eyes. “If you regret causing me trouble, maybe you should cut it out.”

“Oh, I didn’t say I regretted it,” Peter says with a smirk. “Just that I never apologized for it. Anyway, that was my old life. Back to the matter at hand. I assume you’re here to tell me to stay away from your son?”

“I’m here to tell you to stay away from Allison Argent,” Tom says. “You don’t have any reason to go after Stiles; he just happened to be there. Allison’s different. She’s the one you were there for.”

“You know, I could point out that you people are all completely overreacting,” Peter says. “For God’s sake, I offered her fashion advice. I didn’t try to abduct her or manhandle her. I didn’t make veiled comments about what it’s like being from a family of murderers. I didn’t threaten her in the slightest. And that dress really was all wrong for her.”

“Well, thank you for that insight, Ralph Lauren,” Tom says. “Are you seriously going to try to convince me that you weren’t going to try something with her?”

“As it happens, I was really just feeling her out. Seeing if she recognized me, if she smelled like silver and gunpowder the way the rest of her family does. If she’s a murderer like they are, I wouldn’t have much remorse about using her against them. But that’s not really the point, is it? Everything I try to do, I have you behind me like Jiminy Cricket, telling me it’s not allowed. I’m not allowed to persuade Derek to help me. I’m not allowed to make more betas. Now I’m not allowed to exploit Kate’s only real weakness. What is it, exactly, that you expect me to do?”

“I seem to recall we had a conversation about that. Something about letting the law handle it?”

“You said you wouldn’t stop me from killing her.”

“And I won’t. But stay away from Allison Argent.”

Peter looks at the sky as if praying for patience. “At this rate, I’m going to have to hit Kate from orbit if I want any chance of surviving.”

“Don’t tell me that you couldn’t find yourself a sniper rifle if you really wanted one. I arrested you for dealing guns out of the back of your car once.”

“For allegedly dealing guns out of the back of my car.” Peter smirks again, but there’s no humor behind his eyes. “You’re technically correct, although I could point out that proficiency with a sniper rifle is not within my skill set, nor is it something one learns as fast or as easily as Hollywood would have you believe. Besides, I don’t want to hit Kate from orbit. I want to look her in the eye first and make sure she understands why she’s being killed.”

“That’s great, Peter.” Tom struggles with his temper. “Why don’t you just clone Allison’s phone the way you cloned mine and Derek’s and lure her out somewhere without involving a teenaged girl?”

“She wouldn’t fall for it. Not her.” Peter sighs and hops off the car. “As I expected, this conversation is going nowhere. I don’t intend to hurt Allison. Maybe tell her a few truths her parents would be happier if she didn’t know, but that’s all. So settle for that – be grateful for that, Tom, because there’s a part of me that would be happy to kill her just to make her father suffer. That’s all you’ll get from me, so take it, and stay out of my way.”

Tom bites back the angry retort that wants to escape. He watches as Peter walks away, around the house and into the forest, before turning around and heading back to his car.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Two days later, Tom is listening to his son bitch and moan about the upcoming dance for the nineteenth time while he rinses and chops carrots. Stiles has laid off a bit about Tom never having anything with over a gram of fat in it, but he’s still expected to eat his vegetables.

“Derek’s not here yet?” Stiles asks half an hour later, while he’s draining the potatoes. He’s frowning. “I told him I was making pot roast. He should be here.”

Tom sighs a little. “Look, Stiles, I know that you like Derek a lot. But you have to give him time to adjust to . . . everything. Family dinners are hard for him. Sometimes he’s going to need a break.”

“No, I know that, but . . .” Stiles’ shoulders hunch inwards slightly. “He said he likes pot roast. I thought he’d be here.”

“Oh, boy.” Tom martials himself for the talk he’s been trying to put off having. “Stiles, I’m going to be honest with you, okay? I like Derek. I do. And I’m glad you like him, because he’s been through Hell, and the more people he has to support him, the better. But I’ve watched you moon around over Lydia Martin for the better part of three years and I know the signs. Derek is – there are a lot of reasons why a relationship between the two of you wouldn’t be a good idea right now.”

“I know, I know, he’s too old for me.” Stiles rolls his eyes.

“That’s the big one, yes, and the fact that you’re rolling your eyes at me is only evidence to support it,” Tom says, and Stiles scowls at him. “Because you say ‘he’s too old for me’ in that tone that makes it clear you don’t see why it’s a big deal. And you don’t see that because you’re sixteen. I remember being sixteen, and how mature and adult I felt after getting my driver’s license and having my first date and everything. You think you’re an adult, but you’re not. Derek is. Two, three years from now, you’re going to look back at being sixteen and wonder how you could have ever thought you were an adult at that age.”

“Okay, but Dad – ”

“No buts!” Tom says. “I’m glad you want to be Derek’s friend. I’m glad you’re okay with the fact that I’m trying to take care of him. But that’s as far as it goes, period, end of story.”

Stiles turns back to his potatoes, sulking. Tom sighs. He’s not happy that his son is upset, but at least his position has been made clear. A minute later, Stiles sets the bowl of potatoes down with a thud, and rallies. “He should be here. He said he was going to be here.”

Tom opens his mouth to say something else about Derek’s understandable wariness of a new family, but then thinks better of it. “How about I give him a call to see where he’s at?” he says, and Stiles nods, the tension in his shoulders relaxing a bit. Tom pulls out his phone and dials Derek. It goes straight to voice mail. “Huh.”

“Huh, what?” Stiles asks, trying not to betray his anxiety.

“It’s either not turned on or he’s in a no-service area.” Tom can’t blame Stiles for his uneasiness. He’s starting to feel it too. Derek’s skittish, sure, but he has been turning up at the Stilinski house for dinner more often than not. He’s also been charging his phone there, so it shouldn’t have run out of battery. Either he deliberately turned it off, or he was somewhere on the Preserve that didn’t have coverage.

“He wouldn’t – ” Stiles takes a deep breath. “Okay, yes, I like Derek, and he’s super attractive and none of that is the point because something’s wrong, Dad, Derek wouldn’t say he was going to be here and then not be here and not have his phone turned on and – ”

“Stiles,” Tom says.

“And with all the werewolf shit going on and Peter creeping around and God only knows what the Argents are up to – ”

“Stiles – ”

“You can’t just write this off to me being upset that he’s not here for dinner because I think he’s amazing and I wanna rub my face on his face – ”

“Stiles!” Tom grabs Stiles by the shoulder. “Stop talking, for the love of God. I do not need to hear about you rubbing your face anywhere. I agree that something is wrong, okay? Please shut up.”

“Oh.” Stiles clears his throat. “We’re gonna pretend I never said any of that, right?”

“I’m blocking it out of my mind as of this instant,” Tom says.

Stiles chews on his lower lip and says, “What do you think happened to Derek?”

“I don’t know,” Tom says, “but I bet I know someone who does.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Tom isn’t thrilled to be bringing Stiles with him to the Argent house, but it’s too crazy to leave him at home. He’s keenly aware that there are a lot of different things that could have happened. Derek could have been captured by Peter, who still wants his help. He could have been captured or even killed by Kate Argent. Either way, Stiles is too vulnerable to leave at home by himself, and as of now, there’s nobody Tom trusts enough to stay with him. But he tells him to stay in the Cruiser, and Stiles is subdued enough that he thinks he’ll actually obey.

Chris Argent looks about as happy to see Tom as he ever is, and greets him with, “Kate’s not here.”

“Where is she?” Tom asks.

He half-expects Chris to give him some bullshit about not having to answer any questions, but instead he says, “I don’t know. I told her I couldn’t let her stay here anymore after a disagreement that we had.”

“Was this ‘disagreement’ over what happened to the Hale family?”

Chris stares Tom down for a long moment, but then nods. “As well as certain comments she made about introducing my daughter to the family business, yes.”

“Well, I need to find her,” Tom says. “I have a feeling she’s holding someone against his will, and I find that unacceptable.”

“I don’t know what you expect me to do about that.”

Tom considers this. He considers it for what feels like a long time, while he struggles with his temper. “Have you figured out who the alpha is?”

Chris nods. “Wasn’t hard, after Peter Hale disappeared from the hospital.”

“Good. So you know that he’s not going to rest until he sees your sister dead. Now, we could have a very long conversation about exactly who is in the right here, but I’m not interested. I’m not in the business of playing judge, jury, and executioner. I want Kate arrested, charged, and convicted for her crimes. I want her sentenced to prison. And so do you. Because you may have your faults, but you know that what Kate did was wrong. I assume that since she’s your sister, you would prefer to avoid her being killed. So it would be in your best interest to tell me where she is, so I can arrest her, because let me assure you of this, Mr. Argent: jail is the only place that Kate is going to be safe from Peter.”

Chris lets out a slow breath. “A couple of my guys helped her get some things set up the other day. Let me ask them where she was.”

“I’ll wait.”

For a moment it looks like Chris might protest just on general principle, but then he pulls out his phone and taps a few buttons. “Hey, it’s me. That stuff I had you move for Kate, where did she have you take it?” A strange expression crosses his face. “Seriously? No, that’s it. Thanks.” He hangs up and says, with a tight expression. “She set up in the Hale house ruins. There’s a basement there that she moved all her stuff into.”

“Of course she did,” Tom says. “Why not rub salt in the wound?” He gives Chris a narrow-eyed look. “Now, you wouldn’t call her and tell her we’re on our way, would you?”

“No.” Chris looks away. “You’re right. Jail is the safest place for her.”

“Great.” Tom heads back to the car. Stiles is still in the passenger seat, although he’s practically losing his mind from having to wait. Tom gives him a brief description of what’s happened so far, and starts driving. He thinks things over on the way. He wants to call for backup, but he can’t. He doesn’t know what sort of shape Derek is going to be in, doesn’t know whether or not anyone who sees him will be able to tell that he’s a werewolf. He wants his deputies out of this.

That leaves him with options he doesn’t like very much, but by the time he makes it out to the road that leads to the Hale house, he’s made up his mind. He parks about a quarter mile away and gestures for Stiles to get out of the car. Even Stiles is somewhat taken aback by this. “You don’t want me to wait here?”

“No. Not with Peter Hale and Kate Argent out there.” Tom opens the trunk and takes out a bulletproof vest. “Put this on.”

“Holy shit, yes,” Stiles says, putting the vest on. Tom adjusts the straps, tightening it until it basically fits.

“Now take this.” Tom hands him a Taser. “Listen to me. You are my backup. This means several things. You are responsible for watching my back. You will stay on the perimeter and make sure nobody sneaks up on me. It also means you will not come into the room unless I call for you. Can you promise me that?”

“Yes, sir.” Stiles is excited but visibly containing himself, which Tom figures isn’t bad, considering the circumstances.

“If you are shot, you will play dead,” Tom says. “Do not give anyone a reason to come over and make sure the job is finished. Am I clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“If Peter shows up, let me handle him. That Taser is for self-defense only. Clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Let’s go.” Tom checks his gun and then starts down the road. Stiles jogs after him, and amazingly manages not to fall flat on his face. Tom puts one finger over his lips to remind Stiles to be quiet as the Hale house comes into view. He winces a little as the front porch creaks under his feet. It takes a few moments to find the stairs that lead down to the basement. He points to a spot right by the door, gesturing for Stiles to stay there, and Stiles nods, his hands gripping the Taser a little tighter. Tom has some misgivings, but there’s no time for them now. He heads down the stairs as quietly as he can.

Derek is on the far side of the room, his hands chained above him, with some sort of electrical shocking device hooked up to his abdomen. The sight of him sends an intense wave of relief through Tom. He clearly hasn’t had the best time of things, but he’s alive, conscious, and still has all his limbs. His eyes go a little wide when he sees Tom. Kate is standing by a table full of equipment that’s going to give Tom nightmares. “ – that’s a lot of guilt to keep buried,” she’s saying as Tom comes down the steps. “It’s not all your fault. You got tricked by a pretty face. It happens! Handsome young werewolf mistakenly falls in love with a super-hot girl who comes from a family that kills the werewolves. Is that – ”

A creaky step gives him away. Kate starts to turn, and Tom has his gun up before she can get all the way around. “Freeze!” he barks, and she continues turning but doesn’t lift a weapon. “Put your hands on your head.”

“Oh, man.” Kate laughs. It’s the kind of laugh he’s heard teenagers give when they’re caught at Make-Out Point: embarrassed, but not nervous. She does raise her hands, putting them on her head. “You scared the living Christ out of me.”

“Derek, you okay?” Tom asks, not looking away from Kate.

“Yeah,” Derek says, a little hoarse.

“Officer, this is a huge misunderstanding,” Kate says, still smiling. “I mean, I know what it looks like, I really do. But, you know, what two consenting adults do in privacy . . .” She lowers her voice a little. “Can’t blame me for indulging him, can you?”

Tom lifts his eyebrows at her. “You’re seriously going to stand here and tell me that he’s into getting tortured in the basement of the house his family burned to death in? That’s a creative defense, I’ll give you that.”

“It’s weird, I know,” Kate laughs. “But it’s true. C’mon, Derek, tell the nice police officer that you’re enjoying yourself.”

Derek takes a deep breath, his jaw set in an attempt to mask the pain Tom knows he’s in. “Get this shit off me.”

“Babe, come on,” Kate says.

“Give me a sec, Derek.” Tom gestures with his gun. “Miss Argent, put your hands on the table, where I can see them.”

Kate gives him a more interested look, now that she’s realized that Tom knows who she is, and isn’t just some random police officer who wandered in. “You’re the Sheriff that Chris told me about. Thinks he’s got it all figured out.”

“Just most of it. Where are the keys to those cuffs?”

“In my pocket.”

“Get them out – slowly.”

Kate does as she’s told, drawing the keys out of her pocket slowly and then holding them in front of herself.

Tom doesn’t move any closer to her; he can see her next move a mile away. “Toss them onto the table there,” he says, and she does, her mouth pursuing with irritation. “Good. Now put your hands against the wall.”

“I don’t consent to a search,” Kate says.

“Tell you what, afterwards I’ll buy you a dictionary and you can look up the definition of ‘probable cause’.” Tom tucks his gun back in his holster and frisks her quickly, removing two handguns and a knife. Then he pulls her arms around her back, securing them in the handcuffs. He glances back at Derek, taking a moment to think things over. He doesn’t trust Kate any further than he can throw her. Peter is so cautious of her that Tom feels it would be better not to underestimate her, and that means he can’t let her go, even cuffed. “Okay, Stiles, you can come in now.”

Stiles comes barreling down the stairs so fast that he nearly hits the opposite wall. His eyes go a little wide when he sees Derek, who looks down and away. “Oh, jeez,” he says, and starts gingerly peeling the tape holding the electrodes to Derek’s side away.

“Keys on the table there,” Tom says, gesturing.

“Sorry if this hurts,” Stiles says, wincing as he works on the tape.

“S’fine,” Derek mutters.

“Pretty much five hundred percent not fine, but – there it goes.” Stiles gets the last of the tape off and grabs the keys, reaching above his head to get the cuffs off. His face is flushed pink and he keeps giving Derek sidelong glances. Tom is thinking he might have to say something about that, find a tactful way to ask his son to please not ogle Derek after everything else that’s happened today, but then Stiles shrugs out of his long-sleeved plaid shirt and thrusts it in Derek’s direction. “Here. You can – ”

Derek snatches the shirt and pulls it on immediately, not buttoning it but instead pulling it tightly across his abdomen, folding his arms to keep it in place. “Thanks,” he mumbles. It only barely fits, looking like Derek’s biceps are going to split the seams, but he’s clearly glad to have it.

Seeing the look on Derek’s face, the relief at being covered again, sends so much rage through Tom that for a moment he thinks Peter is trying to control him again. But no. This rage is entirely his own. He takes a deep breath to calm himself. “Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do. Derek, I’m going to need a statement from you at some point, but I don’t need it now. I’m going to take Kate to the station. I don’t want either of you riding in the back with her. Derek, can you walk Stiles home?”

“We can’t leave you alone with her!” Stiles protests.

“Stiles, she’s in handcuffs, I’ve taken all her weapons, and once we get her into the car there will be a wall of plexiglass between the two of us. I’m going to be fine, and I want you – both of you – as far away from her as is possible. Okay?”

Derek nods, still hugging himself. “Yeah.”

“There’s pot roast,” Stiles offers. Derek tries to smile.

Kate has gone quiet, either because she knows better than to say anything that could be used against her in court or because she’s plotting an escape. Tom doesn’t know which and frankly doesn’t care. He herds her up the stairs and into the back of the car. “Save some of that pot roast for me,” he says, giving Stiles’ hair an affectionate rub before he gets into the driver’s seat.

The drive to the sheriff’s station passes in silence. Kate looks more annoyed than anything else. Tom gets her inside and hands her off to one of the deputies for processing. “Search her carefully; she could have hidden weapons,” he says, “and put her in holding.”

“No interrogation?” Sandy, his administrative assistant, asks, as she hands him the paperwork.

“Not now. Stiles made pot roast,” he says, and Sandy laughs. “I want to let her sweat it out for a bit before I talk to her. She’ll keep until morning.” He settles down to fill out the forms, which takes about fifteen minutes, and then he heads outside. But he doesn’t go straight home. He goes to the nurse’s house again. “Just give me Peter’s number, will you?” he asks, and she huffs at him but does so. He dials, and Peter picks up on the first ring. “We need to talk. Meet me at the high school parking lot in ten minutes.”

“Sir, yes sir,” Peter says, amused.

Tom gets there first, and glances around to confirm that yes, there are indeed no cameras. He doesn’t know how Peter lured Garrett Meyers here and frankly he doesn’t want to know. He just wants to be sure that this conversation won’t be overheard.

“You look like hell,” Peter greets him. “Bad day?”

“I arrested Kate Argent.”

Peter’s expression sours. “Why do you insist on making my life difficult, Tom?”

Tom just gives him a look. “After a period of soul-searching that I’m sure you don’t care about, I’ve decided not to bring charges. I’m going to hold her for the allowed twenty-four hours and then release her.”

“All right,” Peter says, giving him an expectant look.

Tom checks his watch. “What this means to you is that, at eight thirty tomorrow, Kate Argent is going to be escorted from the premises of the sheriff’s station. They’ll take her out the side door on the west into the parking lot. She will have no weapons, and after the police station door shuts behind her, she will be alone.” He continues giving Peter the same look. “Am I coming through here?”

“Loud and clear.” A little smile curves Peter’s mouth. “I thought you weren’t going to help me.”

“This is as far as I go. I need you to understand that.”

“More than far enough,” Peter says. “But what changed your mind, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Maybe someday I’ll tell you,” Tom says, and gets back into the car. Before he’s turned it on, Peter has vanished into the forest. He shakes his head and starts home.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Stiles has a lot of mixed feelings as he unlocks the back door to let himself and Derek into the house. Their walk has mostly been silent. He hates the quiet, but he just doesn’t know what to say. As he opens the door, he says, “Uh, right, so – pot roast – ”

“I want to shower,” Derek interrupts, his voice abrupt.

“Oh, uh, yeah, sure. Feel free. You want me to make you some tea or something?”

Derek is already halfway up the stairs, but he hesitates, and then says in a subdued tone. “Yeah. Tea would. Would be nice.” He starts walking again. A few seconds later, the bathroom door shuts, and the water turns on.

Since Derek clearly hadn’t taken the time to grab himself any clothes, Stiles puts the kettle on and then jogs upstairs. He grabs a pair of sweat pants and a T-shirt out of his father’s closet, although with a towel. He cracks the bathroom door open. “I’m just gonna leave some clothes for you on the counter, okay?”

“Okay,” Derek says, after a moment.

Stiles sets the clothes down and then heads back downstairs. He looks through the tea collection he’s gathered and thinks with a sigh about his father’s commentary about Lydia Martin. It is the same behavior. He spent most of junior high trying to give Lydia candy or flowers or anything he thought might get him a chance with her. For her birthday the previous year, he had bought her a full set of DVDs of Mythbusters. All for someone who probably didn’t even know his name. He’d known Derek fewer than three days before he had ordered forty dollars worth of tea off the internet.

At least he has it now. He’s sure that Derek could use some comfort food. He takes a glance at the pot roast, which has still been in the crock pot, and supposes he ought to put it away. It’s not like anyone’s going to be eating it.

It’s past eight at this point, so he goes with green tea, jasmine, which he himself has taken a great liking to. He can’t get his mind off what Kate had said in the basement. What Derek had said about the fire being his fault. He can’t imagine how Derek feels, and he doesn’t know what to say, which is why as soon as Derek reappears, he starts babbling like an idiot.

“Hey, I, uh, I made you some tea, it’s jasmine, because it’s getting pretty late, you know? Are you hungry? I was thinking I might just put the pot roast in the fridge and make us some sandwiches. But you don’t have to be hungry. I mean, you would know better than I would. So just, uh, just let me know and I’ll – I’ll stop talking, is what I’ll do, because I’m a moron and my rambling is probably the last thing you want to hear right now – ”

“No,” Derek says, looking up. “Don’t – don’t stop talking. When it’s quiet, I keep – keep hearing her voice.”

Stiles blinks at him, then clears his throat and says, “Right, so, pot roast?”

“Okay.”

Stiles gets a couple plates out of the cupboard and starts dishing up the food. “I seriously don’t know how I got along before I had a slow cooker. These things are amazing. I mean, you can make anything in them. I’ve got this great recipe for chicken tortilla soup, I should make that for you. And chili! Crock pots make the best chili. Plus you can make some really good desserts in them, I’ve got this apple crumble recipe – but that’s more of a fall thing.”

“How did you find me?” Derek asks abruptly.

“Uh – ” Stiles wrenches his mind around the sudden shift in conversation. “I’m not one hundred percent sure, actually. I think my dad threatened to remove Chris Argent’s spleen through his nose until he coughed up Kate’s hideout.”

“No, I mean.” Derek looks down at his potatoes. “How did you even know I was missing?”

“You weren’t here for dinner, didn’t answer your phone.” Stiles shrugs. “Seemed like something had probably gone wrong.”

“But I – ” Derek can’t seem to finish the sentence. “I didn’t think – ”

“You thought no one was going to come for you,” Stiles finishes for him. He reaches out and puts a hand on Derek’s forearm, giving it a squeeze that he hopes is comforting. “Look, I know I can’t understand what you’re going through. And I know there’s, like, a lot to unpack here. But you’re not alone, okay? You’ve got me and my dad looking out for you, no matter what happens.”

Derek nods. He takes in, and then lets out, a shuddering breath. Then he takes a bite of the potatoes. He stops. “Oh my God, those are good.”

“Told you, didn’t I?” Stiles grins at him. “My mom’s gravy recipe. Handed down through the generations. It’s some good stuff.”

“Yeah, it is.” Derek digs in with more appetite, and Stiles starts eating, too. Tom gets home about fifteen minutes later, and Stiles jumps up to get him a plate. Derek looks up, then back down, several times before he says, “What’s going to happen to Kate?”

Tom stops with a forkful of carrots halfway to his mouth. After a moment, he says evenly, “She’s going to be released tomorrow. I called Peter. He knows when.”

Stiles feels his stomach lurch, more out of shock than anything else. “Oh my God,” he blurts out.

Derek looks surprised, too. “Why? I mean . . . what changed your mind?”

“I can’t prove that Kate was behind the fire,” Tom says. “I’ve got a lot of circumstantial evidence, that’s true. But it’s not enough. If you could testify against her . . .”

Every muscle in Derek’s body tenses up.

“But I’m not going to put you through that,” Tom says. “Kate’s hurt you enough. She’s never going to hurt you again. And if the only way I can accomplish that is quietly looking the other way while Peter deals with her, then that’s something I think I can be okay with.”

“Thank you,” Derek says, his voice hoarse.

“Stiles, take a walk,” Tom says. Stiles opens his mouth to protest, then sees the way Derek is crumbling. He nods and quietly leaves the room. He doesn’t go far, though. He’s not a saint.

“Listen, Derek,” Tom says, once Stiles is gone. “I know you probably don’t want to talk, and that’s okay. I won’t make you. But there are a few things I need to say, and I just want you to listen. What happened to your family was not your fault. The fact that Kate lied to you, and used you, was not your fault. And I don’t just mean because you were too young to know better. Kate is the one who lied. She’s the one who hurt people. And that is not on you. I know you might not believe me, and that’s okay, too. I just want you to think about that, and I want you to know that even if you blame yourself, I don’t blame you. And as someone who knew your parents, I can say with one hundred percent certainty that they wouldn’t blame you, either. Okay?”

“Okay,” Derek says. Stiles doesn’t hear anything for a long minute, so he risks a peek back into the room to see that Tom has pulled him into an embrace, that Derek has his face pressed into Tom’s shoulder. He quietly creeps back out of the room. Suddenly, he doesn’t feel so bad about all the tea he bought.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Tom is more than a little discomfited when he finds Chris Argent waiting at the station at eight PM the next day. He looks him up and down with narrowed eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“Waiting to pick up my sister.” Chris meets his gaze, and it’s clearly a challenge.

Tom considers that, then gestures. “Step into my office.”

Chris nods and does so, and Tom closes the door after him. Before Tom can open his mouth, he says, “I gave you my sister’s location because I knew she would be safer in jail, and because you told me that you intended to put her there. So imagine my surprise when I found out today that you had decided not to charge her with anything. Why is that, Sheriff?”

“Kate’s victim declined to press charges,” Tom says.

“That’s not why.”

“Well, technically, it is. I can’t force Derek to press charges for the fact that your sister abducted him and tortured him, particularly when Kate’s excuse was – how did she put this? It’s not police business what two consenting adults do.”

Chris’ jaw tightens. “That’s still not why.”

“Derek was fifteen at the time of the fire. Allison just turned seventeen, didn’t she? So how would you feel if some handsome twenty-five year old took an interest in her? Flattered her, romanced her, got her to talk about her family so he could get to them?”

“That’s not – ” Chris has to take a deep breath. “You’re making assumptions based on what happened yesterday – ”

“I’m really not. And you don’t even have to take Derek’s word for it, because I heard it from Kate’s own mouth. So no, Mr. Argent, I’m not going to force Derek to press charges against her, and I’m not going to push him through a court case where he would have to testify against her. The cross-examination would be brutal. And I think your sister has done enough damage.”

“So instead you plan to just release her, into the arms of an alpha werewolf we know wants her dead.”

“What Peter Hale does is his own business,” Tom says.

“I’ve got a car full of guys out there. We’re all well-armed. If he shows up, he’s going to regret it.” Chris’ hands tighten into fists. “I also have a bus ticket for Kate. I’ll take her to the station and put her on the bus myself. Let that be an end to it.”

“Do you honestly believe that she won’t turn right the hell around and come back to finish what she started?”

“I’ll talk to her,” Chris says. “I’ll make it clear that leaving is in her best interests.”

Tom looks at him for a long minute, carefully weighing his options. He doesn’t believe for a moment that Kate will go peacefully, and almost any other option to deal with her will end in collateral damage. They’ll go back to Peter making more betas, or kidnapping Allison. He thinks that deep down, Chris knows that, but he can’t exactly blame the man for not wanting to stand back and watch his sister get murdered. “We could avoid Derek’s testimony in the case of the fire if we could get a confession from Kate,” he says, keeping his voice even. “What if, rather than putting her on a bus, you had a little chat with her for me? If you can wear a wire and get her to confess, that would alleviate the lack of physical evidence I have.”

Chris is quiet for a long minute before he says, “I would if I could. Hand to God. But when I talked to her about it earlier – she was careful. Too careful. She knows I can’t be trusted. She never outright admitted that she did it. And that was before she had spent twenty-four hours in police custody, giving you ample time to get a warrant to put a wire on me. If I say anything to her about the fire, she’ll just deny having been involved.”

“Then we’re back to our unsavory options,” Tom says. He looks Chris in the eye. “She murdered children, Mr. Argent. Is this your idea of ‘policing your own’? Getting them out of town? Shuffling them to the next parish like a priest who has a thing for altar boys?”

A little shudder goes through Chris, but he holds his ground. “You might not believe this, Sheriff Stilinski, but I’ve thought a lot about what my options are. And trust me when I say that the consequences if you let Peter Hale kill her will be a lot worse than whatever damage Kate might do in the future.”

Tom narrows his eyes. “Meaning?”

“The hunter community doesn’t react well when one of our own is killed.”

Tom opens his mouth. He’s got an entire seminar in his chest, waiting to be delivered, about justice, about righteousness, about the hunter community’s problematic views on werewolves as compared to the KKK and various other hate organizations, about how he would like to cordially invite that entire community to kiss his ass. But then he looks at Chris and realizes that Chris already knows all of this, that Chris is literally in the midst of an existential crisis over having realized he’s one of the bad guys. So he simplifies. “I can’t stop you from putting Kate on that bus. But anyone she kills from now on – and we both know that she’ll never stop killing – that’s going to be on your conscience, Mr. Argent. Not mine.”

Chris turns and leaves the office without another word. Tom sighs and pulls out his phone. He texts Peter, saying, ‘Chris turned up to pick Kate up. He has guys with him. Don’t show your face here.’

Peter doesn’t respond, and Tom still half-expects that he’s going to turn up and start destroying things, but he doesn’t. Kate’s release goes without a hitch, and Tom watches their taillights as they head to the bus station. “Let that be an end to it,” he murmurs, but he already knows that it won’t be. He thinks about the dance the next night, about how Peter had never agreed not to use Allison in his schemes for revenge. He looks down at his phone, at Peter’s lack of response, and wonders what the hell he’s supposed to do now.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

“I look like a jackass,” Stiles says. Or moans. It’s really more of a moan. He yanks off the tie. “Forget it. I’m not going. Scott can survive without me.”

Tom sighs and picks up the tie. “Stiles. I know that you’re not happy about this, but I want you at the dance. Peter might turn up to find Allison. She’s the best bait he’ll have for Kate, and we all know it. I can’t exactly hang around the dance myself. They didn’t call for parent chaperones. So I need you there.”

“But Dad,” Stiles whines, and then sees Derek looking at him and tries to sound like a mature adult. “It’s gonna suck.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as you think it’s going to be,” Tom says. “Yes, okay, I was a teenager once, and believe it or not, I wasn’t the most popular kid in my class. But you know what? I bet there are going to be some girls there who don’t have dates either, and I bet if you asked one of them to dance, they’d say yes.”

“Maybe, but . . .” Stiles doesn’t exactly know how to articulate that the problem isn’t going to be who’s willing to dance with him. The problem is going to be everybody else. “Maybe I’ll just tell everyone my date is stuck in traffic. Or that, that, I’m dating someone I met on the internet and it’s someone super hot. No, they wouldn’t believe that. They’d want to see pictures or something. Derek, can I take your picture and tell everyone you’re my internet boyfriend?”

“No,” Derek says, and Stiles pouts.

“Look at it this way,” Tom says. “You’re undercover. Like in 21 Jump Street. I’m sending you to the dance to keep Allison safe. So just play the role of high school kid for the evening. Okay?”

“Okay,” Stiles says, brightening. That sounds like something he can do. It’s still going to suck, but if he focuses on that, he might be able to pull it off. He picks up the tie and puts it back on. “What do I do if he shows up?”

“I’m less worried about him walking into a room of three hundred high school kids, and more worried that Allison and Scott are going to sneak off somewhere that he can get to them,” Tom says.

Stiles snorts. “Yeah, that’s one hundred percent fair. So I’m supposed to cock block my bestie?”

“Yes. Yes, Stiles, that is exactly what I want you to do.” Tom bats Stiles’ hands aside from where he’s failing at getting the tie done correctly. “Just keep them at the dance until I’ve managed to track down Peter and find out what his game plan is. I get that he’s pissed at me, but he and I need to have a talk. If he does show up, call me, and then just try to stall him.”

“Stall him, stall him how?”

“Talk to him. Ask him what he’s going to do, tell him that Allison is your friend and what she’s like, talk about the price of beans in Peru. Be yourself. That’ll certainly distract him,” Tom says, and Derek gives a little snort. “Don’t get in his way, don’t try to stop him, just see if you can keep him talking until I get there. Derek, you just sit tight here, okay?”

“No problem,” Derek says.

Tom rubs a hand over Stiles’ hair. “Come on, you. Let’s get going.”

Fifteen minutes later, Tom drops him off at the high school. He finds Scott waiting anxiously, but Allison turns up before he can have a chance to panic (in the dress that Peter picked out for her, which has Stiles quietly trying not to bust a gut laughing). Scott blushes and tells her how amazing she looks, and she blushes back, and Stiles tries not to roll his eyes because he’s sure he’s made an idiot of himself over Lydia the same way.

In fact, Lydia turns up a few minutes later, arm-in-arm with Jackson, who sneers in Stiles’ direction and sarcastically commends him on his bravery for showing up without a date. “I wouldn’t think you would want to show off what a loser you are.”

“Lose this,” Stiles says, flipping him off, and okay, it’s not his best comeback ever. Jackson scoffs and Lydia giggles and they all head into the gymnasium. Stiles follows, because what else is he going to do? At least, once they’re all dancing, he can just stay on the sidelines and keep an eye out for homicidal werewolves.

Of course, that doesn’t stop half the people at the dance asking, “Are you here alone?” and then chortling to themselves when he confirms that yes, he is in fact that world’s biggest social pariah, thanks for asking. He’s considering how he can get his father to help him transfer to a different school when someone catches his eye.

Derek Hale walks into the gymnasium looking absolutely phenomenal, dressed in a dark red button-down and black pants, with a black tie. Even in the fancy lighting, he stands out, leaving teenagers gaping behind him as he walks over to Stiles. “Hey,” he says, with a beautiful smile that makes Stiles’ knees weak. “Sorry I’m late,” he adds, and leans over to give Stiles a kiss on the cheek.

Stiles pinches his wrist, hard. It hurts. “What, uh, what are you doing here?” he asks, trying to keep his voice low, aware that half his classmates are staring.

“You didn’t seem to want to go by yourself,” Derek says. “Something about your classmates making fun of you? I thought this might help.”

He looks a little shy and uncertain, like he’s honestly not sure if having the world’s hottest twenty-one year old show up at the dance and kiss Stiles on the cheek will help his social status. “Uh, yeah,” Stiles strangles out. “Yeah, I think – think that will be very effective. Thank you.”

Derek’s smile reappears. “Want to dance?”

“Uh, yes, yeah, dancing, yeah – ”

Derek shakes his head a little and pulls him onto the dance floor. He shows Stiles where to put his hands so they’re at a distance that’s intimate but not suggestive, and Stiles can’t stop staring at his beautiful, beautiful face. “Look, um, Stiles,” Derek murmurs, as they sway back and forth. “I’m really grateful for – for everything you and your dad have done for me. I wanted to thank you, which is why I came here tonight. But I can’t . . .”

“We can’t be anything,” Stiles says, and for the first time, he really gets what his father had been trying to say the night Derek had gotten captured by Kate. “I know. I know I’m too young right now. I think . . . I think that’s okay, you know? We can just be friends. And maybe, you know, maybe someday it’ll be something else. But right now I’m okay being your friend. More than okay.”

Relief washes over Derek’s face. “Thanks,” he says, and despite how much Stiles really regrets that he’s sixteen, the look of gratitude on Derek’s face is worth it.

A thought occurs to him. “I still get to tell people you’re my boyfriend, right?”

“Oh, yeah. Sure.”

“Will you pick me up after school in your Camaro sometimes?”

Derek snorts. “Okay.”

“Awesome,” Stiles breathes out.

They dance a few times and virtually everyone has to come over and check Derek out and ask questions about how they met and is Derek in college or what, some of them obviously trying to catch Stiles in a lie and find out that Derek is his cousin or something. Scott’s jaw is halfway to the floor as he tries to figure out who Derek is and how Stiles had arranged this without his knowing. Stiles fends him off easily by saying, “Dude, you’ve been so wrapped up in Allison that I could be dating a werewolf and you wouldn’t even know,” and Derek chokes on a potato chip.

The evening drags on, and nobody shows up to cause trouble, and Stiles drinks way too much punch out of nervousness. “Will you keep an eye on Allison for me for a few minutes?” he asks. Derek nods, so he excuses himself to the restroom.

The hallway outside the gymnasium is dim and empty. He heads into the bathroom and quickly does his business. When he comes back out, Kate is waiting for him. He barely recognizes her before she’s got the muzzle of her gun pressed into his throat. “Oh my God!”

“Hey, sweetie,” Kate says. “I think it’s time you and I had a little chat.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

It’s not going on the list of Tom Stilinski’s best days ever. He’s annoyed that Peter isn’t texting him back, and although he doesn’t want to admit it, vaguely worried. Chris had put together a hunting party of sorts. What if, after Kate had been released, the two of them had gone after Peter? He only had Chris’ word that he was going to take Kate to the bus station, and although he thought Chris was sincere, he wasn’t sure Chris would have been able to force her.

He hasn’t managed to find Peter anywhere, and he’s sort of wondering if he should, if that’s the sort of thing a werewolf can do. From some of the things Derek has said about an alpha, he thinks it’s possible. But he certainly doesn’t know how to do it, and he hadn’t thought to ask Derek.

Given this, when his phone rings and he sees that it’s Stiles, his stomach drops into his feet. He was right, then – Peter has decided to use Allison as bait. He should have just gone to the dance –

“Hey, buddy, what’s up?”

“Sheriff!” It’s Kate’s voice, as vivacious as usual, and Tom bites out a curse. “Need to have a chat with you. Wanna bring your alpha? Got some things to say to him, too.”

The call disconnects without another word. But a second later, it chimes to say that he had received a text. He opens it and sees the picture Kate has sent him of Stiles. More accurately, it’s of herself and Stiles, taken selfie-style but from far enough back that he can see the way Kate’s gun is pressed into the bottom of Stiles’ chin.

“Shit,” Tom snarls, and realizes that he’s shifted, that his fangs and claws are already out. He takes a deep breath. He’s going to kick Chris Argent’s ass all the way to the border when he gets his hands on him. After a moment to think, he calls Peter. Yet again, Peter doesn’t answer. Tom texts him instead. ‘Kate has my son. Go to the high school so we can take care of this or I will make you regret waking up from your coma.’

He takes a moment to wonder where Derek is before deciding that it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t want Derek involved in this – doesn’t want Derek within ten miles of Kate Argent ever again.

Which is why it’s somewhat discomfiting when he barrels into the high school foyer and nearly runs Derek over. “What are you doing here?” he sputters.

Derek winces. “Pretending to be Stiles’ boyfriend? But he went to the bathroom a few minutes ago and he didn’t come back, and I – ”

“Kate has him,” Tom says, because there’s no time to soften the blow. He sees the pain and fear flash across Derek’s face before continuing, “Come with me, but stay behind me. Peter should be on his way – he’s going to pay for it if he’s not.”

“Okay. I – ” Derek hesitates, then says, “You’re shifted, you know that, right?”

“God damn it, I know, I couldn’t – it doesn’t matter. They’re in the locker room, I could tell from the photo Kate sent me. Come on.” He heads towards the lockers without waiting for Derek to reply. Despite the fur and fangs, he has his gun out, along with a flashlight. The lights in the locker rooms are off. He doesn’t see Stiles or Kate anywhere, until he peeks into the shower. Stiles is standing there, facing away. “Stiles?” he says, somewhat cautiously.

Stiles turns around, and Tom’s breath catches in his throat. There’s not enough light to get a good look at the device that’s strapped to his chest, but the wires and digital timer make it obvious what it is. “I’m sorry, Dad,” Stiles says miserably. “I’m really sorry.”

“This isn’t your fault,” Tom says firmly. He glances over his shoulder. “Derek, get out of here. Go tell the nearest adult that you heard a kid say he had a bomb – ”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Kate says, emerging from behind them. “It kind of defeats the purpose if you evacuate the dance. I mean, okay, I don’t have to have such a large target, but it’ll help.”

“Your niece is there,” Tom says, as Kate walks past Derek with a smirk, over to Stiles.

“No, she isn’t. I just texted her, telling her that her dad found the condoms she bought and was coming to get her. She and Scott are gonna be twenty miles away before that thing goes off.”

Tom looks at the digital display again. It reads five minutes, but it’s not counting down. “How about you? How much time do you need to get safe distance?”

“Less than this,” Kate says, and hits a button on her phone. The numbers start ticking. Stiles gives a little whimper despite himself. “And let’s be clear – there’s enough explosive in that to kill everyone in there. Without the proper code, you can’t disarm it. So you can put your gun down, Sheriff, because if you kill me, your son dies, along with his entire class.”

Tom lowers his weapon. “What do you want, Kate?”

“I told you. I want your alpha.”

“I don’t control him. He hasn’t been answering his phone since yesterday, because he’s pissed that you got out of the trap I had set up for you, and he probably thinks I backed out on my part of the deal.”

Kate shrugs. “Shame.” She turns to walk away.

“Now, Kate,” Peter says from the doorway, and Tom nearly cries from sheer relief. “You don’t think I would abandon my only beta, do you? Let you kill his son the way you killed mine?”

“Never know, with you,” Kate says. Tom half-turns to see Peter, see the rage hiding behind the mask of pleasant neutrality that he wears on his face.

“So, what are we doing here?” Peter asks, his gaze fixed on Stiles. “That looks unnecessarily dramatic. Stiles, do me a favor and turn around.”

“T-Turn? Why?” Stiles says, already moving to obey.

He’s halfway around when Kate yanks him back into place. “Seeing the back of the bomb won’t show you how to disarm it,” she says.

“No, I didn’t figure it would,” Peter says. “All right, Kate. You wanted me, you have me. And we clearly only have a few minutes, so how would you like me? Hands on my head? On my knees? Maybe I should just offer to shoot myself in the head and make things quick and easy for you.”

“You’d survive that and we both know it.” Kate gestures to the locker room door with her gun. “Walk. I can’t kill you here. Need a little more firepower. So you’re with me. Once you’re dead, I’ll disarm the bomb. So no tricks.”

Peter appears to think that over. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Peter,” Tom growls, but what can he say? He can’t ask Peter to walk into certain death for a stranger.

“How about we just wait it out?” Peter suggests. “You’re not going to let yourself be blown up, so if we don’t let you leave, you have to disarm the bomb. There are, after all, three of us and one of you.”

“Try that, and I’ll just shoot Stiles in the head.”

Tom’s gun is back up before he even thinks about it. “You point that thing at my son, and the only person shot in the head is going to be you.”

“Better wait for me to disarm the bomb before you do that, or you’re going to be picking teenagers out of trees ten miles from here.”

“You understand why I can’t just go with you, right?” Peter says. “We have no guarantee that you’ll disarm the bomb once I’m dead. You’ll probably just let it go off. You like killing people who haven’t done anything wrong, so what’s a gymnasium full of teenagers matter? Do you have a knife, by the way? It would make this a lot easier.”

Kate’s eyes narrow. “Make what a lot easier?”

“She had a knife in her boot when I arrested her,” Tom says, although he’s not sure what Peter’s up to, either.

“Good.” Peter says.

He takes a single step forward, and Kate apparently decides she’s had enough. Bullets might not kill an alpha, but they’ll at least slow him down enough to give her some breathing room. Or at least, that’s what Tom assumes her plan is. Whatever it is, it never happens. As soon as her gun comes up, Tom’s firing his. It’s an automatic response from years of training. He fires twice, hitting her in the chest both times. She stumbles backwards and hits the ground hard.

“Holy shit!” Stiles yelps, nearly falling on his ass as he flinches back. Derek grabs him before he can.

Peter’s shifted, and he starts forward like he’s going to finish Kate off, but Tom barks, “Don’t!” and he actually stops, giving Tom a questioning look. Tom takes a deep breath. “A police shooting is a lot easier to explain if her throat isn’t torn out afterwards.”

At this, Peter gives a nod. The pool of blood spreading from Kate’s unmoving form makes it clear that if she isn’t already dead, she will be within moments. He kneels beside her and takes the knife out of her boot.

“Peter, what – ” Tom starts.

“Everyone always tries to do this the difficult way,” Peter says, and starts slicing through the straps that hold the bomb to Stiles’ chest. “It’s so much easier to just remove the thing than disarm it.” The device falls into his hand with less than a minute remaining. He turns to Tom and says, “Things never would have worked between us, you know,” leaving Tom sputtering despite the situation. Then he takes off, carrying the bomb with him.

Tom scrambles to follow, but only catches a glimpse of him as he exits through the gymnasium door. He’ll never catch up and he knows it, so he turns back and grabs Stiles in a crushing hug. “Oh my God, oh my God,” Stiles is mumbling under his breath, clinging to his father.

“It’s okay, you’re okay, you’re safe now,” Tom says, rubbing his back. “I’m here, I’ve got you. You’re safe now.”

Derek is staring at the door. “Do you think he – ” he starts to say, and then the floor starts to tremble. It only lasts a few seconds.

They exit the locker room into a swell of chatter about the earthquake that had apparently just struck. It’s rare to get them this far north, but not unheard of. Nobody seems bothered by it, and the thudding bass beat of the music had kept anyone from hearing the gunshots. “I’d better call this in,” Tom says, already thinking over how he’s going to have to explain it. “Derek, take Stiles home.”

Derek nods, getting an arm around Stiles’ shoulders. “Come on,” he says quietly. “Let’s go.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

It’s not as bad as it could be. Tom has the call from Stiles and the picture of him in his phone. He has Kate’s arrest two days previous. It’s actually not that crazy-sounding to say that she decided to get revenge by abducting his son and strapping a bomb to his chest. Kate’s fingerprints are all over Stiles’ phone, which Tom took before he left. He leaves Peter out of it entirely, saying that Derek – his son’s date – had carried the bomb out of the school.

The dance is called to a premature halt and the teenagers are sent home. Men are out in the forest, looking for the blast site. It’s not hard to find, especially not for Tom, who can follow his nose. He’s the first one there, and although there’s plenty of debris, there’s no blood, no body parts. Peter either dropped it and kept running, or threw it. Either way, he wasn’t caught in the explosion.

Tom’s not sure whether or not he’s relieved. He directs his men to carefully collect and catalog the bomb fragments. Since Kate is dead, it might or might not matter, but it’ll certainly help his own case regarding the fact that he shot her. Once all of that is done, he heads to the Argent house. He’s probably not the best person to notify Chris of his sister’s death, given that he’s the one who killed her, but he knows that Chris will have questions that only he can answer.

Chris answers the door looking wary and says, “Sheriff.”

“Mr. Argent. Can I come in?”

After a moment, Chris stands back and lets him in. “What is it?”

Tom lets out a breath. It’s never easy to notify family of a loved one’s death, even if he knows that loved one was a terrible person. He hates being blunt, but he knows it’s better than being obtuse. “I’m sorry to tell you this, but your sister Kate is dead. She was killed this evening.”

Chris pales a little. His jaw trembles and it takes him a moment to speak. “What happened?”

“She attacked several civilians and was shot.”

At this, Chris’ eyes narrow. He clearly suspects that ‘several civilians’ include werewolves. “Can you give me any more detail or is this an ongoing investigation?”

“There probably will be an internal investigation, since it was a police shooting, but frankly I doubt it’s going to receive much scrutiny. Your sister abducted a sixteen year old boy, taped a bomb to his chest, and held him hostage in exchange for Peter Hale. In the locker room right next to the gymnasium where the dance was taking place.”

Chris goes even paler. He looks away for a moment, then says, “I put her on that bus. I swear to you that I did.”

“Next stop is only ten miles down the road. She wouldn’t have had any trouble getting back.” Tom shakes his head a little. “We both knew she wasn’t going to go quietly.”

“Did Peter kill her?”

“No. I did. Peter took the bomb and carried it out of the school, to get it away from the kids.”

Chris looks a little surprised. “He . . . oh.”

“Don’t give him too much credit,” Tom says, with a wry smile. “There was enough time left on it for him to get it away from the school and reach a safe distance afterwards. He’s not the self-sacrificing sort. But he saved my son’s life – along with a lot of others.”

“I see,” Chris says.

“Which brings me to my next point, which is that I would like your word that there will be no reprisals for Kate’s death.”

Chris takes a deep breath and lets it out. “I can’t guarantee that.”

“Oh, really.” Tom gives him his best unimpressed face.

“I don’t control the entire hunter community, Sheriff.” Chris frankly doesn’t look very impressed either. “All I can tell you is that I, personally, won’t retaliate. Other people might not feel the same way.”

“Why do I have the feeling that you have someone particular in mind?”

Chris nods a little. “My father. He’s . . . not the forgiving sort.”

“Well,” Tom says evenly, “you can tell your father that if he has any problems with what happened to Kate, he can take them up with me. Because if he sets one finger on either Peter or Derek Hale, he’s going to find himself in a world of hurt.”

“I’ll tell him,” Chris says.

“Good. You have my condolences for your loss, Mr. Argent. Please contact my office if you have any further questions.” With that, Tom turns and walks away.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

They’ve been home about an hour – Stiles made them tea with hands that shake, and then sat down on the sofa and tried not to think about everything that had happened – when Tom comes in. Both Derek and Stiles jump to their feet. “Is he – did you – ” Derek asks.

“We found a whole bunch of bomb debris and a lot of mangled trees,” Tom says, “but no blood, no body parts. He must have dropped it once he got it far enough from the high school and then kept running. That or he threw it. Either way, he wasn’t there when it exploded.”

Derek breathes a sigh of relief. “Oh. That – that’s good. I guess.”

“I think so.” Tom draws Stiles into an embrace, rubbing a hand over his hair, and then gets an elbow around Derek’s neck and pulls him in, too. Derek stiffens, a little surprised, but then relaxes into it.

“What’s going to happen to, or uh, about, Kate?” Stiles asks.

“Kate was upset about her arrest, tried to take it out on the sheriff’s son, was shot when she pulled a gun on a civilian.” Tom sits down and snags Stiles’ half-empty mug. “Said civilian then carried the bomb into the woods. I’m on administrative leave pending investigation of the shooting, but since Kate thoughtfully documented her crime by sending me a picture of you with a gun to your head, I doubt there will be much of a problem.”

“I’ll probably need to make a statement at some point, huh?” Stiles says.

“Most likely. Kate’s dead, not arrested, so witness testimony isn’t quite as crucial. But I’ve spoken with Chris Argent, who seems to think that certain people are going to demand an in-depth investigation.”

“I’ll kick their asses,” Stiles says, scowling.

Derek shakes his head a little. “What about me?”

Tom points at him and says, “You’re the brave civilian who grabbed the bomb. I didn’t want to get Peter involved. He can’t give a statement – the police would be too busy wondering where his scars went to listen to anything he said. So you get the credit. Congratulations.”

“Great,” Derek says, not looking thrilled.

“As for Peter, he’s still officially missing and at some point will probably be declared dead. I’m sure Peter’s planned for this.”

“Okay,” Derek says again. He doesn’t say anything else.

Tom opens his mouth but ends up yawning hugely. “I’m going to hit the hay. Don’t stay up too late, okay, kids?” he adds, and Derek gives him a frankly baffled look that makes Stiles snicker.

Once Tom is upstairs, and they hear his door shut, Stiles turns to Derek and says, “Peter probably won’t go far. And my dad has his number, so if you wanted to see him . . .”

“I don’t know.” Derek’s shoulders hunch inwards a little. “I don’t know that I’ll ever be okay with him having killed Laura. But he’s the only family I have left.”

“Hey, you have me and my dad now,” Stiles says, affronted. Derek gives him a small smile. “I mean, I won’t tell you what to do. I don’t think you have to magically be fine with everything Peter’s done just because he saved our asses tonight. Maybe just . . . don’t try to feel any particular way. If you’re angry, be angry. If you’re sad, be sad. You know?”

Derek thinks about that for a minute. “Yeah,” he finally says. “Maybe that’ll work. I don’t know.”

“So . . . how do you feel right now?”

“I guess . . . tired,” Derek says.

“Well, that makes sense. It was a pretty crazy evening.” Stiles elbows Derek and says, “We’re gonna have to figure out where to put you. You can’t keep sleeping on the sofa forever.”

“I’ll get an apartment.”

“Yeah, sure, someday. But there’s no rush. For tonight you can sleep in my bed, because I’m not at all ashamed to admit that after nearly getting blown up, I’m sleeping in my dad’s room with the night-light on.” Stiles yawns. “I’m pretty tired, too. We should probably get some sleep. But, uh, thanks for coming tonight. You know. Saving me from humiliation.”

“You’re welcome.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom sleeps most of the night without issue, but wakes up around dawn feeling itchy and restless. It takes him a few minutes to figure out what’s happening, and then he can’t help but roll his eyes. He gets up carefully, trying not to wake Stiles, who’s clinging like a limpet in his sleep, and dresses before heading out into the woods. The sun is just rising as he gets to the ruins of the Hale House, where Peter is waiting for him, leaning against a tree. “You know, I have a cell phone,” Tom says. “You have a cell phone. You don’t need to use your alpha power to summon me.”

Peter shrugs. “What’s your point?”

“My point is, I know what your point was, which was to prove that you could still affect me, and if you pull this shit again I will punch you in the face.”

At this, Peter laughs. “You know, I really miss being arrested by you. You were just so attractive back then, with your uniform and your handcuffs.”

Tom opens his mouth. Closes it. Thinks of several responses before settling on, “Are you saying I’m not attractive now?”

“I didn’t say that,” Peter says, smirking.

“Good. Now if you’re quite done trying to make me uncomfortable by talking about how I was unknowingly fulfilling your law enforcement kink for several years, can we move on to why the hell you made me come out here at the crack of dawn?”

Peter lets out another snort of laughter. “Well, I figured we should probably talk about what’s going to happen now. You killed Kate. I seem to recall telling you that I wanted to do that.”

Tom regards him in silence before rubbing both his hands over his face. “You know what? No. It’s too early for this shit. If you’re actually upset that I killed Kate before you could, come right out and say that. If you’re not upset, drop the subject.”

He’s half-expecting Peter to respond with another vague taunt, but Peter takes him surprisingly seriously. “I am upset,” he says, “but not at you. I just . . .” He stares into the ruins for a long minute. “Does it matter that I didn’t get to kill her with my own hands? I don’t know. I wish I did. I wish I knew why . . .”

“It didn’t help,” Tom says, and his heart breaks for Peter, just a little. “That’s the problem with revenge, Peter. It doesn’t help. Kate being dead doesn’t bring your family back. All you can do is try to . . . keep walking. To answer your question, no, I doubt it would have made any difference if you had killed her yourself. The outcome would have been the same.”

“I suppose you’re probably right.” Peter sighs. “So where do we go from here?”

“Are you actually asking me?”

“Yes,” Peter says. “I am.”

Tom studies him in silence for a minute and realizes that, alpha or no alpha, Peter really wants someone to tell him what to do right now. He wants someone to tell him that it’s going to be all right. He thinks about things while the first rays of sunlight start to hit the Hale House. There’s not much he can say on an emotional level that won’t feel like a platitude, so he decides to be practical, at least for starters. “You’re going to need a new identity. I assume you prepared one?” he asks, and Peter nods. “Then we should get you a place to live. I doubt I could talk you into getting a job, but I’m sure you have a lot of money that I don’t want to know about, so we won’t worry about that.”

“All right,” Peter says, a ghost of a smile touching his face.

“Derek mentioned once that an alpha really needs three betas if he wants to consolidate his power,” Tom continues. “You have me, but if you want to keep Derek as a beta you’re going to have to address some uncomfortable truths about his sister with him.”

Peter shakes his head. “He doesn’t want to know.”

“Yes, he does, Peter. Will thinking that his sister was a coward who abandoned you hurt? Of course it will. It’ll hurt like hell. But the hard fact of the matter is that you’re here now, and Laura isn’t. Which means that he has to make peace with you. Understanding why you killed Laura is going to be the first step to that. It won’t fix everything. But it will give you something you can build off of.”

Peter sighs. “I’ll think about that.”

“Do you actually need a third beta?”

After a moment, Peter nods. “If I want to keep the power long-term, then yes.”

“Okay. I was thinking about that. The healing power. Does it work on pre-existing conditions? Diseases, I mean, like asthma?”

“Generally, yes,” Peter says, glancing over at Tom. “I take it you have someone in mind?”

“Stiles’ best friend, Scott. He’s been in the hospital every winter as long as I can remember. Plus he really wants to do well at lacrosse.”

“Stiles’ best friend, Scott, who’s dating Allison Argent, Chris Argent’s little princess? You want me to turn Allison’s boyfriend into a werewolf?”

“That’s the idea, yep.”

A wicked smile blooms on Peter’s face. “You know, I’m starting to think having you as a beta is going to work out very nicely.”

“Oh, that reminds me.” Tom turns to Peter and punches him squarely in the jaw. Peter reels backwards and lands on his ass in the dirt. “That,” Tom says, “was for jumping me in the forest and turning me into a werewolf without permission.”

Peter shakes off the injury and sits up. “Seems fair.”

Tom sits down beside him. “Chris seems to think that his father is going to come to town and cause trouble.”

“Well,” Peter says, with surprising reserve, “if that happens, we’ll deal with it.”

“Yes,” Tom agrees. “We will.”

They sit in silence for several long minutes.

“Breakfast?” Tom finally says.

Peter perks up. “Is By the Dozen still open?”

“How could the place with the best donuts in town ever close?” Tom asks. He gets to his feet and extends a hand to Peter, and Peter takes it.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom leaves Peter eating his third donut and heads up the stairs. Stiles is still sound asleep in Tom’s bed. When Tom shakes him gently by the shoulder, he jerks awake with a gasp. “Hey, hey, it’s okay,” Tom says, feeling a pang of guilt that he hadn’t been able to protect his son the night before. Stiles nods, but he’s shaking, and Tom pulls him into a hug. “You’re okay,” Tom says, rubbing his back. “You’re okay. Hey, you hungry? I brought home donuts.”

“Oh, yeah?” Stiles perks up. “Okay. Derek’s probably still asleep in my room. I let him have my bed, you know, since I was going to stay in here with you.”

“Okay.” Tom rubs a hand over Stiles’ hair. “I’ll get him.”

“Hey, Dad?” Stiles says, as Tom starts to walk away. “Thanks for, uh, talking to me about Derek. Making sure I didn’t screw things up with him by being all . . . sixteen. I really like him, and I think . . . maybe someday we could have something really awesome. But you were right that it’s not the right time for it.”

“Well, that’s pretty mature of you,” Tom says. “So maybe you’ll be ready sooner than you think.”

Stiles yawns and grins and then gets out of bed. Tom shakes his head a little and heads into the other bedroom. Derek is curled up on his side, hugging a pillow to his chest. As soon as Tom clears his throat, his eyes open and he sits up. “Good morning, Derek,” Tom says. Derek rubs a hand over his face and nods. “How was the dance last night?”

Derek cringes a little. “I, uh . . . fine?”

“So you went pretending to be Stiles’ boyfriend?”

“Yeah.” Derek looks away, but regains his composure. “He just really seemed miserable about going alone. I thought showing up would help. It seemed to make him feel better, and I just thought, after everything the two of you had done for me . . . I’m sorry.”

“I’m not trying to give you a shovel talk, Derek. Just make sure I understand what’s going on.” Tom sighs. “To be honest, I wanted to make sure that he hadn’t bullied you into it. Stiles can be . . . he can make it hard to say no. Trust me, I’m aware of it. And he doesn’t do it on purpose. He’s a good kid at heart. But he’s a force of nature.”

“Yeah,” Derek mutters, smiling despite himself.

“I know you like him, Derek,” Tom says, and the smile vanishes off Derek’s face, replaced by alarm, fear and shame. “I’m not angry. I know that you would never do anything inappropriate with my son. Trust me – after what I heard from Kate, I’m one hundred ten percent certain that I don’t have to worry about that. So I’m glad you like him, Derek, and I’m glad he likes you. Now, you want some donuts?”

“Okay,” Derek says, and gives a hesitant little smile. “Yeah, okay. Donuts would be good.”

“Great.” Tom gets up and heads downstairs. He only barely beats Stiles, who’s tossed on a pair of pajamas and is now staring at the alpha werewolf sitting in their kitchen, complacently eating a donut.

“Good morning,” Peter says, not at all bothered by the way Stiles is staring.

“Oh, yeah, I, uh, hi,” Stiles says. He picks up a donut. “Thanks for, you know. Saving my life last night.”

“Think nothing of it,” Peter says. “Just trying to get on your father’s good side.”

Stiles looks at the donut box as Peter reaches in and says, “If you want to stay there, better keep your mitts off the last maple donut.”

Peter gives a snort, and Tom reaches in to take said maple donut, shaking his head. “Apparently Peter is going to be sticking around. We have a deal that he’s not going to murder any more people, but if he says or does anything that makes you nervous, let me know, so I can deal with him.”

“Will you give me a spanking?” Peter asks, smirking. Stiles chokes on his donut.

“How does pepper spray sound?” Tom replies.

“Much less enticing.”

“Good.” Tom shakes his head and looks up as Derek comes in. He sees Peter and immediately tightens up.

“Derek.” Peter hesitates, then says, “Can we talk in private?”

“Sure,” Derek says, tense and wary, and he follows Peter out onto the back porch. Tom watches them go, as Stiles starts making tea for Derek and pretends he’s not watching them. They’re only out there a few minutes before Derek comes back inside. Peter doesn’t. Instead, he hops over the back fence and walks into the forest.

“Everything okay?” Tom asks, looking at Derek carefully.

“I . . . no. It’s not, not really.” Derek manages a wan smile. “But I think maybe it will be someday.”

Tom reaches over and squeezes his shoulder, and Stiles hands Derek his mug of tea, and he thinks that Derek is right, that everything will be okay.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

“No,” Tom says. “You are not turning Jackson Whittemore. You’d have to be out of your mind! Have you met that kid?!”

“Yes, and he wants to be a werewolf.”

“Yeah, well, with our luck he’d turn into some sort of lizard monster. Didn’t you say that the shape you take reflects the person you are inside?”

Peter rolls his eyes. “There’s no way he could turn into – wait, actually . . .”

“No,” Tom says again.

Peter sighs. “All right,” he says. “I suppose if you insist. You make a terrible beta, you know that?”

“Yep,” Tom says. “And you have only yourself to blame.”

“Fair enough,” Peter says, and smiles.

 

~end of season 1~

Chapter Text

Sheriff Tom Stilinski rubs a hand over his face as he stares blankly into the refrigerator, waiting for something to leap into his hand to be eaten. It’s been a hellishly long night. He’s starving, but it’s too early for Stiles to be up and throwing food around. After a few moments pondering whether or not it would be acceptable to just start gnawing on a block of cheddar, he spots some leftover tater tots in a Tupperware at the back. He grabs those and the cheese to make a semi-acceptable breakfast.

It’s been about a week since Kate Argent’s death. He’s been officially cleared of all wrongdoing in a short, painless investigation. The media had jumped onto the speculation train and it’s now a widely accepted truth that the people Peter had killed had in fact been killed by Kate. Most people seem to believe she was covering her tracks in the matter of the Hale house fire after Laura had somehow stumbled onto evidence that she had been behind it.

Tom isn’t thrilled about everything Peter has done, but he’s willing to put it in the past. It’s hard to have sympathy for the people who helped Kate murder innocent children. The arson investigator is another matter, but Peter says – and Tom actually believes – that he hadn’t intended to kill him. He had just wanted information on Kate. Meyers had a heart condition, which could easily have been triggered by being knocked around by an enormous monster.

Not that Peter seems to have any remorse over Meyers’ death, but Tom will take what he can get. Peter acts a lot like his old self, like the flirtatious small-time criminal that Tom remembers, but there’s always that vein of rage right beneath his surface. Tom knows that he can’t possibly imagine what Peter has been through. The physical scars have healed, but the emotional ones haven’t. Tom doesn’t approve of Peter’s vendetta, but he hopes that now that it’s done, Peter can start healing.

In the meantime, Peter seems to find the fact that Kate is being blamed for his murders hilarious. He cut out the newspaper article and said he was going to take up scrapbooking. Tom hopes that he’s joking.

Kate’s funeral is a press nightmare, but he doesn’t go anywhere near it. That would only fan the flames. Stiles can’t go either, which upsets him because that means Scott has to go with Allison alone, and Scott’s terrified of saying the wrong thing. Allison’s upset, of course she is, and she doesn’t know what to do with the fact that her aunt was a serial killer who strapped a bomb to her friend’s chest. Things between her and Stiles are a little awkward, although they’re both trying to make the best of it and put it behind them.

Tom hears later from one of his deputies that Gerard Argent had been at the funeral, and had made a bit of a splash by breaking some kid’s camera after he took pictures of Allison. Tom doesn’t mind him doing that, and doesn’t care that he’s in town, but he feels a little wary about it. He’s proven right less than eight hours later, when Gerard’s lawyer starts calling the station to talk about the official investigation and demand that it be looked into more thoroughly. Tom doesn’t even care about that, because he was in the right and he knows it, but it means Gerard’s staying in town, which he’s less fond of.

All of this has been going on at the same time that he’s been talking to Melissa and Scott about the possibility of turning Scott to help his asthma. They were both a little wary of it. Tom, wanting to be honest from the beginning, had mentioned that the Argents were werewolf hunters. Scott, naturally, had balked at the idea of wanting to turn into something his girlfriend would hate.

It doesn’t help that Allison is still in the dark about the fact that werewolves even exist, let alone that they have anything to do with her life. Tom had been thinking about having a few words with Chris about that, before he had spent half the night in the forest, trying to track down what Peter called a ‘rogue omega’. That had ended abruptly when they had seen the omega get chopped in half by Gerard Argent. They had done the sensible thing and made a strategic retreat, and now Tom is eating reheated tater tots at four AM, wondering how his life had come to this.

Up until that, he had been thinking about trying to convince Chris that his daughter should really be in the know about all this. He thinks the Bite would help Scott in a variety of ways. But with Gerard in town, suddenly it seems much more risky. Chris might not like his daughter dating a werewolf, but Tom is fairly confident that he wouldn’t kill anybody over it. There’s no such guarantee with Gerard.

If Scott had been gung ho, Tom thinks he might have pushed the issue, but with him already balking, Tom supposes he’ll just let it go. There are other people who might be more receptive to the idea, who aren’t dating the granddaughters of psychopaths.

“I’m surprised you haven’t asked about giving Stiles the Bite,” Peter had said as they had walked home after watching Gerard kill the omega.

“Really?” Tom asked, raising an eyebrow at him. “I thought the reason why was pretty easy to figure out.”

“Is being a werewolf really so bad?” Peter replied.

Tom shrugged. “It has its advantages. I probably wouldn’t give it back, if only because of the bacon cheeseburgers. And these are advantages that Stiles knows about. He’s had a front row seat to me figuring all of this out. But he hasn’t asked about getting the Bite, even though he must know it would be available to him now. So I’m not going to ask on his behalf. If he wanted it, he would have said something.”

“Mm. I suppose.” Peter considered for a minute, faintly frowning. “I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t.”

“You’re that impressed with yourself?” Tom rolled his eyes. “He saw the way I nearly lost control. More than once. It scared him. Wouldn’t it scare you?”

Peter shrugged. “I’d control it.”

“You’re an adult with a firm grasp on your capabilities. Stiles is a teenager whose idea of self-control is not having a fourth Red Bull after the third one makes him hallucinate.”

With a snort, Peter said, “That’s fair.”

Tom knows that Stiles is a little more freaked out by all of this than he’s admitting, and the fact that Stiles has at no point asked about getting the bite is one way he knows. He’s been having nightmares, too, after what had happened with Kate Argent. It’ll get better, Tom assures him. But he can’t quite bring himself to get annoyed when he finds Derek sleeping in Stiles’ bed, with Stiles snuggled up against him. He’s not worried about Derek taking advantage of his son. If they want to cuddle, more power to them. Besides, they don’t have a room to put Derek in, and Tom doesn’t want to rush him into getting his own place.

After he finishes eating and takes a shower, he feels more like his usual self. That’s one thing he’s got to give lycanthropy – he doesn’t need to sleep as much. He hasn’t been able to pull an all nighter without regretting it the next day since college. With a snort, he thinks that if they gave the bite to Stiles, the kid would probably never sleep again.

He’s a little startled when his phone rings. It’s not even seven AM, although being the sheriff is a twenty-four hour job. He glances at the screen and sees that it’s Melissa, and frowns as he answers. “Hey, everything okay?”

“I’m fine, I just – ” Melissa heaves a sigh. “Scott’s in the emergency room again and I was just thinking about everything you had said about this whole . . . werewolf . . . business.”

“Is Scott going to be okay?”

“He’ll be fine, he just got up early to go for a run, which was of course a terrible idea. He came back wheezing and turning blue, so I had to take him in for a nebulizer. We’ve had a long talk about how his health has to take priority over his relationship with Allison. I mean, for God’s sake, they’re only sixteen.”

“Claudia and I met when we were sixteen,” Tom says with a fond smile, despite the tugging on his heartstrings.

“Well, not everyone can live the fairytale,” Melissa says, laughing. “Anyway, you see my point.”

“I do. But things have gotten a little more complicated than just ‘what if my girlfriend hates me’. Allison’s grandfather is in town, and it looks like he’s pretty similar to Kate when it comes to temperament. So we might want to hold off until he’s gone. But I’ll talk to Peter and see what he thinks.”

“Does Peter really have to be involved?” Melissa sounds dubious. “I mean, I trust you, Tom, but Peter’s . . . I’m not entirely comfortable giving him any sort of control over my son’s life.”

“Well, unfortunately, only an alpha can actually give the Bite, so yeah, it’s Peter or nobody,” Tom says. “I understand your reticence, but . . . well, let me handle Peter, okay? I’ll make sure Scott’s okay.”

“Okay. Thanks, Tom.”

Tom says goodbye, hangs up, and heads to work. He leaves a note for Stiles to tell him that Scott’s in the hospital, so he doesn’t wonder why he’s not in school. It’s common enough that Stiles won’t worry overmuch, especially in the winter. He adds ‘PS – please go to school, not the hospital’ just to be on the safe side.

Things at work are busy with unrelated things. Once the hour is no longer obscene, he texts Peter to tell him that Scott is reconsidering the bite. Peter texts back, ‘broke up with his girlfriend already, hm?’ Tom rolls his eyes and ignores him. But he decides he will go ahead and have that chat with Chris Argent. After a few minutes to consider, he calls him. He wants this on neutral ground. Generally, he thinks that Chris is unreasonable, prejudiced, and willfully ignorant about the majority of things. On the other hand, the more he’s learning about the Argent family, the more he realizes that it’s a miracle Chris isn’t a bloodthirsty lunatic. The recent incidents seem to be having Chris rethinking the way of things, and that’s a trend that Tom would like to continue. Since Chris will be naturally protective of his daughter, it will be better to approach this as one parent to another, rather than sheriff-to-civilian.

Chris seems wary, which is fair, but agrees to meet him at a nearby diner. Tom changes his shirt so he’s not in uniform, and asks the hostess for a table in the corner. Chris arrives about five minutes later, and takes a seat without saying hello. “If this is about my father, I did warn you that he wasn’t going to let things go.”

“It’s not,” Tom says. “Am I thrilled about him being here? No. But I think I can handle him. This is about Allison and Scott.”

This takes Chris off guard. He frowns as the waitress brings him a mug of coffee and tells her that he doesn’t want anything to eat. “What about them?”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but Allison is still in the dark about the existence of werewolves, right?”

Chris’ eyes narrow. “That’s correct.”

“Okay. Well, it might be time to inform her. In case you’re not aware, Scott has very bad asthma, severe enough that it’s been life-threatening on a few occasions. He’s in the hospital right now, for the fourth time this winter. I’ve been talking with his mother about the possibility that turning him into a werewolf would cure him.”

“I . . .” Of all the things Chris had been expecting, this clearly wasn’t it. “You want to turn my daughter’s boyfriend into a werewolf?”

This annoys Tom on general principle. “No. I want to turn my friend’s gravely ill son into a werewolf. The fact that he’s dating Allison is incidental. You and I are lucky enough to have healthy children. Melissa isn’t.”

“On what planet does giving Peter Hale control over a teenager’s life seem like a good idea?”

“On the planet where that teenager could die tomorrow if he overexerts himself in gym class.” Tom glances up as the waitress refills his coffee. “Let me worry about Peter Hale. Now that he’s done killing people, I don’t think there’s harm in letting him build a pack.”

“You do realize you started that sentence with ‘now that he’s done killing people’, right?”

“Yes. Key word there being ‘done’.” Tom takes a drink of his coffee and stares Chris down. “Are you really going to say you wouldn’t have done the same in his shoes? Let’s say someone had killed your wife and daughter and left you crippled in a hospital for six years. Are you telling me that you wouldn’t hunt down and execute the people responsible?”

Chris looks a little uncomfortable. “Well, I wouldn’t start with my niece, that’s for damned sure.”

Tom sighs. “I’m not happy with Peter about that, trust me, but I’m not entirely prepared to judge him for it, either. He spent six years in agony, and killing Laura allowed him to heal and end the pain. Was it the right thing to do? Obviously, no. But I don’t think it’s indicative of any greater homicidal tendencies. My point is just that Peter’s vendetta and the murders he committed had nothing to do with him being a werewolf, alpha or otherwise. So, again, I don’t think there’s harm in letting him build a pack.”

“You say that because you don’t understand what an alpha can do to their betas. The way they can control them.”

Tom sits back, taken off guard despite himself. “What, really?”

“Yes, really. The alpha has the power to call out, to manipulate – ”

“No, that’s not what I meant, I just – ” Tom shakes his head a little. He doesn’t really like to think about the fact that Peter could still exert control over him, but Chris’ obliviousness helps make the situation at least a little bit amusing. “I’m just honestly surprised you hadn’t figured out that I’m one of Peter’s betas.”

Chris nearly chokes on his coffee. “Wh – ”

“Remember the night you shot at two men in the forest, right after Laura was killed? One of those men was me. That’s how I knew about it. Peter bit me in the forest the night before. And no, before you ask, he didn’t have my permission, and yes, we had a number of arguments about that fact. But in the end, it is what it is. He figured he would need the help of a few betas to kill Kate. Which I suppose, in the end, was true.”

Chris’ jaw sets. “So when you – when you killed Kate – ”

“Everything I told you about Kate’s death was true. It had nothing to do with my being a beta. She put a gun to my son’s head, Chris. You would have done the same.”

At this, Chris looks away. But then he nods. “Okay. But if my father finds out you’re a werewolf – ”

“He’ll cut me in half. Yeah, got it.” Tom shakes his head and adds some cream to his coffee. “I don’t want to turn Scott until after Gerard’s out of town. I won’t risk Scott that way, asthma or no asthma. That gives you some time to figure out what you want to say to Allison and how you want to say it.”

“I hate to tell you this, but Gerard’s not going to be leaving any time soon. He doesn’t believe a word of the official report, you know. He thinks Peter killed Kate and that you’re covering for him.”

“Gerard can believe whatever he wants. I know he’s not going to leave town voluntarily. But the minute he steps a toe out of line, he’s going to find his ass in handcuffs, on a bus to Folsom State Penitentiary. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Chris finishes his coffee. “As long as you leave my daughter out of it, I don’t care what happens to Gerard.”

“Your daughter is an innocent civilian, Chris. A child. I promise you, I will do everything in my power to protect her.”

After a moment, Chris says, “Thanks.” Then he stands up to go. “I’ll be seeing you, I’m sure.”

Tom nods. “We’re on the same side, Chris. We both want the same thing. For innocent people to be safe.”

“Yeah,” Chris says, and walks away without another word.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

The next morning, Tom is reading the newspaper and waiting for his toast to finish when there’s a knock at the back door. He knows it’s Peter without having to get up. Anyone else would knock at the front, except Derek, who has a key now and comes and goes without knocking. Besides, he can feel the proximity of his alpha. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, sort of like a heavy blanket – in some circumstances comforting, in others oppressive. He opens the back door to find Peter standing there with a nervous looking teenager behind him. Tom gives them a questioning look, and Peter says, “Tom, this is Isaac, my new beta.”

“Hi,” Tom says, standing back to let them in and shooting Peter a ‘what the hell’ look when Isaac can’t see. “Coffee?”

“Uh, sure,” Isaac murmurs.

Tom gets him a mug and a chair. Then he points to Peter and says, “Explain.”

“He fell in a grave,” Peter says.

“It isn’t as weird as it sounds,” Isaac hastily interjects. “I work in the cemetery.”

“I had to lift a backhoe off to get him out,” Peter says. “After the werewolf was out of the bag, I figured, since I was in need of some betas, might as well ask.”

Tom pinches the bridge of his nose. He thinks about his options for a long minute before he says, “Welcome to the pack, Isaac,” and Isaac gives him an awkward, uncertain smile. “I suspect that you should be heading to school.”

“Uh, yeah,” Isaac admits, rubbing a hand over the back of his head. “Peter wanted to bring me by first.”

“You can hitch a ride with Stiles, who will probably come tripping down the stairs any minute,” Tom says, and Stiles obligingly does so before Isaac can finish his mug of coffee, saving them some awkward silences. Tom introduces Isaac, and Stiles perks right up. He’s been disappointed since Scott hadn’t wanted to be a part of the pack. Tom hasn’t told him yet that they’re rethinking things, since he doesn’t want to get his hopes up. If they’re lucky, Stiles and Isaac get along. With that thought in mind, he shoos them out of the house.

“Why am I getting a lecture?” Peter asks.

Tom stops with his mug halfway to his mouth. “I haven’t even said anything yet.”

“You’ve got that look. The long-suffering one. I feel like I’m about to be arrested, and while I wouldn’t mind you putting me in handcuffs, usually I know why.”

Tom rolls his eyes Heavenward and prays for patience. “Did you seriously just turn the first kid you ran into in the forest into a werewolf?”

Peter shrugs. “I asked first. He said yes. What are you complaining about?”

“Did it ever occur to you that maybe that in and of itself is indicative of a problem? Normal sixteen-year-old boys don’t say yes when strange men in the forest ask to bite them and don’t you dare turn that into a double entendre; I will spray you with cold water.”

“You know, you could bitch about anything,” Peter says, rolling his eyes. “No matter what I do, you’re upset with me. Why do I even bother?”

Tom pinches the bridge of his nose. “It’s not – okay. It is a little like that. Though you can’t entirely blame me when most of the things you’ve done, while I’ve known you, have been illegal. But I’m sorry I bit your head off about Isaac. He seems like a nice kid, and you did need a third beta.”

“Believe it or not, I did actually ask him why he wanted to be a werewolf,” Peter says. “Apparently his father is an abusive piece of shit.”

“And – ” Tom tries to squelch his temper and fails. “And you thought the solution to this was to turn the kid into a werewolf?”

“It was an adequate solution,” Peter says.

“You could have told me, I could have had him arrested – ”

“Whereupon his son would have denied everything because that’s what abused children do. Jesus, Tom, it’s like you don’t even live in the real world.” Peter’s tone is getting decidedly snippy. “What’s it like in this magical fantasy land where the law actually solves problems and the justice system works?”

Tom opens his mouth to point out that if the justice system worked, Peter would be in jail. He manages to stop himself just in time, and takes a deep breath instead. “Okay. Fine. I’ll talk to Isaac about what he wants to do about his father. I just – I wish you had called me, had talked about it with me before you actually did it.”

“I don’t need your permission to make betas,” Peter says.

“Come on, Peter,” Tom says. “I extend an olive branch, and you come back with that?”

“It’s true,” Peter says. “I’m the alpha. You don’t get to tell me what to do!”

Tom almost loses his temper again, but then stops and looks at Peter closely. “Peter,” he says evenly, “why are you angry with me? You don’t normally get angry when I play Jiminy Cricket. Even when you were trying to kill Kate, you never got this angry with me.”

Peter stops, as if he hadn’t realized that he was shouting. His eyes fall shut for a few moments before he says, “Euripides, I think.”

“You’re-a-which-what?”

That makes Peter smile. “Euripides. He was a Greek playwright. But you do have a point, Tom. I’m overreacting. Generally, I enjoy your moral lectures, even if they never get you anywhere. And on that note, I think I’m going to head out before you try to talk to me about my feelings.”

Tom watches him go, frowning. He’s not sure what to do with any of that, and the Wikipedia article on Euripides is – he’s a little ashamed to admit it – a bit too dense for him to relate to the situation at hand. He’s still thinking about that when Derek comes down the stairs, yawning and rubbing a hand over his face. He scents the air cautiously and says, “Peter was here? With . . . a new beta?”

“Yeah.” Tom decides to leave his opinion on Isaac out of this. It’s not Derek’s problem. “Someone named Isaac, one of Stiles’ schoolmates. Apparently he saw Peter lift a backhoe and Peter offered to give him the Bite.”

“Oh.” Derek gets himself a mug of coffee.

“You know a lot about random stuff – do you know anything about Euripides?”

Derek gives him a questioning look. “He was a Greek tragedian. Why?”

“Peter was getting all pissed off at me for very little reason. I asked why, and he looked a little surprised, then upset, and then told me ‘Euripides’. I don’t think someone who’s been dead for two millennia has been doing much to Peter, so I don’t know what he meant . . . but you apparently do,” Tom says, hearing the shift in Derek’s heartbeat, the change in his scent, which becomes permeated by sorrow.

“Yeah, uh . . . there’s a famous quote that’s from one of his plays.” Derek clears his throat. “It ends with, ‘Why are you full of rage? Because you are full of grief.’” He turns away from Tom and busies himself at the coffee maker.

Tom considers that, thinks about how hard it must be for Peter to even think about building a new pack. Turning Tom had been different – it had been a stepping stone on the way to killing Kate, something his entire being had been focused on. Now Kate is dead. Peter is faced with the fact that he has to keep going, has to build a new pack, a new life. Tom can’t imagine the scope of Peter’s loss, but he knows that feeling pretty well. The feeling of getting up in the morning and facing another day with a hole inside his heart, an emptiness so vast it seems like it might consume him. He had done it, for Stiles. But Peter doesn’t have anyone to do it for. He has to do it for himself.

Finally, he says, “Guess I’ll try to take it easy on him.”

Derek shrugs. “Doesn’t make any difference to me.”

Tom lets that go, because Derek and Peter’s relationship is fraught with complications. He checks his watch and says, “I’ve got to get to work. Stiles has the Jeep today, but . . . well, I wouldn’t object if you wanted to swing by the school to make sure he gets home okay. I’ll see you later, okay?”

“Yeah, okay,” Derek says.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

“I still can’t believe you didn’t tell me your dad was a werewolf!” Scott says, for approximately the nine hundredth time. This time it’s because he wants to know why Stiles is hanging out with Isaac, which has led back to the same refrain.

“It was safer for you if you didn’t know,” Stiles says, which is probably true, even if it’s only tangentially related to why he didn’t say anything. “Hey, I’m coming clean with you now, aren’t I? Keeping you up to date on new werewolf developments.”

“Well, yeah, but that’s only because your dad wants me to be a werewolf,” Scott says.

Stiles shrugs a little. “A lot was going on, okay? You were doing your own thing, I didn’t want to fuck up what you had with Allison.”

That mollifies Scott somewhat, but he’s clearly not sure how he feels about the whole thing. Stiles isn’t sure how he feels about it, either. He’d be thrilled to have a cure for Scott’s asthma, but he’s not sure if lycanthropy is the answer. Scott has come over a few times since finding out about werewolves, and he keeps giving Derek the side-eye. Derek has responded by scowling and being surly and generally not endearing himself to anyone. Now Scott is giving Isaac the side-eye, too, and Stiles has to admit he’s a little annoyed.

“Maybe being a werewolf would be okay,” Scott finally says. “My mom really wants me to go for it.”

“Well, I might only have a few hours of it under my belt, but I think it’s pretty cool,” Isaac says.

“No, I mean, in theory it sounds awesome,” Scott says. “It’s just, you know, Allison . . .”

Stiles tunes him out, as he often does when Allison comes up. He has to admit, grudgingly, that part of the reason Scott dislikes Derek is because Derek’s response to this was, ‘What’s more important, Allison or breathing?’ It’s a sensible question, but definitely not tactful. Of course, for Scott, the two seem to be of equal importance and intrinsically linked.

He jolts back to himself when the bell rings, signifying that lunch is over, and heads to his next class. He’s a little surprised at the end of the day when he comes out of the school with Isaac in tow and finds Derek sitting on the hood of his Jeep. “Hey, what are you doing here?” he asks, enjoying the way his classmates are not-so-subtly gawking at Derek on their way by.

“I can’t come pick you up?” Derek asks, giving that pretend-boyfriend smile, but a less-pretend kiss on the cheek. Stiles glows despite himself. Derek lowers his voice a little and says, “Your Dad seemed worried. You know, with Gerard in town, and a new beta . . .”

“Right, right,” Stiles says. “Derek, this is Isaac. Isaac, Derek.”

“Hi,” Isaac says, looking a little nervous, which Stiles has decided is his baseline state of being.

“Hey,” Derek says.

“I figured I’d give him a lift home, unless we’re supposed to like, have pack bonding sessions, hold hands and sing kumbaya and stuff.”

“Can you really picture my uncle doing either of those things?”

Stiles considers. “Depends. Does he get to hold hands with my dad?”

Derek snorts, and even Isaac laughs a little. They pile into the Jeep, and Stiles manages to get into a better mood by the time they drop Isaac off. Stiles offers to pick him up the next morning, but Isaac says he’s fine on the bus. Stiles waves and heads home. When they get there, he has a text from Scott asking if everything’s okay. ‘Yeah, why?’ he replies.

‘Saw Derek waiting for you outside.’

‘He just came to pick me up because he’s secretly an enormous softy,’ Stiles says.

Several minutes go by before Scott replies, during which Stiles makes himself a sandwich. The new text reads, ‘I should def. be a werewolf. Can I come over tonight?’

Stiles side-eyes the text but says, ‘sure’. He puts the phone down and sees Derek looking at him. “What?”

Derek shrugs. “You seem upset about something.”

“I’m not upset, I just . . .” Stiles rubs a hand over his hair and realizes as he searches for another word that he is upset. “Scott wants to be a werewolf. Which, okay, I’m all for curing his asthma and I don’t really care what Allison’s going to think about it, but . . .”

“But?” Derek asks, eyebrows up.

“But he wants it for the wrong reasons,” Stiles says. “He wants it because he’s jealous that I have new friends and he’s not being included. And I know he’s pissed that I didn’t tell him everything that was going on, and maybe I should have, but the reason I didn’t was because he was so gaga over Allison that I basically couldn’t get a word in edgewise so if he didn’t care about what was going on in my life, why should I have had to include him? Now he’s acting like I’m the one being a bad friend because I’m not spending all my time with him when that’s exactly what he did to me and I never said a God damned word about it!”

Derek says nothing. Stiles blinks a few times and says, “Wow, okay. Guess I needed to get that off my chest.”

“Guess so,” Derek says.

“I’m being a jerk, aren’t I.”

Derek shrugs. “Don’t ask me. I haven’t had friends since I was fifteen, and even then, I was never really a social flower. I don’t think you’re wrong to be upset. I’m pretty sure that ‘guy meets girl, guy’s best friend is jealous’ is a time-honored trope.”

“The thing is, I wasn’t jealous over Allison,” Stiles says, and Derek raises an eyebrow. “Okay, maybe I was a little, but I let them do their thing, you know? I supported the fuck out of the two of them. Allison seems like a pretty cool person, so, you know, if they’re happy, I’m happy. But now Scott is pissed at me for not including him, when it’s him who wasn’t including me. I don’t know.”

“Look,” Derek says, “maybe Scott is out of line. Maybe he isn’t. But he wants to be a werewolf, he wants to be a part of your life – that’s a good thing, right? It’s clearly important to him, enough for him to risk his relationship with Allison over it. That seems like a win to me.”

Stiles thinks about that, and cheers up a little. “Yeah, I guess you’re right about that. I’ll talk to my dad about it. I know he’s worried about Gerard being in town, but it’s not like that asshole is going away any time soon.”

Derek sighs. “So it would seem.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom has been home approximately fourteen seconds when his evening is ruined by Stiles, who says, “Dad! Scott decided to be a werewolf! Awesome, right?”

“Uh huh,” Tom says. He looks between Stiles and Scott, and then Derek, who’s hanging in the background. “Well, I talked to Chris Argent about telling his daughter that werewolves exist, and agreed to give him a little time to do it. So don’t get too excited, Scott. I want to make sure that this is done right.”

Scott looks at him like a deer in headlights, and Tom has no idea why until Peter comes out of the kitchen with a beer in one hand and says, “That might be difficult.”

Tom looks between the two of them and resists the urge to facepalm. “You bit him already.”

“In my defense, this ‘we’re not going to do it right away’ plan is news to me,” Peter says. “We had already talked about turning him. You texted me yesterday to say he was thinking about it, and you never mentioned waiting for anything in particular.”

Tom’s annoyed, but Peter’s right and he knows it, so he tries not to let it show. “I was just thinking that it would be safer for him if we waited until Gerard was out of town.”

Peter gives a careless shrug. “That could be weeks or even months. And, again, you did not at any point mention that to me.”

“No, you’re right.” Tom can see that Peter is edging towards defensiveness again. “I hadn’t had a chance to talk to you about it. What’s done is done; let’s not worry about it.” To Scott, he adds, “You feeling okay?” and Scott nods. Tom turns back to Peter. “Was there a reason you stopped by, or did you just psychically sense that Scott wanted to be a werewolf?”

“I came over to talk to you and Derek about the full moon tomorrow night. Even for someone with your formidable self-control, it might be hard to manage. I’ll swing by and talk to Isaac later tonight.”

“Okay, sure,” Tom says. He looks at his son and says, “Are you cooking something, or should I order pizza?”

“Dad,” Stiles huffs, but doesn’t bother with the cholesterol lecture anymore. “I was going to cook, but Peter brought food, some rotisserie chickens and stuff.”

“Providing for one’s betas is the duty of an alpha,” Peter says, with a beatific smile.

Tom accepts it for the peace offering it is. “Sounds good. I’m going to run upstairs and change.”

Dinner is something of a surreal experience. Scott is clearly wary of Peter, and for some reason that Tom can’t quite figure out, has decided he doesn’t like Derek. Of course, this may in part be because of the way Derek rolls his eyes every time Scott brings Allison up, which happens fairly frequently. Stiles is a little more quiet than usual, but then perks up when Peter mentions a time that Tom had arrested him. He clearly wants to hear all about Peter’s juvenile delinquent episodes, and after the two of them get into a lengthy discussion of how to build one’s own RFID emulator, Tom considers making sure they’re never in the same room again. “Please don’t turn my son into a criminal,” he says to Peter.

“You never let me have any fun,” Peter says, smirking at him.

Tom pushes back a witty retort, calmly forks a piece of carrot, and says, “Nope.”

They’re just finishing up, and arguing about who has to do the dishes – Derek thinks it should be Stiles, because he never does the dishes, because he’s always the one cooking – when the doorbell rings. Tom leaves the betas squabbling and heads over to the door. When he pulls it open, he’s somehow unsurprised to see Gerard Argent standing there. He’s casually dressed and looks unarmed, but Tom doesn’t buy it. He can hear other heartbeats, so Gerard isn’t alone. Wherever his guys are, they’re staying out of sight. He decides to start out civil. “Can I help you?”

Gerard smiles a hard, mirthless smile. “Well, I wanted to meet the man who murdered my daughter, of course. That would be you, I think.”

Tom doesn’t flinch. “Your daughter aimed a deadly weapon at a civilian. I acted accordingly. You have my condolences.”

“That ‘civilian’ was an alpha werewolf,” Gerard says.

Tom thinks of several snappy retorts, but then decides against them. Instead, he says nothing. Just meets Gerard’s gaze and waits. If Gerard wants to make the point that Peter wasn’t worth protecting, he’s going to have to come right out and say it.

“An alpha werewolf who had murdered five people,” Gerard adds, and Tom still says nothing. “An alpha werewolf that I think you know how to find.”

Seeing that Gerard is going to continue to push, Tom decides to push back. “Let’s get a few things straight. First of all, Kate’s death has been investigated and I have been cleared of any wrongdoing, so although you can have my condolences, you cannot have my remorse. As far as Kate’s death is concerned, my conscience is clear. Perhaps you haven’t seen the picture of her holding a gun to my son’s head. If you haven’t, I’d be happy to show it to you. Secondly, Peter Hale has not been charged with or convicted of any crime. Thirdly, you should probably know that the five deaths you referred to are thought to be Kate’s work, that she was cleaning up after herself by killing anyone who could implicate her in the death of the Hale family. Lastly, since Kate was one hundred percent responsible for that fire, Derek and Peter Hale are both her victims, and I would like to advise you that as the sheriff of this county, I will not tolerate harassment of either of them. So yes, Mr. Argent, I do know where to find Peter Hale, and no, I don’t particularly care that you’d like my help with that. Is there anything else?”

“Not tonight,” Gerard says, “but there will be, soon enough.”

He turns and heads back to his car. Tom waits at the front door until it’s pulled out of the driveway and gone down the road, before he steps back inside and pulls the door shut behind himself. When he gets back into the living room, he finds the others staring at him. “What?”

Peter smirks at him and says, “Well, mark me down as scared and horny.”

Stiles chokes on his drink. Derek pats him on the back. Scott’s jaw just sags open.

Tom shakes his head at the lot of them and starts putting the leftovers away. Once that’s done, he takes the mug of tea Stiles has made for him, and heads into the living room while the kids do the dishes. After a moment, he hears Peter come in after him, and gives him an expectant look. When Peter doesn’t say anything, Tom asks, “Can I help you with something, Peter?”

“Something about Gerard bothered me,” Peter says.

“His existence on the same planet as us?” Tom asks.

“Well, yes, but . . .” Peter considers for a minute. “If he came here to get revenge for his daughter, he should be after you. So why did he ask about me?”

“Thanks for that, Peter,” Tom says. “Chris told me that his father doesn’t believe the official report. He thinks you killed Kate and I covered for you.”

“Ah,” Peter says. “Apparently nobody showed him the body.”

“Apparently not,” Tom agrees.

“Perhaps I should make myself scarce for a while . . . although with the full moon tomorrow, that isn’t really practical. We’ll need to find a safe place to spend it. I should get on that, as well as stopping by Isaac’s. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Tom says, waving as Peter heads towards the back door. He shakes his head and resigns himself to a long week.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

As it turns out, barely an hour has passed before Tom’s phone rings. He looks down at the screen, sees Peter’s name, and resists the urge to pick up with ‘what now’? He modifies into the slightly less insulting, “What is it, Peter?”

“I . . . may have done something rather rash,” Peter says.

Tom rubs a hand over the back of his head and says, “You don’t say. Exactly what would that look like?”

“Yes, you’re very amusing,” Peter says, his voice dry. “As we discussed, I came over to see Isaac and talk about the full moon with him. He was having an argument with his father that was going poorly, so I intervened.”

“Oh, Jesus.” Tom feels his stomach drop. “Are you calling me to help you get rid of a body? Because that’s not – ”

“No,” Peter says impatiently. “He’s not dead, and thank you so much for the vote of confidence. He’s not even dying, for which I believe I deserve some sort of medal. But Isaac was upset, and he left while I was . . . dealing with the problem, and although I could track him down, I thought he might find your presence less threatening.”

“That’s probably true,” Tom says. “Okay, I’ll find him. Thanks for calling me. What happened to – ” he starts to ask, but Peter has already hung up. He sighs and calls out to Stiles and Derek that he’s going out, he’ll be back in a little while.

He doesn’t know how to use the pack bond to find Isaac. Derek would, but Tom doesn’t want him involved if he doesn’t have to be. For one thing, he doesn’t want to leave Stiles alone, but he also doesn’t want to remind Derek of Peter’s violent habits. That means he’ll need to use scent, which means starting at the Lahey house.

When he gets there, he can tell that Peter’s inside. He thinks about going in to see what he’s up to, but he can hear a second heartbeat. It’s fast, but strong. Lahey isn’t in any immediate danger, so finding Isaac takes precedence when there are people like Gerard Argent in town. He follows the scent trail, and it takes him down a set of streets and then narrow alleys, and he finally finds Isaac crouched in one of them, frightened but okay.

“What happened?” Tom asks.

“I got upset, my dad was – ” Isaac shakes his head and mumbles, “It’s fine.”

Tom doesn’t want to push, so he helps Isaac up and dusts him off. “Peter freaked you out a little, huh?”

Isaac nods and swallows hard. “His, uh, he’s really – big.” He gestures expansively. “I didn’t realize that werewolves got that big.”

“It’s because he’s the alpha,” Tom says. “Come on, let’s get you back to my place.”

“My dad . . .”

“Was fine when I left your house fifteen minutes ago. I’ll go check on him after I drop you off, but I don’t think Peter intends to hurt him.” At least, not a lot, he silently amends. This seems to make Isaac feel better, so he drives him back to the Stilinski house. Stiles is obviously a little annoyed at having his cuddle time with Derek interrupted, but at least he doesn’t say so. They settle down to work on their homework, and Tom heads back to the Laheys.

It’s the same as before: two heartbeats and the oppressive sense of alpha. He heads inside and looks around before following his senses down the basement steps. “What are you doing down here?” he asks Peter, who’s sitting on top of a freezer. He can still hear the second heartbeat, and it takes a minute to make the connection. “Jesus, do you have Lahey in there?”

“Mm hm,” Peter says, without a shred of remorse. “Apparently, this is his favorite punishment for his son. I decided to see if getting a taste of his own medicine would improve his temperament.”

“Christ,” Tom says, looking at the freezer. Lahey has started pounding on the sides, hearing the second voice and thinking someone might let him out. “I’d ask how you fit him in there, but I’m guessing ‘force’ is the answer, so I don’t want to hear about it.” He shakes his head. “Come on. I’ve got Isaac back at my place, safe and sound.”

“Good, good,” Peter says. When Tom looks at him expectantly, he says, “Oh, you expect me to leave? No, I’ll be here a while, making sure he stays put.”

Tom opens his mouth. Closes it. Considers for a long minute. “Is he injured?”

“Just some bruises.”

“And when you say ‘a while’, you mean . . .”

Peter’s smile shows teeth. “Well, I’ll need to be at your place by sunset tomorrow to deal with the full moon, so less time than that, I suppose.”

“Okay.” Tom considers. “When you let him out, inform him that he no longer has custody of his son, and that if he wants to argue about that, he can do it with you, from in there. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“One more thing,” Peter says, as Tom starts to walk away. “Have you thought about what you’re going to do with Stiles during the full moon?”

Tom blinks. “You said you were going to find somewhere private, so . . .”

“He can’t be there,” Peter says. “You know how hard control can be during the full moon, and we’re going to have two new betas to deal with. You’ll need to focus on yourself, and none of us will have time to protect Stiles and keep him safe.”

“Oh.” Tom shifts uncomfortably. “I’m not thrilled with the idea of leaving him home by himself, though. Not with Gerard Argent in town.”

“Which is why I brought it up now, so you would have some time to think about it and make a decision.”

“Can you manage Isaac and Scott, and Derek will stay with Stiles?”

Peter’s eyebrows go up. “I didn’t figure you’d allow that. Derek’s interest in Stiles is hard to miss, and during the full moon . . . well, I don’t want to say anything unkind or untrue about my nephew, so let’s just say that certain instincts become more difficult to ignore. Since I doubt Stiles would say no, if Derek expressed interest . . .”

“Derek won’t. We’ve talked about it.” Tom sees the skeptical look on Peter’s face and realizes – Jesus, how had he not thought of this until now? – that Peter still has no idea what Kate did to Derek. He clears his throat and adds, “He’s aware of how old Stiles is. It won’t be a problem.”

Peter’s quiet for a long moment before he says, “Is there something you want to tell me, Tom?”

Tom lets out a breath. “It’s not mine to tell.”

Peter studies him with narrowed eyes, but then nods. “All right, then. If you feel comfortable leaving Stiles with Derek, then that ought to be a workable plan. I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

“Okay, so, we’ve got chips, salsa, popcorn, soda, and a marathon line-up of the most terribly-awesome and awesomely-terrible pictures Nicolas Cage has ever been in,” Stiles says, looking around. “Anything else you’re going to need for a full moon?”

“Movies that won’t make me want to claw my eyes out?” Derek suggests.

“You agreed to the Cage marathon, buddy.”

“Yes, because I figured you would pick decent things like Raising Arizona and Red Rock West, not Con Air and . . . whatever this is,” Derek says, picking up a copy of The Wicker Man.

“Let me tell you, Derek, that this is going to be some of the finest comedy you have ever seen,” Stiles says, with a completely straight face. He manfully resists the urge to do his best Nicolas Cage impression and adds, “Seriously, though, is there anything else you’re going to need? I don’t really know how any of this, you know, works.”

Derek shakes his head. “I’ll be fine. I’ve been a werewolf long enough that I don’t have problems controlling my shift, even on the full moon. Although . . .” He shakes his head. “Nothing. Never mind.”

“Dude, you know that’s not going to work with me, right?” Stiles says, giving him a look. He thinks about how Tom had briefly pulled Derek aside that evening before leaving with Peter and the others. He hesitates. “Is this about what my dad said to you?”

“No, that was something else.” Derek sighs. “Look, don’t . . . say anything to anyone, okay? Especially not Peter. But I’ve been having a little trouble anchoring myself. It’s not a big deal.”

Stiles frowns and sits down on the sofa. “If you’re mentioning it, it kind of sounds like a big deal. An anchor . . . that’s what you focus on, to stay in control, right? I know my dad uses me as his anchor, even if we haven’t talked about it. So what do you use?”

Derek won’t quite look at him, but he answers readily enough. “Anger.”

“Oh.” Stiles blinks a few times. “That kind of makes sense, then, doesn’t it? That you’d be less able to focus on anger. I mean, you probably aren’t as angry anymore.”

“I guess. Before, it was like . . .” Derek huffs out a breath. “Have you ever been so angry that you actually become calm?”

“Uh, no. My reaction to extreme anger is to cry, and let me tell you how much fun that made middle school for me. I don’t think I’ve ever been calm in my life, actually, but that’s kind of a separate issue, never mind, keep talking.”

Derek snorts despite himself. “For a long time, after my family died, I focused on anger, on being so angry that . . . no other emotion could creep in. I couldn’t be sad, or feel guilty, because . . . the anger just burned away everything else. But everything that’s happened this month . . . I don’t know. I guess it’s kind of hard to explain.”

“It makes sense, though,” Stiles says. “I mean, anger is one of the stages of grief, right? So maybe you’ve just finally processed your anger enough to feel other things. And maybe letting other people care about you, and take care of you – that kind of opens you up inside, you know?” He rubs a hand over the back of his head. “So you just need something else to focus on, that’s all. What do you think Peter uses?”

“Pain,” Derek says immediately, and when Stiles gives him a questioning look, he says, “I asked him.”

“Okay, but what did he use before?”

“The same thing all of us used. Family. Pack.”

“Well . . . can you use the new pack, then?”

Derek shrugs. “I barely know these people. I can’t use Peter because it’s just . . . too complicated. I understand why he killed Laura. I don’t hate him. But I can’t forgive him, either.”

Stiles hesitates. “Then can you use me and my dad, then?”

“I’ve been trying, actually. It’s just . . . that’s complicated, too.” Derek studies his hands. “Like I said, I’m grateful for what you’ve done for me. But you aren’t my family. Your dad isn’t my dad. And just – trying to use you as my anchor, it feels like – I’m replacing them. Betraying their memory. It’s not rational and I know that, but – ”

“But feelings don’t have to be,” Stiles agrees, nodding.

“And that just – makes it hard to focus. I try to focus on it, but the, the guilt and the doubt and resentment all starts creeping in, and the next thing I know, I’ve got fangs peeking out.” Derek sighs. “I think it’ll just take time. It just . . . it sucks, that’s all.”

“I can totally see that it would suck,” Stiles says. “So hey, what did my dad want to tell you before they left?”

Derek looks away again. “He wanted to warn me that he thinks Peter might have figured out about . . . Kate. And me. Peter didn’t say anything, but he’s smart, you know? I guess your dad said something that maybe made him put a few pieces together.”

“Ugh,” Stiles says. “Well, he can’t kill Kate again, so . . .”

“I know. I just hope he’s not angry with me.”

Stiles frowns. “Um. Dude. I’m just gonna be blunt for a minute, okay? If Peter is angry with you, because Kate was a lying, manipulating, sexual predator who took advantage of you when you were fifteen, I will remove his balls with a staple gun. I don’t even know how I would do that, but I would figure it out.”

Derek flushes pink and gives that charming smile that makes Stiles feel all gooey on the inside. “Thanks.”

Now Stiles blushes, too. “Okay, cool. We’ve gotten that settled. Should we start with ‘put the bunny back in the box’ or ‘not the bees!’?”

Derek just shakes his head and says, “I bow to your superior expertise.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom comes home the morning after the full moon exhausted. He’s glad that he had believed Peter and already arranged for the next day off. He gets home just after dawn and is about ready to pass out for a few hours.

His control is good, Peter says. Better than he would have expected. But it takes effort. It’s like running a mental marathon. He has to sit there and focus intently on not losing control. Isaac actually turned out to be better at it than he was, which surprised him. He supposes that the kid probably has a lot of practice keeping his temper.

Scott was something of a disaster, but Peter says that he had expected him to be – along with expecting Isaac to be – so he took it in stride. Which mostly meant keeping Scott chained up while Scott tried to kill him. Tom wasn’t sure he approved of that, but Peter said it would probably only be necessary the first time. Tom had his own issues to deal with, so he shelved it for later and made a mental note to ask Derek if this was really how it was supposed to go.

He certainly won’t be asking now, since Derek is sprawled out on the sofa with Stiles asleep on top of him. Tom looks down at them and sighs quietly. He checks his watch, then leans down and gives Stiles’ shoulder a squeeze.

“Not the bees,” Stiles mumbles, clutching at Derek’s shirt.

“Hey, come on, buddy. Up and at ‘em,” Tom says, shaking him gently. Stiles blinks up at him, yawns, and rubs a hand over his face. “Time for you to get up and head to school.”

“School is the worst,” Stiles whines. “I need my sleep. Teenagers need fourteen hours of sleep a day – ”

“Go to school,” Tom says firmly, and heads up the stairs without waiting to see if Stiles actually complies.

Apparently he does, because when he wakes up later, the house is empty. Derek had only left recently. Tom can tell because there’s a ham and egg sandwich on the counter, covered with foil and still warm. He devours it one-handedly before heading to the sofa, where he plans to spend most of the day. He’s not sure where Derek goes during the day. He doesn’t sit around the Stilinski house, but doesn’t talk about where he goes, either. It’s his own business, and Tom has decided not to push.

Stiles, Scott, and Isaac come in later in a burst of chatter about everything that’s been going on at school, and about how this girl Erica had a seizure and Scott dove across the gymnasium to catch her before she could fall off their climbing wall. “Maybe she’d want to be a werewolf, too,” Scott says.

“We don’t need to make any more werewolves,” Tom says. “The pack is as big as it needs to be.”

“Well, yeah, but if it could cure her epilepsy like it cured my asthma, that’d be pretty cool, right?” Scott says.

 “I’ll talk to Peter about it,” Tom says, not because he wants to, but because he doesn’t want the others to. Peter would absolutely go bite this emotionally vulnerable child and then look innocent and say ‘you didn’t tell me not to’ and then Tom would have to slap him. “These acrobatics you did. Noticeable?”

“The gym had mostly emptied out by then, so I don’t think anyone noticed,” Stiles says.

“Allison did, though,” Scott says, frowning faintly. “Do you think her dad has talked to her yet? She hasn’t said anything to me.”

“I doubt he has,” Tom says. “He’s probably hoping he can get away without doing it at all,” he adds, somewhat sourly. He makes a mental note that he might have to do this himself, which could be awkward since he barely even knows Allison. They’ve met twice, for a sum total of a minute and a half. Maybe he’ll just call Chris and tell him to step on it before Allison catches Scott hanging off a chandelier or something.

That probably won’t take long, since Scott is already talking about trying to get Finstock to give him a chance on the field. Tom rubs a hand over his face. “Scott, remember that talk we had about not showing everyone in California that werewolves exist?”

“Well, yeah. I’ll be careful, I promise.”

“Isaac wants to play, too!” Stiles says, like this is going to make Tom feel better. Isaac looks like a deer in headlights, but nods when Tom glances at him.

It’s time to play dirty. Tom points to Scott and says, “Listen, Scott. If you get on first line, Allison’s going to go to the games and see you play. So if you do that before she knows you’re a werewolf, she’s going to get upset that you were keeping secrets from her. You don’t want Allison to be upset with you, right?”

Scott looks appalled at the very thought. “Well, just . . . yeah. I can wait until after I’ve talked to her about being a werewolf.”

“Glad to hear it. Now, I’m betting you guys have homework. Get to it.”

The teenagers moan, but they crack open their textbooks. Tom shakes his head and leaves them to it. After some debate, he decides to text Peter about the girl with epilepsy. Text conversations seem to go better with Peter, when he bothers to reply to Tom’s texts. He starts with the important question. ‘Would the bite cure epilepsy?’

Peter responds suspiciously quickly. ‘I don’t see why not. New prospect?’

‘Maybe,’ Tom replies. ‘We have to approach it carefully. Someone who’s sick would have trouble saying no.’

He’s not sure exactly what he expects from that. Probably some snarky retort. The pause is surprisingly long, and he thinks maybe that Peter is too busy rolling his eyes to bother replying at all. But it turns out he was typing a long reply. ‘The problem, Tom, is that you think of being a werewolf as an inherently bad thing. It is a change, true, but it’s not something that’s necessarily negative. It’s not a disease or a disability that I’m inflicting on people. So I honestly don’t see why you’re so concerned about who I give it to or their reasons for doing it.’

Tom takes a moment consider his reply. ‘Because you don’t understand the change. You were born this way. I wasn’t. Trust me, it’s not as easy as you’re making it sound.’

‘I suppose,’ Peter replies, which is probably the most conciliatory thing that Tom has heard from him on this subject.

‘There’s also the issue of hunters,’ Tom points out.

‘I probably don’t see that from your point of view either,’ Peter replies.

Since Peter’s clearly thinking that they should just murder anyone who gives them a hard time, Tom wisely doesn’t engage him on this topic. ‘I just think that we shouldn’t pop into this girl’s hospital room and say ‘hey, we can cure you, but you’ll turn into a wolf once a month’.’

‘Whatever you say,’ Peter says, which somehow makes Tom feel like Peter is secretly very irritated with him.

He sighs and heads back into the other room. “Seen Derek around?” he asks his son.

“Nuh uh,” Stiles says, not looking up from his homework.

Texting works well with Derek, too. He seems less likely to get prickly over text. Tom opens with, ‘How did it go last night? Stiles give you any trouble?’

About ten minutes later, Derek texts back with, ‘His taste in movies is terrible.’

‘You’re not wrong,’ Tom says, shaking his head in amusement. ‘Wanted to ask you a question if you have a minute.’

‘Shoot,’ Derek replies.

‘Peter had Scott and Isaac chained up last night, at least until Isaac proved that he could control himself. That seems a little barbaric to be honest. Wanted to get your take on it.’

There’s a somewhat long pause before Derek replies, ‘Get my take on it how?’

‘Is that normal?’ Tom asks, although Derek’s response is already making him think that it is.

‘The first time or two, yeah. Especially with people who are turned young.’

‘Okay. Thanks.’ Tom sees that he has a new text from Peter, sighs, and switches back to that screen.

Much to his surprise, Peter has said, ‘Maybe the reason you think of lycanthropy as inherently bad is because you didn’t get a choice in the matter. That’s my fault, so I’ll try to respect your feelings.’

Tom eyes his phone suspiciously. He has a feeling that Peter is agreeing with him in order to soften him up. But he is agreeing, and more than that, he’s probably correct. So Tom replies, ‘That probably is part of it, yes. So thank you.’

‘If I talk to new prospects ahead of time, would that solve the problem, then?’

Tom sighs. ‘If you give someone a choice between a chronic illness and being a werewolf, they’re obviously going to choose being a werewolf.’

‘Scott didn’t at first. He took the time to think about it.’

‘I suppose that’s true.’ Tom somehow resists the urge to mention that Scott’s hesitance was because of Allison, which really wasn’t a very good reason. Peter is going to have a counter-argument for anything he says. ‘But you have three betas now. Four counting Derek. You don’t need another.’

‘Every member adds strength to the pack,’ Peter replies, ‘and with Gerard in town, it will be better to be prepared.’

Tom can’t argue with that even a little. He sighs. ‘Okay. I think Melissa knows this girl. She and I will sit down and talk with her, but only after she’s out of the hospital. Agreed?’

‘Agreed,’ Peter replies.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Stiles has been summoned to the principal’s office for a lot of different reasons since he was a child, but he usually knows what he’s done wrong before he shows up. This time, he doesn’t, and that makes him more than a little nervous. When he walks into the office and sees Gerard Argent, he goes from nervous to alarmed, and is about to text his father when Gerard turns to him and smiles. “Mr. Stilinski, have a seat.”

“Hi, uh, where’s Mr. Burns?” Stiles asks, looking around to see if his principal might have been tied up and stuffed into a closet.

“He resigned. I’m the new principal.”

“Oh. Okay. Wow.” Stiles blinks several times, wondering how to make a tactful exit in this scenario.

“Have a seat, Stiles,” Gerard says, still smiling. “It is Stiles, right?” he adds, and Stiles nods, sliding into a chair. “I wanted to talk to you about an incident that happened on school grounds that you were a witness to. Happened a couple weeks ago, the night of the dance.”

“I, uh, I don’t think I’m supposed to talk about that with anyone,” Stiles says. “I mean, I gave my statement to the police.”

“Well, since the investigation is closed, there’s no legal reason you can’t discuss it,” Gerard says, “and since it’s my job to make sure the students of this school are safe, I have every right to ask questions about it. So just tell me what happened, son. I know it must have been a difficult experience.”

Stiles gives him the side-eye and thinks about pointing out that his grandfatherly act is more see-through than Saran-Wrap, but decides against it. He’s glad that he had already asked his father what to say if Gerard came asking questions. He’ll stick to the official story, even though parts of it are a lie and Gerard damned well knows it. “Uh, well. I was at the dance. I went out to use the bathroom. When I came out, Kate, uh, Kate grabbed me. She put her gun to my head and, uh, and took my phone.” He tries to keep his voice even, tries to keep things as short and unemotional as possible, tries not to think about the actual excitement in Kate’s voice as she had told him what she was doing. “She took a selfie with me to send to my dad. Then she strapped a bomb to my chest.” His gaze darts back to Gerard, but he says nothing. “My dad got there about ten minutes later, and my date came looking for me, too. My dad and Kate talked for a few minutes. Kate started the timer on the bomb, and, uh, my date moved like he was going to go toward me. Kate pointed her gun at him, and then my dad fired on her. It all happened really fast. Dad cut the bomb off me and my date ran out of the school with it, and then my dad called for backup and a whole lot of stuff started happening. He had one of the deputies take me home. That’s it.”

“Mm hm.” Gerard considers this for a minute. “Your story is missing some pieces, I think. And some people.”

Stiles pretends to think about it really hard for a minute. “Nope. That’s the whole thing.”

“Mm hm,” Gerard says again, which really makes Stiles want to spit in his face. “So you’re sure that it’s your father who killed Kate?”

“Yup,” Stiles says.

“Even though it ‘happened so fast’?”

“I am one hundred percent sure, yes. Can I go?”

“Not just yet.” Gerard stands up, and Stiles eyes him nervously. “I know that teenagers lie all the time, especially to protect their friends. So I just want to ask you one more question, but with a small advantage this time.” He circles around behind Stiles and presses two fingers into his throat. Stiles immediately tries to get to his feet, but Gerard’s other hand comes down on his shoulder, pressing him into the chair. “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to get a sense of your pulse. Think of it as a game. All you have to do is tell the truth. Do you know where Peter Hale is?”

“No,” Stiles says, uncomfortably aware of his heart thudding in his chest.

“Even though his nephew is staying at your house? Taking you to school dances?”

“No!” Stiles says again.

“Your pulse jumped.”

“Yeah, maybe because you’re fucking terrifying!” Stiles wrenches out of Gerard’s grip and nearly falls out of his chair. “I mean, isn’t there something in the constitution about mixing church and state? Doesn’t that mean you also can’t mix the devil and state?”

Gerard chuckles, but the smile doesn’t reach his eyes. “I’m sorry, Stiles. That was going too far.”

“Gee, you think?” Stiles keeps the chair between the two of them. “I don’t know where Peter Hale is, and if you touch me again, I’m calling my dad so he can arrest you for assault and haul your creepy ass off to jail. Now I’m going back to class.”

“Okay, Stiles,” Gerard says, and he’s still smiling as Stiles bolts from the room.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Stiles is barely three sentences into his description of his encounter with Gerard Argent when Tom realizes that his claws have come out and are digging into the table. Stiles, who’s fully invested in his recounting of events, doesn’t notice. Tom takes several deep breaths to calm himself down and shift back. “Well,” he finally says, “I guess I’ll go have a chat with him.”

“Well, I did tell him that if he did it again you’d arrest him – ”

“Yeah, we’re not going to wait for him to do it again,” Tom says, getting up and checking to make sure he has no werewolf features. “Derek, stay here with Stiles. I’ll be back in a little while.”

Derek just nods. Tom pulls on his jacket and heads out the door. By the time he gets to the Argent house, his rage has settled a little. He rings the bell and is greeted by Victoria. He’s never quite been able to get a read on her, and it makes him a little uncomfortable, to be honest. But he greets her politely. “Ma’am. I need to speak with Gerard Argent.”

Victoria steps back to let him in and says, “This way.”

It’s clear that Gerard was well aware that he was going to come by, because he’s waiting in their basement. Tom supposes that it’s meant to intimidate him, with the racks of weaponry and the targets on the wall. Chris is standing in the corner, looking like he’d rather be just about anywhere else. “Sheriff,” Gerard says, with a smug smile.

“Principal Argent,” Tom says, his voice heavy with sarcasm. “I need to have a word with you about what happened with my son today.”

“He seems like a fine young man,” Gerard says. “It was a pleasure to make his acquaintance.”

“Yeah, why don’t we cut the chit-chat?” Tom says. “You do realize that I could arrest you for assault, right? You laid your hands on another person in a threatening manner. That’s assault. The only reason I’m not doing that is because it would be Stiles’ word against yours, and I’m not sure how that would play out in front of a jury. But let me make it clear right now that if you lay a finger on him again, all bets are off.”

“Of course,” Gerard says gravely. “A man would do anything for his child, am I right?”

Chris glances over at his father, his face tight and unhappy, but says nothing.

“You know, you might think you’re drawing a clever parallel, but I’m not impressed,” Tom says. “Kate is dead. You can’t help her now. My son is very much alive, and believe me, he is going to stay that way. If you want revenge for Kate’s death, you take that up with me. Not the Hales, and certainly not my son.”

“I don’t want to find Peter Hale because of what he did to Kate. You’ve made it clear that he wasn’t responsible. But I still want to find him. He murdered five people.”

“You might or might not believe me, but I don’t approve of what Peter Hale did. I was trying to stop him, but by the time I caught up with him, he had already gone through everyone between him and Kate. Now that she’s dead, he’s not going to kill anyone else, so I don’t see much point in hunting him down.”

“I’m not sure I see how there’s ‘not much point’ in tracking down an admitted killer.”

Tom folds his arms over his chest. “The people Peter killed were responsible for murdering his family. Again, I don’t approve of what he did. I don’t believe in vigilante justice. But the fact of the matter is that Peter is an alpha werewolf, and putting him in prison would be impossible. And that’s not even going into the fact that there’s literally no way to prove what he did in a court of law, since all the deaths were officially ruled animal attacks. If the only two options are freedom or death, then yes, I think he deserves the former more than the latter. I’m not going to kill him for avenging his family.”

“Fine,” Gerard says. “If you won’t, then I will.”

Tom studies him for a long moment. Looks at the ceiling and prays for patience. Takes a deep breath. “Okay. Let’s go. Hands behind your back.”

Gerard looks genuinely puzzled. “I don’t – ”

“How many times do I have to impress upon this family that I am an officer of the law?” Tom asks. “You can’t just threaten to kill a man right in front of me and not expect to get arrested. Oh, and by the way, you can kiss your new job goodbye, because I will be telling the superintendent and the school board about this. Now let’s go.”

“Whatever happened to ‘it’s my word against yours’?”

“Well, putting aside the fact that I certainly hope a jury would find the word of an actual police officer more compelling than that of a sixteen-year-old boy with an overactive imagination, I could point out that there’s a witness.” Tom points to Chris, who’s still sitting silently in the corner.

Gerard snorts. “Do you honestly think that’s going to work in your favor and not mine?”

“I’d be interested to find out,” Tom says, addressing Chris, not Gerard. Chris is very engrossed in the wall just over Tom’s shoulder. “But okay. I’ll make a deal with you. Quit your new job. Stay away from my son. And I won’t arrest you for threatening to kill Peter Hale.”

“Is the Sheriff supposed to play favorites like that?” Gerard asks with a smirk.

“When it’s my son? Absolutely. And to be fair and honest, Peter Hale’s safety really isn’t my priority or my concern. I don’t think you should kill him and I don’t think he deserves to die. But I’m pretty sure he can take care of himself. So how about it?”

“Getting arrested would be an inconvenience,” Gerard agrees. “Deal.”

“Okay. We’re done here.” Tom goes up the stairs without waiting for anyone to come show him out, and heads home.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Erica’s introduction to the concept of lycanthropy goes a lot more smoothly than Scott’s. She’s barely heard all the details before declaring that she’s down, and Tom sees right away that there’s no point in trying to discuss the possible disadvantages with her. After ‘could cure my epilepsy’, nothing is going to matter to her.

She’s a little quiet and awkward at their first pack dinner, but shows up the next day after school in a leather jacket, tight jeans, and a turquoise bodice that shows off way more than Tom wants to see on a girl her age. Stiles is staring at her with his jaw ajar and even Scott’s eyes are a little glazed. “You like?” Erica asks, doing a slow spin. “Peter took me shopping.”

“Of course he did,” Tom says, shaking his head and going into the kitchen to pack himself a sandwich to take to work.

In the other room, the conversation between the teenagers continues. Erica is talking about Peter’s amazing fashion sense and how she never would have guessed to look at him. “I guess he’s not gay, huh? Since he had a wife and a kid. He’s either bi or pan. I mean, he can’t be straight; he’s practically humping your dad’s leg.”

Tom hears Stiles choke on his soda and spew it across the table. He rests his head on a cabinet and calls out, “You know I can hear you from in here, right?”

There’s a pause, then Erica shouts back, “Well, I do now!”

Tom rubs both hands over his face, then picks up the roll of paper towels and carries it in to the living room, handing it to Stiles so he can clean up the table. Stiles is flushed bright pink and won’t look his father in the eye, which to be honest is fine with Tom at the moment. He decides against addressing Erica’s comment, since it’s clear that she’s embarrassed. “In any case, you look nice, Erica. It’s clear that the Bite has helped you a lot.”

“Oh my God, it’s amazing,” Erica says, recovering. “I could actually get out of bed this morning without wanting to kill myself. This is literally the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“It’s pretty awesome,” Scott agrees. “Hey, Stiles, don’t you want to be a werewolf? I mean, why haven’t you had Peter turn you?”

Stiles shrugs, decidedly not looking up from the orange soda he’s mopping up. “I’m waiting for a better offer. Maybe like a were-leopard or a were-eagle.”

“Respect,” Erica says.

Tom shakes his head and says, “Okay, kids, I have to head to work. I’ll be late, so don’t wait on dinner for me, Stiles.”

“’Kay,” Stiles says.

Tom thinks things over as he heads to the car. He doesn’t like the casual non-answer Stiles had given. The nightmares he’s having are getting worse, even with Derek in the room with him. Being interrogated by Gerard seems to have had a negative effect on him. They might have to sit down and talk about this, but he keeps hoping that things will resolve and he’ll be able to let Stiles heal at his own pace.

That reminds him of something he’s been meaning to do. He makes a quick stop at the medical examiner’s office and checks the log book. Two days after Kate’s death, there’s Gerard’s name in neat handwriting, and his signature. He had come to see the body. That means he knows that Peter isn’t responsible. So why is he so intent on finding him?

He shelves it for later. Work is busy, and it keeps him occupied, but he keeps thinking back to his son. Seeing Tom lose control had been scary for Stiles, but is that really what’s at the root of his total lack of interest in lycanthropy? If Stiles is having bad dreams about the Argents, it might make more sense for him to want the Bite – to want to be stronger, faster, able to get away. If he had been a werewolf that night of the dance, Kate might not have been able to get to him.

It’s nearly midnight by the time he leaves, and Peter is sitting on the hood of his Cruiser. “Well, you look like a man who’s been thinking deep thoughts all day.”

Tom sighs. “Is this the best place for you to be when Gerard is looking for you?”

Peter just shrugs. “There is no good place for me to be. Penny for your thoughts?”

“I assume that if there was a way to reverse lycanthropy, you would have mentioned it by now?”

“That’s quite an assumption. This is me you’re talking to.” Peter winks at him, and Tom sighs again. “Legends say that you can reverse the Bite by killing the alpha that gave it to you.”

Tom looks Peter up and down, then says, “Constructive suggestions, please?”

Peter’s smirk widens. “I knew you liked me.”

Tom ignores him. “I thought killing an alpha made you an alpha.”

“Correct, except in the case I just mentioned, killing the alpha that turned you. That’s not firsthand knowledge by the way. Just something I’ve seen in a book or two. I don’t know for certain whether or not it’s true.”

“Mm hm.” Tom thinks about that for a minute, files it away, and gets back to more important things. “Well, Erica seems to think that lycanthropy is better than sliced bread, so I guess it doesn’t matter at the moment. Thanks for taking her shopping, by the way. I think it helped her gain a lot of self-confidence.”

“It was my genuine pleasure.”

“Were you waiting for me because you need something from me?”

“I can’t just want to see you?” Peter asks, and Tom rolls his eyes. “Apparently not. I wanted to talk to you about Derek.”

“Okay. What about him?”

Peter is quiet for a moment, gathering thoughts that he must have had ample time to gather. “I understand my nephew has been through a great deal, and I understand that I made it worse, not better. But I am his alpha, and I’m the only family he has left. I want to help him, if and when I can, but you probably know him better than I do at this point. Which is why I wanted to know if you think I should address the matter of Kate with him.”

Tom lets out a slow breath. “I guess it depends on how you would address it.”

“You and I both know that Derek’s not at fault for the fact that Kate took advantage of him,” Peter says, and Tom has to admit to a little sigh of relief. “But I don’t know that Derek feels the same way. I want to tell him – that I don’t blame him, don’t hold him responsible. I don’t know if my opinion would matter to him, after I killed Laura.”

“I think it will,” Tom says, “and moreover, I feel like the more people who tell Derek it wasn’t his fault, the closer he’ll get to feeling that way himself. I can tell him that all day, but I didn’t lose anything in that fire. You did. Your opinion will mean a damn sight more than mine.”

“That’s true, I suppose.” Peter slides his hands in his pockets and resumes his usual air of nonchalance. “Not that he seems to want to hear a word I have to say most of the time, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to talk about Kate with anybody.”

“No. But I don’t think you need to sit down and have an entire therapy session with him. Just take him aside, maybe when the kids aren’t around, and tell him that you want him to know that what happened wasn’t his fault.”

“Mm. He hasn’t been around during the day, has he?”

“Not for the last week or two.” Tom frowns a little. “Actually, I’m not sure where he’s been going, but I can’t really blame him for not wanting to sit around my house all day. I haven’t wanted to push him on it.”

Peter nods. “Derek will tell us what he’s up to when he’s ready.” He yawns and stretches. “I’m going to head back to my place. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, Stiles was talking about making a pork roast, since it’s Saturday and presumably the pack is going to be crashing at our place for dinner.”

“Sounds good. I’ll bring dessert.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Stiles has to admit that he’s not doing much to help keep Allison in the dark where werewolves are concerned. It’s not his problem if Chris can’t balls up and tell her. She’s spending time with the pack even without realizing it, because Scott is part of the pack, so they’re around more often than not.

Which doesn’t really explain why he’s dragged along on the shopping trip from hell, but actually he’s thinking it might be entertaining. It had started innocently enough. Allison had admired one of Erica’s new outfits. Erica had told her about this guy she knows with killer fashion sense, and next thing Stiles knows, they’ve agreed to go to the mall. He’s getting dragged along because Allison and Erica both think he needs shirts that actually fit him.

Since Peter is at the Stilinski house more often than not these days, they troop back there after school. Scott seems a little apprehensive about Allison meeting Peter, and is surprised when she says, “Oh - it’s you!”

Peter glances up from the book he’s been reading, and smiles. “Hello again.”

“I should have known!” Allison says, laughing. “Erica says you give the best fashion advice and the dress you picked out for me for the winter dance was perfect. Oh, I’m Allison, by the way. Erica said your name was Peter?”

“It is indeed.” Peter shakes her hand and adds, “The pleasure is all mine.”

“We need to buy Stiles a new wardrobe,” Erica says, “and whatever new stuff Allison and I find while we’re doing that.”

“Whatever you say,” Peter says, clearly amused. He looks over at where Tom is sitting at the kitchen table, going through a file. “Would you like to join us?”

“I’m working, Peter,” Tom says, without looking up.

“All right. I’ll soldier on without you, somehow,” Peter says, with a melodramatic sigh that leaves Erica snickering and Scott looking more politely incredulous than ever. “Perhaps I’ll pick something up for dinner while we’re out?”

“Sounds good,” Tom says. “Not that Mexican place again, though. My mouth was numb for a week.”

“What a tragedy,” Peter says, and Stiles all but throws his hands up in the air as he leaves the house before things can get worse. Allison and Erica are giggling as they get in the car. Scott squishes into the back with them, because he’s not about to let Allison go shopping with Peter without him.

“So have you and Sheriff Stilinski been together a while?” Allison asks brightly, as Stiles starts towards the mall. Stiles nearly runs a stop sign as he realizes that Allison thinks his father and Peter are actually dating. Then again, examining their interaction over the last five minutes, it’s hardly an unreasonable assumption to make. He waits for Peter to explain that he’s just an incorrigible flirt.

Peter glances over his shoulder with a slight smile. “Oh, a few months now,” he says, and Stiles is suddenly wondering if he’s missed something big. His father would tell him if he and Peter were actually dating, right? Peter’s just messing with Allison. He and Stiles’ father aren’t actually in some sort of relationship . . . right?

“How did you two meet?” Allison asks. It’s obvious that she thinks they’re adorable and wants to hear all about it.

“Well, it’s actually a very funny story,” Peter says, and Stiles throws him a look, wondering if he’s going to have to shut him down. “When I was a teenager, I was, shall we say, a bit of a delinquent. I might have trespassed or shoplifted once or twice. Which is when I met the then-Deputy Stilinski, who looked absolutely magnificent in uniform. So I might have gone out of my way to get arrested a few more times.”

Erica is cracking up. “What’s a permanent criminal record compared to a man in uniform?”

“Exactly,” Peter says. “He was seemingly oblivious to my embarrassing crush . . .”

“And also married at the time,” Stiles puts in dryly.

“True. An excellent point. And a few years later I met someone and got married as well. Tragically, we both lost our wives in the intervening years. Then a few months ago I had to go to the station on business and ran into him again. I took a chance and asked him out, and much to my surprise, he said yes.”

“That’s so romantic,” Allison says with a sigh, and Stiles wants to throw his hands up in the air and pretend he’s somewhere else. “That’s awful about both of you losing your wives, though. I’m really sorry.”

“Life works in funny ways,” Peter says, and then changes the subject, asking how the dance went and if her date had liked her dress. Scott has to immediately chime in with the fact that of course he had loved her dress and she was the most beautiful person on earth.

They somehow get through the shopping trip without any disasters. Erica talks Peter into buying her four more outfits. Allison buys a few new shirts that Peter picks out, that Stiles has to admit that she looks amazing in. Somehow he ends up with a bunch of new shirts as well, which he puts up with because he’s secretly hoping that Derek will think he looks good in them.

He offers to drive Allison home afterwards, and Allison tells Scott that she’s expected to come help her ‘study’ for her French test. Scott agrees eagerly. Allison’s house is on the way to the Stilinskis, so Stiles drops them off first.

Chris is just getting home when he gets there, and gets out of his SUV to stop dead in his tracks when he spots Peter in the passenger seat of the car that Allison is climbing out of. “Hey, what have you been up to?” he asks. To Stiles, it sounds like he’s trying to stay calm and not get Allison’s back up.

“Shopping,” Allison says. “Can Scott stay for dinner?”

“Sure,” Chris says, still looking at Peter, who’s just smiling pleasantly.

Allison follows her father’s gaze and says, “Oh, that’s Peter. He’s Stiles’ dad’s boyfriend and he has amazing fashion sense.”

Stiles watches Chris blink as he tries to process this statement. The look on his face is actually pretty amusing, so he whips out his phone and takes a picture of it.

“Thanks for taking us shopping,” Allison adds. “I hope I see you again!”

“Oh, I’m always around,” Peter drawls, and Chris frowns at him. Stiles takes that opportunity to bid Scott and Allison a hasty farewell and peel out of the driveway before Chris could shoot any of them. He thinks about warning his father that Chris is probably going to have a few things to say about Allison hanging out with the alpha who killed a bunch of people. That’s going to have to wait until after Peter has gone for the night.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

By the time everyone has left, it’s late, and Tom has a bit of a headache. He’s not exactly objecting to all these teenagers suddenly hanging out at his house all the time - it’s good for Stiles to have more friends - but he does wonder why it has to be his house. Doesn’t Peter have his own apartment by now? Can’t they hang out there?

He takes two Tylenol even though he thinks his headache is psychosomatic, and then looks up as Stiles comes into the kitchen, looking a bit more hesitant than usual. “What’s up, kiddo?” he asks. “Where’s Derek at?”

“He went to take a shower.” Stiles plops into the chair across from his father. “So, Chris was there when we dropped Allison off and I’m pretty sure he didn’t like seeing her in the car with Peter.”

Tom resists the urge to throw his hands into the air. Maybe if Chris had told his daughter about werewolves the first two times he had brought it up, he wouldn’t have this problem. “Great. I’ll slot in his angry phone call for two PM tomorrow. Thanks for the warning.”

“Allison told him that Peter’s your boyfriend,” Stiles says. “I’m not sure if that made him more or less confused, to be honest.”

Tom sighs and starts rubbing his temples. “Okay. That’s . . . sure. Okay.”

“Can I ask you a question?” Stiles asks in a rush. Tom gives him a wary look despite himself, which Stiles naturally takes as a yes. “Are you and Peter dating? Because when Allison said it, Peter didn’t deny it, but Peter’s kind of a troll, and I’m really not sure how I would feel about it - ”

“Stiles - ”

“Because Peter’s actually pretty awesome a lot of the time, like he’s really funny? But then I remember that he killed Derek’s sister, plus he tried to make you kill me, which I’m deeply uncomfortable with, and so I’m not sure if he has multiple personalities or if he’s actually snarky and flirty normally but just had a psychotic break, and - ”

“Stiles . . .”

“Either way I really can’t picture him as my step-dad, you know? I can picture him as your boyfriend, but not as my step-dad, which seems weird but those are two pretty separate things, and I wanna be supportive of your choices but also I’m feeling like I should be seriously questioning your judgment - ”

“Stiles!” Tom finally gets his son’s attention. “I’m not dating Peter. He’s just a flirt.”

“Okay. I mean, I know that. Except I also don’t. Because, you know, he’s a flirt, but you flirt back, so . . .”

“What? No, I don’t.”

Stiles blinks at his father. “Ohhhh boy. Okay. Am I going to have to give you the Talk, Dad?”

Tom wishes he’d taken extra Tylenol. “I’m aware that Peter flirts with me. I just try not to encourage him without actively rejecting him, because he’s not exactly stable, as you seem to have noticed.”

“Yes,” Stiles says slowly, “that’s what it was the first few times. You either just ignored him, or if he was getting too frisky, threatened to pepper spray him or whatever. Except you’ve definitely gotten to the point where you’re enjoying bantering with him. Like yesterday, Peter was being a shit and you told him to cut it out and he said ‘make me’ and you said ‘you’d enjoy that, wouldn’t you’ which is . . . not really subtle, Dad. And a few days before that, when you told Peter about how you’d had to go extort Gerard into getting the fuck out of my school, and he was doing that thing where it’s clear he finds you really impressive and attractive, and he was totally making bedroom eyes at you - ”

“For God’s sake, Stiles - ”

“For God’s sake, Stiles? You’re the one who responded with ‘next time, you should come along’ as if that wasn’t going to encourage him!”

Tom rubs both hands over his face. “Okay, that - probably wasn’t the best thing to say, but - ”

“Um, Dad?” Stiles interrupts. “I know it’s a little odd, me being the mature one, but can you maybe stop and think about what you’re about to say, and decide whether it’s a rationalization or not?”

Tom stops and blinks at him. It’s not exactly what he expected to hear from his son. He knows that Stiles is a lot smarter than he acts sometimes, but that level of emotional maturity is new for him. And the thing is, he’s not wrong. What he was about to say - that the Argents were so easy to light up that it went to his head - isn’t really true. At least, it’s not entirely true. The truth is that he is growing to enjoy bantering with Peter. Not just because it keeps Peter stable. Because it’s fun, and because, to a certain degree, it feeds his ego. It’s been a long time since he’s felt desirable.

“Okay,” he finally says, and lets out a breath. “You have a point. I guess I am flirting with Peter.”

“Which is okay! I mean, I’m not like, ‘you shouldn’t flirt with Peter’, I just . . . wanna know what’s going on.”

“I’m not sure I know. I guess I hadn’t really thought that much about it. I’m trying to keep Peter stable. I admit that I don’t want to see him hurt again, and not just because of what I’m worried he’ll do if that happens. I don’t really have a long-term plan, to be honest.”

“I think that’s okay,” Stiles says. “I mean, the way things are with me and Derek are kind of that way. Just being friends for now, with a ‘maybe someday’ approach. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Especially with someone as unpredictable as Peter.”

Tom nods. There are a lot of reasons why a relationship with Peter would be a terrible idea, but he’s not going to discuss them with his son. “I’ll keep that in mind. But anything that happens, I’ll talk to you about it first. I know that it must be hard for you to think of me with somebody else.”

Stiles manages an unsure little smile. “I just want you to be happy, Dad.”

Tom reaches out and tousles his hair. “You’re a good kid, Stiles. Now I bet you have homework that you’ve been avoiding, am I right?”

“Yeah.” Stiles makes a face at him. “Fine, be that way.”

“I’m your father. It’s my job to be that way.” Tom watches Stiles as he heads up the stairs and realizes that he knows exactly why everyone is always at his house. They could gather at Peter’s, sure, but Peter is always at the Stilinski house. And the reason for that is probably because Tom has never showed any inclination to go over to Peter’s apartment. The teenagers might gather there, might coalesce into a pack that way, but Tom would be left behind. And Peter clearly doesn’t want Tom to be left out.

He could ask Peter about going over to his place, but to be honest, he’d rather not. He thinks Derek might feel awkward there, given his contentious relationship with Peter. If Derek doesn’t want to go, Stiles might not either, and things would break down from there. He’ll just have to get used to his house being pack central.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom looks up when he hears the door to the station open, and sighs as he sees Chris Argent walk in. He gestures for Chris to step into his office, and closes the door behind him. “Before you try to blame what happened yesterday on me – ”

“You let him take my daughter shopping?” Chris snaps. “You know, I let you talk me into letting him live, but if he comes near my daughter – ”

“It’ll be because you still haven’t told her what’s going on!” Tom retorts. Chris’ mouth tightens into a thin line. “Her friend asked her on a shopping trip. Yes, Peter tagged along. But if you had told her who Peter was, she would have known you didn’t want her associating with him. Plus, I might mention that you’re overreacting to the tenth degree.”

“Overreacting? To a murderer taking my daughter out shopping?”

“Yes! He took her out shopping. They went to Macy’s, for the love of God, not the World’s Fair Hotel! The last time I checked, Peter hadn’t murdered anyone at the mall in broad daylight. I think Allison was pretty safe. Frankly, if she were my daughter, I’d let Peter take her around the world in a hot air balloon before I would leave her alone in a room with Gerard.”

“Let’s leave my father out of this – ”

“I’d love to, but I don’t think it’s going to be possible.” Tom stares Chris down. “Think about this, Chris. Allison still doesn’t know about werewolves, but she’s going to find out, sooner rather than later. Who do you want her finding out from? You? Or your father? He’s the man who made Kate what she was. Do you want him doing that to Allison, too?”

Chris gives an involuntary shudder. “It’s not – it’s not that easy,” he finally says. “I never wanted her to be part of this. The world we live in – it’s dangerous. It’s dark and frightening and, and full of hard choices. Would you have exposed your son to that voluntarily?”

“No. I wouldn’t have. But I was smart enough to know that I could control the situation better, keep him safer, if I included him. He wouldn’t have gone anywhere with Peter, back before Kate died, because he knew who Peter was. Allison’s part of this world whether you like it or not. Peter talked about targeting her to get to Kate. He didn’t end up doing it, but he probably wasn’t the first person to have that idea and he definitely won’t be the last. This world is dangerous, but ignorance makes things worse, not better.” A thought occurs to Tom. “Why do I get the feeling that one of the reasons you’re so committed to the idea of werewolves being bloodthirsty monsters is because Gerard didn’t tell you that they existed until after one of them had tried to tear you to pieces to get back at him for killing someone they cared about?”

Chris blinks at him for a moment, like he had honestly never made the connection between how he found out werewolves existed and his ongoing attitude about them. Hell, maybe he never had. Tom has to admit that it would make one hell of an impression on a child.

“Look,” Tom finally says, “Allison’s going to find out one way or another. You know that. Why don’t you bring her over this evening? She probably won’t believe you unless she can see one of us shift anyway. She’d just think you’re giving her a hard time. I’ll make sure Peter’s not there. I can explain to her who he is and you can express your concern over her spending time with him.”

After a moment, Chris gives an abrupt nod. “Okay.” Then, somewhat warily, he adds, “Who is this Erica? Why is Peter adding so many members to the pack?”

“Do you want an honest answer to that question?” Tom asks, and Chris nods. “I think it’s because your father scares the shit out of him. He wants to be prepared to declare open war on your entire family if it comes to it, and he needs numbers for that.”

“Kids, though. Why is he turning kids? And don’t tell me it’s because of the health issues. There are plenty of chronically ill adults in Beacon Hills.”

“No, that’s true. I know why you’re concerned and to be honest, I think your concerns are valid. Peter wants people who will obey him without asking a lot of questions, people who will naturally see him as an authority because he’s older than them. If we’re going to continue being honest, I’m a little surprised that Peter isn’t already talking about a pre-emptive strike on your father. For now, he’s letting me handle things. But I think he wants to be ready for the worst, and frankly, I can’t blame him. I don’t suppose you know what your father has planned, or that you’d be willing to tell me?”

Chris rubs a hand over his hair. “I don’t. Which bothers me. He’s not exactly one for sharing, but . . .”

“He’s cutting you out,” Tom surmises. “He thinks you’ve been compromised.”

Chris nods. “Which isn’t exactly untrue, from his standpoint. He wants vengeance for Kate. I don’t.”

Tom shakes his head. “I don’t think so. There’s something else to what he’s doing, something we’re not seeing. He’s looking for Peter, and I don’t think it’s because he thinks Peter killed Kate. I checked the medical examiner’s logs. Gerard saw Kate’s body. He knows the official story is true, that Kate was shot, and werewolves don’t carry guns. He knows I killed her, but he’s still after Peter. Why?”

“I don’t know,” Chris says.

“Let’s work on finding out.” Tom goes and opens the office door. “But first, let’s get Allison in the loop so there won’t be any messy misunderstandings. Eight o’clock okay? Peter’s at my place most evenings but he leaves after dinner.”

Chris nods. Then he takes the door and swings it shut again. “My daughter seems to be under the impression that you and Peter are an item.”

“Yeah, Stiles told me.” Tom shrugs. “Peter’s an incorrigible flirt, and he thought allowing Allison to draw her own conclusions after seeing the two of us together was better than trying to explain the reality of the situation, given what Allison did and didn’t know.”

“So you aren’t?”

“It really isn’t your business, Chris. Are you going to change your mind about why I killed Kate if you found out that we were? Decide that I killed her for revenge for Peter, rather than because she was threatening my son? Would it make her death any less something she had coming to her?”

Chris looks away. “No. But it might help me figure out what’s going to happen next.”

“I don’t think it will. Peter is my friend. He’s someone I want to protect. You already knew that, and it’s all you need to know.” He opens the door. “I’ll see you at eight.”

“Okay,” Chris says, and leaves without another word.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Tom has a quiet word with Peter before dinner, saying that Chris is bringing Allison over so they can tell her some pertinent facts. Chris would rather Peter not be here for this, he says. Peter rolls his eyes so hard that he probably sees his brain, but agrees. “I was very polite with her at the mall,” he says.

“I know,” Tom says. “You were very well-behaved. I’m proud of you.”

Peter smirks. “Are you going to reward me for being a good boy?”

“Keep it up and we’ll see where it leads,” Tom says, and Peter just smirks even more before heading into the kitchen. Tom watches him go and thinks about the fact that yeah, he’s definitely flirting with Peter. He’s really not sure whether or not that’s a bad thing, and he wishes he had someone to talk with about it. Bizarrely, he wishes Claudia was alive for him to talk to. She was always better with people than he was.

He sighs and follows Peter into the kitchen. The whole pack is there, and Stiles has made enough lasagna for an army. Tom catches his son giving him the side-eye a few times, but he keeps his opinions to himself for once.

It’s a lively evening. Scott is excited to hear that Allison’s going to be put in the loop, and is talking about trying out for lacrosse. Derek keeps rolling his eyes every time Scott talks, so whenever Derek tries to change the subject, Scott just talks about it louder. Tom wonders if he’s going to have to put one or both of them in time-out.

Erica is talking almost as much, about how awesome being a werewolf is and how she’s got three boyfriends already and life is amazing. She doesn’t actually like any of the boyfriends, though. She’s talking about a friend of hers named Boyd and how she’s sure he would love to be a werewolf, too. “There’s room in the pack for one more, right?”

“Certainly,” Peter says, with a winning smile.

“Is your friend Boyd sick, too?” Tom asks, struggling with his temper.

“What? No, that’s not how I know him,” Erica says, misunderstanding the question. “He’s in a couple of my classes. He needs more friends, though.”

“Does he play lacrosse?” Scott asks, and then they start talking about sports.

Tom wonders, not for the first time, if Peter was actually correct. All of the teenagers who have been turned seem to have adapted to lycanthropy overnight. Even Scott, having spent his first full moon chained up and howling, doesn’t seem to have had his spirits dampened by it. They all seem to think being a werewolf is pretty cool. He’s the only one who has reservations about turning every teenager in sight. Is that because he’s an adult, with a better grip on long-term consequences? Or is it because he was turned against his will, and now his gut, instinctual reaction is that this is something people shouldn’t want? If it’s the latter, does he even have any right to stand in Peter’s way or tell him how he should be building his pack? Is there some other rational adult he could put in charge of decision making?

Whoever it is, it certainly won’t be Chris Argent. Tom isn’t sure he’s even going to show up at all, but he does, at five minutes to eight, looking uncomfortable and unhappy and clearly wishing he was somewhere else. Allison looks a little confused, so Tom assumes that Chris didn’t really explain where they were going or why.

He’s packed the teenagers off. Isaac has been staying with Scott, and Scott says he’ll give Erica a ride home on the way. Seeing that Tom wants a clear field, Derek asks Stiles if he wants to go ‘get some ice cream or something’. Stiles looks very excited and says, inexplicably, “the shirt worked!” before grabbing his car keys.

Tom shows Chris and Allison inside and asks if they want something to drink, and Chris says, “No,” in a tight little voice. Allison sits down next to her father on the sofa, clearly more confused than ever. Tom resists the urge to ask if Chris had told her anything at all, because he’s pretty sure that the answer is no.

He doesn’t think just starting off with ‘so werewolves exist’ is a good idea, and he wants Allison to relax a little and understand why Chris has dragged her over here. “Allison, your father and I wanted to talk to you about what happened with your aunt.”

It’s not entirely a lie. Allison is going to learn quite a few unpleasant truths about her aunt during this discussion. And it works as he intended; the confusion clears off her face. Granted, it’s replaced by unhappiness, but at least now she can feel the ground underneath her feet. Chris looks even more unhappy than before, but he seems to understand why Tom started with that, so he doesn’t object.

“Did she really do all that stuff that they said in the papers?” Allison asks, folding her hands in her lap. “I mean, I know what she did to Stiles, I’m not saying I don’t believe him . . .”

“She did some of it, but not all of it,” Tom says. “I won’t lie to you, and I’m not going to sugar coat it, either. Kate was a deeply disturbed young woman. She killed a lot of people, and she did it because she enjoyed killing.”

Allison winces, but takes a deep breath. “Thanks. For giving it to me straight.”

“There’s more,” Tom says. “A lot more. But since you asked, Kate didn’t actually kill any of the people in Beacon Hills that the press has speculated she killed. Those people were her accomplices in the Hale fire, and they were killed by one of the victims. You met him the other day; his name is Peter.”

Allison blinks, her mouth slightly ajar. “Peter? The – Peter with the great fashion sense, Peter who says gelato is better than ice cream and called us philistines, that Peter? He – killed people?”

“Yes,” Tom says.

“But he was just – I mean, he’s not in jail, if you know he did it, then – then why – ”

“We can’t put Peter in jail,” Tom says, “because he’s a werewolf.”

“Oh. Right.” Allison stares at him. “That makes perfect sense.”

Chris reaches out and takes her hand, squeezing it. “Werewolves are real. So are a lot of the monsters under the bed.”

“Werewolves,” Allison says, and gives a nervous laugh. It breaks off abruptly when Tom shifts. She shoots to her feet and stumbles backwards. “Oh my God! What the hell – ”

Chris grabs her before she can fall. “It’s okay, Allison.”

Tom shifts back to his human form and says, “To be honest, I didn’t react much better when I found out. I ran off into the forest and nearly got myself shot.” He gives Chris a sidelong glance but doesn’t bother to bring up who was doing the shooting. “I know it’s a lot to take in, and you’ll probably have to wrestle with it for a while.”

“Yeah, that’s . . . an understatement,” Allison says.

“Our family has hunted werewolves for several generations,” Chris says, and Allison stares at him. “All the way since before we came to the United States. There are . . .” He pauses and gives Tom a weary look, then sighs. “There are werewolves who don’t make any trouble, don’t hurt anybody. But there are werewolves who do, and the mundane law can’t handle them, because they’re too strong. They can easily break out of prisons and escape custody.”

“That . . . is that why Kate killed the Hales?” Allison asks.

“No,” Chris says, understanding that it’s important Allison hear this from him, not from Tom. “I loved my sister. But Tom’s right when he says that she just enjoyed killing. I don’t know why she targeted the Hales, but it wasn’t because they had hurt anybody. I’m not even sure if it was because they were werewolves. There were at least two people killed in that fire who weren’t.”

Allison nods, wrestling with this. “So Aunt Kate killed the Hales. And Peter survived, and . . . waited six years to kill her accomplices?”

“Peter was badly injured in the fire,” Tom says. “It took six years for him to recover, both physically and mentally, to the point where he was up to seeking revenge. And I want to be clear with you, Allison. I don’t condone what Peter did. The people he killed were not werewolves, and they could have been brought to justice in the more mundane fashion. What Peter did was not right. But he can’t be imprisoned, because he’s a werewolf, which leaves us the options of executing him, or letting him go free. Peter isn’t exactly stable, but I genuinely don’t believe he’s planning to hurt anybody else, now that his family is avenged. So after some discussion, your father and I agreed that we’ll continue to watch him, and try to make sure he doesn’t go off the rails again.”

“So you and Peter aren’t . . .” Allison goes pink. “Oh my God. I just assumed – and he just played along, he must think I’m an idiot – ”

“He doesn’t think you’re an idiot,” Tom assures her. “Honestly, I think he played along to try to spare you embarrassment. Peter’s my friend. I care about him, and I think he’s suffered enough. But I do want you to understand that he is dangerous. He is not entirely sane. If left to his own devices, I think he would be okay, but . . .”

“But?” Allison looks at her father.

Chris won’t meet her gaze. “But my father is upset about Kate’s death, and has made it clear that he considers Peter responsible, even if Tom is the one who killed her.”

“She tried to kill Stiles,” Allison says blankly. “I mean, she threatened to kill an entire gymnasium full of teenagers.”

“Gerard thinks that she had every right to do that, because it got her into position to kill Peter – a werewolf who had killed humans.”

Allison looks between the two men. “Okay. Wow. That’s horrifying.”

“That’s a good word for it, yes.” Tom shakes his head. “I want to believe that Peter would never harm you, Allison. But if he believes he’s in danger from Gerard – if he believes his family is in danger from Gerard – he is capable of just about anything. Do you understand?”

“Yeah. I . . . I understand.” Allison folds her arms over her stomach and looks at her father. “Can’t we do something about Gerard?”

“Do what?” Chris asks. “He’s a grown man and it’s a free country. I can’t make him leave Beacon Hills, not until he’s done what he came here to do. And Sheriff Stilinski can’t arrest him unless he breaks the law, which so far he hasn’t.”

Allison appears to think about that for a minute, then nods. “Okay.” She frowns a little. “So how does Peter know Erica, then?”

“Peter turned Erica into a werewolf,” Tom says. “Lycanthropy can cure chronic illnesses, so Erica wanted the bite to cure her epilepsy.”

“Oh, okay. Oh my God! Scott’s a werewolf, isn’t he!”

Tom is a little startled at how quickly she had figured it out, but she surely had to have noticed that he hadn’t needed his inhaler recently, even without the acrobatics during gym class. “Yes. Which is the other reason Chris and I decided to put you in the loop. Same deal. Scott’s asthma was severe enough to be life-threatening. Peter needs a pack – the only family he has left is his nephew – so he turned some people who were willing to get the bite, for whatever reason. Scott was one of those people. And don’t be upset at him for hiding it from you. I told him to do that. We were hoping to put it off until after Gerard left town, but it’s becoming clear that it won’t be any time soon.”

“Okay. Well . . . I might still punish him a bit,” Allison grumbles. “Make him buy me lunch or something.”

Tom laughs despite himself. “I think he can handle that.”

Chris squeezes Allison’s hand again. “I know you must have a lot of questions.”

“Give me an hour and I’ll have a million,” Allison says, “but I think I’m okay for now.”

“Okay. We’ll head home, then.” Chris stands up, not letting Allison go. Then he looks at Tom and says, somewhat begrudgingly, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. You two take care,” Tom says, and shows them out.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

“This isn’t the ice cream place,” Stiles says, as Derek pulls into a parking lot with only three spaces, behind an old brick building.

“No shit, really?” Derek says, rolling his eyes.

“So where are we?”

“It’s my new place. I figured you’d want to see it.”

“You have a place of your own?” Different emotions start warring for dominance inside Stiles’ gut. He wants to be happy for Derek, but the thought of spending nights by himself, without the werewolf security blanket, is secretly terrifying. He hasn’t told anyone else about the nightmares, although he thinks his father knows. “Is this what you’ve been up to during the day while you’ve been gone?”

“That was part of it, yeah.” Derek is hesitating now, a little uncertain. “Do you want to see it?”

“Well, yeah, obviously,” Stiles says, getting out of the car. He follows Derek up the stairs and through a metal door, into a loft apartment. It’s still bare, but he can see how nice it’s going to be once furnished. There are large windows that give a good view of the city, and a spiral staircase near the back wall. “Wow, this place is awesome.”

“I like it,” Derek agrees, looking around like he’s never seen it before. “I need to get some stuff for it, I guess.”

“Yeah, things like a TV so I can continue to show you modern cinematic masterpieces.”

Derek’s eyes roll hard, but he’s smiling. “Sure, if that’s what you want to call them.”

“Obviously.” Stiles looks around and adds, “Why didn’t you just tell us what you were doing? It’s not like you needed to keep ‘apartment hunting’ a secret.”

“I didn’t want your dad to feel like I wasn’t grateful for him letting me stay with you. Or think that I felt pressured to leave. I’ve been working on a way to pay him back, but it’s still in, uh, in progress for now.”

“You know that you don’t have to do that, right?”

“Yeah, I know.” Derek shrugs and changes the subject. “How are things going with Scott?”

“Pretty well. You know, he’s gonna try out for lacrosse, which I think will be really good for him. Plus we have, like, multiple friends now. Which is new and exciting.”

Derek gives a snort. “Hey, can I ask you something? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”

“Dude, after all the prying questions I’ve asked you? I can probably manage to answer one of yours. What’s up?”

“Why are you so against the idea of being a werewolf?”

Stiles cringes a little and hopes that it doesn’t show on his face. “Oh, God, please tell me that it’s not as obvious as you’re making it sound.”

Derek shakes his head, which relieves Stiles immensely. “I think your dad has noticed, but none of the others have. It’s just, it’s not just that you haven’t asked Peter for the Bite even though you have to know he’d give it to you in a heartbeat. When the others ask about it, you never want to give a real answer.”

“They wouldn’t understand,” Stiles says. There are no chairs, so he leans against the windowsill, resting the edge of his butt on it. “You can’t tell my dad or Peter, okay?”

“Okay,” Derek says.

“My dad is like . . . the strongest guy I know. And Peter just . . . got right in his head and really fucked with him. I know my dad would never hurt me. I know that. But he came close. Peter tried to make him hurt me, hurt other people. I can’t . . . if he could make my dad do it, he’d be able to make me do anything he wanted.” Stiles folds his arms over his stomach and looks away. “That’s scary shit.”

Derek nods a little. “Yeah, I guess it is. And it probably doesn’t help to tell you that Peter wouldn’t do that now.”

“I don’t know, Der. I mean. Your uncle has come a long way, that’s no lie, but he still isn’t quite right all the way through. If he thought he needed to for some reason, if it was to protect himself, or maybe even to protect you, I think there’s not a lot he’s not capable of, you know?”

“I guess that’s true,” Derek says, and sighs.

“I mean, you think my dad wants Allison in the know so Scott can show off on the lacrosse field? Hah, no. He wants her in the know so he can make sure she’ll see danger coming, if it does.” Stiles hugs himself a little tighter. “Anyway. Long story short, I don’t want Peter in my head. But I can’t just say that where the others can hear me.”

“Fair,” Derek says. “I doubt Peter mentioned the whole ‘your alpha can call you out’ thing to Isaac before he turned him. And Scott and Erica were probably willing to risk it because of their health problems.”

“Which is fine, you know? That’s their choice. And this is mine.”

Derek nods again. “Okay. But for the record? I think you’re a lot stronger than you think you are.”

Stiles immediately flushes pink. “Yeah, thanks for the pep talk, but you have to know that’s not true since I’ve insisted on using you as a teddy bear for the last three weeks because I can’t sleep by myself and I said that out loud, didn’t I? Well, I’m just gonna go – ”

Derek looks blank. “I know you can’t sleep by yourself. Why is it a big deal that you said it out loud?”

Even darker pink now, Stiles says, “I don’t want you to feel bad for getting your own place, I mean, it’s great that you have your own place and my issues aren’t your issues – ”

“Stiles – ”

“So if I get a little wonky because I’m not sleeping at night, don’t worry about it, I’ll get over it, maybe take some pills or talk to that weird counselor at the school – ”

“Stiles, it isn’t – ”

“Because it’s great that you’re moving on and gonna have your own apartment and be a functioning adult and everything – ”

“Stiles!” Derek grabs him by the shoulders. “Stop talking. The loft isn’t a place for me to live. It’s a place to use as my art studio.”

“Oh. I. What?” Stiles blinks at him.

“Remember, I was telling you about how I wanted to get back to painting, that Laura had been trying to get me to go to art school? I got the loft so I would have a place to store all my art supplies and have a space to work on things without other people seeing them before they were finished. I’ll still be at your house at night, as long as you need me there.”

Stiles’ blush, which had been fading, returns in full pink splendor. “Wow, okay, I’m super embarrassed now. But. Thanks.” He rubs a hand over the back of his head. “And I’m sure your art is going to be fantastic and hey, look, is that a subject change? How do you think the conversation with Allison is going?”

Derek snorts, but allows the change of subject with good grace. “Since your dad is involved, I’m sure it’ll be handled adequately.”

“True. By the way, Erica is starting a pool on when Peter will finally get sick of flirting and jump my dad’s bones. Want in?”

“No, Stiles, I do not,” Derek says, “and your father would facepalm all the way to Heaven.”

“Are you kidding? He has literally placed a bet in the pool. Though he put it at six months, which, what. Erica has her money on two weeks and I went with three.”

Derek shakes his head. “I don’t think Peter’s serious. He started doing it to make your dad uncomfortable and now I’m pretty sure he just thinks it’s funny. So you can put my money on ‘your dad will break first’.”

Stiles whoops with laughter. “How much money will you give me not to tell my dad you said that?”

“None. But I will pick you up from school tomorrow in the Camaro.”

“Heck yes!” Stiles does a fist pump. “Then we can go shopping for art supplies.”

Derek’s cheeks tinge pink, but he nods. “Okay.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Somehow, Peter gets the message about Tom not wanting him to turn every teenager in sight, and when Boyd turns up at the Stilinski house for dinner, Peter plays least-in-sight. Boyd seems pretty reserved on the issue. He clearly enjoys having people to hang out with, but when Tom says Peter isn’t around, he doesn’t push the issue.

It’s a relief which Tom realizes he sorely needed. Peter is behaving like a rational adult; Chris is at least marginally on their side. All the teenagers seem to be adapting well. Allison is coming to the pack dinners and getting along with everyone, although apparently her mother has insisted she break up with Scott. Gerard hasn’t made a move. He’s gotten some room to breathe.

He’s still thinking about that, when Scott asks out of nowhere, “Hey, Allison, is your grandfather sick?”

Allison blinks at him and says, “I know he takes a lot of pills, but why do you ask?”

“He smells kind of strange. Off. I didn’t know what it meant at first, but then I was at work today and there was a dog dying of cancer and it had the same sort of smell. Sweetish, but rotten underneath.”

“I guess he could be sick,” Allison says. “I mean, he’s old. It’s not like he confides in me.”

Tom doesn’t think a lot about this discussion, but later, when the pack has left and Stiles and Derek have gone up to Stiles’ room, Peter sits down across from him and says, “That’s why he’s trying to find me.”

“Huh?” Tom says.

“Gerard. He’s dying. He wants the werewolf bite to cure him.”

Tom frowns. “That’s a bit of a reach. Gerard has hunted werewolves his entire life. I can’t really see him wanting to become one.”

Peter waves this aside. “Gerard might have brainwashed his son into thinking that werewolves are unreasoning monsters, but he’s never really thought so himself. No more than Kate did. He just likes killing. To be honest, I think he targets werewolves for the challenge. Some people climb mountains, some people do UFC or MMA. Gerard murders werewolves.”

Tom thinks this over and has to admit that there’s merit to the idea. If Gerard has been given a terminal diagnosis, he might well want to find an alpha to coerce into giving him the bite. “It’s an interesting theory. I guess I’ll ask Chris if he knows whether or not his father is actually sick.”

“If he is, I hope it’s a matter of weeks and not years,” Peter says, and Tom snorts. “You know you were thinking it, too.”

“You’re a terrible influence on me,” Tom says.

Peter smirks. “That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

Tom waves him off. “My concern is that Gerard will go after the vulnerable people around you, the way Kate did.”

“You’re worried for Stiles in particular, I would assume,” Peter says. “You really should let me turn him. It would – ”

“No,” Tom snaps, and Peter flinches backwards, his expression equal parts surprise and hurt. Tom takes a deep breath. “Stiles doesn’t want to be turned. He’s made that very clear. And don’t you dare try to push him into it behind my back.”

“Whatever you say,” Peter says, the hurt fading back into his usual nonchalance. “At least Stiles has Derek to keep an eye on him, and the betas can watch out for each other. It’s you I’m worried about. Especially since Allison’s told her father that we’re a couple. Gerard will target you if he’s going to target anyone.”

“I can take care of myself,” Tom says, although he has to admit that Peter’s concern is heartwarming, especially after Tom just bit his head off.

“Even so. Be extra careful.” Peter blows him a kiss before leaving the house, and Tom looks at the ceiling, deep in thought. He definitely needs to talk to somebody about this. He heads upstairs and checks in on Derek and Stiles. “I’m going out for a bit. You two are okay for the night?” he asks, and they both nod. He gets in the car and heads over for the McCall house.

Scott and Isaac are there, but they’ll be up in Scott’s room getting ready for bed by now. Melissa lets him in with a somewhat puzzled expression. “What’s up?”

“Do you ever have moments when you think about how your kid thinks you’re so mature and you’ve got everything under control, and it scares the shit out of you?”

Melissa gives a snort of laughter. “Hang on. This conversation is going to require wine.”

Two minutes later, he’s on the sofa and Melissa as poured them each a glass of red wine that she tells him was on sale at the grocery store. They’re not the sort of people who know vineyards. “So is this werewolf related?” she asks.

“Not exactly.” Tom slumps backwards on the sofa. “Actually, the scary part is that I do feel like I have that under control, more or less. There are things happening that I’m not thrilled about, but on the whole everything’s settling down. But apparently my son has started a betting pool on how long it’s going to take before Peter – how did he put this? – tries to jump my bones.”

Melissa bites back a grin and takes a drink of her wine. “You know, it was God-knows-how-many-years-ago, that Claudia was sitting on this exact sofa, drinking what was probably a very similar wine, laughing her ass off at her oblivious husband who didn’t get why this kid kept getting arrested just to be a smug little shit to him.”

Tom covers his face with both hands and groans quietly. “In my defense, I wasn’t exactly used to being hit on by teenaged boys. I just figured that was how he tried to talk himself out of trouble with all authority figures.”

“I bet.” Melissa still looks amused. “I take it that he’s still hitting on you?”

“Yeah. Which didn’t surprise me, to be honest. And he’s blatant enough about it now that it definitely can’t be misinterpreted. Then out of the blue, Stiles told me I was flirting back.”

“Are you?”

Tom hangs his head. “Yeah . . .”

“So you’re here on my sofa drinking wine at nine thirty PM because . . .?”

“Because flirting with a serial killer seems like a terrible life choice?”

Melissa snorts. “Okay. Is this one of those conversations where I’m supposed to be brutally honest with you, or where I’m supposed to be sympathetic and validate your feelings?”

Tom looks at her over the rim of his glass, then sighs. “Honesty.”

“Honesty. Okay. Tom, you don’t give a shit that Peter killed people. If you did, he’d be dead or in jail. So you can take that ‘I shouldn’t like a serial killer’ bit right the hell outside. It’s not what’s at the root of your drama here, so pack it up.”

Tom winces. “That’s . . . fair. I guess. I mean, I’m not happy with what Peter did, but I understand it even though I can’t condone it. And I honestly don’t believe he’s planning to kill anyone else, except maybe Gerard Argent, who frankly would probably deserve it.”

“Okay. So?”

“So . . .” Tom thinks about it. “Peter’s just . . . he’s so unlike Claudia. He’s not the sort of person I ever envisioned being interested in, or being interested in me. I try to imagine an actual relationship with Peter, like . . . wrapping Christmas presents with him, going grocery shopping and texting him about what kind of cereal he wants, arguing over putting the cap back on the toothpaste . . . I hit this wall. I just can’t picture it.”

“Tom,” Melissa says, almost gently, “you are getting way ahead of yourself.”

Tom winces. “Well, yeah, but – ”

“Don’t ‘yeah, but’ me. You and Claudia had an amazing relationship. You loved each other from the first day you met during junior year of high school. You were talking about the type of house you wanted and how many kids you’d have when you’d known each other three months. The relationship you had with Claudia was beautiful, and sweet, and you’re never going to have another one just like it. And that’s okay, Tom. All relationships are different. And to be honest, the one you had with Claudia was pretty unusual. So don’t try so hard to make your relationship into Peter something it’s not, just because you enjoy flirting with him.”

“I don’t even know what kind of relationship we do have.”

“That’s okay, too. Look, Tom, you’re not the sort of person who does ‘casual’ very well. But you really need to slow way the hell down. Have you talked to him about this at all?”

“No,” Tom says, and Melissa rolls her eyes. “Come on. I don’t even know if he’s serious.”

“In that case, you should definitely stop thinking about wrapping Christmas presents with him until you’ve asked him that,” Melissa says.

Tom sighs and twists his wedding ring on his finger. “Maybe I just have trouble picturing him being serious because I know how much he loved his wife. That six years he spent in a coma, or something like it – time didn’t pass for him the same way it did for the rest of us. That loss is still so fresh for him. How could he be interested in anybody?”

“Everyone grieves in their own way, Tom. Maybe he’s interested, maybe he isn’t. Maybe he flirts because it amuses him, or because he wants to make you squirm. Maybe he’d be up for friends-with-benefits or maybe he actually wants something serious. There are a hell of a lot of maybes here, none of which are going to be any less maybe until you talk to him. But don’t do him the disservice of assuming he feels a certain way, just because it’s how you would feel.”

“I guess that’s fair.” Tom pours himself a second glass of wine and tops off Melissa’s. “Maybe I’m just afraid of rocking the boat.”

“Because Peter’s unstable? Or because you’re afraid of damaging your friendship with him?”

“Both, really. But the second more.”

“Tom, if he’s not afraid ruin your friendship by constantly flirting with you, he won’t break out in hives if you ask him on a date. Trust me.”

“Just keep ruining my arguments, why don’t you?”

“You’re the one who asked for honesty over sympathy.”

Tom slumps backwards on the sofa. “Try the sympathy thing for a minute.”

Melissa reaches out and squeezes his hand. “Relationships are scary, Tom. They don’t get less scary when we’re adults. Don’t be so hard on yourself for feeling confused or uncertain. If you don’t want to rock the boat, then don’t for now. It’s okay to let things ride until you feel comfortable with the idea of a relationship.”

“Thanks,” Tom says, relaxing a little. “I mean that. And thanks for the wine. That helped, too.”

Melissa laughs and pours herself a second glass. “And to answer your original question? I hardly ever feel like I know what I’m doing, and the fact that Scott thinks I do is utterly terrifying. But I think we have our shit together more often than not.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Tom says, and they both laugh.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Two weeks of his house being Pack Central is about enough to drive Tom around the bend. He understands why Peter chose teenagers, but the drama levels are out of control. Derek and Scott seem to hate each other, and Tom has no idea why. No matter what one of them is talking about, the other one has to come in and talk over them. To make things worse, Isaac has been bonding with Scott through lacrosse and staying at the McCall house, and he keeps getting into snarkfests with Stiles that tread dangerously close to actual fights. Erica keeps teasing Stiles and Derek about their nonexistent relationship, which upsets Derek and for some reason, annoys Scott. Boyd clearly thinks their drama is ridiculous. Allison is upset because her mother is still trying to get her to break up with Scott, and nobody besides the two of them seems to care, which only irritates her further.

“Why don’t you just break up with him, then?” Derek asks, after a particularly prolonged soliloquy.

Scott scowls and says, “Why don’t you mind your own business?”

“Why don’t you go – ” Derek starts.

“Derek, come help me with these steaks!” Tom shouts, before things can escalate. He hears Derek give a low growl, but then he comes into the kitchen. Tom picks up the platter and says, “Get the back door for me, will you? And then come outside to give me a hand with the grill.”

“Sure.” Derek’s shoulders are hunched inwards as he follows Tom down the back steps. He stops when he sees that the grill isn’t even lit yet, and gives Tom a suspicious look as he reaches for the charcoal. “What am I doing out here?”

“Helping me with the grill, before you and Scott murdered each other. Which hey, now that I have you alone, what exactly is going on there?”

Derek’s uncertain look turns into a scowl. “I don’t like him.”

“Yes,” Tom says, drawing the word out. “You have made that abundantly clear. Is there a particular reason you don’t like him?”

Derek is silent for a long moment before he bites out, “He hurts Stiles. And he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it.”

“Oh, boy.” Tom sighs as he wads up newspaper to put in the bottom of the chimney starter. “Okay, yes. I’m aware that Stiles’ feelings have been a little bruised by Scott’s relationship with Allison, and I don’t have a problem with you being protective of him, but you’re really only going to make the situation worse.”

“It’s not just the thing with Allison. It’s this – this whole werewolf thing. He keeps going on about how awesome it is, and how he doesn’t get why Stiles doesn’t want to be a werewolf, and he’s totally oblivious to the fact that every time he says something like that, Stiles wants to crawl underneath the table and die.”

Tom grimaces a little. He’s not surprised that Derek has picked up on this, and he’s not surprised that Scott hasn’t, either. “Okay. I’ll grant that Scott can be a little insensitive. Which, I might point out, so can Stiles. But – ”

“When Scott came over the first time, and Stiles told him who I was, Scott asked about me showing up at the dance. Stiles told him that I was just there to keep him from looking like a pariah, and Scott looked like a God damned lightbulb had gone off over his head. He said ‘oh, I get it’, like he couldn’t believe anybody would actually want to date Stiles.”

Now Tom really winces. “I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way.”

“No, he didn’t, but he also didn’t notice when Stiles wouldn’t look at either of us for the next half hour. He just – he’s so oblivious, it’s insanely frustrating.”

“I can see that it would be,” Tom says. “But you have to remember that everyone views themselves as the protagonist of their own story.”

Derek frowns. “Meaning?”

“Meaning that Scott is currently wrapped up in this Romeo and Juliet thing he’s got going on. To him, Stiles is . . .”

“Benvolio?” Derek suggests.

“I’m going to assume you know more about Shakespeare than I do, so sure,” Tom says, and Derek’s lips twitch. “So maybe he doesn’t see everything going on with Stiles, or think it’s as important as this world-ending, life-changing romance he’s got going on. Stiles is the subplot – and I might point out, it’s one that Scott is still pretty invested in. Since, you know, he’s here. And I’m pretty sure the reason he keeps snarling at you is because he’s jealous that Stiles has a new friend. One who isn’t him.”

“That’s his problem, not mine,” Derek snaps, “and he’s got no God damned right to be jealous of Stiles having a friend when he can’t go ten minutes without talking about Allison.”

“Okay. That’s one hundred percent true. But I think it would do you a lot of good to be the bigger man here.”

Now Derek is really scowling, and Tom lets that sit as he lights the grill and tosses the match into the top of the chimney. Finally, Derek bites out, “Why?”

“Because you’re older, Derek. You’re the one with the emotional maturity to sit back and say, ‘yes, Scott is being a jerk, but I don’t have to antagonize him at every possible opportunity’. Because I can promise you that the way you two are fighting is not helping Stiles. The ground’s already pretty shaky beneath him right now. His best friend and his to-be-boyfriend hating each other isn’t making him feel any better.”

Derek sighs. “I know that, I just . . . I don’t know how else to deal with him.”

“Ignore him. He’s not your problem. You don’t have to go out of your way to tell him that his relationship is doomed. If you think he’s making Stiles uncomfortable, change the subject. If you think he’s hurt Stiles’ feelings, say something that will make Stiles feel better, not something that will make Scott feel like shit.” Tom watches the coals, frowning a little. “We’re all getting used to each other, and to be frank I’m not sure how I wound up in charge of this. I don’t know where the hell Peter is in all this. It’s like he just dumped them all in my lap.”

“Peter wasn’t good at relating to teenagers even when he was a teenager,” Derek says. “I guarantee you that he has zero clue how to talk to these kids. He can fake it, like he did on the shopping trips, but it wears him out. He needs to listen to Arlo Guthrie and yell at people to get off his lawn afterwards, before he’ll feel like himself again.”

The visual makes Tom laugh despite himself. “Well, he can’t dump it all on me, but that’s something for the two of us to negotiate, not you. In the meantime, just be there for Stiles, okay? Because I promise you, in the long run, that’s going to annoy Scott more than any barbed comment about Allison you could ever make.”

Derek snorts despite himself. “Okay. He, uh.” He rubs a hand over the back of his hair. “I’m worried about him. His nightmares aren’t getting better.”

“I know.” Tom studies the grill again. “I keep putting off talking to him about it, hoping that things will settle down and he’ll get better, but maybe this is as settled as things are going to get.”

“He knows he might need to talk to someone,” Derek offers. “He mentioned a counselor at his school, although he didn’t seem to like her very much.”

“Yeah?” That’s a promising sign, if Stiles has accepted that he might not be able to get through this just by wanting it. “Okay, thanks. I’ll talk to him about it. Why don’t you go collar him and tell him to make a salad? If anything is going to make him feel better, it’ll be shoving rabbit food down my throat.”

Derek laughs. “Yeah, okay. I’ll do that.”

“Actually, before you go,” Tom says, emptying the chimney out over the bed so he can start the steaks. “I was wondering what you thought about how many people Peter is turning.”

At this, Derek shrugs, looking neutral. “It makes sense. The more betas, the stronger the pack. Three is really a bare minimum. There really is no maximum number you can have, although I’ve heard that larger packs have problems sharing the alpha. A problem I guess we won’t have, since Peter isn’t even around.”

“Mm hm. It’s just that Peter obviously wants to turn Boyd, and . . . I guess I’m not comfortable with that.”

“Uh . . . why?”

Tom sighs. “I don’t know. I was sort of hoping you would tell me that Peter is moving too fast, coming on too strong, and my worries would look rational. If you think what he’s doing isn’t a problem, then maybe I’m the one who needs to take a step back.”

Derek shifts uncomfortably. “I don’t know a lot about building a pack, but what Peter’s doing seems normal to me. He didn’t go out looking for Boyd. Erica’s the one who brought him in. That’s usually how it works – betas bringing in friends and family to expand the pack. If Boyd’s willing, then there’s no problem.”

“Maybe I just feel like a teenager really can’t understand something that would affect them the rest of their lives. They’re sixteen. They can’t vote, can’t join the military – they can’t even get a tattoo, for crying out loud.” Tom takes a deep breath. “I made exceptions for Erica and Scott because of their illnesses. Boyd is different. Peter says I only feel this way because I was turned against my will. That it’s preconditioned me to think of lycanthropy as a bad thing. But I don’t know. It’s both good and bad, I think. But it’s different. It’s not the sort of choice a child should be making. But I’m worried that if I tell Peter that, he’ll just go find more chronically ill teenagers to bite.”

“I don’t think so,” Derek says. “You brought Erica to his attention. Scott, too. You told him not to bite Boyd, so he hasn’t. Don’t you see what he’s doing? He’s letting you choose the pack members. Maybe that’s why he’s keeping his distance. It probably feels like this is more your pack than his.”

Tom blinks at him, but he has to admit that Derek has a point. “I guess I’ll talk to him about that. I don’t want him feeling left out.”

Derek shrugs and shoves his hands in his pockets. “That’s his problem, not mine.”

Tom snorts. “Fair enough. Okay, I’ll stop trying to make you solve all my problems now. Why don’t you go in and tell Stiles to get started on the salad?”

“Okay.” Derek pauses, then says, “But I don’t mind. You know, being a sounding board when you need one.”

“Thanks, Derek,” Tom says. “I appreciate that, really.”

Derek gives a hesitant little smile, then turns and heads back into the house.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

It takes Tom over a week to arrange a meeting with Chris, whose behavior is starting to border on paranoid. Tom supposes that he can’t really blame him, considering the content of his father’s character. Chris agrees to meet him at another diner, but insists that Tom wait until he’s been there fifteen minutes before showing up, so it will look like Tom tracked him down rather than something pre-arranged.

“If you didn’t want to meet in person, I could have just texted you,” Tom says, after the waitress puts down his coffee and walks away.

“And risk the texts being read? No, thank you,” Chris says.

Tom thinks about mentioning that phones have this nifty feature called ‘password protect’, but then thinks better of the idea. That might help Chris, but it might not. Gerard probably doesn’t know the password to Chris’ phone – but Victoria probably does. And given some of the things that Allison has said about her mother, Tom is pretty sure that she’s not on their side. “Well, I have kind of an odd question. Do you know if your father is sick?”

Chris gives him a blank look. “He hasn’t mentioned it. Why?”

“Apparently werewolves can smell certain illnesses,” Tom says. “I didn’t realize what it was when I met him, so I went and talked to Deaton. We think it may be a kind of cancer. He had – well, there’s no way to say this that isn’t weird, so here it is: I spent half an hour smelling sick dogs.” He looks up at the ceiling. “Why is this my life?”

Chris gives a snort of laughter despite himself, but the smile fades quickly. “I don’t know. Like I said, he hasn’t said anything about it. But he wouldn’t. Anyway, I don’t see how it’s relevant.”

“It could be. The bite cures illnesses, remember?” Tom says. At this, Chris just looks blank. The idea of his father wanting to be a werewolf is such a foreign concept to him that Tom has to spell it out, continuing, “He might be trying to find Peter so he can get the bite, and cure himself.”

“Are you kidding?” Chris shakes his head. “My father would never do that.”

“I don’t know, Chris. A terminal diagnosis can change people in pretty profound ways.” Tom doesn’t bother to bring up Peter’s opinion that Gerard only hunts werewolves because he likes the challenge. “Trust me, because I remember this from when my wife got sick. That bargaining stage can go to some pretty impressive extremes.”

“You say that because you don’t know him like I do,” Chris says.

“Maybe. And I guess it doesn’t really matter in the long run. The reason he wants to find Peter is moot, but I also have to wonder if finding Peter is his entire goal. Peter’s not exactly hiding. I mean, he’s not subtle even at the best of times, and he’s been at my house more evenings than not. Which makes me feel like there’s something else to this that we’re not seeing. It’s not enough for him to find Peter, if Peter has no reason to give him the bite. So just humor me for a few seconds and consider. If your father wanted to force Peter to bite him, how would he do it?”

Chris still looks dubious, but he stops and thinks about the question. “Leverage,” he finally says. “He knows that Peter wouldn’t break under torture. Not someone who’s been through the sort of pain he has. Which means he needs someone that Peter cares about – and not just anyone. Gerard would kill Peter as soon as he’s turned, to get the alpha power. He would never risk Peter having power over him.”

“Apparently there’s a possibility that killing the alpha who turned you reverses the bite,” Tom says.

Chris shrugs. “I’ve never heard that. But I haven’t exactly spent a lot of time interviewing werewolves, either. And my point stands. If it reverses the bite, so be it. In fact, from my father’s standpoint, that would be even better. He’d be cured, and wouldn’t be a werewolf.”

“Okay,” Tom says, though he makes a mental note to check and see if this is true. Peter had mentioned that Scott was still technically asthmatic, and Erica still epileptic – it was just that their bodies could halt and heal the damage their diseases did. Gerard might be in for one kick in the ass if he turned Peter and killed him, expecting to be cured. “And Peter would know this, which means he wouldn’t just do what Gerard wanted unless he had a damned compelling reason.” He pushes a hand through his hair, thinking things over. It’s what he had expected out of Gerard, but he still has questions. “But there are plenty of vulnerable people in Peter’s life right now. Why not go after Derek, or me and Stiles? Peter risked his life to save us already.”

“True. But that was a calculated risk, and he knew he had a good chance of surviving. This would be different.” Chris stirs his coffee slowly, as if looking for the answers in the mug. “It’s one thing for Peter to risk his life for you. It’s another for him to give his life for you.”

Tom has to admit that Chris has a point. “None of this makes Gerard’s plan any more clear.”

“I don’t suppose your werewolf nose gave you any sort of idea how much time my father has?” Chris asks, and Tom shakes his head. “Okay. But my guess is that we’re talking six months or more. My father can be very patient. He might just be waiting for the opportune moment. Waiting, and watching, to see what Peter does.”

“If he’s watching us, he’s doing a good job of not giving himself away,” Tom says. “None of us have noticed anything.”

“Give us some credit. We’re good at what we do, you know.” Chris finishes his coffee, then sighs. “Look. Since we’re talking. Maybe you can do me a favor. My wife . . . isn’t happy with the fact that Allison is dating a werewolf.”

“So I’ve heard,” Tom say dryly. “Repeatedly. Dramatically. Often with profanity you probably wish your daughter didn’t know. Occasionally with references to the KKK.”

Chris pinches the bridge of his nose. “I know you think that we’re bigoted assholes, okay? I know you think my wife is being ridiculous. I’m still trying to make sense of all this, and I’m doing my God damned best.”

Tom sighs. “Okay, you’re right. My attitude isn’t helping, and I apologize. What favor are you hoping I can do for you?”

“If I say something to Allison, she’s just going to get her back up. But she respects you. She’s smart enough to know that you’re the one who wanted her in the loop, not me. Could you just talk to her, and, and try to explain to her that even though she’s the one in the right, throwing this in Victoria’s face is only making things worse?”

Tom takes a moment to think about that, deciding whether or not it would be a good idea. “As long as you understand that I’m not going to tell her to break up with Scott, or even pretend to break up with Scott, yes. I will talk to her about maybe taking it a bit easy on you guys, because unlearning prejudice is hard work, and screaming at people about it never fixed anything.”

Chris looks a little relieved. “Thanks. I mean.” He shifts uncomfortably. “Scott seems like a good kid. I’m hoping if we just give Victoria some time to get used to the idea, she won’t be as upset.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Tom heads back to work, thinking things over. He tries to remember when Peter’s absence had started. Was it after they had found out Gerard was sick? Is he trying to distance himself from the betas, from Tom and Stiles, to make them look less like targets? He thinks it might have been. His house has been Pack Central from the beginning, but it’s only in the last week or two that Peter himself has stopped showing up in the evening.

There’s only one way to find out, so for the first time, he heads over to Peter’s apartment. It’s downtown, in an old brick building. It’s a little on the small side, although it would be fine for one person, and somehow Peter has decorated it with old tapestries and walls of books. “Well, look who the cat dragged in,” he says, smirking as he stands back to let Tom inside.

“I talked to Chris,” Tom says. “His father hasn’t said anything about being sick, but Chris says he might not talk to him about it.”

“Hello to you, too. Want a beer?”

Tom sighs. “Sure,” he says, and follows Peter into the little galley kitchen. Peter gets two bottles and hands one over. Tom takes it, but doesn’t drink. “So if Gerard wants to force you to turn him into a werewolf, what do we do?”

Peter shrugs. “Nothing. It doesn’t matter what he does; I’m not going to do it.”

“Okay,” Tom says slowly, “but he’s not exactly going to take no for an answer.”

“So he’ll try to hurt the pack, and I’ll kill him. Problem solved.” Peter takes a pull from his beer. “Anything else?”

“I thought this might be why you’re distancing yourself from the pack.”

Peter arches an eyebrow. “No. I’m doing that because you made it quite clear that you think I’m a bad influence on them and you don’t want me around.”

That takes Tom aback. “Wait. I did what now?”

Peter’s eye roll is dramatic. “You didn’t want me to turn them to begin with, even when I talked to them about it first. I know that you and I don’t exactly co-exist on the same moral wavelength, but if you don’t want me around them, you should have just said so.”

“If I didn’t want you around them, I would have just said so.” Tom is frowning at him. “Instead, you dumped everything in my lap and I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to get a bunch of kids with all these new instincts to not murder each other. It hasn’t exactly been easy, and I really don’t appreciate suddenly being the one responsible for it.”

“Jesus, Tom, what do you want from me?” Peter asks. “No matter what I do, it’s the wrong thing. You didn’t want me to build a pack at all – ”

“That is not true – ”

“You tried to talk me out of turning literally everyone I turned, and then you got snippy when I turned them anyway, even if you had previously agreed to it! So I thought, now that I have the strength and numbers I’d need to get rid of Gerard if I had to, I’ll just let you handle things. Now you’re pissed at me for that. So what the hell do you want me to do?”

Tom pushes a hand through his hair. “Okay. Let’s back up. I know that – ” He stops and lets out a breath. “I know that I might not be entirely rational about you turning betas. I know that I haven’t reacted well, but I tried to put a lid on it. I’ve never talked about it in front of the kids. I didn’t say anything to Boyd except that you weren’t around. So even though I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of you turning people, I’ve recognized that that’s my problem, not anybody else’s. So why don’t you tell me when exactly I gave you the idea that I didn’t want you near the kids at all?”

“Think back, Tom. Think about when I said we should turn Stiles for his protection, and you ripped my head off.”

“Because Stiles doesn’t want to be a werewolf!” Tom takes a deep breath. “But you’re right. I overreacted. It’s hard to see my son hurting and not know how to help him.”

“You told me no, and I would have respected that, but then you had to go and tell me not to pressure him behind your back. Which is something I hadn’t done to anyone. So thank you, Tom, for your vote of confidence. Thank you for warning Allison that I’m a deranged lunatic who can’t be trusted – ”

“Peter, I didn’t – ”

“Yes, you did! And I know you did, because you wouldn’t have had a problem with me being there for that conversation, wouldn’t have gotten rid of me first, if you weren’t going to say that. I don’t know what I ever did to you to make you treat me like this, but – ”

“Okay, hold the fuck up,” Tom says, losing his temper. “You don’t know what you did to me? Are you fucking kidding me with that, Peter? You attacked me, changed me into a werewolf, then spent the next several weeks trying to force me to help you. You tried to make me hurt my son. You got me involved in all of this, against my will, and that ended in my son nearly being killed! He can’t sleep at night because of what happened, and you don’t know what you did?”

Peter looks away. “I thought – you were okay with what had happened after it was over – ”

“Even if I am, that doesn’t mean you didn’t do it. Me adjusting to my new life, me learning how to deal with this, doesn’t magically make what you did to me a non-issue.” Tom takes a deep breath. “We all have to work together now, so I’m trying, okay? I know that you weren’t entirely in your right mind, and I know you aren’t my enemy. I’m doing my best to help you, but don’t leap down my throat when I don’t react the way you want me to, because I’m still trying to deal with this.”

“Fine.” Peter still won’t look at him. “Although, you know, this only makes it seem more like you don’t want me around.”

“Peter, I want to be over what you did to me. I want to move on and be your friend. If I could snap my fingers and do it in an instant, I would. It just doesn’t work that way. I’m putting in an effort, so I need you to do that, too. And that doesn’t mean making everything my responsibility because you think that I’ll be happier that way. Use your words, for Christ’s sake.”

Peter nods. He doesn’t speak for a long minute. Finally, he says, “I’m sorry. For what I did to you. I don’t think I had said that before.”

Tom relaxes, his shoulders releasing tension he hadn’t realized was there. “That’s a great start, Peter. Thank you. Not being sarcastic at all, I genuinely appreciate that.”

“Can we – ” Peter’s head jerks around suddenly, like he’s heard a noise in the distance. “I have to go,” he says abruptly. “One of the betas is in trouble. Scott, I think.”

“I should go with you – ”

“No.” Peter’s eyes are crimson, but his voice isn’t angry. “I want you out of harm’s way. Get the others, go back to the house. Keep them safe. I’ll meet you there once I’ve collected Scott.”

He’s out the window without another word, and Tom knows he won’t catch up. He grabs his phone and calls Stiles, who says he’s at the house with Derek. Isaac, Erica, and Boyd are there, but Scott and Allison aren’t. Tom tells them to sit tight, he’ll be there in a few minutes, and heads home. He uses the lights but not the sirens, and gets home in half the time it would normally take.

“What’s going on?” Stiles asks, his face even paler than usual.

“I’m not sure,” Tom says. “Peter said something was wrong. He went to collect Scott.” He squeezes Stiles’ shoulder and says, “I’m sure he’ll get Scott out of whatever trouble he’s gotten himself into.”

It hasn’t escaped Tom’s notice that this is probably some sort of trap, even though he can’t imagine why Gerard would have picked Scott, of all people, to target. He’s tense and anxious as he paces around the house, waiting. Derek remarks quietly that they would know if their alpha had been killed, which brings Tom a little comfort.

Fortunately for his nerves, Peter shows up about ten minutes later, with one arm around Scott’s shoulders, helping him stumble along. The teenager is paler than usual and has some scuff marks on his face and his clothes. “What happened?” Stiles demands, pulling Scott into a tight hug. Scott just coughs a little and hugs back.

Derek reaches out, hesitates, and then gives Scott’s shoulder a squeeze. “Come on. Let’s get you sitting down.”

Scott nods. Tom and Derek help him over to the sofa, and Isaac gets him a glass of water. “What happened?” Tom asks again, more quietly.

“Allison’s mom,” Scott wheezes. “She had wolfsbane in this aerator thing. Wanted to make it look like an asthma attack.”

Tom’s jaw tightens and he immediately starts wondering how much of this might be provable in a court of law. He looks over at Peter, only to realize that Peter’s gone. He startles a little, then sighs and pulls out his phone. He debates for a long moment over what to send, since ‘please don’t go kill every living Argent’ is probably uncalled for. He starts with ‘are you okay?’

A few minutes later, while everyone is still fussing over Scott, Peter texts back a simple, ‘yes’.

‘Is there anything you need me to do?’

‘No,’ Peter replies.

Tom thinks this over. ‘Should I go arrest Victoria Argent?’

Peter replies more quickly than he would have expected. ‘By now she will have disposed of the evidence. Getting Scott to safety was my priority. I doubt we could prove anything. We’ll just have to be more careful.’

‘Okay,’ Tom replies. He tucks away his phone and says, “Scott, you should call your mother. I want you staying here tonight. We’re going to have to talk about some safety rules, but let’s worry about that tomorrow. Stiles – ” He sees the way Stiles is hovering over Scott, and changes his mind. “Never mind. I’ll order some dinner. Chinese okay with everyone?” he asks, and everyone seems fine with that. Tom pulls out a take-out menu and settles in for a long evening.

He doesn’t sleep much that night. Peter still doesn’t appear. Tom doesn’t know why, and he doesn’t like it. Stiles is clearly one inch away from having a complete freak-out, no matter how many times Scott reassures him that he’s okay. Derek, to his credit, has packed away the jealousy and is staying right by both of them without antagonizing Scott even a little. Tom makes a mental note to call Deaton in the morning and ask if he can recommend a counselor for Stiles.

He finally drifts into an exhausted doze near dawn, and sleeps later than he means to. His phone wakes him, and he sees Chris’ name on the screen. “Oh, this should be good,” he mutters, and picks it up. “Yes?”

Chris’ voice trembles slightly. “I need your help.”

Tom pushes back the urge to be petty. “With?”

“With my wife,” Chris says. Tom is about to open his mouth and tell Chris that he was lucky his wife hasn’t been arrested, but then Chris continues. “I think she’s going to kill herself.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Tom’s first thought is that this is a little too Shakespearian for his tastes. He tries to remember if Juliet’s mother had killed herself. Had Juliet even had a mother? He needs to get four more hours of sleep. Instead, he says, “Hang on. I’m going to need coffee before I have you repeat what you just said.”

He gets out of bed and heads downstairs. He’s glad it’s a weekend, and the kids are all still asleep. He starts the coffee maker, then looks in the refrigerator and finds one of Stiles’ cans of Mountain Dew. It’s disgusting, but the sugar and caffeine is what he needs right now. After a long swig, he puts the phone back to his ear. “Okay. Repeat.”

“I think my wife is going to kill herself,” Chris says.

“That’s what I thought you said. Why?”

Chris lets out a breath. “It’s – tradition. In hunter families. If you get bitten, you kill yourself before the first shift sets in.”

“I’m sorry, if you get what?”

Chris’ silence is telling. “Peter didn’t tell you.”

“No, he failed to mention – why don’t you start at the beginning? Tell me what you know, and then I’ll tell you what I know.”

“I don’t know a lot. Peter attacked Victoria, and she got bitten, and now she – ” Chris’ voice cracks a little. “She’s planning to kill herself, and Gerard is planning to kill Peter . . . or so he says. He wants me to help him, and at the moment I’m inclined to agree.”

“Did Victoria mention at any point why Peter attacked her?” Tom asks, and Chris admits that no, she had not. “She was trying to kill Scott. She hit him with a car, then dragged him into an abandoned garage, and tried to poison him with wolfsbane in an aerator. Peter went to rescue him. He didn’t mention biting Victoria when he did this, and believe me, I will have a discussion with him about that, but let’s not grab torches and pitchforks. What, exactly, do you want me to do about your wife?”

“I need you to talk to her. Tell her that being a werewolf isn’t that bad. You didn’t want it either, but you – ” Chris takes a deep breath. “I know that you probably couldn’t care less. But she’s my wife. The mother of my daughter. Please come talk to her.”

Tom pinches the bridge of his nose. “Let me take a shower and have a couple more cups of coffee, and I’ll be right there. But I’m going to need you to do something for me before I get there.”

“Name it,” Chris says.

“Go through your father’s things. Find out what those pills are and text me the information. I think I can talk your wife out of killing herself, but I’m going to need that information.”

“Okay. Give me a few minutes. And thank you.” Chris sounds immensely relieved. He says goodbye and hangs up.

Tom heads for the shower, considering how to handle this. When he gets out, he sends Peter a text that just reads, ‘Something you forgot to mention last night?’

He doesn’t get an immediate reply, so he gets dressed and then heads into the bedroom. The teenagers are sprawled out all over Stiles' floor in various states of disarray, but Derek is awake, sitting up in Stiles’ bed with a book with Stiles asleep in his lap. “What’s going on?” he asks, clearly having heard Tom talking to somebody.

“I have to go out for a little while,” Tom says. “I’ll give you the details later. Stay here, make sure none of the kids go anywhere, okay? Call me if you need help.”

Derek nods, and Tom turns to leave, feeling slightly less uneasy than before. Peter still hasn’t replied to his text, and he doesn’t like that one bit. He supposes that Peter might be feeling defensive, so he sends another text that reads, ‘Please let me know that you’re okay.’

This, Peter replies to, just as Tom is pulling into the driveway of the Argent house. His reply is just ‘I’m fine’, and now Tom is annoyed. He files that away. He can go see Peter after he’s dealt with Victoria Argent.

Chris lets him in. He hasn’t shaved and there are dark circles underneath his eyes. He gestures for Tom to follow him into the living room. Tom inquires after Allison’s whereabouts and Chris tells him that she’s out shopping with Lydia. That’s good. He’d prefer not to have her here for this discussion. In the living room, Victoria is sitting on the sofa with a bandaged arm, and Gerard is speaking quietly into her ear. Tom can guess at what he’s saying, and he feels his temper thin when Gerard just smiles at his entrance.

“Okay,” Tom says, “apparently we need to talk.”

“We really don’t,” Victoria says, giving him an icy stare as Chris sits down next to her.

“Well, I originally thought I would come over here to arrest you,” Tom says. “But apparently that’s unnecessary since you’re just going to kill yourself.”

Victoria’s jaw tightens. She darts a glance at Chris, who rubs a hand over his face and looks away. “This is none of your concern, Sheriff. I’d like to ask you to leave.”

“Mrs. Argent, you and I are going to have a talk one way or another. You can either talk to me here, or I can bring you down to the station to question you about your assault on Scott McCall. To be frank, I would prefer the latter, because I could get you by yourself, but I thought you might be more receptive if I spoke to you where you’re comfortable.”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gerard says gravely. “We can’t allow – ”

“Excuse me, sir,” Tom says. “At no point was I talking to you.”

Victoria is still glowering at Chris. “Why would you bring him here? I’ll do what I have to do. The man I married would have understood that.”

Chris won’t look at her, but he says, “The man you married does understand, but the father of your child wants you to reconsider. Vicky.” His voice lowers and he finally glances at her, although he can’t hold her gaze. “Just talk to him. Just – ”

“This is unacceptable, Chris.” Gerard’s voice has gone cold. “Not only is she a werewolf now, but her alpha is our enemy. He’ll be able to control her, use her against us. Why do you think he bit her in the first place? We can’t allow that sort of weakness. The woman you married is dead, Chris. When the moon rises, that will just be a monster wearing her skin – ”

“If you really believed that, why are you angling to get the bite from Peter Hale?” Tom asks the question casually, tossing it out into the room to see what happens.

Chris’ jaw tightens. Victoria jerks her head around, truly startled. And Gerard, well. His eyes go momentarily wide and his back stiffens, just enough tension for Tom to know that he’s hit the mark. He recovers well, and says, “I don’t know what – ”

“Come on, Gerard. You’ve been in town three, four weeks now, and you still haven’t moved on Peter. You have to know where he is. He’s not even hiding his comings and goings at my house. If you wanted Peter Hale dead – or me, for that matter – you would’ve made a move by now. But you’re not. So instead you . . . let’s see if I have the chronology right here. You encourage Victoria to try to split up Scott and Allison, knowing it won’t work, and then convince her to try to kill Scott. You probably figured Peter would kill her, and then you could get Chris and maybe Allison on your side. Turn Allison into a spy for you, maybe? With their help, you could manage to capture Peter, or maybe me and Derek, so you could coerce him into turning you. Your cancer must be pretty far advanced if you’re on oral chemo. You’ve probably got what, six months left, maximum? You could probably push that out pretty far with the bite.”

 “How did you – ” Gerard looks at Chris, and his mouth purses like he had bitten down on a lemon as he realizes Chris must have gone through his things.

“So let’s make a deal. How about, you acknowledge that werewolves aren’t actually monsters, and in return, I’ll set you up with a therapist you can talk to about moving on from the bargaining stage of grief. In the meantime, for once in your life, how about you keep your mouth shut.”

“If you think I’m going to let you talk to me that way – ”

Tom ignores him, and turns on Victoria. “As for you, the woman who tried to murder my son’s best friend, you know what? If you want to kill yourself, go ahead,” he says, and Chris makes a noise like Tom just kicked him in the stomach. “But first, I’m going to go get your daughter, and you’re going to sit down with her and explain exactly what you did, why you did it, and why you feel that leaving her motherless is a better option than getting fangs and fur during a full moon. If you’re still willing to pull the trigger after she’s begged you not to go – and believe me, Mrs. Argent, I know better than anyone else in this room what it’s like to deal with a child who is losing their mother – then I’ll read the eulogy at your funeral. Do we have a deal?”

Victoria’s jaw is trembling. She clears her throat and says, “It isn’t that I want to leave Allison. It’s just that – ”

“Then don’t,” Tom says flatly.

Victoria says nothing.

“Vicky,” Chris says quietly. “Please.”

Seeing that he’s making some headway, Tom gentles his tone. “I wasn’t exactly the world’s biggest fan of lycanthropy for the first week or two. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it’s all roses. It’s not easy. But it’s not as horrible as you think it is. You’re going to be okay. If you can believe that, then we can get you through this. Nobody needs to die today.”

After a long moment, Victoria nods. Her fists clench in her lap, but she looks up to meet his gaze. “What about Peter?”

“What about him?” Tom asks.

“He can control me. Call me out.”

“Yes, he can. And frankly, I’m not going to promise that he won’t. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him yet, so I don’t know what his plan is. What I will say is that a strong-willed person can fight it off, and you seem pretty strong-willed. Peter wasn’t able to force me to do anything I didn’t want to do. He won’t be able to force you, either. So try not to worry about that for now.” He stands up and says to Chris, “I’ll call you once I’ve spoken to Peter.”

Chris nods. “I appreciate that.”

Tom turns to Gerard. “How about I drive you to a hotel? I doubt you’ll leave town, but I somehow feel like Chris doesn’t want you in his house, near his wife and daughter.”

“That’s between me and my son.”

Tom gives Chris a questioning look, asking silently if he wants Tom to remove Gerard by force. Chris sighs and shakes his head a little. Tom doesn’t like it, but he doesn’t have grounds to drag Gerard out of the house, so he says, “Suit yourself,” and departs, heading for Peter’s apartment.

He sits in his car in the parking lot for several long minutes, trying to decide how to tackle this. He’s less angry at Peter for biting Victoria than he is for Peter neglecting to mention that fact to him. He suspects that Peter has his reasons, but he doesn’t like having been left in the dark. Still, he knows from experience that if he gets his back up, Peter will just get defensive, and they’ll end up arguing. They had been making genuine progress the night before, so with that in mind, he heads up to the apartment and knocks before going inside.

Peter is standing by the window, watching the traffic on the road. He turns when Tom comes in, and greets him with, “Did she kill herself?”

“Not yet,” Tom says, “and I think I’ve gotten her talked out of it. Hello to you, too. Got any coffee?”

Peter still looks wary, but since Tom isn’t yelling at him, he nods and heads into the kitchen. The coffee is fresh from that morning, but only lukewarm, so he’s been waiting for Tom for a while. Peter, like his nephew, prefers tea.

“So before I make a bunch of assumptions and impinge upon your character,” Tom says, “why don’t you tell me what happened yesterday, and why?”

“All right.” Peter nods a little, sipping his tea. “I didn’t go there with the intention of biting her. Honestly, I didn’t expect Victoria to be there at all. I won’t say biting her was an accident, but it wasn’t exactly on purpose, either. I was trying to get out as quickly as possible, before the wolfsbane could affect me. She came at me, and my hands were full because I was carrying Scott. I didn’t want to drop him, so I responded with my fangs. Then I took Scott and got out.”

“Okay.” Tom considers all this for a minute. “And?”

“And while I was driving Scott back to your house, it became clear what Gerard’s plan had been. He knew Victoria wouldn’t succeed in killing Scott. If he had really been invested in that end, he would have been there himself. He wanted me to kill her, or turn her. That would drive Chris against us and at the very least make Allison neutral, but more likely put him in a position where he could use Allison against us.”

“Mm hm,” Tom says. “And?”

“So it was only going to play out in one of two ways. Either Victoria would kill herself, and Gerard’s plan would succeed, or she wouldn’t. There was only one person who would be able to talk her out of it, and that was you. If you succeeded, then Chris and Allison would both be indebted to us and Gerard would be separated from his support.”

“And all this makes perfect sense,” Tom says. “I don’t fault your plan. But I still don’t know why you didn’t tell me.”

“Because you would have rushed right over there to try to help. You had to be surprised, Tom. Chris had to reach out to you, and your surprise had to be genuine, because if it hadn’t been, they would have thought you were complicit. That I had purposefully turned Victoria so you could manipulate her husband and daughter into supporting you.” Peter shrugs a little. “I didn’t know whether or not Chris would call you. But I know what it was like to lose the woman I loved. I banked on the fact that he would.”

Tom lets out a slow breath. He thinks all of this over. Then he nods and says, “Okay.”

Peter glances over at him. “Are we? Okay?”

“Yeah, I think so. I’m not exactly thrilled with what happened, but it could have been a lot worse. You saved Scott’s life. You didn’t kill Victoria. You had faith in me to fix the mess that her attack on Scott left us with. I think I’m more than okay with all those things.”

Peter’s silent for a few moments. “I thought you might not believe me. That I hadn’t planned it.”

Tom shrugs a little. “You know, you’ve done a lot of shit that hasn’t exactly sat well with me. But you wouldn’t have planned this.” He sees Peter arching his eyebrows, and can’t help but laugh a little. “I think I know your plans pretty well by now. You wouldn’t bet the farm on Victoria Argent being rational, even if you did have faith in me that I would deliver a stirring speech.”

Peter gives a snort. “That’s true. I would’ve bitten Chris. He’d never leave his daughter alone. Once he’d realized being a werewolf wasn’t the end of the world, he could have been a real help. You know, in retrospect that would have been a great plan – ”

“Oh, yeah. Fantastic.”

“Jealous?” Peter smirks at him.

“Absolutely green,” Tom says, rolling his eyes. “Come on. We should head back to the house and check in with the others.”

“All right.” Peter finishes his tea and accepts Tom’s empty mug. “You really aren’t angry with me?”

“Should I be?”

“I used you.”

Tom shrugs again. “You made the best of a bad situation. You did it for the pack’s sake, not for yourself. Am I thrilled that you kept the information from me to prompt a certain response? No. But you were right. If I hadn’t been surprised, Chris might have been suspicious, might have decided he didn’t want me to help. So I’m not going to give you the alpha medal of honor, but I’m not mad at you, either.”

Peter’s shoulders relax. “All right.”

“Now come on. I need to get home and check on Scott. How are you feeling, by the way? Any after effects?”

“I’m fine.”

“Scott was still coughing and complaining of a sore chest this morning.”

“Scott’s not an alpha. Besides, he was exposed for a lot longer than I was. I’m fine, Tom. Honestly.”

“Okay.” Tom gets them down to the car and heads home. It’s mid-morning now, so he stops and picks up donuts and coffee, knowing that it will cheer up the teenagers. They set on them like, well, wolves. Scott seems particularly hungry, and Peter says it’s an aftereffect of the healing he’s done. Stiles is the only one who’s just picking at his donut, although he’s certainly taking more than his fair share of the coffee.

Since they seem to be fine, he excuses himself to call Chris. The hunter picks up sounding tight and weary. “So I’ve spoken with Peter,” Tom says. He’s decided to be honest. Chris won’t like what’s happened, but he’ll like being lied to even less. “He assured me that he has no intent to call out your wife. He didn’t exactly turn her on purpose, but figured that if I could talk her out of suicide, it would keep Gerard from turning you and Allison against us.”

“Well, I guess he was right about that,” Chris says.

“Does that mean it worked?”

Chris is quiet for a minute. “If he had turned Victoria just for that reason, I’d be pissed. But she – did something unforgivable. She broke the Code. I can’t blame Peter for defending himself or a teenaged boy who had done nothing wrong. So yeah, it worked.”

“Great. Where’s Gerard?”

“I showed him the door, but he won’t go far.”

“Okay. Has Allison heard about what happened? Because if not, I suggest you clue her in before Gerard gets to her.”

“I’ll call her.”

They exchange pleasantries and then Tom hangs up. He goes into the other room and pulls Stiles aside, out of the room and then to the tiny closet that he calls his office. He pulls Stiles into a hug and just squeezes him tightly for a long time. Stiles is stiff at first, but then relaxes into it, clutching at his father’s shirt.

“You okay?” Tom finally asks.

Stiles nods, then shakes his head. “I don’t know. I’m scared, Dad. Scott nearly died. And I know Peter saved him, but . . .”

Tom tousles his hair. “I know. It’s scary. There’s nothing wrong with being scared. We’re going to take care of it, okay? And until then, we’ll all stick together. We’ll figure it out.”

“Okay.” Stiles rubs his eyes with the back of his hand. “Thanks, Dad. But, uh, I have to admit that I’d feel better if Allison’s mom was in jail. Scott was telling me about what happened, and, she, uh. She sounds kind of crazy.”

“I’m not one hundred percent thrilled with the fact that Mrs. Argent is going to get away with what she did,” Tom says, “but she won’t be able to hurt any of us now that she’s Peter’s beta. He’d be able to stop her. So that’s something we can tackle on a different day.”

“Okay. Yeah, that. That’s a good point.” Stiles lets out a breath. “Okay.”

“Come on, kid. You need to eat something.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

It turns into a surprisingly quiet, mellow day. Stiles gets his father to give him the Netflix account for the day and they marathon Stranger Things. Even Peter watches with rapt attention, which kind of amuses Stiles. They have enough groceries in the house that they don’t have to go out. Stiles already had the weekend meals planned before Victoria had made her move on Scott. The TV show is engrossing enough that it keeps him in one place, even though he’s tense and fidgety.

Allison turns up just before dinner, having heard the entire story from her parents. She hugs Stiles’ father for about ten minutes, thanking him repeatedly for keeping her mother from committing suicide. Tom pats her on the back and tells her that he doesn’t need to be thanked. Allison hugs him again and then goes to fuss over Scott. She’s obviously upset at what her mother had done, and Stiles knows the fallout from that incident isn’t over yet. Stiles still isn’t thrilled that Victoria’s not going to be arrested, but he doubts that Allison is going to let her go completely unpunished. He makes a mental note to buy Scott and Allison condoms.

After they’ve eaten, Chris comes to pick her up. He honks the car horn rather than coming to the door, and Stiles can’t help but roll his eyes. He’s starting to tense up again, and he doesn’t know how he’s going to sleep. He’d barely slept the night before, worrying over Scott, so he’s exhausted. But the nightmares are going to be awful, and his house is full of people. He doesn’t want any of them witnessing the worst of it.

“Okay, troops,” Tom says, after the dishes have been done and the leftovers, meager as they were, have been put away. “Everyone’s gotten cleared to stay here tonight, right?” he asks, and everyone confirms that they have. “Stiles, do we still have that old air mattress?”

“From that time you tried to convince me that camping was a thing either of us would enjoy?” Stiles asks. “Yeah, I think it’s in the attic. Want me to run and grab it?”

“Yeah,” Tom says, and Stiles heads up the stairs, glad to have something to do. It takes him five or ten minutes of rooting around in old boxes before he comes down with the air mattress and two sleeping bags.

“Not a fan of camping?” Derek asks, quietly amused.

“If camping were so awesome, people wouldn’t have invented houses,” Stiles tells him, and Derek snorts.

“We’ll probably have to take turns blowing this up,” Tom says, looking at the air mattress skeptically.

“I have the pump I use for my bike tires,” Stiles says, and grabs it from the garage.

While they’re doing that, Tom says, “So, the sofa folds out and I think it’s big enough for Isaac and Boyd. Erica, you can have the air mattress. If you take it into my office, you can have some privacy there. Scott, Derek, you two ought to be able to sleep in Stiles’ room.”

 Scott nods, then picks up the second sleeping bag and tosses it to Derek. Derek looks at it like Scott had just handed him a dead animal, then tosses it back. Stiles sees the expression on Scott’s face, a combination of confusion and irritation, and freezes, wondering briefly if anybody would notice him climbing out the window.

“We’re not all going to fit on the bed,” Scott says.

“I’m aware of that,” Derek replies. “That’s why you’re going to need the sleeping bag.”

“Dude,” Scott says. “Come on. I know you don’t like me, but there’s no reason for both of us to sleep on the floor when I can share the bed with Stiles.”

Stiles cringes, takes a deep breath, and mumbles, “Wantderkinthbedwime.”

Nobody hears him, possibly because Derek is trying to save him from embarrassment by continuing to argue with Scott. Of course, his manner of doing so leaves a lot to be desired, since what he says is, “Why don’t you go share Allison’s bed, her being your soulmate and everything?”

Scott flushes pink, and Tom intervenes. “Okay, that’s enough. Settle this like gentlemen or I will settle it for you.”

Derek’s jaw tightens. Scott clears his throat and says, “Look, um. Stiles and I have known each other since kindergarten, we’ve shared beds a lot at slumber parties and stuff, so it’s not a big deal, okay?”

Derek stares at him coldly for a long minute before he says, flatly and with deliberation, “You are an idiot.”

Tom practically facepalms, and he says, “Derek, I said – ”

“No,” Derek snarls, his fangs peeking through. “I’m not going to be polite about this when he’s standing there not even noticing the look on Stiles’ face right now, not even realizing what Stiles has been going through, trying to tell me it’s not a big deal because he has absolutely no idea why this is even an issue in the first place.” He turns to Stiles in a quick, jerky motion, and demands, “Stiles, do you want me to sleep in your bed tonight?”

Stiles is mortified, but the humiliation of being called out on this in front of everyone is far less agonizing than the fear of sleeping without Derek there at night. So he swallows hard and nods once, saying in a thin voice, “Yes, please.”

Scott blinks at him, confusion and jealousy and anger all warring on his face. “What the hell am I missing?”

If he was just confused, Stiles thinks he could take a deep breath and a step back and explain things rationally, maybe after getting everyone else out of the room. But the anger and the jealousy push his temper over the edge. “Oh my God! Seriously? Do you still not get this? Am I going to have to spell out for you that I’m a basket case right now and I can’t sleep without my werewolf security blanket? That I already didn’t sleep last night and if I don’t have Derek to cuddle with, I’m only going to have nightmares all night? I definitely wanted to have this discussion in front of everybody, too! Thanks, guys!”

“Ohhhhkay, we’re gonna – ” Boyd grabs Isaac by the elbow and Erica by the wrist, and tugs them out of the room. Peter departs quietly as well, although Tom stays.

“You said he wasn’t your boyfriend,” Scott manages.

“In what world is that even relevant right now?” Stiles asks. “No, he’s not my boyfriend! He’s kind of my to-be-boyfriend-someday, which you would know if you had actually ever asked me what was going on between the two of us, but you didn’t, because Allison, Allison, Allison. I don’t even care! You love Allison. I’m happy for you. But that’s not the point! Derek sleeping in my bed has nothing to do with whether or not we’re dating. He just – ” Stiles flushes pink up to the tips of his ears. “He makes me feel safe, okay?”

Derek blushes a little, too, and under normal circumstances that might have made Stiles gooey on the inside, but right now he’s full of rage and embarrassment.

“I just – look, I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t know you were having such a hard time.”

“Of course you didn’t! I didn’t exactly want to advertise it.”

“Yeah, but you – you used to tell me everything,” Scott says, sounding wounded.

Stiles’ temper frays further. “I didn’t tell you because nobody could understand this, okay? Nobody who hadn’t been through it. You want to hear about it? The craziest fucking things go through your head when you think you’re about to die. The first thing I thought when Kate pulled a gun on me was ‘I’m glad I just took a piss, because otherwise I’d be pissing myself’. Then she used my phone to take that fucking selfie and I thought, ‘my phone is going to be evidence now, I wonder if I can get a free upgrade from Samsung!’ Is this the kind of information you’re after?”

“Stiles, I didn’t – ”

“You don’t know, okay? Every God damned night I close my eyes and try to sleep and I see that fucking smile, hear her laughing at me. You know what she said to me? She’s strapping this fucking bomb to my chest and she said, ‘don’t worry, you won’t even feel it, it’ll be way worse for the kids who are further away’. Like that was supposed to be some sort of fucking comfort. Then – ” Stiles’ voice cracks and he shakes off Derek’s arm. He just wants to get it all out. Maybe it’ll help. He honestly doesn’t know, but he can’t stop, won’t stop. “She told me it didn’t matter what Peter or my dad did, one way or another that bomb was going off. She said she hoped I had dental records so they could figure out which teeth to bury. Then my dad showed up, right? And you know, there was that moment of relief, everything’s going to be okay, then I saw the look on his face and saw he was just as scared as I was. That’s when I knew I was going to die. Did you know you can actually get so scared that you black out while standing up? Like you’re still standing, your eyes are still open, but everything’s just this great white noise in your ears and you can’t see anything, can’t hear anything, like you’re already dead. So that’s what happened and that’s why every time I try to sleep I see Kate smiling and see my dad looking scared and I feel like I’m going to die all over again and I – ” He can’t breathe. His chest is tight and aching. He pulls for air, pulls hard. “And I went to school the next day and you asked ‘are you okay?’ and I said yes and for some reason you believed me so I didn’t say anything else about it because you were already back to talking about fucking Allison, how it must be so hard for her to find out her aunt was a killer, she must be so confused and upset and she – ”

“Hey, hey, Stiles,” his father says gently, putting his hands on Stiles’ shoulders. “You need to take some deep breaths. You’re hyperventilating.”

“I can’t, Dad, I – ”

“Yes, you can. You’re fine. Here, look at me. Take a deep breath in and hold it, okay, now let it out. There you go, that’s better. In . . . and out. In . . . and out.”

Stiles’ hyperventilating turns to shuddering sobs. He lets his father pull him into an embrace, smooth down his hair and rub circles on his back. “You’re okay, you’re safe now,” Tom murmurs. “I’ve got you, you’re safe now.”

Stiles gradually relaxes, letting the worst of the hysterics trail away into his father’s shoulder. Finally, he hiccups a little and pulls away, wiping a hand over his eyes. “Well,” he chokes out. “This is probably gonna go down as the most awkward slumber party of my life.”

“I don’t know,” Scott says, sounding dubious. “Remember when we were thirteen and you got seven minutes in Heaven with Briana Gorski?”

Stiles starts laughing. That’s pretty hysterical, too, but it makes him feel better, and Scott’s not pissed at him, which is good. “Oh my God. I think I had blocked that out of my memory.”

“Probably all for the best,” Scott agrees. He shuffles a little and says, “Look, uh. Sorry. Not just for not noticing what was up, but for, uh, for being a dick tonight. I just . . .”

“Nope, it’s fine, end of apologies before I die of embarrassment.” Stiles swallows again and says, “Just, uh, either cram in the bed with us or sleep on the floor, but don’t make Derek sleep on the floor, okay?”

“Okay,” Scott says.

“Great. Awesome. I’m gonna go wash my face and pretend none of this ever happened.” Stiles trots out of the room before anything else can happen. He spends several minutes in the bathroom, further calming down, before he emerges. The others have come out of wherever they’re hiding, and Tom is talking to them about the kind of precautions they’re going to need to take over the next few days.

“Okay, so the three of you can sleep in Stiles’ room, Erica in my office, Isaac and Boyd on the sofa,” Tom says.

Peter smirks at him. “Did you forget about me?”

“No,” Tom says, “but I figured no matter what I said, you’d respond with some shameless comment about sleeping in my bed, so I was just going to leave you out altogether.”

“Ah, you know me so well,” Peter says, going from a smirk to an outright grin. “That sounds like you’d be fine with it.”

“And there it is,” Tom says, rolling his eyes.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom sighs a little as he looks around his finally-silent house. He doesn’t want to keep the kids awake, so he finishes his tea, placing the empty mug in the sink, and then gestures for Peter to follow him upstairs. “Your ridiculous attitude aside, there’s nowhere else to put you, so you can sleep on the floor in here,” he says.

Peter nods and surprises Tom by not immediately making another lewd comment. Instead, he says, “I probably won’t sleep very much anyway. Do you mind if I move that chair over to the window?”

“Feel free,” Tom says. He heads into the bathroom to brush his teeth and comes out a few minutes later in a T-shirt and flannel pajama pants. Peter has curled up in the chair and is staring at the window, thoughtfully sipping his tea. “Okay if I turn the lights off?”

“Feel free,” Peter says. “It won’t bother me.”

Tom climbs into bed and then turns off the lights. It’s quiet for several long minutes.

“I am sorry, you know,” Peter says. “I never meant for Stiles to get involved in this. Never meant for him to be hurt like that.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Peter,” Tom says, with a quiet sigh. “I was upset the other day, when I brought it up.”

“Well, I deserved it,” Peter says.

“Agreed,” Tom replies, and Peter gives a quiet snort. “But my point stands. For two reasons. The first is simple. What Kate did to Stiles is just that. Something Kate did. She was a cruel, twisted individual and she hurt my son, and now she’s dead. As far as Kate goes, justice has been served. As for you . . . no, I’m still not entirely over what you did, but to be fair, I would have been involved anyway. I was already investigating Laura’s murder. I would have met Derek and probably reacted much the same way, even if I didn’t know about werewolves. He was a scared kid who needed help. It was obvious that the people being killed were people involved in the Hale house fire. So yeah, even if you hadn’t attacked me that night, I would have been involved. From there, it’s hard to say how things would have played out. But in the end, the only person responsible for what Kate did is Kate.”

Peter nods a little. Tom can see him in the dim light, pulling his legs underneath himself to curl tighter in the chair. “I haven’t thanked you either, I don’t think. So thank you, Tom. You’ve been a better friend than I deserve.”

Tom shrugs a little. “You’ve made some shit choices, that’s true. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that I do what I do entirely for you.”

“Meaning?” Peter asks.

“I decided to help you kill Kate - before she abducted Stiles - because of things she had done, and because I felt that it was the best choice out of a bunch of bad options. If it had happened like that, the way we planned, I wouldn’t have had any regrets. I don’t believe that killing someone is ever the right answer, but I do believe that sometimes it’s not the wrong one, either. After that - I chose to be your beta, I chose to help you, to try to build this pack, because I thought it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t just about being your friend, although that played a part. It was about helping Derek, and Scott, and maybe myself, too. I make choices based on what I think is best for everyone.”

“That’s unbelievably sexy, you know.”

“I’ll take your word on it.”

Peter takes a drink of his tea and then says, “Does it bother you when I say things like that?”

Tom looks over at him. “Not particularly, but I have to admit that I’m not sure what your actual intentions are.”

“I suppose I’m not sure myself.” Peter stares out the window for a long minute. “I think the reason I kept trying to push the pack onto you is because I don’t really want this pack. It’s not my pack. I’ve built it and it gives me the strength I need, but . . . my pack was Talia and Aaron and Olivia. This pack, it isn’t mine. Every time I see them, it just reminds me of what I’ve lost. It’s like losing them all over again.”

Tom sits up, pulling one knee up to his chest, thinking about this. “If there were some magic words I could say to make it better, I would. But the truth is, there is no magic. Just a lot of pain and grief and this, this kind of exhaustion that gradually turns into acceptance. I still miss Claudia almost every day. Last year would have been our twentieth anniversary, and I cried for an hour in the bathroom at work. It never goes away, but it gets better. You learn to live with it.”

Peter sighs. “Thanks. For not bull-shitting me.”

“I mean it when I say it gets better, though. Most days now, I can think back on the times with Claudia and I can smile. I can miss her, but still cherish the time we had together. You’ll get there, too. You’ll be able to look at the pack and be glad they’re there, even if they’re not who you want them to be. But, you know, maybe we’re both thinking about this the wrong way. You didn’t want this pack, so you tried to make them mine. I was annoyed because I thought of them as yours. But really, it’s our pack, isn’t it?”

Peter looks a little startled in the dim light, but then a faint smile touches his face. “Yes, I suppose it is. Our pack.” He lingers on the words. “I think I could be okay with that.”

“Me too.”

The silence lingers for a few minutes, but it’s a little more comfortable now.

Finally, Tom says, “In all seriousness, what’s with the incessant flirting?”

“You know, honestly, I think it was a way to comfort myself. To show myself that not everything had changed. The pack is gone, the people I love are dead, but . . . some things never change, and driving you around the bend by flirting with you might be one of them.”

“Don’t give yourself so much credit,” Tom says. “I’ve been driven around precisely zero bends.”

Peter laughs. “Still, you see what I mean. Honestly, I didn’t expect it to go anywhere at all. You never responded before.”

“Well, I was married,” Tom says. “Also a little oblivious.”

“Just a little,” Peter says, amused. “So where do we go from here, Tom?”

Tom thinks this over for a few moments. “I think we take it slow. Try something really outlandish, like going out on a date. Maybe don’t try to make it anything it’s not, but just . . . be who we are, run the pack, and see where it goes.”

“That sounds much too mature and reasonable for me.”

Tom snorts. “Yeah, I bet. You always were – what’s that phrase Stiles uses? A drama llama.”

“Is that different from a drama queen?”

“God knows. It’s like kids speak a different language these days. I could live a hundred years and never be able to explain why ‘sick’ is suddenly something good. But if you want to do something really mature and adult, you could try actually sleeping tonight.”

Peter arches an eyebrow. “Meaning?”

“When was the last time you slept? I’m guessing it’s been a while. You’ve been spending the nights at your own apartment, and my bet is that you’re on edge all night, even if you do manage to fall asleep. So get your ass over here.”

“You don’t mind?” Peter asks, although he’s already on his way over.

“Wouldn’t have offered if I did.” Tom lifts the blankets up so Peter can crawl into bed next to him. Peter chucks off his jeans but leaves the rest of his clothes on, and curls up right next to Tom, not quite touching but close enough that Tom can feel the warmth of his body. He hasn’t slept in the same bed as somebody else since Claudia died. It feels good, though. Better than he would have expected. Peter’s facing him, so it’s easy and almost natural to lean over and press a kiss against his forehead. “Get some rest, you infuriating bastard.”

“Thank you, Tom,” Peter murmurs, his eyes already sagging shut. “I think I will.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

“So like . . .” Scott’s voice trails off before he can even manage the first question. Stiles sighs a little, but he figured this was coming. Derek’s gone to take a shower, so it’s just the two of them in his bedroom. Scott has spread out the sleeping bag in the corner, but he’s not lying down yet. When Stiles doesn’t say anything, Scott rallies. “You said Derek is your to-be-boyfriend-someday?”

“Yeah. I mean. I’m sixteen, you know? And he’s twenty-one.” Stiles isn’t about to tell Scott anything about Kate’s assault on Derek. That’s just not his business. “So for now we’re just friends.”

“You could still date, though,” Scott says. “I mean, eighteen is age of consent for sex, not for dating.”

Stiles shrugs. “I don’t mind being his friend, though.” He sees Scott’s skeptical look and says, “Just because you don’t like him . . .”

“He’s just kind of a jerk,” Scott says.

“Yeah, well, so am I,” Stiles says with a shrug. “And yeah, he gets on your case about Allison, but I think he only does that because he’s defensive on my behalf that you care about her so much more than you care about me. Or at least that’s how he sees it, I’m not saying it’s true.”

“It’s not true,” Scott insists.

“I just said it wasn’t true.”

“No, you said you weren’t saying.”

Stiles flops backwards, drags a pillow over his face, and considers suffocating himself.

Scott sighs. “I’m sorry. I’m being a jerk again. Maybe I am just jealous. If you like him, that’s what’s really important.”

“I do like him. He’s really smart and honestly an enormous dork underneath his grumpiness. Like, he’s such a nerd. He’ll only drink loose leaf tea and he knows the name of that thing on your pencil that connects your eraser and he lectured me for ten minutes on why that painting that’s just a blue square is actually art. But he’s also just really sweet and I know it doesn’t seem like that because he’s a grouchy jerk most of the time, but he is. Like, I was telling the truth about why he came to the dance. He knew I was worried about going stag so he just decided to show up and surprise me so people wouldn’t tease me. He’s lost so much and it would be so easy for him to take it out on the rest of the world but he’s still really gooey on the inside. I’ll, uh, I’ll stop talking now.”

“Okay.” Scott is laughing quietly.

“And I’m not pissed at you for being head over heels for Allison, okay? I’m really not. She’s great and I want you to be happy. I only got pissed when you got weird about me making friends with Derek and doing werewolf stuff while you were off doing stuff with her.”

“Yeah, that was.” Scott winces. “Maybe not my best moment ever.”

“I mean, honestly, about the werewolf stuff, my dad made me promise not to tell you. He didn’t want you involved. And I can see why, you know? Because I was . . .” Stiles’ voice trails off and he lets out a breath. “I was so excited. I was psyched. My dad was a freakin’ werewolf, and we were going to have adventures and it was going to be like a movie and it was going to be awesome. But it . . . it wasn’t like that at all.” He swallows the lump in his throat. “Instead I found out about how alone and scared Derek was and how hurt he had been, and I had to watch my dad struggle with all this when he had always been so strong, and then Kate . . . and maybe that’s why I’ve had so much trouble dealing with this. Because it wasn’t just the, you know, the trauma of nearly getting murdered, it was just . . . I felt so small. Like I was in so far over my head without realizing it. And the world which had suddenly seemed so exciting and awesome was suddenly just fucking terrifying. It, uh, it sucks, is what I’m trying to get across here.”

“That definitely sounds like it sucks,” Scott agrees.

“So when I started having bad dreams, Derek would stay with me, and he never made a big deal out of it. Like, he never made me feel like I should just ‘get over it’ and never told me to man up or anything like that. I didn’t even have to ask him. He just realized that I slept better if he was here with me and started staying with me. That’s why I like him, you know? That’s the sort of person he is.”

“I get that,” Scott says with a nod. “I’m glad he’s been helping you.”

A few minutes later, Derek comes in, dressed in a T-shirt and boxer shorts. He wordlessly climbs into bed. Stiles turns the lights out before Scott can witness them actually curling up together, which would somehow still be embarrassing. He hears Scott lie down a moment later, as he curls up with his head tucked against Derek’s shoulder.

He drifts into bad dreams almost immediately, and sleeps restlessly despite Derek’s presence. He wakes up with a jolt at the sound of breaking glass, and for a minute he’s not sure if it was in his dream on in reality. Then there’s another crash, and a yelp from downstairs that sounds like Isaac.

A moment later, he smells smoke.

Derek snaps upright and is already scrambling to his feet while Stiles is still trying to process what’s happening. He gives Scott a solid kick on his way by, not to be a jerk, but because it’s the most expedient way to wake him. But by the time they get down the stairs, the entire first floor is engulfed in flames.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Tom doesn’t wake up when the first window breaks. He’s getting the best night of sleep he’s had in months, possibly years, with Peter tucked up against him. It’s not until he hears shouting that he claws his way back to consciousness, looking around blearily and wondering what the fuss is about. Then the smoke alarm goes off, and instantly he’s one hundred percent awake as he throws back the blankets and stumbles to his feet. He’s halfway to the door when he realizes Peter isn’t following him. He half-turns back and sees Peter still sitting in bed, eyes wide and body rigid.

“Peter, come on!” Tom doesn’t blame him for reacting like this, but there isn’t time for it. He grabs Peter by the wrist and yanks him to his feet. Peter staggers after him, and Tom tows him down the stairs. He’s surprised to see the rest of the pack all gathered in the living room, rather than having made a break for it, although the back door is already open. “Come on, kids, we need to - ”

“We can’t,” Derek says hoarsely.

“What do you mean, we - ” Tom comes up against the back door and finds his way blocked by an invisible wall.

“It’s mountain ash,” Derek says. His face is deathly pale. “It’s used to block supernatural creatures.”

Tom’s first, completely irrelevant thought escapes from his mouth. “Wait, so this whole time I was talking about how there was no way to put werewolves in prison, and there totally was? Never mind,” he adds hastily. The heat is intensifying as the fire spreads from the sofa where the firestarter had landed, to the curtains. The walls are starting to catch. “Okay, how do we break it?”

“You can’t,” Derek says. Despite his words, Erica and Isaac are running around to the different windows, trying to force their way through.

Tom turns to Peter. The werewolf is standing absolutely still, and Tom isn’t even sure he knows where and when he is. He takes Peter by the shoulders and gives him a little shake. “Peter. Come on. How do we get out of here?”

Peter blinks at him, and his mouth works silently for a few moments, but no sound comes out.

“Peter!” Tom shakes him again. “I know this is scary. But I need you to focus. We’re going to get out of here. Help me figure out how.”

“Wait, if it blocks supernatural creatures, then Boyd or I can break it, right?” Stiles asks suddenly, and darts for the back door.

“Stiles, no!” Derek shouts, and catches Stiles in a dive, throwing him across the room just as the gunshots ring out.

Tom lets go of Peter and stumbles over to his son. “Are you all right, are you hit?” he shouts. The noise of the fire is getting louder. Stiles manages to sit up and do a quick self-examination before shaking his head. Tom looks around, wondering why he doesn’t hear sirens. Gerard must have taken care of that somehow, must have bribed dispatch or sabotaged the fire engine - there are a lot of possibilities.

Tom can get around that, though. He can call the station directly, or call one of his deputies. But when he takes his phone out, it has no signal. He grabs the house phone instead, and there’s no dial tone. “Son of a bitch!”

There’s a crash somewhere distant as something in the structure of the house gives way. “Get down on the floor, everyone,” he says, as the thickness of the smoke intensifies. There will be breathable air there for longer. “Peter - ”

“It’s just like back then,” Peter whispers. “Everything is the same. I couldn’t - couldn’t save them. Joshua tried to break the circle and they shot him. He died in Talia’s arms. And Olivia - Olivia - ”

The word is more of a moan. Tom shakes him again, harder. He hates doing it, hates hurting Peter when he’s already in so much pain. “Listen to me, damn it! We can find a way out of this. We - we have to find a way out of this!” He looks around at the others. Isaac, Erica, and Boyd are huddled together. Scott is coughing hard while Derek hovers over him. Stiles is - God, Stiles is grabbing the photographs from the mantle and chucking them out the back door, thinking more of their precious family memories than his own life. “I need you to focus!”

“I can’t!” Peter presses both hands against his face.

“Yes, you can! I know this is scary. But you’re not alone. I’m here with you, and we’re going to find a way out of this!”

There’s another crash. Stiles lets out a yelp and staggers backwards as one of the bookshelves topples. “Will you fucking get down!” Derek yells at him, grabbing him and taking him to the floor again.

“I can’t find the photo album!” Stiles shouts back, trying to squirm free. “The one with Mom and Dad’s wedding pictures!”

“Stiles, let it go!” Tom says, and his voice cracks. He starts coughing, hard, and almost can’t catch his breath.

Something about that seems to jolt Peter back in action. He shoves Tom away suddenly and goes over to the back door. “Gerard!” he shouts. “I’ll give you what you want! Just let us out of here!”

Tom crawls over to one of the windows so he can look out into the back yard. Gerard emerges from the forest behind their house, his pace calm and almost slow as he walks over to the house. He steps carefully over the line of mountain ash at the back door and into the house. He’s carrying a rifle, as if they might decide to attack him despite the fire, and wearing a smirk that Tom wants to punch right off his face. Peter backs away to let him in, face changing as his fangs come out.

“Wait,” Tom says. “How do we know he’ll let us out afterwards?”

“He’ll have to,” Derek says, shouting to be heard over the noise of the fire. “Once he gets the bite, he’ll be a werewolf. He won’t be able to get out either. He’ll have to call his men off and have them let Stiles break the circle.”

Tom nods a little. “Okay,” he says, helping Stiles sit up. His son’s face is ashen, and he’s starting to cough hard. There’s just no time to debate. Peter doesn’t waste another minute. He sinks his fangs deep into Gerard’s forearm. Gerard keeps that same smirk on his face, and then takes a step backwards when Peter pulls away.

“Now was that so hard?” he asks, and Peter snarls at him. Gerard gets on his radio, saying a few brief words, then glances around. “Stiles, you can break the circle now.”

Stiles inches out cautiously, obviously still concerned that he might get shot. But nothing happens, and he brushes his hand over the mountain ash. Peter grabs Tom’s wrist in one hand and Derek’s elbow in the other and practically hurls them out of the house. The teenagers come pouring out after them, all of them staggering onto the back lawn in a variety of disarray.

Tom takes several deep breaths of the cool night air, then leans over to check on Stiles, who’s still pale and coughing. He seems to be recovering, though. Gerard is standing in the center of the yard, looking down at the wound on his arm with smug pride. Peter is still standing tense and alert, and Tom isn’t sure why until Gerard suddenly lifts his rifle and shouts, “Kill them all!”

Several things happen instantaneously.

Peter staggers backwards as Gerard fires twice, then shifts, not just to werewolf but to alpha, the enormous, hulking monster that Tom saw in the woods that fateful night. He knocks Gerard aside with one casual arm, sending him crashing into the house, then grabs Tom around the waist and throws him hard. Tom flies through the air as the gunshots start to ring out, and knocks over their backyard table on the way. It doesn’t provide much in the way of cover, but it’s better than nothing.

At the same time as that’s happening, Derek and Scott both throw themselves on top of Stiles, shielding him from the gunfire. Isaac and Erica do the same for Boyd. Tom fumbles for his gun automatically, but of course he’s not wearing it. He glances at the house before he decides it would be too risky to try to run in and get it.

In any case, he’s not sure he needs to. Despite the people shooting at them, Peter has charged into the woods with a roar. Tom hears a scream and then a thud, a crash, a snapping noise. Another scream and a burst of rapid gunfire. The noise cuts off abruptly.

Everything is quiet except for the noise of the raging fire. Distantly, Tom can hear sirens now. Someone in their neighborhood had finally found a way to get through to emergency services. He looks over at Derek, who’s sitting up. There’s blood on his shirt, but when Tom shouts, “Are you okay?” he nods. Whatever damage the betas took, they seem to be healing.

Peter staggers back into the yard, shrinking back into his usual human form. He’s covered in blood, and collapses before he can make it all the way over to Tom.

Tom jumps over the table and kneels beside Peter in the grass. He’s naked, his clothes having been unable to cope with the shift to alpha form, and the injuries aren’t pretty. Tom can see that he’s been shot at least a dozen times, and two of the wounds have that dark, veined appearance of a wolfsbane bullet. He’s willing to bet that those are the two bullets from Gerard.

“Tom,” Peter rasps, as Tom tugs off his shirt to try to stop some of the bleeding.

“Get me that rifle!” Tom shouts.

“You should – ” Peter starts coughing, and dark blood trickles out of his mouth. “Kill me. Tom. You’d – make a better alpha – ”

“Shut the hell up,” Tom says. He doesn’t have time for this. Derek comes over with the rifle, and he’s already pulling out the bullets and prying them open. “We need – ”

“Fire, yeah,” Derek says, and jogs back to the house, where there’s certainly plenty of it.

Tom gently turns Peter enough to see that there are no exit wounds for the two in his chest from Gerard’s gun. “Well, this might kill you,” he mutters, unsheathing his claws so he can dig out the bullets. Peter lets out a wolf whine, his body bowing as Tom digs into his chest. One hand clutches at Tom’s free wrist, hard enough to hurt. Tom barely notices as he extracts the first bullet, then the second. Peter relaxes, panting for breath.

Derek comes over with what looks like something that might have been part of their porch at one point, which is still on fire. Tom takes the ash from the bullet and pours it onto the wounds.

“Derek,” Peter says, his gaze a little glassy. “I know – about Kate. Wasn’t – wasn’t your fault.” He howls as Tom touches the flame to the ash. It burns hot white for a few moments before sputtering out. Tom rubs the ash into the wounds while Peter gasps for breath. “Don’t – don’t blame yourself. Wasn’t.” He has to work to choke out the words. “Wasn’t your fault.”

“Shh, hey,” Tom says, smoothing Peter’s hair back. “Relax, Peter. Concentrate on healing.”

The sirens are getting louder, and a few moments later, there are screeching tires. Tom looks between Peter’s bleeding body and the house with uncertainty. “Don’t worry, Dad, I’ve got this,” Stiles says, trying to get to his feet. Scott grabs him and helps him up, and the two of them stagger around the house, presumably to intercept the emergency response team and keep them from going into the backyard. Tom doubts they’ll need to. The house is fully involved at this point. If Stiles tells them nobody is inside, they’ll concentrate on making sure it doesn’t spread to the neighbors’ houses, and let it burn out on its own.

“Easy, Peter,” he murmurs, cradling Peter against his chest. “Just relax. You’re going to be fine. Just take it easy.”

He watches the wounds start to heal, the bleeding gradually slowing to a trickle. Peter’s breathing evens out, and the glazed look in his eyes starts to go away. He looks up at Tom like he’s just figuring out where he is. Finally, he says, “Are the kids okay?”

“They’re fine,” Tom says.

“Good.” Peter lunges upwards and kisses Tom on the mouth. There’s so much force behind it that he nearly knocks Tom over. Tom is startled, but doesn’t pull away. Peter kisses him with a desperate, needy hunger, his hands twined in Tom’s hair.

When he pulls back a long moment later, Tom is out of breath. “That’s what you call ‘taking it slow’?” he asks.

“Well, in my defense, I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time,” Peter replies.

“Almost as long as I’ve been wanting to do this,” Gerard’s gravelly voice says, and Tom feels the muzzle of a gun pressed against his temple.

He doesn’t even have time to feel fear before Peter has grabbed Gerard by the wrist, pushing it upwards so the bullet goes over Tom’s head. He twists the rifle out of Gerard’s hands and slams it across his knees, and he goes down, howling. “Can you not see that we were having a moment?” Peter snarls. He flips the gun in his hand and brings it up like he’s about to bring it down on Gerard’s head. Then he hesitates, and half-turns. “Should I kill him?”

Tom lets out a breath. “Do you need to?” he asks, letting the ‘in order to feel safe’ go unspoken.

Peter appears to consider. “No,” he finally says.

“Then no. I think a quick death will be too easy for him. Now that I know about mountain ash, I think a long life alone with his thoughts will suit him better.”

A smile curves Peter’s lips, and he nods. “So be it.” He tosses the gun into the inferno that was once the Stilinski house. Then he stands up, hauling Gerard over his shoulder. He curses and protests, but Peter’s strength is far superior. “I’ll find a place to stash him for a little while. You take care of all of this. I’ll see you later.”

Tom nods. He turns back towards the others as Peter jogs into the woods. He looks to where he’s sure there are dead bodies and wonders how he’s going to explain this. After a moment, he decides not to. Everyone will be so focused on the fire, it won’t matter. He doesn’t know if anyone heard the gunfire, if they would be able to differentiate it from the noise of parts of his house collapsing.

Derek helps him to his feet. He checks on Isaac, Erica, and Boyd. The latter is a little paler than usual, his human lungs more affected by the smoke inhalation. Isaac and Erica both have some holes in their pajamas, but the wounds they’ve taken have healed. They go around the house to find Scott comforting Stiles, who’s sitting in the back of the ambulance with an oxygen mask over his face.

“Stiles, it’s going to be fine,” Tom says, squeezing his shoulder. “We’re all safe. That’s the important thing.”

“But – but the photo album,” Stiles mumbles. “All the pictures of you and Mom – I couldn’t find it.”

“I have it,” Derek says. Stiles and Tom both blink at him, and he flushes pink. “I, uh, I took it without asking. I’m sorry. I wanted it to be a surprise. I was doing a painting. You know – there’s that picture of the three of you, when Stiles was six and you went to San Francisco. The picture at Muir Woods. Tom, you showed it to me – said you really liked it but it had gotten overexposed so it didn’t come out very well. I’m doing a painting of the photo, you know, fixing the colors. So I took the album.”

“Oh my God,” Stiles says, wrapping his arms around Derek and hugging him hard. “You asshole.”

“Sorry,” Derek says, wincing a little and then repeating, “I wanted it to be a surprise. I mean, it’s almost done at this point. It was supposed to be a thank you gift, you know, for everything you’ve done for me.”

Tom reaches out and pulls both of them into an embrace. “The way you’ve taken care of Stiles has been more than thank you enough. But I’m looking forward to seeing the painting when you’re done with it.” He lets go and goes looking for the EMTs. They reassure him that Stiles should be fine, that they’re giving him oxygen as a precaution but he doesn’t have any signs of breathing problems. They tell him what to look out for and when he should worry. The other teenagers are clearly fine, and the paramedics don’t seem to realize they were inside the house.

He confirms with the fire chief that they’re not going to attempt to save the Stilinski house, and is told he doesn’t have to stay. It’ll take a few hours for it to burn itself out. He should go get some rest. They walk the half mile to the McCall house. Melissa is waiting for them, and she checks Stiles over quickly and tells Tom she agrees with the paramedics. What they all need now is rest.

“Where did Peter go?” Stiles finally asks, as they’re hauling blankets and pillows into a pile.

“He took Gerard somewhere. I’m not sure where, but I’m not worried about him.”

“What’s going to happen to Gerard?” Scott asks.

“He’s going to be put in prison for the rest of his life.”

“Okay, but uh, how?” Stiles asks.

Tom just gives a little smile. “Don’t worry about that right now. I’m going to make sure it’s taken care of.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

It takes about a week to get everything settled to Tom’s liking. The money helps. He has no idea where Peter got that enormous stash of bearer bonds, and frankly he doesn’t want to know. It’s better to not ask questions. While they’re getting everything set up, they keep Gerard in the Argent house’s basement. Chris has equipment, he tells them, which will keep a werewolf disabled. He offers no opinion on Gerard’s long-term fate, and Tom doesn’t ask for it. Tom keeps two of the pack watching Gerard at all times. On the brief occasion that his mouth isn’t duct-taped shut, Tom makes sure either he or Peter is there to keep an eye on him.

Melissa, with Chris’ assistance, administers the sedative they need to get Gerard moved. Chris comes along, so he can close the mountain ash barrier, but agrees that he won’t interfere.

The little house in the woods has a back porch, and Tom has left the door open. He sits down in a lawn chair and waits. When Gerard regains consciousness, he staggers towards the open door and then fetches up against the mountain ash. He stops and gives Tom a furious look. “Where am I?”

“Prison,” Tom says. “You’ve been found guilty of eight counts of attempted murder. Plus some other things. The details probably wouldn’t really interest you. You’ve been given a life sentence. You’re cancer free now, although Peter has assured me that werewolves can and do die of old age related causes eventually. Still, I’d say you’ve probably got at least twenty years left in you. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?”

Gerard looks around, taking in his surroundings. “Doesn’t look much like a prison to me.”

“That’s true. The logistics of explaining to a federal penitentiary why you had to be kept in a mountain-ash surrounded cell were too unwieldy. So you lucked out and got a house all of your own.” Tom folds his hands in his lap and gives Gerard a pleasant smile. “There’s electricity and running water. No TV, no phones, no internet. I think Chris threw some books in here somewhere.”

Gerard narrows his eyes. “This isn’t legal.”

“Who said it was? I’m learning to make up my own rules. If you can’t be detained legally, I’ll do it illegally.”

“You can’t keep me here forever.”

“Well, you know, actually I’m pretty sure I can,” Tom says with a shrug. “You think people are going to come looking for you? See, here’s what happened. After you attempted to murder me and my family, you were arrested and brought to the sheriff’s station. You had a stroke in your cell. We rushed you to the hospital, but unfortunately, you couldn’t be saved. Not at all hard to believe, since you had terminal cancer. There’s a death certificate and everything. Nobody asked many questions. After all, your son identified your body and signed off on all the forms.”

With a sneer, Gerard says, “You may have gotten my son to go along with this, but - ”

“But what, Gerard? You think your hunter buddies will have a hard time believing ‘died of his terminal cancer’? At worst, they’ll think we killed you and want revenge. They’re certainly not going to think you went and got yourself a werewolf bite. You’re dead, Gerard. Already been cremated. Nobody knows the difference. Your funeral is this weekend. I’ll bring some pictures if you want, so you can see who shows up.”

Gerard says nothing.

“The mountain ash barrier will keep you safe and sound,” Tom says. “Don’t worry about the weather. We put it all in weatherproof piping and then buried it around the property. That way we don’t have to worry about it being disturbed. You’ve got the whole house to yourself. I even included the first foot of the back porch, so we can leave things for you without needing to go inside. Your freezer’s nice and well stocked with microwave meals. Personally, I hate those things, but hey, they’re probably still better than prison food. Chris will come once a week or two and drop off more food, pick up the trash. Maybe if you behave yourself, he’ll bring you some crossword puzzles or something. I don’t really care. That’s up to him.”

“You can’t keep me here,” Gerard repeats.

Tom continues as if he hadn’t spoken. “He’ll bring you some fresh fruit once in a while. We don’t want you to get scurvy. Peter has assured me that we don’t need to worry a lot about the nutritional content of your meals, but still. Nothing cruel and unusual. Just boredom. Just endless, empty days to consider what you’ve done and see if there’s a cell in your body capable of feeling remorse.”

Gerard slams a fist into the mountain ash barrier. “You can’t keep me here!”

“Don’t bother shouting. The nearest neighbors are miles away. I chose this house very carefully. Oh, and by the way, let me make something absolutely clear. I don’t care what you do to this place. Set it on fire, flood the bathroom, break the roof – I don’t give a shit. I’m not breaking the mountain ash circle to save you. You set it on fire in the hopes that we’ll get you out? Don’t hold your breath. Whatever mess you make, you’d better be prepared to live with it – or to die in it.”

“I’ll get out someday,” Gerard says, his eyes flaring bright blue, fangs bared. “I’ll never stop trying to get out.”

“I’ll admit I have some concern about that. Maybe you will find a way out someday. But if you do, think very carefully about your next move. Because we whipped your ass once and we’d be happy to do it again.” Tom stands up and folds his lawn chair. “Enjoy the rest of your life, Mr. Argent . . . you’ve more than earned it.”

With that, he turns and walks away.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

 

Tom gets back to the McCall house to find Peter leaning against the counter in the kitchen, waiting for his tea to steep. He sees Peter smirk the instant he steps inside, and says, “Did I get everything?”

“I can’t think of anything you forgot. I noted you didn’t mention the cameras.”

“Yeah, I didn’t want him looking for them. If there’s a way for him to hack into the feed without outside assistance, or use the connection to contact anyone, I don’t know what it is. And frankly I doubt he has that sort of technological savvy. Still, no point in buying trouble.”

Peter nods, blowing on the top of his tea to cool it. He had hired a security firm to watch the footage - a somewhat shady one, Tom noted, but he couldn’t really object, considering the circumstances. They’ll do that for the first two weeks of Gerard’s imprisonment. Tom and Peter agreed that if he was going to find a way out, he would do it by then. They can’t think of anything they’ve missed, but Gerard will almost certainly spend the first week or two of his imprisonment putting that to the test.

Tom had let Peter clone his phone before leaving, so he could turn the microphone on and Peter could hear their conversation. So if Peter says he covered everything, he did. Tom sits down at the kitchen table, suddenly exhausted. It’s been a long week. “You’re sure about the tunnel thing, right?”

“Yes. Mountain ash forms an endless column. You can’t go over or under it.”

“Okay. And you’re sure you’re okay with this?”

Peter raises an eyebrow at him and says, “What would you do if my answer was no? It’d be one thing to kill him in the heat of the moment. Would you honestly be okay with me going over to his prison and murdering him right now?”

“That’s not the question I asked, Peter.”

“I suppose not.” Peter smiles and sips his tea, amused. “But yes. I am okay with this. I’m confident in what we’ve done. Gerard will be in that prison for the rest of his life, and I’m more than content knowing he has all the time in the world to think about what he’s done. What was it you said? He’s more than earned it.” Peter fans himself. “You’re devastatingly attractive when you say things like that.”

“Uh huh.” Tom waits until Peter lifts the mug to his lips. “Do you want to have sex?”

The joy of watching Peter spit his tea all over the kitchen floor is almost worth all the bullshit he’s had to put up with for the past month. He stands up and pats Peter on the back while Peter coughs and chokes.

Finally, Peter recovers enough to say, “I beg your pardon?”

“You heard me.” Tom is enjoying this.

“Whatever happened to ‘taking things slow’?” Peter asks.

Tom shrugs. “I’m trying to work out what it is you want from me, Peter. Because if it’s just a physical relationship, I don’t know that ‘taking things slow’ is as important. Either way, we’ll end up in the same place. If you want more than that, it’s probably a better idea to wait.”

“So you tempt me with the idea of actually having sex with you?”

“I want to know what your priorities are. So yes.”

Peter manages another sip of his tea and then sets the mug down. “How about we just make out in your police car?”

Tom gives a snort. “Okay. And then we should try going out to dinner. Maybe a coffee shop or something like that.”

“A bookstore?” Peter’s eyes glint.

“If you want, sure.”

“It’s a date.”


~ ~ ~ ~

 

Chris won’t quite look at Peter as he stands back to let Peter and Tom into the Argent house. Tom had expected this, however, and elbows Peter to prompt him. Peter sighs, but thanks Chris for helping keep Gerard contained. Chris shrugs a little and says it was the least he could do. It diffuses the worst of the tension.

Of course, that only lasts until they go into the living room where Victoria is waiting. She looks as icy cold as usual, jaw set and gazing angrily off into the distance. Tom accepts the beer that Chris hands him, thinking that he’s definitely going to need it. “So,” he says, and just that one syllable makes Victoria look even more pissed off, “the full moon is in two days.”

“I’m aware,” Victoria says, not looking at either of them.

Tom had asked Peter to let him handle this, but that apparently is too much for him. He leans forward with his elbows on his knees and says, “Let me make one thing perfectly clear to you, Mrs. Argent. I did not bite you because I want you in my pack. I’d prefer if you were on a different continent altogether. I am not, in any way, here to invite you to be a part of my pack. I am here to attempt to mitigate the damage you will do if left unchecked on your first full moon, and I’m only doing that because Tom asked me to. So you can climb down from your high horse and keep in mind that none of this would have happened to you if you hadn’t attempted to murder a teenaged boy.”

Tom sighs, but he doesn’t call Peter out because Peter is correct. “As Peter said. You are welcome to choose to be an omega wolf. I’ve heard that they’re weaker, and sometimes less healthy. But that is your choice. If you would prefer to stay a beta, we will have to find an appropriate alpha for you, because I doubt you want to be in this pack any more than we do.”

“I do not need an alpha,” Victoria says.

“Good. Fine. Less work for us that way.” Tom is getting annoyed. “But you do need to be contained during the full moon.”

“I can do that,” Chris says quietly.

“You can, but you shouldn’t have to,” Peter says. “This is my responsibility. You can chain her up and electrocute her, but I can teach her how to anchor and control herself – if she’s willing to listen to a word I say. That’s up to her. Keep in mind, Mrs. Argent, this will not be your only full moon. Presuming you are about the same age as our fine sheriff here, and given that werewolves tend to live long, healthy lives, you’ve got a minimum of six hundred full moons to get through. Consider the full implications before you reject my assistance.”

After a moment, Victoria nods silently. Chris reaches out to squeeze her hand, and she pulls it away.

“Then I’ll expect to see you at the den at sunset two days from now,” Peter says, and stands. “Tom will text you the address.”

Chris walks them out. He looks miserable, and Tom wants to reassure him, but he doesn’t know what to say. All he can come up with is, “I’ll do my best to help her, Chris.”

A little bit of relief does pass onto Chris’ face at that. “Thanks. If anyone can help her, it’s you. But it’s more than either of us deserves.”

“Pay it forward,” Tom says, and Chris nods.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

“Okay, so we have mini donuts, Oreos, Klondike bars, and some trail mix or something my dad picked up like he thinks we’re going to eat it. And like ten gallons of iced tea because soda and chocolate are the worst together.” Stiles plops down on Peter’s sofa. He’s offered up his apartment Stiles and Derek to crash at during the full moon, since Tom hasn’t gotten the new house entirely furnished yet and Derek still doesn’t have a TV at his loft. “What movies did you bring?”

“Don’t make fun of me,” Derek says, giving him the side-eye.

“I would never.”

“I brought the extended editions of Lord of the Rings,” Derek says.

“Oh my God, awesome!” Stiles says, grabbing the first one and jolting to his feet. “I’ve only seen them once, they’re too expensive for me to buy, but the extended editions were so much better! Like, Boromir’s plotline made so much more sense, and the moving forest was awesome - ”

“And Galadriel’s gifts! How could they leave that out?”

“And the mouth of Sauron, that dude was fuckin’ freaky - ”

“Hell yes he was.” Derek takes the box back and heads over to the DVD player. He fiddles with it, not looking at Stiles for a long moment, before he says, “Look, uh. I’m sorry about what happened the night of the fire. You know, embarrassing you in front of the others.”

Stiles shrugs a little. “I wasn’t thrilled with it, but I know you were only trying to help.”

“I just – I know that I’ve been a jerk to Scott, but he just – frustrates me. So I was a dick.” Derek glances over at him. “Sorry.”

“You don’t have to be sorry. Well, maybe about that time you told him Hell would freeze over before Allison would actually defy her mother to keep dating him, but since you were one hundred percent wrong about that, I’ll let it slide.”

Derek snorts. “Allison’s not so bad. I’d like her more if Scott talked about her less.”

“Pretty sure you’re not alone in that feeling, but.” Stiles shrugs. “Scott’s got the Romeo and Juliet thing going on. I’m just Benvolio.”

“Wow,” Derek says, laughing. “That’s exactly what your dad said. Except for the part where he didn’t know who Benvolio was. Does that make me Mercutio?”

“Yes!” Stiles says, his eyes lighting up. “You’re absolutely Mercutio. He was the hot one.”

Derek flushes pink. “Whatever. I’m putting on the movie.” He put the first disk in and then settled on the sofa. “But, uh . . . you know, about what Scott said the other day. You being sixteen doesn’t mean we can’t date, I guess. It just means we can’t, you know.”

“Get frisky?” Stiles says, and Derek gives him a look. Stiles grins despite himself and reaches for the package of Oreos. “He has a point. But at the same time, I have to wonder, would dating really look that different from what we’re doing now? Going out and doing stuff, sometimes staying in and doing stuff? I don’t know a lot about dating, to be honest. Scott and Allison do all those romantic walks in the woods, but that’s not something I feel particularly compelled to do. And frankly I’d rather be shot than go bowling.”

Derek gives a snort of laughter. “I guess I don’t know either. We don’t go out and do a lot of stuff, though.”

“Well, we went out to a movie last week. Plus we were talking about going to the art museum. Pretty sure those are both solid, date-like activities.”

“I guess so.” Derek shifts, looking a little uncomfortable. “Now I feel kind of like an ass, if we were dating and I didn’t even know it.”

Stiles shrugs. “All I know is that the line between friendship and dating is really blurry. But, I’m happy with the way things are. Are you?”

“Yeah.” A little smile touches Derek’s face. “Yeah, I am.”

“Okay. So let’s just keep doing what we’re doing, and then maybe in a few months, when I’m seventeen, we can add kissing, and then when I’m seventeen and a half, we can add making out. We’ll ease into it. Sound good?”

“Are you seriously trying to schedule this?”

“I really want to kiss you, Derek. I mean, I won’t do it before you’re comfortable with it, but, like. I really want to – ”

Derek leans over and presses a kiss against Stiles’ mouth. It’s soft, and sweet, and he pulls away a second later, blushing all the way up to the tips of his ears.

Stiles’ eyes are glazed over. “Oh my God,” he says. “I’m gonna date you so hard. You don’t even know.”

Derek flushes even darker pink. “You’re ridiculous, and I’m starting the movie now.”

“Okay,” Stiles says, beaming at him. Derek hits play, and Stiles immediately settles in his lap, resting his head against Derek’s shoulder.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom looks down in amusement at the sofa, where Stiles is sprawled out on top of Derek. “I brought breakfast,” he says, shaking Stiles’ shoulder.

Stiles stirs and mumbles, “The eagles are coming . . .”

Tom snorts. “Why couldn’t the eagles just take the damned ring to Mordor? That’s what I want to know.”

“Actually,” Derek chimes in, without opening his eyes, “there are several good reasons why that wouldn’t work. First of all, the eagles aren’t a taxi service. They’re proud, sentient beings and would have had a lot of good reasons not to risk their lives doing that. Secondly, secrecy was key to Frodo’s mission. The eagles would draw a lot of attention, and since Sauron and Saruman both had spies everywhere – ”

“Nerrrrrrrrd,” Stiles says into Derek’s chest, snickering.

“The man asked a question,” Derek grumbles. “I’m just answering it.”

Tom shakes his head a little, but he’s definitely amused. “Do you two want breakfast or not?”

“Yes, yeah, definitely.” Stiles sits up and stretches, yawning. “What’d you get? Donuts? Bacon? Donuts and bacon?”

“Waffles,” Tom says. Stiles does a fist pump and scrambles off the sofa. Tom shakes his head a little but heads into the kitchen, where he’s settled the Styrofoam containers of take-out. In addition to the waffles, there’s eggs and sausage. Not that Stiles seems to care, as he’s nabbed two waffles and is in the process of drowning them in syrup. Tom starts the coffee maker and then puts on the electric kettle for Derek.

“Where’s Peter at?” Stiles asks, his mouth already full.

“He’s driving the others home,” Tom says.

“Yeah? How’d they do?”

“Erica tried to kill us the entire time. Scott did a little better this time, though. He settled down as the night went on.” Tom opens the tea cabinet and looks at the vast array of tins there with some dismay. “Jesus Christ. Derek, none of these are labeled as ‘plain old tea’, so what should I make?”

Derek’s lips twitch. “I’ll take the Russian Caravan. I can’t speak for Peter.”

“Well, he’ll want caffeine, so can I just make him the same thing?”

“Yeah, that’ll work.” Derek serves himself, shaking his head at Stiles, who has already consumed an entire waffle. “What about Victoria?”

“She did all right. Her control was actually pretty good, but since she wanted to kill werewolves before she got turned into one, she spent most of her time trying to do that. Peter let me deal with her, while he corralled the kids, but to be honest I think she hates me even more than she hates him.”

“Well, she does seem to have a strong aversion to reason, and you’re the most reasonable person we know,” Derek says, and Tom lets out a snort. “Think she’ll get over it?”

“Honestly? No, I don’t think she will. Chris was able to step back and see that he was the one in the wrong. Victoria is adamantly opposed to that. And according to Peter, she’s confirming her own opinions just by being the bloodthirsty woman she is. She refuses to see that she was that way before she got the bite, so naturally it’s because she’s a werewolf now.” Tom shrugs a little as he gets the tea ready. “I don’t know how it’s going to play out, to be honest. It would surprise me if that marriage survived. The only person who might be able to get through to her is Allison, and so far Allison is still so pissed at her for trying to kill Scott that she has no interest in trying.”

“Unless she tries to kill herself again,” Stiles says.

Tom sighs. “There’s only so much I can do.”

“No, that’s fair, I didn’t mean it was your responsibility to save, like, everybody.” Stiles fills a plate with sausage and eggs and nudges it towards his father. “Coffee ready?”

“Just about.” Tom fills both his mug and Stiles’ and then sits down, taking the plate Stiles offers him. “By the way, Derek, do you think you can manage keeping an eye on the kids for a few hours on Saturday night?”

“Dad, we don’t need a babysitter,” Stiles huffs. “We’re sixteen!”

“That’s exactly my concern,” Tom says dryly. “The idea of putting all of you in a room with no adult supervision nearby is terrifying.”

Stiles sticks his tongue out, but Derek nods and says, “Yeah, it’s no trouble. Where are you going to be?”

“Peter and I are going out.”

“Out?!” Stiles naturally hits the ceiling. “Out where? Is it a date? Are you going on a date? I know I was kind of ambivalent on the matter before but I’m supporting you one hundred percent – ”

Tom sighs a little, but he’s amused despite himself. “Yes. We are going out for coffee, and to the bookstore, which apparently is something that will take several hours according to Peter.”

“Oh, yeah,” Derek says, with a sideways smile. “He will want to look at literally every book, tell you about the ones he’s read, offer his opinions on various literary matters, and demand your opinions on various literary matters. And when you don’t have them, he will assign you a reading list. So I hope you’re prepared.”

“I’m really not sure I am,” Tom says.

“Well, on the upside, if you wear your uniform, it might distract him.”

“How could you say such a thing, nephew?” Peter asks, as he comes into the apartment. “Not that it’s not true, of course, but to encourage Tom to exploit my weakness that way.”

“Like he couldn’t have thought of it on his own,” Derek says with a snort.

“He’s right, you know,” Tom says, smirking.

“Of course. You are, as ever, a genius.” Peter leans over and drops a casual kiss on the top of Tom’s head. “Oh, Russian Caravan? Excellent choice.” He picks up the mug and settles at the table with them. “You know, Derek, I was thinking about some things you should have for your loft. An electric kettle and a decent tea collection being one of the priorities. I don’t know your financial situation, but I’d be happy to get you some things, should you need them.”

Derek’s face is a little pinched and unhappy, but he seems to recognize the olive branch for what it is. “No, I have money. I was just so busy getting art supplies that I hadn’t gotten around to getting any other stuff. Thanks, though.”

“Any time, nephew.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

“So your dad and Peter are seriously on a date?” Erica asks, her eyes gleaming. “That is amazing. They are going to have the kinkiest sex life, can you imagine?”

Stiles hastily puts down the can of Coke he was lifting to his lips. “Seriously? Do you want to wear my drink?”

Erica just laughs at him. “Get a grip. I’m just speculating. Seriously, though, the handcuffs, the roleplay – ”

“Wow, I really do not need to hear about this,” Stiles says, wincing. “One more word and I won’t loan you my Wonder Woman comics.”

“Rude,” Erica says, pouting. Stiles resolutely ignores her. “Hey, so, I won the pool, right? Pay up, fellas.”

Boyd and Isaac reach for their wallets, grumbling, but Derek shakes his head. “No, you bet that Peter would jump Tom. That didn’t happen. I think I won – I’m the one who said Tom would break first.”

“Yeah, but he didn’t really break,” Scott says, somewhat dubiously. “I don’t think anybody had money on ‘they talked it over like reasonable adults’.”

A moment of silence sits before Erica shrugs and says, “Peter kissed Tom in the backyard – ”

“But they had already agreed to go on a date, that doesn’t count as jumping him,” Stiles says. “My dad told me that they talked about it the night before. So, yeah, I think Scott is right. I don’t think anyone really won.”

“Well, that’s disappointing,” Erica grumbles.

Boyd shakes his head at her fondly and says, “Come on, guys, are we playing Cards Against Humanity or what?”

“Hell yes we are,” Stiles says. “Oh, but I have to order the pizza. Hang on.”

They eat pizza and drink way too much soda, play games and watch The Evil Dead. They’re all half asleep, lying in piles on the floor of Peter’s apartment, by the time Peter and Tom come inside. Tom is carrying a stack of books, but looks more amused than long-suffering. Peter’s hair is slightly mussed and he’s clearly been having a great time.

“Have fun on your date?” Erica immediately asks.

“We did,” Tom says, and changes the subject immediately. “How about you guys?”

“It’s a total sausage fest in here,” Erica complains. “Scott, you should invite Allison next time.”

“Oh, yeah, I actually asked her, but she had a family thing,” Scott says. “She said she would come over next weekend, though. I think she said she might invite Lydia.”

“The banshee?” Peter asks.

Everyone blinks at him. Tom rubs a hand over his face. “I don’t want to know. I do not want to know. There are no banshees in Beacon Hills, and if you know any differently, I’d like to cordially invite you to keep that information to yourself.”

“Whatever you say,” Peter says, clearly amused. “Well, children, it’s been a pleasure hosting you, but now I’m going to have a glass of wine and go to bed, so,” he makes shooing motions at them.

“Get off his lawn,” Derek says, and Stiles snickers.

Scott has his mother’s car, and he offers to drop Erica and Boyd off at home on his way back to his house with Isaac. That means that Tom can just take Stiles and Derek back to the new house. It’s sparsely furnished, but it’s got what they need. Derek’s painting of the Stilinski family is hanging over the mantle, and to both Stiles and Tom, that makes it home.

“Will I see you tomorrow?” Tom asks Peter, as Stiles is gathering his belongings.

“Proper etiquette is that you’re supposed to text me in a couple days to let me know you had a good time,” Peter says, smirking. “Then we can arrange our next date. Presuming that I text you back, of course.”

Tom arches an eyebrow at him and says, “If you’re going to play hard to get, hoping I’ll chase you, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I’m too old for that kind of shit.”

Peter laughs, then leans over to give Tom a kiss on the cheek. “Then yes, old man, I will see you tomorrow.”

“They’re so cute,” Stiles says, in a clearly audible undertone, and Derek snickers behind his hand.

Tom grabs Stiles by the scruff of the neck, smiling despite himself, and says, “Come on, you two troublemakers. Let’s get home.”

 

~fin~

Chapter Text

Peter missing one pack dinner doesn’t send up alarm bells. He comes and goes as he pleases, reminding Tom at times of a feral cat. Tom knows that it’s been hard for both Peter and Derek to build a new pack, and sometimes they just need a break from it. Derek has at least gotten to the point where he’ll let Tom know if he’s going to be absent, but Peter still hasn’t.

When he misses the second dinner, Tom’s concerned enough to text him and ask where he’s at. Peter is as capricious by text as he is in person; sometimes he writes small oceans of text, sometimes he’ll give one or two word replies, and sometimes he doesn’t reply at all. This time his reply is just, ‘I’m fine’.

It’s been four months since they started dating, so Tom feels secure enough in their relationship now to push a little harder than he might have in the past. He steers clear of anything that might seem like an accusation, saying instead, ‘Will we see you tomorrow?’

He doesn’t get a reply until two hours later, and then it’s just, ‘Maybe’.

‘What’s going on?’ Tom asks, then adds, ‘I miss you.’

The prompt works, at least in that it gets a more elucidating reply. ‘Sorry. I just haven’t been in the mood for company. I’ll try to be there tomorrow.’

Tom frowns and studies this, thinking things over. He has a sudden suspicion that he might know what’s going on, but decides to give Peter another day before he says anything.

The next day, Peter is still absent. Rather than texting again, Tom does a little research, confirms his suspicions, and then heads over to Peter’s apartment. He has a key, as Peter now has a key to his place, so he lets himself in and calls out, “Peter? You home?”

There’s no reply, but he hadn’t really expected to get one. He takes off his shoes and heads further into the apartment. The bedroom door is ajar, so he eases it open and glances inside. Peter is a lump underneath the blankets, and he looks up somewhat blearily when Tom comes in. “Shit,” he mutters, struggling against the covers.

“Don’t get up,” Tom says, sitting down on the edge of the bed. Peter tries to draw the blankets up to hide his face, but Tom takes them and pulls them back down. Peter is unshaven and unkempt, with red-rimmed eyes, and he bats at Tom’s hands, but more weakly than he should. “Rough day?” Tom asks.

Peter gives up on the blankets and slumps backwards. “I didn’t want you to see me like this.”

Tom nods. He pulls the blankets back and climbs into bed with Peter, wrapping his arms around Peter’s waist and pulling him close. “I’ll shut my eyes, then,” he says, cradling Peter’s body against his. Peter gives a laugh that turns into a hoarse sob. “You don’t have to hide from me when you’re not okay,” Tom says. “I know you have days that you’re not. I wouldn’t expect anything else. I’m not going anywhere just because you want to spend a few days in bed and not have to face the world.”

Peter’s silent for a long moment before he says in a raw whisper, “He would have been nine years old today.”

“I know,” Tom says, rubbing his hands over Peter’s back. “And I know I can’t imagine how much this hurts. I know you don’t like to show it, but I know how much pain you’re in. You don’t have to hide from me, Peter. I won’t pretend I can fix things or even help, but I can be here with you. You don’t have to be alone.”

After another long moment, Peter nods and curls into Tom’s embrace, one hand clutching at the back of Tom’s shirt. Tom holds him in silence. He knows from personal, bitter experience that nothing he says will make a difference. So he just holds Peter, rubbing his back and smoothing down his hair, waiting while Peter sobs and shudders against his chest.

Finally, the storm seems to have passed. Tom wipes the tears off Peter’s cheek, then offers him a Kleenex so he can blow his nose. “Have you eaten today?” he asks, and Peter shakes his head. “Okay. I can bring you something if you don’t want to get up.”

“No, I . . . I’m all right. As long as we don’t go further than the sofa.”

“The sofa sounds great.” Tom helps Peter so his feet. He’s wobbly, but vertical. He’s not very hungry, though, and just settles on a bowl of cereal and a mug of tea that Tom makes him. They curl up on the sofa, and Tom puts on the baseball game, knowing that Peter doesn’t really care but that it will distract him. After about an hour, Peter’s dozing. Tom decides that he doesn’t want to disturb him. He looks like he hasn’t slept well in days; one night on the sofa won’t hurt them.

He manages to ease his phone out of his pocket without disturbing Peter, and pulls up his texts. ‘All quiet on the Western front?’ he texts Stiles.

‘All four cardinal directions have reported no disturbances,’ Stiles replies a minute later.

‘I’m going to stay at Peter’s tonight,’ Tom says. ‘You’ll be okay?’

‘Yeah, Derek’s here. I’m fine.’

Tom gives his phone the side eye, a little unnerved at this lack of curiosity from his perpetually nosy son. He’s only stayed the night at Peter’s a couple times, and it had always been after their dates. He supposes that although Stiles might be nosy as a general rule, he’s also tried to stay very uninformed about his father’s sex life, which seems fair.

That being settled, Tom redirects his attention to the baseball game.

~ ~ ~ ~

“Everything okay?” Derek asks, as Stiles puts his phone down.

“I’m not sure,” Stiles says, frowning despite himself. He doesn’t like how weird Peter has been acting, and he doesn’t like his father not being there at night. “Dad says he’s staying at Peter’s tonight but didn’t give me any details. Which I’m afraid to ask for because what if he tells me things I don’t want to know?”

“I really don’t think your father will respond to ‘why are you staying the night at Peter’s’ with any details you’d rather not have.”

“True,” Stiles says. “But . . . I dunno.” He fidgets, twisting a napkin in one hand. His gaze flicks up to Derek, and now he’s frowning, too. “It’s hard to explain without sounding like a jerk.”

“I don’t mind when you sound like a jerk,” Derek says, then shrugs and adds, “I don’t mind even when you are a jerk.”

Stiles gives a snort at that. “I just. I want to be supportive of my dad, you know? And I know all the other betas, even Scott at this point, are like ‘yeah, get it, Sheriff Stilinski!’ But I’m still not . . . I’m not sure I like this. And I don’t even know if that’s just because of typical ‘don’t replace my dead mother’ angst or if it’s Peter-specific problems.”

Derek nods, drawing his knees up to his chest. “Did your father date before?”

“A couple times, but never anything serious. This thing with Peter is serious, and it skeeves me out.”

For a moment, Derek thinks this over. Then he says, “You know you can trash talk Peter in front of me, right? You don’t have to hold back because he’s my uncle.”

That makes Stiles laugh. “Yeah, I know. You trash talk him all the time.”

“He usually deserves it.”

“True.” Stiles sighs and sprawls out on the sofa, hooking one leg over the back. “I just, you know, I worry about my dad. A lot. Too much, according to my therapist. Which is perfectly natural, also according to my therapist. Blah blah, my mom died and I had to grow up too fast, blah blah, my dad wasn’t always there for me emotionally because of his own grief, blah blah et cetera blah.”

“That’s a lot to pack into some blahs.”

“Yeah, well.” Stiles gives a snort. “My relationship with my dad has a lot to unpack.”

“So you’re worried that Peter’s going to screw this up, and your dad is going to go back to being emotionally unavailable?”

“I’m worried that Peter’s going to screw this up and my dad’s going to be hurt,” Stiles says. “I don’t like Peter ditching him for three days and now suddenly my dad’s staying the night.”

Derek sighs. “Look. I’m not saying that your concerns are unfounded. Or that I think Peter is even capable of being the kind of boyfriend and partner your dad deserves, because frankly the jury is still way the fuck out on that score. The jury hasn’t even elected a foreman yet. But in this particular case, I don’t think it has anything to do with Peter being a shitty boyfriend or even a shitty person.” He sees Stiles looking at him, and says, “I didn’t say anything earlier because I didn’t want anyone to make a big deal out of it, but today would have been Nathaniel’s ninth birthday.”

“Oh.” It sinks in. “Oh. Shit. Now I feel like a jackass.”

“I don’t think you need to. You’re worried about your dad and I get that. But I think Peter just . . . he needs comfort right now but didn’t know how to ask for it. And he may be a shitty boyfriend, but I know when your mom’s birthday comes up, he’ll give your dad whatever he needs, even if your dad doesn’t know how to ask.”

“Okay.” Stiles squirms closer. Derek glances at him and then unfolds, putting his feet back on the floor to make his lap available. Stiles immediately crawls into it, resting his head on the arm of the sofa and lying with his back on Derek’s thighs. “Peter seems like an okay boyfriend most of the time. He makes my dad laugh. So maybe part of my problem is just generalized angst.”

“He’s actually been a lot less of a piece of shit than I would have predicted, so.” Derek shrugs. “I think your dad has been good for him. I think he does truly care about your dad. And I think your dad can take care of himself, you know? I know you’ve got, uh, baggage around that whole thing. But stop thinking about your dad like the semi-alcoholic grieving widower he was when you were ten and start thinking of him as the grown-ass man who got Peter to fall into line through sheer force of attitude.”

“I guess my dad is pretty cool,” Stiles said, regaining some cheer.

“I know that it was probably hard for you to accept that he’s okay now,” Derek says. “But I think he’s going to be fine. With or without Peter.”

“Thanks.” Stiles reaches up and tweaks Derek’s ear. “You’ve gotten pretty good at this advice thing.”

“That’s probably your dad’s influence, too,” Derek says.

“Maybe that’s part of the problem, too,” Stiles says, and Derek arches his eyebrows. “Well, you just set the boyfriend bar so high.”

“Shut up,” Derek says, flushing pink.

“I mean, you blush so easily,” Stiles adds.

“Shut up, I said,” Derek says, pushing at his face.

“It’s really adorable.”

“You know I’m in a prime position to smother you with a pillow right now, right?” Derek asks, and Stiles just laughs harder.

~ ~ ~ ~

When Tom wakes up, he’s still on the sofa, but he can smell coffee, and there’s no comforting weight on him, so he can tell that Peter is already up. He swings his legs over the side of the sofa and heads into the kitchen. Peter is flipping pancakes, and he glances up when Tom comes in. “I was going to make bacon, but we didn’t have any,” Peter says.

Seeing that Peter didn’t want to talk about what had happened the night before, Tom says, “Coffee?”

“All yours,” Peter says, handing him a mug. “Do you work today?”

“Yeah, swing shift,” Tom says. “Figured I’ll go home and check in with Stiles, see what his plans are for the day.”

“Okay.” Peter put a plate of pancakes down in front of Tom. “Eat first.”

“Sir, yes sir,” Tom says. He’s amused, but he also knows that it’s an alpha thing, that it brings Peter genuine reassurance to make food for Tom and even the other betas, and watch them eat. “What about you?”

“I want to go check in on Gerard, among other things. I just need to move a bit.”

That makes sense to Tom, since Peter had obviously spent the last three days in bed. “Okay, sounds like a plan.”

They ate breakfast, mostly in silence, before Tom got up and headed out. The house he now lived in was a little further out of town than he liked, but it hadn’t been easy to get such a big place on short notice. And a big place had been required. He’d had no delusions that it was going to end up being pack central, and had wanted an extra bedroom or two, to make room for all the times the betas would inevitably stay the night. Derek has a room of his own, too, although he’s been rotating between sleeping there, sleeping in Stiles’ room, and sleeping at his loft. Stiles didn’t need him there all the time anymore, but there were still nights that he was feeling edgy and asked Derek to stay with him. Tom doesn’t mind having a larger place, and he certainly doesn’t mind making room for Derek, but he does wish it was a little closer.

“Hey, I’ll see you tonight, okay?” Tom says, as he’s pulling his shoes on. “The betas are going to be over and I think they’re getting a little antsy at this point.”

Peter nods. “I’ll pick up some food for everybody.”

“Okay.” Tom leans over and gives him a quick kiss. “I’ll see you then.”

Feeling pretty good about things, he gets behind the wheel of the Cruiser and heads back to the house. It’s only about nine AM, and he doesn’t expect that Stiles will be up yet, since it’s a Saturday. He parks in the driveway and heads up the front path, then stops dead in his tracks. There’s a symbol painted on the front door in black, a symbol he doesn’t recognize but which makes his skin crawl for reasons he can’t explain.

He hastily unlocks the front door and barges inside. “Stiles? Derek? Are you here?”

From upstairs, he hears Derek call out, “Yeah, we’re here.”

“Stiles too?” Tom asks, unable to completely squelch the anxiety he can feel gnawing at his stomach.

“He’s still sleeping,” Derek says, and now he comes around the corner of the hallway upstairs, dressed in pajama pants and a T-shirt, with a frown on his face. “Why? What’s wrong?”

“Come downstairs and look at this,” Tom says, gesturing. Derek jogs down the stairs and goes out onto the porch to look at the symbol on the front door. “I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you didn’t paint this last night.”

“No,” Derek says, his frown deepening.

“Do you know what it is?”

“It looks vaguely familiar, but I can’t place it.”

Tom takes out his phone and snaps a picture of the door, then sends it to Peter with a text that reads, ‘Do you know what this is?’ He touches the paint carefully. It’s dry, so it’s been there for several hours. He opens the door again and heads inside. “You two didn’t notice anything strange last night?”

“No,” Derek says. “Although we were upstairs playing Halo a big chunk of the night. I mean, not super late,” he adds hastily, afraid he might be getting Stiles in trouble. “Like, one AM late. Anyway, we had the volume up pretty high so we might not have heard anything from down here.”

That was one downside to a big house that Tom hadn’t thought of. Derek and Stiles’ bedrooms were both on the back of the house. The idea that someone had come to his house and painted something on the door while his son had been inside, sheltered only by some wooden walls and a dead bolt, oblivious, made his skin crawl again.

His phone rings and he sees that it’s Peter, and that doesn’t help his nerves. Peter tends to like texting over phone conversations, so if he’s calling, things must be complicated. He picks up with, “Hey.”

“Are Stiles and Derek okay?” Peter asks, and that definitely doesn’t help Tom’s nerves.

“Yeah, they’re fine,” Tom says, then realizes he hasn’t actually seen Stiles yet. He looks over at Derek. “You were with Stiles when you said he was still sleeping, right?” he asks, and Derek nods. Tom lets out a sigh of relief.

“I’m heading over,” Peter says. “I’ll be about fifteen minutes.”

“Okay, but what is this?” Tom asks.

“It’s the symbol for another pack,” Peter says. “Specifically, for the alpha pack.”

“The alpha pack?” Tom asks, then pinches the bridge of his nose. “Okay. You can explain the rest when you get here.”

“I’ll go wake Stiles,” Derek says.

“Then I’ll start the coffee maker,” Tom says, because he knows his son.

By the time Peter gets there, Stiles is up and halfway through his first mug of coffee, so he’s inching towards coherency but by no means there yet. “So they came and tagged our house,” he says, yawning as Peter inspects the symbol. “So what?”

“Is that basically what this is?” Tom asks Peter. “A territory thing?”

“It’s a decent enough description, yes,” Peter says. “If it were any other symbol, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Some other pack wants our territory; I’ll tell them to fuck off and we’ll be done with it. But the alpha pack . . . they’re nasty sons of bitches, to a one.”

“Start talking,” Tom says.

Peter sighs, but doesn’t argue. “First things first. You have to understand that there are going to be territory disputes around Beacon Hills for a while. Werewolves are territorial by nature, and Beacon Hills is attractive in particular because of the convergence of ley lines and something called the Nemeton, which is like a well of spiritual power that’s on the Preserve.”

“Okay,” Tom says, as Derek shifts from foot to foot, looking uncomfortable.

“When Talia was alpha, and our mother before her, these disputes didn’t happen. The territory had been in the Hale family for generations, and nobody dared challenge us. Then Kate Argent happened. Now, I have control of the territory, but there are probably plenty of packs who would be willing to challenge me.”

“What’s been happening for the past six years, though?” Stiles asks. “Why weren’t packs fighting over the territory then?”

“Oh, I imagine they were,” Peter says, “and I imagine the Argents and their ilk were murdering them as fast as they could claim it.”

Tom grimaces, thinking of Beacon Hills’ notoriously high rates of disappearances and dead bodies. “Okay, aside from the fact that now I want to reopen every cold case that’s lingered for the past decade, that makes sense. But now that you’ve established a presence here, and especially now that Kate is dead and Gerard is presumed dead, other packs are thinking they can move in.”

“Exactly.”

“But it’s been almost six months since you took over,” Stiles says. “Why is this just happening now?”

Peter gives an elegant shrug. “Maybe it’s taken some time to get the ball rolling.”

Tom can’t help but side-eye Peter, but decides he’ll leave the discussion of how many packs have tried to move in for when they’re alone. “So this alpha pack?”

“Goes back to a werewolf named Deucalion. He’s a pompous, arrogant piece of shit. About seven years ago, he had a nasty run-in with Gerard Argent. Gerard blinded him but didn’t kill him, for reasons beyond my comprehension. Deucalion’s second-in-command tried to take over, so Deucalion killed him, and then killed the rest of his pack.”

“Yikes,” Stiles says, as Tom grimaces.

“The funny thing about the relationship between an alpha and his betas is that we can absorb their power if we kill them,” Peter says. “So Deucalion became much more powerful than he previously had been. He used this as an inducement to get several other alphas to kill their packs, and now they travel around doing . . . I’m not sure what, to be honest. I was somewhat out of the loop for a while.”

“Fair enough,” Tom says. “So they show up to try to take your territory, and instead of doing something useful like leaving a phone number, they paint a weird symbol on the door of my house? It’s not even where you live.”

“Yes, well, nobody ever accused Deucalion of being particularly bright.”

Derek snorts, and Stiles snickers. Tom just sighs. “Are we expected to respond to this in any particular way? Or do we have to wait until they start spreading the joy.”

“I doubt we’ll be able to find them,” Peter says, “so the prospect of a coup de main, while tempting, is out of the question for now. To answer your question, no, they don’t expect us to respond. This is just Deucalion’s way of letting us know he’s here, because he’s a melodramatic son of a bitch.”

“How will I ever deal with one of those?” Tom asks, and Peter quirks an eyebrow at him, amused. “Okay. I’m going to call the betas and tell them I want them on a buddy system until we figure out what’s going on. Derek, you’ll stick with Stiles?” he adds, and Derek nods, his face fading back into its usual brood. “Peter, you said you were planning to check on Gerard today, right? Let’s make sure he hasn’t been disturbed.”

“I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to see me, as ever,” Peter says.

“You want to pick up some blue paint while you’re out, so I can repaint the door?” Tom asks, and Peter nods and agrees. “Okay. I’ll see you later.”

Peter blows him a kiss and then heads for the door. After it swings shut behind him, Stiles immediately says, “So how many packs do you think he’s scared off without mentioning it to us?”

“More than I care to contemplate,” Tom says, thinking to himself that at least if Peter’s killed anybody, he’s been hiding the bodies. “Derek, keep an eye on Stiles. I want to head down to the station and see if I can get any information on this Deucalion guy.”

“Okay,” Derek says.

“But Dad, we should go with you,” Stiles says immediately. “I mean, you can’t put all of us on a buddy system and then go gallivanting off on your own!”

“Going to the police station where I work is not gallivanting,” Tom says firmly, and when Stiles continues to protest, he says, “No, Stiles. Stay here where it’s safe. I’ll be fine at the station, and I’ll be home before dark.”

Stiles is still muttering as Tom leaves, but Tom ignores it with the ease of long practice. There are a few things he wants to do that he doesn’t want anyone privy to. He drives down to the station but doesn’t get out of the car, instead taking out his cell phone and dialing Chris Argent.

It’s not like he and Chris are friends, per se. He doesn’t think Chris really has friends. After his sister’s death, his father’s imprisonment, and his wife’s subsequent divorce, he keeps to himself. Tom knows that Allison worries about him, but her father has reassured her more than once that he’s fine. It’s just been a lot of change in a very short period of time, and he’s still adapting.

Peter doesn’t have a problem with Chris, but Tom still tries not to put them in the same room, which was easy since Victoria left town after her second full moon. Chris might know details of this encounter between Deucalion and Gerard, and he’s also hunted werewolves his entire life. Tom isn’t afraid to use him as a resource when the occasion calls for it.

“Do you know anything about an alpha named Deucalion?” he opens.

“Yeah, a little,” Chris says. “He’s supposedly insane, has been after since he was blinded in a fight with - well, with my father, as it happens. He killed off his whole pack. Why?”

“He might be trying to set up camp in Beacon Hills,” Tom says, and Chris gives an auditory grimace. “I’m still gathering data right now. Anything you can tell me would be helpful.”

“I have a file on him,” Chris says, which doesn’t surprise Tom. Chris has always struck him as the meticulous sort. “Along with at least one of the other alphas I know he travels with. I’ll bring it down to the station. Do you think he’s figured out my father is still alive?”

“I doubt it,” Tom says. “Peter didn’t seem to think it was unusual that another pack might come try to take the territory. Something about a, uh, a Nematode?”

“Nemeton,” Chris corrects, sounding amused. “I’ll bring some info on that, too.”

“‘Preciate it,” Tom says, before saying goodbye and heading into the station.

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

Tom has a headache by the time he gets home. He wonders sometimes why his wolf healing can fix broken bones within the space of a few heartbeats, but does nothing about the throbbing in his temples brought on by stress. He sighs as he pulls a beer out of the refrigerator. The front door has been repainted – Derek’s work, he’s sure, since he doubts Peter did more than buy the paint. He can hear the gaggle of teenagers in the living room and the blare of some video game.

A few minutes later, the back door opens. Peter still regularly comes and goes that way rather than using the front. Tom had asked why at one point, and he had just shrugged and said it was habit. “Juvenile delinquents like me had to learn to sneak around,” he had said, making Tom give a snort of laughter.

He’s carrying two paper grocery bags, and sets them down on the counter before leaning in for a quick kiss. “All the kids accounted for?”

“Yeah, Stiles texted me once they were all here,” Tom says. “We’re all set for a slumber party tonight – not that that really helps in the long term. How’s our friend Gerard?”

“Not speaking to me,” Peter says, starting to unload the bags. There are two buckets of fried chicken, a box of biscuits, and two bags of salad – probably to mollify Stiles, who still insists that his father eat his vegetables. “As usual.”

“You’re sure nothing was wrong?”

“Yes, I checked the cameras. He’s just sulking. You know how he is.”

Tom nods. He and Peter take turns checking on Gerard, although it’s Chris who’s responsible for most of the ‘prison maintenance’ as Peter calls it. Chris is the only one who can reach through the mountain ash circle, so deliveries of food and any other item Gerard requires go through Chris. He goes out to the cabin twice a week; Peter and Tom check in every other week. Gerard will often harangue his son – to the point where Chris started putting earbuds in before he went – but he never speaks to Tom or Peter.

He’s about to say something else when he hears the rapid thump-thump-thump which means the kids have smelled the food. Within moments, the kitchen is a whirlwind of chaos. He manages to shepherd them to the table and shakes his head as they set to the food like wolves.

Stiles, naturally, dives right into a million questions. “Dad! What’d you find out? Do you know how many of them there are? Or why they’re here? Or where they – ”

“Eat your dinner,” Tom tells him.

“Daaaaad,” Stiles protests, his mouth already full.

“How long are we going to be on the buddy system, that’s the real question,” Scott says. “I have a date with Allison on Friday and as much as Isaac and I are buds, I don’t really want him tagging along.”

“Oh, really?” Stiles asks, grinning. “What’s going to happen on this date that Isaac can’t be privy to?”

“None of your business,” Scott says, flushing pink. “Seriously, though, how long?”

“I don’t know,” Tom says evenly. “It’s going to depend a lot on what happens in the next few days.”

“Allison’s probably just as capable of protecting you as Isaac is, if we’re going to be honest,” Peter mentions, buttering a biscuit. “She is an Argent, after all.”

“Yeah, she says her dad’s been teaching her a lot of stuff,” Scott says. “Isaac, you can just hang out with Erica and Boyd for the night.”

Isaac looks around the table and says, “Why am I a third wheel no matter where I go?”

“Because you’ve resisted all our attempts to find you a girlfriend,” Erica says with a wink.

Isaac wrinkles his nose. “I think I’ll hang out with Derek and Stiles. They’re less likely to start making out.”

“Only for two more months!” Stiles declares. “Once I turn seventeen and a half, we get to go to second. There have been negotiations – ”

“Which I want to hear nothing about,” Tom interrupts firmly. “Eat your dinner.”

Peter gives a quiet snort into his lemonade, sees Tom giving him a dirty look, and devotes his attention to his dinner.

Once everyone has eaten, Tom leaves the betas quibbling over who’s going to clean up. He beckons for Peter to follow him out to the back porch, where they can have a conversation in privacy. “So, if Gerard’s not talking, which doesn’t surprise me, what’s our next move here?”

Peter shrugs. “We don’t really have one. The ball is in Deucalion’s court. We don’t have any way of finding him or knowing what his intentions are until he finds us.”

“I’m not a huge fan of that, if I’m going to be honest,” Tom says. “I feel like whatever his next move is, we’re not going to like it.”

“Oh, probably,” Peter says. “But there’s not much we can do about that.”

Tom nods, thinking this over. “So how many werewolf packs have tried to move onto our territory since you became alpha, and what happened to them?”

Peter arches an eyebrow, hoisting himself up to sit on the deck’s railing. “Three. Two lone alphas, and one who brought his pack. The first and the third, I gave a solid ass-kicking and that was enough to send them slinking away with their tail between their legs. The second, one of the lone alphas, wasn’t so easily dissuaded. So I killed him.” There’s a beat of silence. “Is that a problem?”

“I don’t know,” Tom says.

“If you have any alternative suggestions, I’m all ears.”

“It’s a little late for that now,” Tom says, annoyed despite himself. “You didn’t even tell me people were showing up.”

“No. It wasn’t your problem, and I didn’t want you feeling compelled to do something about it and put yourself at risk.”

Tom pinches the bridge of his nose. “You’re not very good at this whole ‘teamwork’ thing.”

“Sorry.” Peter shrugs, kicking his feet back and forth. “You’re not the first person to tell me that. I think that was my eighth grade history teacher. Who invented group projects, anyway? Some extrovert, presumably. What a nightmare.”

“You know that I’m aware you’re trying to change the subject, right?”

Peter just shrugs again. “What do you think I should have done instead, Tom? I agreed to imprisoning Gerard because I thought it was a better punishment. Not because I thought he deserved to live. I appreciated the irony of the situation. But how many isolated cabins in the woods do you reasonably think you can buy and maintain? What’s your plan if the enemies keep coming? I don’t take joy in killing – at least, not when it’s not to avenge my family. But I don’t shy away from it either. The alpha I killed would have killed the entire pack if I’d allowed him to take the territory.”

“But you didn’t even tell me,” Tom says. “I had a right to know. And this whole ‘you shouldn’t put yourself at risk’ thing is bullshit and you know it. I was already at risk just because I’m your beta, and my being ignorant of the fact that there was a new alpha in town put me at more risk, not less. You’re smart enough to know that. Which means that you didn’t tell me because you thought I wouldn’t approve.”

“Because you don’t.”

“I don’t know that I don’t, and neither do you, because you didn’t give me the details and find out what I thought.”

Peter folds his arms over his chest and looks skeptical.

“I’m not some sort of saint, you know,” Tom says. “I was willing to help you kill Kate Argent, or at the very least look the other way while you did it, as long as you didn’t hurt any innocent bystanders. To be honest, I would have been fine with you killing Gerard, too, but like you, preferred the longer punishment. If an alpha werewolf showed up here and threatened to murder us all, I’d at least be willing to consider killing him. But you didn’t even tell me what was going on.”

“You are a saint,” Peter says. “You put up with me.”

Tom gives a snort. “Yes, well . . .”

Peter hops down off the railing and gives Tom a kiss on the cheek. “All right. I should have told you, and I will in the future. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” Tom says with a nod. “And when it comes to Deucalion, we’ll do what we need to do to keep these kids safe.”

“Sexy,” Peter says, and leans in for a more generous kiss.

“Don’t push your luck,” Tom tells him, and Peter laughs.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom spends most of the next day absorbed in his actual job, no matter how much he wants to find more information on Deucalion and his posse. There’s a car accident right in downtown, a woman whose ex-boyfriend is harassing her at work, and a liquor store that discovers a bunch of stock missing from the back. He has a few minutes here and there to do some research, but neither Chris nor Peter even knew Deucalion’s last name, which makes finding information on him difficult to say the least.

At five thirty, he gives up for the day and heads home. Stiles is there, and he already has dinner in the oven. Tom jogs upstairs to change out of his uniform, and texts Peter. “Should we expect you for dinner?”

“I already told Stiles not to,” Peter replies, only a moment later. “I have a hot date.”

Tom side-eyes the phone while he silently debates whether or not he wants to rise to Peter’s baiting. He decides he does. “You found someone else willing to put up with your bullshit?”

Peter replies with an emoji that’s sticking out its tongue.

“Don’t stick that out unless you intend to use it,” Tom responds.

“I have roughly a hundred plans to do that, each one more vivid than the last,” Peter replies. Tom half expects the next text to be a dick pic, but instead Peter returns to the subject at hand. “I’m going to Deaton’s, in the hopes that he’ll remember that at one point he was my sister’s emissary, and open his mouth long enough to impart some useful info.”

“Do you expect him to know any?”

“He had ringside seats to Deucalion’s tiff with Gerard, so he may know more than us.”

“Okay. Keep me posted.”

Tom heads back downstairs to find Stiles taking the baked potatoes out of the oven. “Hey, you. Heard from the others?”

“Yeah, Scott and Isaac are having dinner at Allison’s house tonight,” Stiles says, checking the temperature on the pork roast. “It’s Mr. Argent’s night off. Erica and Boyd said they’d be here by six. They’re probably making out in a closet somewhere.”

Tom shakes his head a little, knowing that Stiles is probably right, and opens the refrigerator to pull out the pitcher of water. “What about Derek?”

“He’s up in his room sketching. I told him dinner would be at six. We’ll see if he comes up for air.”

“Okay.”

Ten minutes later, dinner is on the table and Derek has emerged from artist trance and is helping set the table. Boyd and Erica, however, are nowhere to be seen. Stiles grabs his phone and says, “I’m telling them we’re going to eat without them.”

“Very mature,” Derek says.

“What, do you want to wait?” Stiles asks, and Derek scowls and inches the plate of pork roast closer to his place at the table. “Didn’t think so.”

Tom dishes himself up some food, but he’s uneasy as he eats. It’s true that teenagers aren’t exactly known for their punctuality, and Erica in particular treats the pack instructions as less important than her own whims. But Boyd is the opposite, and at a time like this, when the buddy rule has been instituted for a reason, Tom doubts that he would let Erica distract him for long.

At six fifteen, he says to Stiles, “Why don’t you call Boyd and see where he is?”

“Why don’t you?” Stiles returns. “If he’s doing stuff and sees my number, he won’t pick up.”

Tom considers this and decides that Stiles is probably correct, particularly if Boyd is ‘doing stuff’ with Erica. He takes out his own phone, looks up Boyd in his address book, and calls. It rings five times and then goes to voice mail. He tries Erica and gets the same result. “Did they say where they were going to be until dinner?”

“I think they were just gonna be at Boyd’s place,” Stiles says, and now he’s clearly anxious as well.

Tom thinks about this. He doesn’t want to call Boyd’s parents and risk upsetting them when nothing is wrong. He dials Peter instead. “Hey, are you still at Deaton’s?”

“No.” Peter sounds annoyed. “I was going to call you, actually, to see if you could arrest him for something. Just to inconvenience him. He’s obnoxious.”

Tom has mixed feelings about Deaton - who almost certainly knew there were werewolves in town the instant Tom had gone to him after being bitten, and said absolutely nothing about it - so he doesn’t pass judgment on Peter’s opinion. “I need you back at the den. Erica and Boyd are late for dinner and aren’t answering their phones.”

“Do we know the last place they were?”

“They were going from school to Boyd’s house. I don’t know if they made it there.”

“You want to meet me there? We’ll see if we can track them.”

“Okay.” Tom says goodbye and hangs up, then says to Derek and Stiles, “Lock all the doors and the windows, don’t answer the door for strangers. If Boyd and Erica turn up, call me.”

“Okay, but text me to let me know you’re okay like every five minutes, okay?” Stiles says.

Tom knows he can’t argue away his son’s anxiety, so he says, “Every fifteen minutes.”

Stiles groans but agrees.

By the time Tom gets to Boyd’s house, Peter is already there, and he’s cautiously prowling around the backyard. “Speaking of people getting arrested,” Tom says, when Peter hops over the fence and comes back to the front. “Were they here?”

“Not today. I think they must have gone astray between school and the house.”

Tom can’t help but grimace. “That means they went missing three or four hours ago.”

“That doesn’t mean the trail will have gone cold. Neither of them has a car, and it’s only about a mile and a half to the high school, so they would have been on foot. Let’s retrace their steps.”

“Okay.” Tom follows him down the street. “So when you say that Deaton had ringside seats to what happened between Deucalion and Gerard . . . how much do you think he knows?”

“Well, to be one hundred percent fair, it’s fully possible that Deaton doesn’t know anything about this. But it’s also fully possible he knows plenty and just isn’t telling us, because he’s a cryptic son of a bitch. And also he doesn’t like me.”

“For any specific reason, or just because of your winning personality?” Tom asks.

“Deaton thought I was a bad influence on Talia.” Peter smiles, showing fang. “Which isn’t exactly incorrect. Talia was . . . a remarkable alpha. And God knows she never listened to a word I had to say. But I still tried to give her advice occasionally. You know. She made things awfully difficult on herself sometimes, by trying to do the right thing.”

Tom can’t help but roll his eyes. “I knew Alan was friends with Talia. You said he was her emissary? That’s a term I haven’t heard before.”

Peter nods. “Every healthy pack has an emissary. It’s usually a Druid, although not always. It’s someone who can connect with the alpha, help them anchor themselves and ground them to humanity. It’s sort of like an advisor position. Deaton was Talia’s.”

“Okay . . .” Tom frowns as he considers this. “So if every healthy pack has one, why don’t we have one?”

“We do,” Peter says. “It’s you.”

“I don’t see how.”

“You don’t see how you ground me to humanity?”

Tom has to admit that he does. “Okay. But I’m your beta.”

“Doesn’t matter. The emissary is a position that’s outside pack hierarchy. Like I said, it’s usually a human, a Druid like Deaton. But every pack is unique, and given my . . . let’s be kind and call it my unusual circumstances . . . it makes sense that I would need an unusual emissary.”

“Fair enough.” Tom stops as Peter tilts his head to the air, picking up Erica and Boyd’s scent for the first time, and takes a right turn. “So Deaton was Talia’s emissary. What does that have to do with Deucalion and Gerard?”

“Seven years ago, tensions between the hunters - and not all of them are like the Argents, you know, although the number has been growing in the past few decades - and the supernatural were rising. Beacon Hills was chosen as a neutral location for a little tête-à-tête. Talia thought it was a bad idea. She thought there was no negotiating with someone like Gerard Argent. Deucalion disagreed. Thought anyone could be brought around by his superior intellect. Talia refused to go with him, because she possessed multiple brain cells, and warned him against going. But he did anyway. Of course, it was a trap. Gerard murdered half his pack; Deucalion was blinded in the attack and went completely insane.”

Tom can’t help but feel a pang of sympathy for Deucalion. He knows from experience that it can be tempting to believe anybody can be reasoned with. He can see why Deucalion would have refused to give up on the possibility of a truce, and he can equally see why Deucalion would have lost his mind if half his pack was killed. “So what, precisely, were you asking Alan?”

“I wanted to know if Deucalion had approached Talia afterwards. If he held a grudge against her for what happened. That might explain a lot about why he was here.”

“Okay. And Alan said?”

“That he couldn’t relay what my sister had told him in confidence to the man who killed her daughter, the rightful alpha of this territory.”

Tom winces. He can’t say Peter didn’t deserve that, but he also knows that Peter was mostly out of his mind from pain when he killed Laura, and he knows that hearing that had to sting. “Maybe I’ll try talking to him.”

“He already told me that he wouldn’t talk to anyone who acknowledged me as alpha. That means the entire pack is out, even Scott.”

 “Great.” Tom purses his mouth, thinking about how to handle this. It’s not entirely unfair of Deaton to not want to acknowledge Peter’s claim to the territory, but he hates the fact that Deaton is willing to leave all of them at risk, even innocent kids, because of it. “Maybe I’ll talk to him anyway.”

Now Peter looks amused. “Make sure to record it if you decide to lay down the law. You know how that gets me all hot and bothered.”

“I surely do,” Tom says with a snort. He glances around as Peter takes another turn. “We’re not on the path straight between school and the Boyd house anymore.”

“No. It looks like Erica and Boyd turned off before getting to the house. Not that I know why they would do that.”

Tom shrugs. “They’re kids. And we didn’t tell them to go straight home or report all their plans to us; we only told them to stick together. They probably decided to go get a pizza or rent a movie or something. There are a hundred errands they could have decided to run.”

“Indeed.” Peter stops walking. “But the trail stops here.” He makes a half-turn. “I think they got into a car. I don’t think there was a struggle, but to be honest, Erica and Boyd couldn’t put up much of one against even a single alpha, let alone more than one. Boyd at least is rational enough that he might go willingly to avoid injury, presuming that we’d find them later.”

With a grimace, Tom looks around. There aren’t a lot of shops that might have security cameras, but it’s worth checking into. He wonders if he should call the Boyd and Reyes families at this point, but decides against it. If they’re not worried yet, he’ll give them a few more hours of peace of mind and hope that he can track down Boyd and Erica by then.

He drops a quick text to Stiles to reassure him that he’s all right and update him on the situation. He can tell that Stiles is worried, but doing his best not to panic. He texts Derek as well, saying to let him know if at any point he needs to come home to reassure his son. Derek says that Stiles is holding it together for now. Then he calls Scott. “Hey, are you and Isaac still at Allison’s?”

“Yeah, why?” Scott sounds worried.

“I want you to stay there for now. Erica and Boyd are missing. You’ll be safe as long as Chris is there,” Tom adds, hoping that it’s true. In fact, once he hangs up, he texts Chris to let him know that Deucalion is causing trouble, that he’s telling Scott and Isaac to stay there, and that if Chris allows any harm to come to them, he will personally kick Chris’ ass all the way to the Arctic Circle. Chris wisely doesn’t reply to that.

“So what now, Sheriff?” Peter asks, when he gets off the phone.

“Now, we go back to the station to see if any traffic cams caught footage of Boyd and Erica walking, and if there were any cars that were following them,” Tom says. “And now that I know what happened between the Argents and Deucalion was here in Beacon Hills, we’re going to see if we can find anything useful like a God damned last name, which might gets us helpful things like phone and financial records, so we can figure out where they’ve been staying. Once I’ve done that, I want you to go back to the house and stay with Derek and Stiles.”

“Okay. Although when you’re done, I’m going to come back to pick you up.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

The hope that Erica and Boyd will be found quickly is dashed by the end of the day. There were no security cameras near the site of their abduction. A few of them in the neighborhood had picked up Erica and Boyd, but nothing else suspicious.

By nine PM, Boyd’s parents have called the police station to report that he’s missing. Erica’s parents haven’t yet, but Tom figures they will when she’s still nowhere to be found the next morning. He studies all the information he’s gathered and decides to head home and check in with the others.

He’s not surprised to see that Stiles is still up when he gets home, pacing back and forth across the room. He’s a little more surprised to see that the rest of the pack is there, including Allison. “I thought you were going to stay at the Argents’,” he says to Scott.

“I told them to come back here,” Peter says, giving a slight head tilt towards Stiles. “Chris dropped them off.”

Seeing that Peter had thought Stiles needed distraction, Tom nods and says, “Okay. Well, since you’re all up, I’ll give you an update, but I don’t have much of one. Erica and Boyd went missing on their way from school to Boyd’s house, although they turned off onto Cotton Street and I’m not sure why.”

“King Kone,” three of the teenagers say in unison, and then Isaac continues, “It’s an ice cream shop Erica really likes. She begs Boyd to take her there all the time.”

Tom nods and jots that down, although he doubts they made it there. “We caught a glimpse of them on traffic cameras a few times, but didn’t see anyone following them or approaching them. Since I think we can safely assume Deucalion and his pack were behind this, they’ll probably approach us soon about whatever ransom they have in mind. At least it’s Friday – I’m going to want you all to stay here tonight, possibly tomorrow night, too.”

“Okay, but like, what are we gonna do?” Stiles asks. “I mean, there must be some way to find them.” To Peter, he adds, “You’re their alpha – can’t you find them?”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Peter says.

“But when you were fighting with my dad, you could find him,” Stiles says.

“No, I couldn’t,” Peter says. “I could call him out, bring him to me. But that won’t work here, since Boyd and Erica are being held captive. It wouldn’t accomplish anything.”

Stiles groans. “Okay, okay, but – can’t we at least figure out what sort of place they would be in? It can’t be that easy to keep a werewolf captive – look what we had to do to Gerard.”

Tom steps in and squeezes both of Stiles’ shoulders. “We had to do that because it was going to be long-term. If we assume that Deucalion and his pack don’t intend to hold Boyd and Erica for long, they could be anywhere.”

“It would have to be somewhere secure, though,” Scott chips in.

Allison shakes her head. “Remember the kind of stuff my dad has been teaching me? That werewolves can be incapacitated by electricity? They could be keeping them in a garage if they had the right sort of equipment. I don’t really think there’s anywhere we can definitively rule out.”

“Oh my God,” Stiles says, pushing his hands back through his hair. He’s growing it out, and leaves it standing in loose spikes. “I can’t believe that the best solution we have is ‘wait for the kidnappers to deliver their ransom demands’.”

“Unfortunately, sometimes that’s the only thing we can do,” Tom says. “I want you to try to get some sleep, okay?” He ignores Stiles’ disbelieving look and continues, “All of you.”

“Dad, I think . . .” Stiles’ voice trails off, but then comes back a little stronger. “I think I’m more likely to sleep if we have watches or something. I mean. Last time we all slept in the same place, Gerard surrounded the place with mountain ash and guns and then set it on fire.”

“That’s actually a good idea,” Peter says, and some of the tension goes out of Stiles’ shoulders. “Someone on the front of the house and someone on the back, three hours each. I’ll take the first watch on the back. Derek, why don’t you and Stiles take the front?”

Derek still doesn’t like taking orders from his uncle, but he immediately grasps that Peter is setting this up so Stiles won’t be on watch alone, without specifically having to ask someone to stay with him. “Okay.”

Scott reached out and gave Stiles a quick hug. “Hey, wake me and Isaac in three hours and we’ll take over. Then, uh, Allison and Sheriff Stilinski can go last, I guess?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Allison says with a nod.

“If you see anything suspicious, don’t try to handle it yourselves,” Tom says firmly. “Come to Peter or me, wake us if you need to. Okay?” he adds, and all the betas nod. Tom leans over and gives Stiles a hug, then Peter a quick kiss, before he heads up to bed.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

Tom doesn’t figure he’s going to get much sleep. He’s ninety percent positive that whatever move Deucalion and his pack makes, it will be at night. So he’s more than a little confused when Scott knocks on his door and says quietly, “Um, are you awake? It’s five o’clock so it’s your watch shift.”

“I’m up, Scott, thanks,” Tom says, pushing the blankets back. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

One thing that doesn’t surprise him is that his bed is empty other than himself. He heads downstairs and finds that someone has made coffee, so he snags himself a mug and heads to find Peter. He’s sitting in one of the spare bedrooms on the second floor, staring out into the darkness.

“You didn’t sleep?” Tom asks.

“I let Scott and Isaac watch the front together,” Peter says. “I’ll take a quick nap now that you’re up.”

“Okay.” Tom presses a kiss against his temple and then heads back downstairs. Allison, yawning sleepily, has a crossbow sitting her lap and has pulled a chair over to the windows at the front of the house. Tom makes sure she’s okay and then goes into the dining room, which has a large window overlooking the back.

He only stays sitting for about a minute before he’s up and pacing. He doesn’t get it. Why take Erica and Boyd and then do absolutely nothing about it? What was Deucalion even after? If he just wanted the territory, he was choosing a weird way of going about it.

At seven AM, he texts Chris, saying, ‘text me when you’re up for the day, I have some questions for you’.

The response is only a minute later, and reads, ‘I’m already up. What’s going on?’

‘Deucalion still hasn’t contacted us. I’m thinking about our next move. You would know better than me if he would need any special accommodations to hold a werewolf.’

Tom chews on his lower lip while he waits for a reply. He’s not very hopeful, and gets the answer he expects. ‘If he has the right equipment, he could be holding them anywhere.’

“God damn it,” Tom mutters. He’s trying to think if there’s anything else he can ask when he hears the noise of a familiar heartbeat, a familiar step, and looks up to see Stiles coming in. “Hey, you. What are you doing up so early?”

“I had a bad dream and couldn’t fall back to sleep,” Stiles says. Tom pats the chair next to him, so Stiles comes in and sits down. “Do you think Boyd and Erica are okay?”

“For now, yeah,” Tom says. “I think if he wanted to kill them, he wouldn’t have abducted them first.”

“Yeah, that’s terrifying and I might never leave the house again.” Stiles gnaws on a fingernail. “But what if he’s torturing them?”

“I can’t really think why he would do that,” Tom says.

“Well, he got those other alphas he travels with to kill their packs,” Stiles says. “What if that’s what he wants Peter to do? Kill all of us? And he, he’s torturing Erica and Boyd so Peter will like, mercy-kill them or something?”

Tom frowns. He doesn’t see much logic, but it’s something he hadn’t considered before. He has to remember that he might not be able to apply logic to Deucalion’s actions. Both Peter and Chris had said he was insane, and that would make him hard to predict.

Whatever’s happening here, it has to be more complicated than Deucalion wanting the territory. Peter was in a coma for six years; Deucalion could have walked in and claimed it at any time. Tom doubts very much that Deucalion would have been afraid of hunters. So if he and his alpha pack are here, it’s not for the territory or the ley lines or some old tree in the forest. It’s for Peter.

Deaton isn’t talking, and although part of Tom itches to try to make him, he isn’t sure that necessary. Whether or not Talia mentioned anything about Deucalion holding a grudge before her death isn’t important. She wouldn’t necessarily have known. It seems safer to assume that Deucalion is holding a grudge, and now that the Hale pack have re-established their hold on the territory, he’s come to take some sort of vengeance.

“Dad?” Stiles says, nudging him with his shoulder.

“Sorry,” Tom says. “I was just thinking. I’m not sure if you’re right about Deucalion wanting Peter to kill us, but I certainly don’t know that you’re wrong. And either way, if Deucalion wanted to deliver a ransom note, he would have done it by now. We know that he knows where we are.”

“So what do we do?” Stiles asks.

“I think we need to pursue a much more aggressive strategy,” Tom says, standing up. “We’re going to see if we can flush him out.”

“Hell yes,” Stiles says, brightening. “Let’s turn up the heat on this motherfu – uh, this jerk!”

Tom rolls his eyes and says, “Take over my watch shift for me, since you’re awake. I’ve got to make some calls.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Derek isn’t really surprised when he wakes up to an empty bed. He had set his alarm for eight AM – the end of the assigned watch shifts – because no matter what’s happening, he figures they’re going to need to get an early start. Stiles had allowed himself to be coaxed into bed when their watch had ended, but Derek knows he still doesn’t sleep well a lot of the time.

He throws on some clothes and heads back down the stairs. There are voices in the kitchen, and something smells good. He comes in to find Stiles making pancakes and bacon and eggs all at the same time, in a flurry of frenetic movement. There’s a half-empty coffee pot on the counter. Scott, Allison, and Isaac all have plates full of food and are eating hungrily, if somewhat sleepily.

Derek leans in and rubs his cheek over Stiles’ hair in his usual gesture of affectionate greeting. “Where’s your dad and Peter?”

“Dad’s in his office,” Stiles says. “Peter was up until five; he didn’t go to bed until my dad got up, so we haven’t woken him yet. Hungry?”

“Yeah.” Derek pours himself a mug of coffee and accepts a plate from Stiles. “What’s your dad doing?”

“He is making an enormous deal out of two missing teenagers to get every cop and nosy citizen in Beacon Hills looking for Deucalion,” Stiles says. “Check this out; it’s actually kind of awesome.” He stops cooking long enough to take out his phone, tap the screen a few times, and hands it over to Derek.

Derek eats his eggs one-handed while he scrolls through the article. Not only are there pictures of Erica and Boyd, as well as a timeline of when and where they were last seen, there are pictures of three other people, two men and a woman. They’re labeled as ‘people of interest’. “Where’d he get these pictures?”

“Mr. Argent,” Stiles says. “Apparently he has ‘dossiers’ on them. Really makes you wonder exactly how many ‘dossiers’ he has.”

“No kidding,” Derek mutters. He hands Stiles his phone back. “What does he think this is going to accomplish?”

“Well, for one thing, I think he’s hoping that somebody saw them and will call in to tell him about it,” Stiles says. “But secondly, I think he wants to show these assholes that he’s not going to play by their rules. He’s not going to just sit here sad and worried and wait on them to deliver their edicts when they feel like it. He’s gonna use his police powers and find their sorry asses.”

“I don’t think someone like Deucalion is that afraid of the police,” Derek says.

“Okay, probably not, but that’s not the point,” Stiles says. “These assholes are super distinctive, you know? If they’re actually living in town, somebody must have seen them. Dad can use his police connections to find them, and then his werewolfy powers to rescue Erica and Boyd.”

Derek still feels somewhat skeptical, but before he can say anything, Tom comes into the room. “He’s right,” he says, having overheard the conversation. “We’ve already gotten about two dozen tips from people who have seen Deucalion and his cronies around town. They all cluster around a certain area downtown. He’s there, somewhere. We just have to figure out where, exactly.”

“And then just nicely ask them to let Boyd and Erica go?” Isaac asks.

“Pretty sure that once Peter has a location, he doesn’t plan on asking nicely,” Tom says, refilling his mug of coffee.

“Yeah, but there’s three of them, maybe more,” Scott says, his forehead wrinkled with concern. “How are we going to fight them?”

“‘We’ aren’t,” Tom says. “You guys are kids, and you don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen once we find them. That’s for Peter and me to do, with outside assistance if necessary.”

Derek is going to ask who, then realizes Tom obviously means Chris Argent. He can’t help but scowl. Even knowing intellectually that what happened to his family wasn’t Chris’ fault, that Chris had been heavily indoctrinated into anti-werewolf sentiments and was honestly doing a very impressive job of unlearning his prejudice, he can’t like the man. He doesn’t want him anywhere near the pack and he certainly doesn’t want their safety to depend on the possibility of his help.

“Now,” Tom says, “I want to run a quick errand. If - ”

“Dad! Buddy system!” Stiles protests.

Tom sighs. “Would you let me finish my sentence, Stiles? Thank you. If you don’t mind, Derek, I’d like you to come with me. I don’t want to wake Peter since he was up so late, but yes, Stiles, I am aware that I imposed a buddy system and I mean to honor it.”

“Sure,” Derek says, standing up.

“Kids, keep an eye out, wake Peter at the first sign of trouble,” Tom says, to a chorus of ‘okay’.

Derek grabs his shoes and follows Tom out to the cruiser. “Where are we headed?”

“Deaton’s,” Tom says. “Peter thinks he might know something about Deucalion, but he wouldn’t talk to Peter - and says he won’t talk to anyone who’s acknowledged Peter as alpha, due to his loyalty to Talia, and therefore Laura.”

Derek glances over at Tom as he backs out of the driveway. “So you think he’ll talk to me?”

“I’m hoping he’ll talk to us,” Tom says. “I’m not going to send you in alone. But yes, I think having you there will be helpful. It might remind him that even if he doesn’t like what Peter did, it’s not his place to accept or not accept Peter as alpha of this territory.”           

“So am I supposed to tell Deaton I accepted him or say that I didn’t?” Derek asks.

“Just tell him the truth,” Tom replies.

Derek hesitates, then says, “I’m not sure I want you there for that.”

Tom sighs. “Look, Derek. I know that Peter did terrible things. And I know that you hearing that he was out of his mind from pain and grief when he did them doesn’t make them hurt less. You don’t have to forgive him, and you don’t need to censor yourself around me just because Peter and I are dating. I can understand that you’re still angry with him, without it changing how I feel about either of you.”

“You’re way too reasonable about this,” Derek mutters.

“So I’ve been told,” Tom says dryly.

Derek falls silent, brooding over this, and Tom lets him have the quiet. About ten minutes later, they pull up to the veterinarian’s clinic. Tom pulls around the back and knocks on the back door. Deaton answers it a moment later and stands back to let them in. “Sheriff, what can I do for you?”

“I wanted to talk to you about this whole alpha pack thing,” Tom says.

Deaton’s pleasant smile doesn’t change. “As I told Peter - ”

“I’m aware of what you told Peter,” Tom says. “And I was willing to accept that when Deucalion wasn’t causing us trouble. But he’s kidnapped two of the pack members. Children. So now I need to know everything that you know.”

“Children who accepted the bite from Peter Hale,” Deaton says.

For some reason that Derek’s not sure of, that pisses him off. “Hey, you know what, fuck you,” he snaps. “You don’t have any God damned right to judge Erica for accepting the bite. You have no idea what she went through every day. And Boyd’s not even a werewolf; he just likes to hang out with us. So why don’t you take your moral high ground and shove it up your ass.”

Deaton’s smile fades. “Derek, I know that you - ”

“No, you don’t,” Derek says. “You don’t know anything about me. You knew me when I was a kid and that’s not who I am now. If anyone in this entire Godforsaken town has the right to tell Peter to fuck off, it’s me. But I’m not doing that, because this pack, this family, is more important to me than that. Yes, they got the bite from Peter, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re my brothers and sisters now. And you know what? If you had wanted to stop Peter, wanted to bring Laura’s murderer to justice, you should’ve lifted a single fucking finger to help us back when he killed her. But no, you just sat on the sidelines and let us handle things ourselves. You had your fucking chance to tell us you didn’t think Peter should be alpha of this territory and you didn’t. Nobody wants to hear about it now. Tell us what you know about Deucalion, or I’ll tear out your throat with my teeth.”

“I don’t know anything that could be of use,” Deaton says.

“Why don’t you tell us what you know and I’ll decide what is and isn’t useful,” Tom says.

Deaton sighs, which makes Derek want to start snarling again. “As Peter has no doubt told you, Deucalion wanted to negotiate a truce with Gerard Argent. Talia warned him that it was impossible, told him that there could be no peace with someone whose word couldn’t be trusted. Deucalion went anyway, which resulted in him losing his eyesight and half his pack. One of his betas tried to mercy-kill him afterwards; he went berserk and killed the rest of his pack.”

“Yes, that’s what Peter has told me,” Tom says. “Now tell me something I didn’t know.”

“Last I heard, he had recruited four alphas to his side,” Deaton says, and Derek grimaces. Two was bad enough, but four? “Kali and Ennis you know, I think, but there are two others - twins named Ethan and Aiden. I don’t know much about them.”

“Does Deucalion hold a grudge against Talia for what happened with Gerard?”

“No,” Deaton says, and Tom raises his eyebrows. “She tried to warn him. He even admitted that to her. That he should have believed her. But it’s more than that. Deucalion doesn’t look back on what happened with Gerard as a bad thing. He thinks of it as a rebirthing, a phoenix rising from the ashes. He’s much more powerful now than he used to be, and he’s utterly without remorse. To him, that’s a vast improvement over how he used to be. He holds no grudge because he doesn’t believe there’s anything to hold a grudge over.”

“So why is he here, then?” Tom says, and when Deaton gives a half-shrug, he says, “Your best guess.”

“I would presume he wants to entice Peter to join him, as he did Ennis and Kali. He has every reason to believe it would work. Peter’s already a ruthless, amoral son of a bitch. He’s just the sort of person who would go for Deucalion’s offer.”

“Then why not just come out and make the offer?” Derek asks, through gritted teeth.

“I’d have to go out on a limb and say he’s a messy bitch who loves drama.”

The phrasing makes Tom snort with laughter despite himself. “Pick that up from Scott?”

“Actually, from my sister. She’s the guidance counselor over at Beacon Hills High.”

“Talk about a job I could never do,” Tom says. “Anything else you think we should know?”

“I can’t think of anything.”

“Okay. Thanks for talking with us,” Tom says, apparently choosing to pretend that Derek had never threatened him. “I know that you have valid reasons to be wary of Peter. But I think he’s honestly trying his best to be an alpha that his sister would be proud of. So maybe cut him a little slack.”

“I’ll take it under advisement.”

~ ~ ~ ~

It’s a long day. They get a lot of tips, some more believable than others. Once Tom thinks they have a basic grasp on the area the alpha pack are staying in, he and Peter go check things out. But they don’t see or sense anything out of the ordinary. Peter says that alphas can hide their presence, so he wouldn’t necessarily be able to track them down. The recession, along with Beacon Hills’ unique problems, have left a lot of empty buildings in downtown. It would take a long time to search through all of them, and it would be easy for Deucalion to move if he felt the police were getting too close.

On top of that, Tom feels very uneasy about what they’re going to do once they’ve located Boyd and Erica. He hadn’t wanted to give any sign of that in front of the kids, but he knows it’s not going to be as easy as walking in and taking them. He won’t be able to call in SWAT without compelling evidence, and even then, he’s not sure that that will work. He doesn’t have a firm enough grasp on Deucalion’s motives or personality to say that it wouldn’t just end in a massacre.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Peter says, as they’re heading back to the den after their search.

“Trying to decide what we’re going to do once we find their hideout,” Tom says. “I assume even you can’t take on four alphas at once.”

“It certainly wouldn’t be my preference,” Peter says. “I was thinking that we would need a diversion. I assume you plan to call Chris?”

Tom glances over at him. “I wasn’t sure if you’d like that.”

Peter shrugs. “I don’t have any problem with using him as a resource when necessary, as long as he does what he’s told.”

“Okay. Then yeah, I would call Chris. The diversion’s a good idea.” Tom is thinking about his options. “The question is, in the case of something like an explosion, will Deucalion come out to fight? Or will he stay where he is, to protect his hostages?”

“From what I know of him, he’s always looking for a fight,” Peter says. “And since he’s obviously here to either confront or recruit me, he’ll come to me if he thinks I’m there.”

“Okay. Then maybe you and Chris can go in guns blazing while I sneak around and get the kids out. It’ll depend on the location.”

Peter nods, drifting into his own thoughts as they drive. The kids are all still there, and it’s no longer just Stiles who’s climbing the walls. All of the betas are antsy. Stiles has apparently funneled that into baking, because the house smells great, but he hadn’t thought about dinner. Tom tells them that they’ve narrowed down the basic area that Boyd and Erica are in and they’re working on the next steps, and they should order some food.

Stiles has just gotten out a collection of take-out menus when Tom’s phone rings. He glances down to see that it’s a private number, and swipes to accept. “Sheriff Stilinski.”

“Sheriff,” a woman’s voice says. It’s smooth and confident. “I know where the missing children are.”

“I’m listening,” Tom says.

“First National Bank. They’re in one of the vaults.”

“How do you - ” Tom starts, and the line goes dead. He hadn’t really expected an answer, but he still hangs up feeling somewhat discomfited. It’s interesting that whoever that was called him directly. A normal citizen would have called the tip line, or the sheriff’s station. Whoever had dropped that tip hadn’t just seen them on the news. They were involved in this in more than a passing fashion. And her voice had been vaguely familiar. He’s sure he’s heard it before, although he can’t place it.

“Shall we go?” Peter says.

Tom nods. “I want to head to the station first. That bank closed after a robbery. We should still have the blueprints on file. I’ll call Chris and have him meet us there.”

“Dad,” Stiles says, and Tom turns to give him a ‘no bullshit’ look. Stiles clears his throat and says, “Be careful.”

“We will be,” Tom says, reaching out to tousle his hair. “I’ll call you as soon as we’ve gotten Erica and Boyd back.”

He calls ahead to the station so they can pull the file from the bank robbery, telling the truth, that he had gotten an anonymous tip about the bank. Then he calls Chris and tells him to meet them there, with ‘whatever equipment he feels necessary’. Peter is frowning as they pull into the parking lot. “How do you intend to do this without your team finding out about werewolves?”

“I’m not sure,” Tom says. “Let’s look at the schematics first.”

They could be worse, although they certainly could be better. The thieves had been planning to drill through the vault wall, and it’s accessible, although it’ll be a tight fit. “Even if I could fit through there, I don’t know how I’d get through the wall afterwards.”

“I can get through,” Peter says, without hesitation.

Tom glances at him. “You won’t have much room to draw back your fist.”

Peter nods in understanding and repeats, “I can get through.”

“Okay. So as of now, you’re the rescue team. Chris and I will be the point team. Come on.” Tom heads out into the station and collects the deputies who have been awaiting instructions. He still doesn’t want to call SWAT. There’s too good a chance that things will get out of hand. And his men have no reason to doubt his judgment - they don’t know anything about what they’re up against. Tom doesn’t want this to turn into a bloodbath. If Deucalion is really only here to recruit Peter, hopefully he won’t want to kill Peter’s betas himself.

So he tells the gathered men that they’re going to breach through the front while a second team goes through an entrance in the back that should allow them to access the vault. Peter looks vaguely amused at being called an entire team, and Tom was careful to only select a few deputies. There are plenty of men left over for them to assume Tom is having go through the back.

Chris arrives as he’s finishing the briefing, and Tom waves him aside. “Congratulations, you’re a hostage negotiator,” he says, and hands Chris a vest. Chris arches an eyebrow. “I have to explain your presence to my men. We don’t have a hostage negotiator in this county, so they won’t think it’s odd that it’s someone they don’t know.”

“That’s going to get awkward if I have to shoot somebody,” Chris says.

Tom shrugs. “I never said you were a good hostage negotiator,” he says, and Peter chokes back a snort of laughter. “Peter, is there anything you need before we go in?”

“I’m good,” Peter says.

“Okay. Let’s get this show on the road.” Tom introduces Chris to his team and then tells them to go on ahead while he ‘briefs the second team’. “Get in position but don’t move until I get there and give the signal.”

He briefly texts Stiles and Derek to let them know that they’ve got a plan in place and that he’ll be surrounded by deputies with guns. That should ease Stiles’ nerves, even if it’s only a little bit. Then he suits up. Peter looks at the bullet proof vest like Tom has got to be kidding, and Tom says, “I want you to blend in with my men in case you’re seen,” so Peter puts on the gear without complaint.

Twenty minutes later, they’re outside the bank. Peter goes around to the back. Tom has told him to wait two full minutes while they go in through the front. Hopefully, by then, Deucalion will be focused on the team of police officers barging through his front door.

They cut the chains on the front and ease their way inside. Tom knows that his men will expect him to be stealthy, because they don’t realize they’re a diversion. That’s fine. He doesn’t need a bullhorn to announce his presence when the alphas will hear his beating heart from twenty yards away.

The interior of the bank is coated in a fine layer of dust that’s visible in the beams of their flashlights. Chris stays towards the back, both because the deputies expect him to, and because he’s Tom’s trump card, if he needs the element of surprise.

But he doesn’t. In fact, he doesn’t need anything at all. They prowl cautiously through the main room of the bank and the offices, and then his radio crackles and Peter’s voice comes over it, sounding more professional than Tom would have expected. “This is alpha team. Subjects have been recovered. No sign of the perpetrators. Over.”

“Copy, alpha,” Tom says, amused at Peter giving himself a team name. He gestures with his flashlight to the others. “Fan out and look for any sign of the perps. I’m going to go check on the kids.”

“Copy,” the men say. Chris glances at Tom in askance, and Tom gestures for him to follow the deputies, so Chris does. Tom leaves through the front and circles out to the alley. Peter has already hustled Boyd and Erica into his car, which he had left nearby, and they look shaken but unharmed. A wave of relief goes through Tom as he greets them both and gets them each a bottle of water.

“There’s no one in there,” Peter says. “Your men aren’t going to find anything.”

“I didn’t figure there was,” Tom says, “but just because we won’t find anyone doesn’t mean we won’t find anything. Clues. Evidence. You do remember that I’m a cop, right?”

“Hard to forget with you in that super sexy tactical gear,” Peter says, and Erica lets out a trill little giggle, edging towards hysteria but not quite there. “This was odd, hm? It can’t be this easy.”

“Oh, yes, it can,” Tom says. “It can absolutely be that easy. For once, let’s do easy.”

Peter half-ignores him. “They had them in a mountain ash circle. Boyd was tied up and Erica was chained up, so they knew he was human - which would be easy enough to tell. Once I tossed him a knife, he was able to get himself free and break the circle, and then I was able to free Erica.”

Tom sighs. “Look, for tonight, let’s just accept that we were underestimated and we got Boyd and Erica back without any trouble.”

Peter looks dubious, but he nods and says, “I’ll drive them back to the station, since you insisted on doing this through official channels.”

“Okay.” Tom takes a minute to text an update to the pack, then radios in to the station so they can call Boyd and Erica’s parents.

It’s about a half hour before his men finish their sweep and report that they didn’t find anyone in the bank, and they’ve cordoned off everything for forensics to come through the next day. He’s already on the way back to the station by then. Boyd and Erica’s parents are there, hugging their children. Tom talks to them briefly about how they don’t really know what the kidnappers’ motives were, but now that they’ve gotten Boyd and Erica back, and they’ve confirmed that the ‘people of interest’ were in fact the guilty parties, they’ll have lots more leads to follow up on.

He hates letting Erica and Boyd out of his sight when he wants them in the safety of the den, but there’s not much he can do about it, at least for tonight. In the morning, when things are calmer, he’ll have to think about having a talk with their parents about werewolf stuff - something he does not look forward to in the slightest.

He thanks Chris for his help, even though it wasn’t needed. Chris is also clearly uneasy, thinking that things went far too well, but at least he doesn’t say so out loud. Tom finally heads into his office and finds Peter there, poring over the schematics. “Hecatolite,” he says, as Tom comes in.

“Bless you,” Tom responds.

Peter gives a snort. “It’s what the vault’s walls were made of. Hecatolite, also known as moonstone. It blocks the power of the moon.”

“Meaning?”

“That if Erica, at least, had spent too long in that vault, she would have gone feral when she was exposed to moonlight again.” Peter looks up from the schematics. “They were clearly planning to hold her long-term, then release her, presuming I would kill her because she was feral. That might be why it went so smoothly tonight - they weren’t expecting us to move so quickly.”

“Maybe.” Tom sighs. “Come on, I’m beat. Let’s head back to the den before I fall asleep on my feet.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

A few days pass without incident. Tom keeps everyone on the buddy system and institutes regular check-ins. He does his best to keep everyone calm, especially Stiles, who’s about an inch away from a freak-out at all times. He examines the evidence obtained from the vault and concludes that it’s all pretty much worthless. Deucalion and the others clearly weren’t staying there, and he doesn’t know how to find them.

It’s a Monday, and he’s just finished seeing the kids off to school when the back door opens. He half-turns, expecting it to be Peter as usual, but then remembers that Peter is at the den, upstairs and still in bed. By the time he’s turned all the way around, a dark-skinned woman with long hair is all the way into the kitchen. He’s got his sidearm out and pointed in her direction before she can get any closer, barking out, “Don’t move!”

“Oh, you don’t want to do that,” the woman says, sounding deeply amused. “You don’t think I’m alone, do you?”

This time, Tom doesn’t have time to turn before someone has grabbed him by the wrist and wrenched his arm around. He lets out a hiss of pain, dropping the gun involuntarily but managing to keep to his feet. He gets a brief glimpse of one of the biggest men he’s ever seen, with a shaved head and glowing red eyes, before he’s shoved backwards and into the kitchen counter.

He has to grab the edge of the sink, but he regains his balance and replies, “I think you’d better get the hell out of my house.”

“Or else what?” the behemoth retorts.

“Or else this,” the voice behind him says, and then Peter slams him facedown into the counter. He goes staggering, both hands clutching at his bloody nose. The woman snarls at Peter, but Tom’s already got his second weapon out and fires the taser at her as she starts forward. Her body goes rigid and stumbles, although she doesn’t fall.

“Please, there’s no need for violence,” Deucalion says, as he comes in through the back door. “Seems a bit rude to pull weapons as soon as we show our faces.”

“Seems a bit rude to come into someone’s house without knocking,” Tom says, not putting down the taser. He’s glad he paid more for the one with three cartridges. Originally he had gotten it for Stiles, after what had happened with the Argents, but decided he wanted one of his own, too. It always seemed like a good idea to have a nonlethal weapon on hand.

“Well, I beg your pardon,” Deucalion says, sounding amused. “Ennis, Kali, are you all right?”

Ennis growls and Kali snarls. Deucalion’s expression doesn’t change. After a moment, they both nod.

“Excellent,” Deucalion says. “Let’s chat.”

“By all means,” Tom says. “What do you want? To kill us?”

“You really think I’m that boring?” Deucalion asks. “Don’t throw me in with sociopaths like your alpha. I’m a man with far more vision than simple murder. In fact, I’m here to show you how much vision a blind man can have.”

Tom looks over at Peter, who doesn’t seem at all fazed by the ‘sociopath’ comment, and wonders if it’s worth pressing for details on whatever metaphor Deucalion thinks he’s making. “Okay . . .”

“I’m all about discovering new talents,” Deucalion says. “Like you, Peter.”

“Hard pass,” Peter says.

“But you haven’t heard my pitch.”

“I don’t give a rat’s ass about your pitch. I know you want me to kill my own pack.”

“No,” Deucalion says, his smile widening. “I just want you to kill one of them. Do that, and I won’t have to ask you to kill the others. You’ll do it on your own. I did it. Ennis did. Kali did. Tell him what it’s like, Kali, to kill one of your own.”

“Mm . . . liberating,” Kali purrs.

“Peter, do you really want to stay beholden to a group of – ”

“Cut the crap,” Peter interrupts. “Who I chose for my pack is none of your business. Who I’m beholden to, likewise, none of your business. Kill my own pack, for power? For freedom? I don’t need your sorry idea of either of those things. I have all the freedom I need, and I don’t need any more power than I already have to run your sorry ass out of town.”

The smile vanishes from Deucalion’s face. “Is that what you think? You have no idea who I am. You’ve never seen anything like me.” His voice starts to rise. “I am the alpha of alphas! I am the apex predator! I am death, dest – ”

The crackle of Tom’s radio interrupts Deucalion mid-word. He turns away slightly and taps the button. “Stilinski,” he says, and Deucalion stops talking, his eyebrows going up in surprise.

“Hey, Tom, we’ve got a probable 187, body found down in the woods,” Tara says.

“Okay, text me the GPS, I’m on my way.” Tom lets go of the button the radio and says, more to Peter than to Deucalion, “We’ll have to pick this up later . . . whatever it is.”

Peter nods, looking more amused than anything else. Deucalion, however, is clearly offended. “You don’t think this takes precedence?”

“I really don’t,” Tom says. “Now get out of my house.”

Deucalion’s frown deepens, and he turns back to Peter. “Well, all I really need is the alpha. He doesn’t need to be here for this.”

“Nobody needs to be here for this,” Peter drawls.

“My presence on your territory is really so unimportant to you?”

“Your presence on my territory is a nuisance and nothing more,” Peter replies. “As for whether or not the good sheriff needs to be here for this discussion, well. You’d probably rather he be. He constitutes about ninety percent of my impulse control.”

Tom gives a snort at that, unable to argue. Then he turns back to Deucalion and says, “Don’t make me tell you to leave a second time.”

Deucalion raises his hands in fake surrender. “We’ll go . . . for today. But you’ll be hearing from us again.”

“Yeah, didn’t figure I’d be lucky enough for anything else,” Tom remarks. Deucalion gestures to Kali and Ennis. They both scowl, but follow him out the back. Tom closes the door and locks it behind him. “I’ve got to go. Will you stay here today? I don’t want them coming back and hiding in the closets to ambush the kids when they get home from school.”

Peter nods. “I’ll make sure that nobody gets in.”

“Okay. I’ll text you once I know what’s up.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Four hours after he left the house, Tom gets a text from Peter that reads, ‘Forget about me so soon?’

Tom curses under his breath and replies, ‘Sorry. I still haven’t figured out what’s going on, so I didn’t really have any news.’

‘Four hours and you still haven’t solved all the crime in Beacon Hills?’ Peter texts back. ‘Well, now I’m just disappointed.’

Tom gives a snort of laughter despite himself before saying, ‘I’ll update you later,’ and getting back to what he was doing. Not that he really wanted to do that. What he was doing was standing in the hospital morgue, waiting for the medical examiner. He’s read the preliminary report, and doesn’t like anything that was in it.

“I really can’t say which injury was the fatal one until I’ve done the full autopsy,” the medical examiner says, when Tom presses him. “Any of the three could have been fatal. But my guess is that it was probably the asphyxiation, from the petechiae.”

“Really? That was going to be my last guess, actually,” Tom says. “I figured the killer got frustrated by how much work the strangulation was taking and went for a quicker way.”

“I mean, it’s possible.” The ME shrugs. “But a lot of the strangulation marks look post-mortem to me, like they continued to apply pressure after the victim had already died.”

“Huh.” Tom considers all this. “Okay. Call me once you’ve done the – ”

His radio crackles.

“We’ve got another one,” Tara tells him.

“Shit,” Tom mutters. He says goodbye to the medical examiner and heads down to the community pool, where the second body has been found. He immediately sees the similarities, from the bloodied temple to the obvious wound on the throat. But what really draws his attention is the ring. He’s seen something like it before, and it nags at his senses.

Once the crime scene has been cordoned off and the body is being readied for transport to the morgue, he heads down to the station. The first victim’s girlfriend is there already, and she’s being interviewed. “I just don’t know what happened,” she says, audible crying. “Things got . . . they got weird, and I . . . the next thing I knew, she was gone!”

“Were the two of you drinking, Caitlin?” Tara asks.

“No,” Caitlin says.

“Did you take anything else?” Tara says. Caitlin hesitates, and Tara says. “It’s important that you be honest with me.”

“We split a tab of X,” Caitlin says.

“Okay. MDMA can cause hallucinations. Or it could’ve been laced with something.”

Tom knocks on the interrogation room door, then goes inside. “Hey, Tara,” he says. “I’ll take it from here. Can you go run down the information on the one Wilson is bringing in?”

“Sure,” Tara says. “Can I have a sec, first?”

Tom nods, gives Caitlin a reassuring smile, and follows Tara out of the room. She closes the interrogation room door behind them. “She’s hiding something. If it weren’t for the lack of physical evidence, I’d say she killed her girlfriend and then dumped the body. But who makes up a story like this? Lesbian romance gets interrupted by a swarm of insects, one girl runs off, vanishes into thin air, and then later turns up dead? I mean, I know this is Beacon Hills, but this is weird even for us.”

“Yeah,” Tom agrees. “I’m not sure what I think yet. But unless she can be in two places at once, she’s not the killer. Another body was found, very fresh, and she’s been in here since eight AM.”

“Shit. Another one?”

“Yeah. No ID yet. Go talk to Wilson and see what you can find out while I talk to Caitlin.”

“Okay.”

Tara heads off, and Tom opens the door to the interrogation room and goes inside. He introduces himself and sits down. Caitlin goes through everything again, and Tom has to admit that Tara’s right. It’s a wild story. But his life has been full of wild stories lately.

“Do you think I was hallucinating?” Caitlin asks him. “Because I wasn’t. It was real. Emily and I both saw the same thing. How is that possible if it was a hallucination?”

“I don’t know,” Tom says. “I’ve got a lot of questions and not a lot of answers right now. But I believe you.”

Caitlin lets out a breath. “Thanks.”

Tom squeezes her shoulder. “I’m going to have one of my deputies take you home so you can get some rest.”

“Okay.” Caitlin wipes some tears off her cheeks. “I just wanted to make the night special for her,” she says. “It was her first time, and I knew that was a big deal to her. And now she’s dead and it’s all my fault.”

“Nothing about this is your fault,” Tom says automatically, his mouth moving forward when his brain is stuck on the first part. “Okay?”

She manages a miserable nod. Tom excuses himself, directs one of his deputies to take her home, and ducks into his office for a quick Google search to make sure rings that say ‘purity’ meant what he thought they did. Then he calls Peter. “I really hate to ask this question, but are virgin sacrifices actually a thing?”

“Well, I’m not completely familiar with what someone might gain from them, but sure, they’re a thing,” Peter says.

“But that’s not the sort of thing an alpha werewolf would do,” Tom says.

“Oh, no. That’s more a dark magic sort of thing.”

“Great,” Tom says. “Just perfect.”

“How many bodies?” Peter asks.

“Two so far.”

“There’ll be more,” Peter says. “Sacrifices are always done in sets of three or seven.”

“Even better. Tell the kids I won’t be home for dinner.”

“Okay. Call me if you need me.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

It doesn’t surprise Derek that Stiles has a hundred questions about where his father is, who’s dying, how they’re dying, and why they’re dying. What does surprise him is that once Peter has answered all those questions, Stiles falls into a moody silence. It’s not how he normally acts when he’s worried. Anxiety is a full-body emotion for Stiles; he paces and fidgets and talks up a storm.

If whoever’s killing virgins isn’t someone in the alpha pack, then they’ve got two separate things to deal with at once, and Derek absolutely hates that. The alpha pack would be bad enough.

Peter is obviously thinking along the same lines, because he says, “So, we might need to be a little more careful than just the buddy system, which brings me to a question or two that you wonderful children are absolutely not going to want to answer. Scott, Allison. Are you safe from our virgin-killer?”

Scott flushes dark pink and mumbles, “Oh my God.”

Allison, for her part, just gives Peter a thin little smile and says, “We are safe.”

“Excellent! I know Erica and Boyd are, which means it’s only Isaac and Stiles that we have to worry about – unless something dramatic has changed in the past week that I don’t know about,” Peter adds, either oblivious to or uncaring about the utter mortification on Isaac and Stiles’ faces. “Which means I can assign Scott and Allison to look after Isaac, and Erica and Boyd to look after Stiles.”

“Look after him how?” Erica says, with a wicked smile. “Are we supposed to be keeping him safe or fixing the problem?”

“Oh my God, yes, sex me right now,” Stiles says. “Are you kidding?”

Erica reaches out and flicks his nose. “Yes, I’m kidding.”

“That’s rude,” Stiles says. “You shouldn’t toy with someone’s emotions like that!”

“Don’t be such a dumbass,” Erica says. “Derek would rip me in half if I even touched you.”

“No, he wouldn’t,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes dramatically.

“Well . . .” Derek says under his breath.

It’s after that, that Stiles gets all moody. He hardly says anything else during dinner, or while doing the dishes, or until they’ve all done their homework and are getting themselves sorted out for bed.

“Would you, though?” he suddenly blurts out, as Derek is running a comb through his hair.

“Would I what?” Derek asks.

“Rip Erica in half if she touched me.”

“Oh.” Derek shrugs. “No. I mean. Not if you wanted her to, if it was to keep you safe from some evil witch.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says.

Even if the gloomy agreement wasn’t enough to let Derek know that there was something wrong, the welter of emotional scent certainly was. He looks over at Stiles and says, “Was that the wrong answer?”

“I don’t want to have sex with Erica,” Stiles replies.

Derek blinks. “Okay, yeah. I know that.”

“But I don’t want a witch to kill me,” Stiles says, and suddenly the words are spilling out of him. “And I know we had an agreement and I would never want you to do anything you’re uncomfortable doing, but come on, do you really think I’m going to be so much more mature in eight months than I am now? There’s some crazy psycho witch out there murdering virgins and I’m a virgin and also I have the worst luck in the world and if it was to save my life, wouldn’t you? Do you think I’m repulsive? Because sometimes I really worry that you think I’m repulsive, that you only agreed to this whole ‘when I’m seventeen and a half we can make out’ thing because I wanted that, and when I kiss you, you never really kiss back, not like a real kiss, and oh my God I’m going to stop talking now. And possibly forever.”

Derek fights the urge to run the hell away from this conversation. Every aspect of it makes him want to climb out the window. He forces himself to take a deep breath and starts with the one thing he actually knows how to answer. “You’re not repulsive.”

“Okay,” Stiles says, looking at him with sad Bambi eyes.

“You’re . . . you’re actually pretty cute,” Derek says, and then groans, feeling the blush rising into his cheeks. “You’re really cute, okay? God damn it, Stiles. I like you. I’m sorry that I don’t kiss you the way you want. I’m not good at that sort of thing and, and there’s still a big part of me that thinks I should be in jail just for wanting to kiss you.”

Stiles fidgets, tugging at the hem of his shirt. “So you’re attracted to me . . . but you don’t want to be.”

“I . . . yeah.” Derek sighs. “I mean. In some ways. Yes.”

There’s a long moment of silence. Stiles swallows hard and looks away. “Maybe we should break up, then,” he says. “You should be with someone you want to be attracted to.”

“I don’t want to break up with you,” Derek says. “I just want to wait until you’re eighteen before we get physical. I know it’s a stupid, arbitrary line. I know that you’re not going to magically turn into a different person on your eighteenth birthday. I can’t say why it matters to me so much but it does. I’m sorry if that bugs you. I’m sorry there’s some psycho murdering virgins and I can’t fix that for you but I can’t, Stiles.”

Stiles nods. “Yeah. I know.” He sighs. “I’m sorry. I just – I hate being so anxious all the time.”

“I’m not going to let anything happen to you,” Derek says firmly. “Whether you’re a virgin or not. Nobody’s going to hurt you while I’m here.”

Stiles manages another nod and then a wan smile. “Okay.”

“Come on.” Derek hooks an arm around his shoulders and presses a kiss into Stiles’ temple. “I know you won’t sleep until your dad gets home, so let’s put on a movie.”

“Sounds good.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

The third victim actually turns out to be the first victim. She’s found last, but the medical examiner says she’s been dead for over twenty-four hours. It’s the same basic situation as the others. Interestingly, the medical examiner says that two were killed by strangulation, but the third died from blood loss from the throat wound. Tom has been texting Peter periodically, and asks him about the odd deaths.

‘It’s called a three fold death,’ Peter replies. ‘Using three different fatal wounds to increase the power of the sacrifice. They’re administered almost simultaneously, so there might not be a pattern of which wound actually turns out to be the cause of death. It’ll depend on the person, on the exact circumstances.’

Tom thinks this over and decides it makes sense. The killer probably administers the head wound first, to immobilize the victim, then the throat wound because it’s quick. Then they strangle the victim until they’ve either bled out or asphyxiated.

The bodies were all found in seemingly random locations. He can’t see any pattern to it. The only good news is that they were all killed within a few hours of each other, overnight. That means that there probably won’t be any more bodies – at least, not for now. It was a set of three, not seven.

‘Would they have had to know the victim well enough to know they were a virgin?’ Tom texts Peter. ‘Or would they be able to sense that?’

‘I’m not 100% sure,’ Peter replies. ‘I think they would be able to sense it, or maybe do a spell to locate potential victims.’

Tom sighs and gets himself another mug of coffee. If the victims were selected by magic, at random, then he has absolutely nothing to go on. He doubts forensics is going to come up with anything helpful.

Since Peter doesn’t seem as familiar with witchcraft as he does with werewolf nonsense, Tom goes into his office, closes the door, and calls Chris. “What do you know about witches?”

“Not much, because that term doesn’t actually have any practical application,” Chris replies. “Witches are in Disney movies. If you’re looking for something in the real world, it’s going to be a mage, a sorcerer, or a Druid.”

“What’s the difference?”

“A mage’s ability is inherent. They have their own power, which they’re born with. Sorcerers depend on artifacts imbued with magic, or draw power from the ley lines. Druids are a combination of both. They have inherent power but enhance it with power drawn from the ley lines.”

“Why wouldn’t all mages do that?” Tom asks.

“Most do, but there are some cultures that believe that using power from ley lines weakens the Earth.”

“Okay.” Tom frowns, pacing around his office. “So if someone specifically comes to Beacon Hills to do magic here, it’s probably because of the ley lines, and we can assume it’s a sorcerer or a Druid.”

“Probably, yeah. What sort of magic?”

“I’ve had three bodies drop in the past twenty-four hours, found in random locations around town. All virgins.”

“Jesus,” Chris says. Tom can practically see him pinching the bridge of his nose. “That’s almost certainly a Druid, then. Sorcerers can’t store power the same way. They might sacrifice a group of three and immediately turn around and use that energy to do something, but by and large, sacrifices usually mean Druids – or actually, Darachs.”

“What’s a Darach?”

“It’s a Druid who’s gone to the dark side,” Chris says, then adds, “for lack of a better term. Druids are usually kind of healy-feely, nature-based, ‘do no harm’ types. When a Druid starts using their magic to hurt others, they become a Darach.”

Tom rubs his temples. “Do you know of any way to track them?”

“No, sorry.”

“Super.” Tom thanks him for his help and hangs up. He thinks about things for a long minute before he checks his watch and sees that it’s almost nine. He’s halfway to the door to the station before he remembers the buddy system. After an internal argument over whether or not he wants to follow it, he decides he does. Not only because he doesn’t want to listen to Stiles blow his stack, but because the teenagers are more likely to follow the rule if he’s following it himself. He texts Peter and lets him know that he’s ready to go.

Peter, of course, is above the buddy rule. He shows up by himself, on foot. Tom doesn’t bother saying anything because that won’t get him anywhere, and gets into the Cruiser. He sums up everything he knows while he drives, including what he learned from Chris, and says, “I just don’t get it. What does this have to do with Deucalion?”

“Probably nothing,” Peter says with a shrug.

“You think?”

“There are a hundred reasons a Darach might sacrifice some virgins,” Peter says. “And if they’re going to get the best boost out of it, they’ll want to do it on a major ley line. Beacon Hills has the strongest ones for about three hundred miles. They came here to do their mojo, but that doesn’t mean it’s got anything to do with Deucalion.”

“The timing is awfully coincidental.”

“Is it? It’s not like they showed up at the same exact moment. Deucalion’s been in town for over two weeks now.”

Tom sighs. “I guess that’s true.”

“You sound so disappointed,” Peter says, arching an eyebrow at him. “I’d think you’d be glad that Deucalion doesn’t have a virgin-sacrificing wizard on his payroll.”

“Okay, fair,” Tom says. “It’s just that if it’s not connected to Deucalion, I’ve got literally nothing to go on. Just three dead bodies and a bunch of dead ends.”

“Not every murder can be solved, you know.”

“Come on, Peter,” Tom says, annoyed. “Their bodies are barely cold.”

“I’m just saying. Your dedication to your duty is admirable, but we have to focus on protecting the pack right now.”

“I can focus on more than one thing at once.”

“Given the actual definition of the word ‘focus’ – ”

“Stop talking,” Tom interrupts.

Peter rolls his eyes. “Why are you like this? I’m over here trying to keep you safe from the murderous alphas in town and you’re going to start throwing yourself in the path of a Darach. It’s enough to give a man heartburn.”

“Hey, here’s a thought,” Tom says. “How about, I’ll keep myself safe, you won’t tell me how to do my job, and you’ll stop talking about me like I’m a damsel in distress?”

“I just don’t want you to get hurt,” Peter says.

Tom rubs a hand over his face as he pulls into the driveway. “Yeah, I get that. Sorry. I’m just tense right now.”

“I know.” Peter shrugs and gets out of the car, and Tom follows. “But don’t worry. Anyone who gives us any trouble, I’ll just murder them in their sleep.”

Tom sighs, not moving towards the front door yet. “I wish you wouldn’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“Talk about murdering people like you don’t know I prefer not having to do that.”

That makes Peter roll his eyes again, which sort of makes Tom want to slap him across the face. “Yes, as always, your just and virtuous morality has been noted.”

Now Tom is really annoyed. “I wish you wouldn’t do that, too,” he says. When Peter just gives him that look, he says, “You know, the thing where you mock the moral principles which guide my life. You don’t have to agree with them, but you also don’t have to make fun of them.”

At this, Peter lifts his hands in surrender. “Sorry. You’re just so cute when you’re riled up.”

“Well, you’re not cute when you’re being an asshole, so cut it out.” Tom pushes both hands through his hair. “And don’t think you’re getting any of this tonight,” he adds, gesturing broadly at himself. “I’m tired and I just want to go to bed.”

“I could blow you,” Peter says.

Tom hesitates. He really is tired, but, well. He’d be the first to admit, if asked – and he hopes to God that nobody ever asks – that Peter is absolutely incredible in the bedroom. It’s not that Tom didn’t have a good sex life with Claudia, but Peter is on a different level, a level heretofore completely unknown to Tom. And the blowjobs he gives are amazing. “Okay. But you’ll owe me one.”

Peter huffs out a laugh. “You make it sound like you’re doing me the favor.”

“Damn right,” Tom says.

That makes Peter laugh harder. “Well, thank you, Your Graciousness, for allowing me to suck your cock. Now go inside and take off your clothes.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

English class has always been a special kind of torture for Stiles. Even after he was started on Adderall, he’s had trouble focusing on English. He’s better in math and science, where there concrete problems and concrete solutions. Even history is better than English, where he can untangle old stories and explore the whys and hows of events. But English. Literature.

It’s not that he doesn’t like to read. He loves to read. He’s had his nose buried in books since he was old enough to put letters into words. As a child, he devoured the works of Roald Dahl, Louis Sachar, and Bruce Coville. He had stacks of books on every flat surface in his room. He spent elementary school and junior high with Narnia, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings.

Then he got to high school, and suddenly everything he was reading for class made him want to reverse time and go back to fourth grade. Herman Hesse. Ernest Hemingway. William Faulkner.

“It’s no wonder we’re so fucking depressed,” he said to Scott when he reached the end of Beneath the Wheel. “I mean, seriously, why do they make us read this shit?”

Now they’re reading Heart of Darkness, which proves everything he’s ever said about high school English class to be true, and he hates it. Even the seriously hot new English teacher isn’t enough to have him focusing on the lesson, as hard as she tries. He stares out the window and thinks about virgin sacrifices and crazy alpha packs full of killers and the argument Peter and his father were having in the driveway the night before. He doesn’t like how easily his father accepted Peter’s apology, which in his opinion was obviously insincere. He had wanted to jump down into the driveway and start smacking Peter around, but then suddenly sex was the topic of discussion and he had fled from the window where he had been eavesdropping.

Outside, way off in the distance, he sees a black speck.

Not that he wants to think about sex right now, with his super hot boyfriend who apparently believes he belongs in jail for wanting to have some together. He knows he doesn’t entirely get Derek’s issues. It’s the sort of thing he can’t understand, because he has no experience with it. He can’t imagine what it’s like for Derek to hate himself for being attracted to someone underage. So he can’t make it make sense. To him, it’s obviously fine that Derek is attracted to him, because Derek isn’t Kate. Derek would never hurt him or take advantage of him. So why is being attracted to him a bad thing?

He doesn’t push the issue – their discussion the night before being a rare exception he figures he can be forgiven for, given the virgin sacrifices. But he can’t help but be uneasy about it, because it leaves him feeling like Derek would be better off not being with him. Even though Derek says he doesn’t want to break up. Maybe Derek’s only saying that because he cares about Stiles. Maybe Stiles should break up with him, to keep Derek from having to do it.

The black speck is closer now. There are more of them, maybe half a dozen. Birds, some part of Stiles notes distantly. Coming closer.

He feels awkward about sex and anxious about his father and uneasy about everything, all the time, and he’s getting really sick of it. He just wants things to be normal again. But he knows that they can’t be, that even if Deucalion and his pack disappear tomorrow, he’s not going to stop wondering whether or not Derek really wants to be with him.

There are a lot of birds in the sky, now, enough to draw Stiles’ attention out of his gloomy thoughts. He frowns a little as he sees the way they’re flying straight at the window. They’re still a little ways away, but approaching fast. “What the hell?” he says.

He intends to say it quietly, but apparently doesn’t, because the people sitting closest to him also turn and look out the window. “Whoa, that’s weird,” Scott says, his eyes going wide, and it’s becoming rapidly clear that the birds aren’t going to stop.

“Get down, everyone!” Ms. Blake shouts, as the first bird hits the window. It practically explores in a shower of feathers, but then there are more, and they’re breaking through the glass. “Get down!”

Stiles throws himself out of his chair as Lydia, who sits next to him and has even deigned to acknowledge his existence once or twice, lets out a little shriek. One of their claws has caught in her hair. He drags her to the floor with him, using his body to shield her from the onslaught.

It’s amazingly noisy, with the breaking glass and shouting teenagers and screaming birds, and Stiles huddles over Lydia and waits for it to be over. It lasts about thirty seconds, and feels like about thirty years.

“What in the fuck was that?” someone blurts out, once things have gone quiet.

They pick themselves up. Stiles makes sure that Lydia is okay, and she gives him a somewhat shaky thank you. He checks on Scott and Allison, who share the class with them, and they’re both fine if a little stunned.

Everyone has heard the commotion, and teachers from the other side of the hall are coming to make sure they’re okay. Every classroom on the west side of the school was affected. He can already hear sirens. It’s going to be a shit show. He texts Derek to say, ‘Hey can u come pick me up, smth weird happened’.

Derek doesn’t reply, which Stiles hopes means he’s driving and already on his way. English is his last class of the day, and he knows that Derek was probably planning on picking him up anyway. He starts helping sweep up the broken glass.

Not only does Derek arrive a minute later, thus proving Stiles’ theory that he was already on his way, he comes straight up to the classroom rather than waiting outside. “Hey, you okay?” he asks Stiles, and when Stiles nods, “What the hell happened?”

“Uh, like five hundred birds flew into the side of the building for no God damned reason,” Stiles says. He sees Derek frown and says, “Yeah, I know. I have no idea.”

“Okay.” Derek squeezes his shoulder and then looks around. His gaze lands on Ms. Blake, who’s half sitting on the edge of her desk, looking shell-shocked. Derek walks over to her and gently removes a feather from where it’s stuck in her hair. She flinches. “Oh, sorry. I just. You had a feather stuck there.”

“Oh . . . thanks,” she says, with a wobbly smile. Then she seems to wake up a little and adds, “Uh, are you with the fire department?”

“No, I came to pick Stiles up,” Derek says, with a reassuring smile.

“Oh,” Ms. Blake says again, and looks around. Stiles gives a half-wave and sidles up to them, resisting the urge to slide his arm around Derek’s waist because that would be ridiculous. Just because Ms. Blake is super hot and in Derek’s actual age range is no reason to be jealous. She’s traumatized and Derek’s just smiling at her to make her feel better. It’s not even his real smile; it’s that semi-fake one he gives people when he’s trying to pretend he’s actually a human being. Then she solves the issue for him by saying, “Are you his . . .” and hesitates, obviously trying to figure out how Derek could be related to Stiles.

“He’s my boyfriend,” Stiles blurts out way too quickly. His face flushes pink and he looks away, sees Lydia giving an epic eye roll.

Ms. Blake’s eyebrows go up. “He’s a little old for you, isn’t he? Or actually, I should say, he’s a little young for you,” she adds, directing this to Derek.

Stiles feels the flush creeping up the back of his neck and to the tips of his ears because of course Ms. Blake is going to be concerned about that. She knows damned well that Stiles is a minor, and Derek doesn’t have the most reputable look. She’s just looking out for one of her students, and he absolutely shouldn’t want to throw himself out the conveniently broken window over this.

Derek doesn’t help matters by responding, “It’s not really your business,” and then, thank God, Stiles’ father shows up with a few other deputies.

“Oh-there’s-my-dad-gonna-go-see-him-bye!” Stiles says, grabbing Derek by the wrist and dragging him over to the police. Tom squeezes his shoulders to make sure he’s all right and thanks Derek for coming to pick him up. They obviously can’t talk about what might have made all the birds go berserk in front of everyone, so Stiles allows his father to shoo him away. But on the way to the car, he texts his father saying, ‘So the teacher might ask about me saying Derek is my boyfriend ‘cause I kinda told her that? Please tell her that he’s not a creeper and it’s cool, okay?’

‘Okay,’ Tom says, with a blessed lack of commentary.

Stiles breathes a sigh of relief. “So what do you think was up with the birds?”

“Animals can sense supernatural disturbances, so it could’ve been a lot of different things,” Derek says. “The sacrifices probably upset the flow of the ley lines. That’s the most likely thing.”

“It sounds so boring when you put it like that,” Stiles says.

Derek arches an eyebrow at him. “Yes, I can see that ‘the birds were upset by the dark magic channeled through the mystical power that flows invisibly underneath our feet which was used to murder three virgins’ is very boring.”

Stiles smacks him in the arm. “You know what I mean.”

“What did you think the answer was going to be?”

Stiles thinks about it. “Infrasound? Ergot? Aliens? Definitely aliens – ”

Derek shakes his head, but it’s a fond shake of his head, and for some reason that tiny gesture makes Stiles feel better about everything.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom studies the information in front of him for a solid thirty seconds before closing the door to his office. He doesn’t want anyone to overhear the conversation that, unfortunately, he has to have. He dials Peter, who picks up on the second ring. “So what if the Dar - Dark-something-or-other starts killing people who aren’t virgins?”

“Darach,” Peter says, sounding amused. “I’m not sure. I really don’t know as much about magic as I do about, well, other topics.”

Tom sighs as he paces around his office. He doesn’t need this right now. Stiles has been talking for days about the trip the track team is taking on Friday. All the boys in the pack are going, and now he’s going to have to go as a chaperone because he doesn’t dare let half the pack out of his sight when there are psychotic alphas and homicidal witches wandering around. “Who can I ask? Do you think Deaton would know?”

“I’m ninety-eight percent sure that even if he did, he would just spout some bullshit about how he would never even touch magic like that so he can’t tell you anything. How do you know the victim wasn’t a virgin?”

“I guess I don’t for absolute certainty, but if a veteran in his early thirties with a serious, long-term girlfriend is still a virgin, he’s a unicorn among men,” Tom says, and Peter gives a snort. “Shit. Is this going to be another set of three? Do I have to worry about two more bodies?”

“Probably,” Peter says, in a manner that isn’t comforting at all.

Comforting or not, he’s right. The second body is found just after lunch, and things get worse because it’s found on the grounds of the high school, by a couple of kids during gym class. The last thing Tom wants is to go down to the high school and look at a body, but he does it anyway.

He’s been there fewer than two minutes when he hears, “Dad! What’s going on?!” and turns to face his son in exasperation.

“Why aren’t you in class?”

“I am in class,” Stiles says, a trifle smugly, and Tom sees that he is indeed in his gym clothes. “Coach had us jogging in the woods.”

Tom thinks about having some strong words with Finstock about how sending a bunch of teenagers to ‘jog in the woods’ so he doesn’t have to actually supervise them is a terrible idea. Not that strong words have ever done much with Finstock in the past. “Okay, fine. Start jogging. I wanna see some hustle.”

“Dad, rude,” Stiles huffs. “Come on. What’s going on? Tell me what’s going on. Dad, come on – ”

Tom pinches the bridge of his nose and prays for patience. “I just got here, Stiles. I don’t know what’s going on yet. Let me do my job and maybe, if you behave, I’ll give you some details later. Now scoot.”

“Fine,” Stiles groans, in audible anguish. But he starts jogging again, which Tom is infinitely grateful for when he sees the body a minute later. It’s not a pretty sight, and he’s glad that he was able to spare his son that.

It’s unquestionably the same method, the same killer. But when the victim is identified, he’s clearly not a virgin. He’s married and has children. Tom scrolls through the information that the station sends him and frowns. There’s one obvious similarity – the two victims were both veterans. The first of Afghanistan; the second of the Gulf War.

He chews on his lower lip and considers this. If virgin sacrifices are a thing, he supposes it makes sense that soldier sacrifices might also be a thing. But it still doesn’t narrow down their victim pool enough for him to predict who might be next. And if the pattern has held, the third victim is already dead; he just hasn’t found the body yet.

‘Oh, I know this one!’ is what Peter responds when Tom texts him, as if he’s particularly proud of himself at trivia night. ‘It’s called the five-fold knot. Five sacrifices of three. The first groups are virgins and warriors. I know there’s one for healers but I don’t recall the other two.’

‘Great,’ Tom says, his mind immediately going to Melissa. He pushes that thought away, at least for the moment. There are a lot of doctors and nurses in Beacon Hills; probably as many of them as there are veterans if not more. ‘Where can I find out more? I don’t know what to look up in the card catalog.’

‘Luddite,’ Peter replies. ‘You’ll want the dark web for this, I think.’

Tom knows virtually nothing about how to find things on the dark web, and he’s sure as hell not about to ask the IT guy at the station about this. It’s with some trepidation that he realizes he’s going to have to ask Stiles, who will either know, or know someone who knows. He’s thinking about how to handle that when he hears shouting from a different part of the trail. “Christ, what now,” he mutters to himself as he starts jogging down the trail.

He’s greeted by a sight that makes his stomach lurch uncomfortably. Isaac is on his side on the ground, blood dripping from his chin. Stiles is kneeling beside him with a worried frown, while Scott is standing over him protectively. In front of him is, surprisingly, Finstock, who clearly just broke up a fight. Facing him are two identical twins. They’re wearing what look like gym clothes, but if they’re legitimate high school students, Tom will eat his badge. They look to be in their early twenties at least.

“What’s going on here?” he asks, casting a glance at Isaac. Stiles is helping him sit up, so he can’t be too badly injured, but the fact that his face isn’t healing gives away what happened. Tom knows that injuries from alphas don’t heal. Despite the fact that he can’t sense any alpha power, the twins are obviously the ones Deaton had referred to. He knows that alphas can mask their presence when they want to.

“Just a schoolyard fight, Sheriff,” Finstock says. “Nothing for you to worry about.”

Tom casts a look at Isaac. “Isaac?”

“They fucking jumped me,” Isaac says, wiping blood off his chin.

“He started it,” one of the twins immediately says. “He tripped me earlier when we were jogging.”

“What? No, I didn’t, that’s total bullshit – ”

“You did, I saw you,” the other twin says, with a shit-eating grin that Tom itches to wipe off his face.

“Like I said,” Finstock says, rolling his eyes. “A stupid schoolyard fight. Boys will be boys, right?”

“Boys will face consequences for their actions,” Tom can’t resist saying, but in a setting like this, where it’s going to be Isaac’s word against both of the twins, he doesn’t know that it’s worth pursuing. He helps Isaac to his feet and takes a quick look at his injuries. It’s just a split lip and a bruised cheek. The twins clearly hadn’t meant to cause serious harm, so he decides to let it go. “Okay. You two,” he gestures to the twins, “don’t let there be a next time.”

“Yes, sir,” they say, with identical smirks.

Tom heads back to the Cruiser, and is completely unsurprised to see Deucalion sitting on the hood of his car. He wonders briefly why it seems that everyone who wants to talk to him just stakes out his car. Maybe he should start driving one that’s unmarked. Deucalion clearly hears him approach, because he stands up, offering a friendly smile in Tom’s direction. “Sheriff, we meet again.”

“So it would seem,” Tom agrees.

“I thought we might have a friendly little chat,” Deucalion says.

“About?” Tom asks, folding his arms over his chest.

“Your alpha, of course.”

With Chris and Peter, Tom had asked them to get in the car so they could talk in privacy. He feels like doing that with Deucalion would be a bad idea, so he continues to stand there. “What about him?”

“Well, I can’t imagine he’s the alpha you would have chosen,” Deucalion says. “You’re a man of the law, and good at your job from what I hear. Peter’s a killer. A liar and a thief. But since he gave you the bite, you’re stuck with him . . . or at least that’s what you clearly think.”

Tom takes a moment to consider his words. “Okay. Let me cut this short. Your goal is an alpha who will kill his betas, so you’re aiming for one of two things. Either you’re trying to turn me against Peter so I’ll attack him and he’ll kill me. Or you’re trying to turn me against Peter so I’ll kill him, whereupon I’ll become alpha and then you’ll try to coerce me or manipulate me into killing a bunch of teenagers. From my point of view, both those choices are shit, so I will tell you right now that this is not a conversation I’m interested in having.”

“Are you saying you’re happy with Peter as your alpha?”

“I’m saying it’s none of your business,” Tom says. “Now walk away before you embarrass yourself.”

Deucalion is still smiling. “Just remember one thing, Sheriff. I need Peter to kill some of his betas. But not all of them. And he’s had the courtesy to build up enough of a pack that I have plenty of choices if I have to kill one myself to get the ball rolling.”

“Is that so?” Tom asks. “Are you threatening to kill one of those kids?”

“If you and Peter force me to, I’ll kill all of them.”

Tom looks up at the sky and asks, “Why does it always come to this?”

“To what?”

“To me arresting you assholes for thinking you can just threaten to kill people right in front of me, as if I’m not an officer of the God damned law,” Tom says. “Put your hands behind your back and turn around.”

He’s not sure of exactly what happens next. One moment he’s stepping forward with the handcuffs in one hand, the next there’s a stunning pain in his jaw and neck and he’s lying on the ground next to the Cruiser. He’s not even sure of whether or not he’s been unconscious for any significant length of time. Tara is kneeling beside him, talking into her radio. “I’m okay,” Tom manages, but he’s really not certain that he is.

“Stay still,” Tara tells him, and honestly, he’s fine not arguing. “What happened?”

Tom isn’t about to tell her about alpha werewolf packs, so he tells her that he doesn’t remember. Amnesia is common after head trauma, even mild head trauma, but it’s concerning enough that she calls an ambulance for him. The paramedics check him out and say that his jaw isn’t broken and he doesn’t seem to have a concussion, but to go to the emergency room if he has any symptoms like dizziness, nausea, or confusion.

“I’ll take you home,” Tara says. “I don’t think you should be driving.”

Tom groans but agrees. Honestly, he wants an arm chair and an hour with an ice pack before either Peter or Stiles sees his face and loses their shit. He’s not sure which reaction he’s looking forward to less.

Fortunately for him, only Derek is at the den. He frowns at Tom and asks what happened, but when Tom says that he tried to arrest Deucalion and got punched in the face, Derek accepts that in stride. He gets Tom an ice pack and then makes him sit down, then snags Tom’s wrist. Tom is about to ask why when he sees dark lines in Derek’s hand, and the pain starts to fade. He lets his head sag back against the chair. “I always forget you can do that.”

“We can do that,” Derek says, quietly amused. “You’re a werewolf too. But yeah.” He lets go of Tom’s wrist and frowns, considering. “I’ll warn Stiles before he sees you. That might head off some of his panic.”

“Thanks,” Tom says.

It does help. Stiles charges into the house clearly expecting his father to be three quarters dead, so he actually relaxes when he sees it’s just a swollen jaw. “This is why you should be on the buddy system,” he says, and Tom sighs and agrees despite his better judgment.

That having gone relatively well, it somehow doesn’t surprise Tom when Peter comes in and hits the roof. Not when he sees that Tom is hurt, but when he hears about how and why it happened. “You tried to arrest him?” he asks incredulously. “Are you a complete fucking moron?”

“He can’t just threaten to kill people in front of me,” Tom says.

“Uh, let me think – yes, he can! He’s an alpha werewolf! What in the hell did you think you were going to accomplish?”

“I was making a point.”

“Was your point that you are, in fact, a complete fucking moron?”

“Hey, fuckbag, don’t talk to my father like that,” Stiles says, pushing his way past Derek’s restraining arm and getting in Peter’s face. “He can arrest whoever he wants to.”

“He really actually cannot,” Peter says, and gestures to Tom’s face. “As evidenced.”

Tom wishes that the pain drain lasted longer, because his head hurts way too much to be dealing with this. He understands that Peter is lashing out in part because of his fear, but Stiles either doesn’t get that, or doesn’t care. “Both of you calm down,” he says, and Derek gets an arm around Stiles’ waist and draws him back a few steps. “Yes, Peter, in retrospect I’m aware that it wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve ever done. But you have to remember that I’ve been a cop for almost twenty years, so some things are genuinely habit. If he had resisted, if he had turned and walked away, I would have been smart enough to let him go. But as soon as I told him that I was arresting him, he punched me in the face. I’m going to be fine, so let’s just call it water under the bridge.”

“Fine,” Peter says, although he looks like he’s edging towards a sulk.

“Stiles?” Tom says, seeing that Derek is still holding onto him.

“He should apologize for being a dick,” Stiles immediately snaps.

Tom doesn’t foresee that going over very well, but Peter takes a deep breath and says, “I shouldn’t have called you a fucking moron. That was uncalled for and I apologize.”

“Thank you,” Tom says, and Derek pulls Stiles out of the room before things can get worse. Since they’re by themselves now, he adds, “And I’m sorry I worried you. Looking back on it, it was a pretty stupid move. He pissed me off and I reacted by calling him out. But to be fair to me, I didn’t expect him to smash my face in because of it.”

Peter arranges himself in Tom’s lap and inspects the injuries. “Considering how strong he is, the damage is fairly minor. He must have significantly pulled his punch.”

“That’s terrifying, to be honest,” Tom says, thinking back to the moments after the blow. He’s quiet while he considers. This feels different from their fight with the Argents. He hadn’t taken Kate as seriously as he should have, and it had nearly gotten people killed. While he had been cautious of Gerard, wary of him, he was still human – and a dying human, at that. Deucalion is on a different level. “What are we going to do?”

“It’s not what we’re going to do that’s my question, it’s how we’re going to do it,” Peter says. “I’m going to kill him for daring to lay a finger on you.”

Tom feels like he should put in at least a token protest, but after the events of the last few weeks, he’s really not up to it. Knowing about all the deaths that Deucalion has been responsible for, having tasted his raw power, execution seems perfectly appropriate. “Well, when you figure out how, let me know.”

Peter gives him the side-eye. “You’re not going to argue?”

“Do you want me to argue?”

“Not particularly, no. I’m just surprised. Your moral compass being what it is.”

“Don’t start that shit again,” Tom says. “Come on. We’re having a moment here. You’re going to kill him for hurting me. It’s romantic.”

Peter huffs out a quiet laugh, then leans in for a kiss. “If you say so.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

The third body is found while Tom is at home nursing his injuries. Tara texts him about it, and he gives her some directions but doesn’t head back into the station. As much as he hates to admit it, he knows he’s not going to find answers there. Instead, he goes into his office and calls Chris.

“Have you heard of something called the five-fold knot?” Tom asks him.

“Jesus,” Chris says. “Yeah. Is that what this is? I saw on the news that more bodies were found.”

“Yeah. All three of them were veterans. Peter says that there’s something called a five-fold knot, and two of the groups are warriors and virgins. But he doesn’t remember the other three. Not his specialty. Do you hunters tangle with Darachs much?”

“I’ve only done it once or twice. Fighting them is – let’s be generous and call it difficult. But they’re very rare, so it doesn’t come up often.”

“Do you have any resources you can throw my way?”

“I’ll see what I can find. I don’t remember the other three groups off the top of my head. But a five-fold knot – that’s not a small spell. This is the sort of power-up a Darach would do before he or she intends to tangle with some serious forces. Not that I know what they would be, but . . .”

Tom thinks, with a sinking feeling, that maybe he does. Despite Peter’s feeling on the matter, he still doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the Darach is in town at the same time as Deucalion. “Maybe something like a pack full of alphas?”

Chris is silent for a moment before he says, “Yeah, maybe something like that.”

“Those dossiers you gave me on Kali and Ennis didn’t have anything about their packs prior to them joining Deucalion.”

“I don’t think I still have that information. They’re all dead. No point in keeping them.”

“But are we sure they’re all dead?” Tom presses. “Hell, we don’t know what happened back then. Peter says every pack has an Emissary, and the Emissary is usually a Druid. What if one of these alphas left their Emissary alive for some reason? Maybe they’ve been hiding out in Beacon Hills, and now that Deucalion and the others are back in town, they’re gearing up for a smack down.”

“Maybe.” Chris sounds dubious. “I don’t know, Tom. It would have been a pretty stupid move to leave any of the pack members alive, and none of the alphas seem stupid.”

“Well, it’s the best theory I have. Hey, just so you know, I’m going to be out of town Friday night. There’s a track meet and I’m going along as a parent chaperone. Stiles, Scott, Isaac, and Boyd are all going, so . . .”

“They’re probably safer out of town than they are here,” Chris says dryly. “But okay. I’ll ask Allison if she wants to have Erica over.”

“Great. I owe you one,” Tom says, and hangs up feeling like he’s made some progress.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom has been on the bus for fewer than twenty minutes before he’s regretting every life decision that led him to this point. What had he been thinking, offering to chaperone? Was there a lower circle of hell than stuck on a bus full of teenaged boys? With Finstock, who’s louder than all the rest of them and for some reason keeps blasting his whistle? Tom doesn’t consider himself a violent person by nature, but he’s about to strangle Finstock with the cord of that damned thing.

On the other hand, being on the bus might not be a bad thing, because one of those twins is here and he can keep an eye on him. He’s sitting with Danny, and the two of them are obviously flirting. Tom resists the urge to flash his badge and ask the twin to produce ID that shows his age. He supposes it’s possible that Danny is eighteen, although he finds it unlikely.

Traffic grinds to a halt. Tom checks his phone and sees that there’s an accident up ahead. “Jesus Christ,” he mutters. “Hey, Bobby? There’s a jack-knifed trailer up ahead. The police are saying it’ll be hours before traffic is moving again. Think we can turn around on the next – ”

“Absolutely not!” Finstock says, and gives a toot on his whistle to punctuate. Tom’s temples throb. “We are not missing this meet because of a slight traffic jam! We’re gonna make this thing. Nothing is gonna stop us!”

“Uh huh,” Tom says, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Bobby . . . can this bus teleport?”

“I’ll make it teleport if that’ll get us to the meet,” Finstock said.

“I see,” Tom says. “I – don’t you even think about blowing that whistle at me, by the way, I can see you thinking about it – think we’d have better luck if we at least tried a different route.”

“How do you know so much about this ‘accident’ up ahead?” Finstock says, making air quotes.

Tom resists the urge to throttle him and holds up his phone to display the official police radio channel he’s monitoring. “I. Am. The. Sheriff.”

Finstock narrows his eyes at the phone as if he’s trying to find a way to counter that, before he begrudgingly says, “I guess if we get off at the next exit, maybe we can find an alternate route.”

“I’ll talk to the driver,” Tom says, and heads up front. The driver has a map, and traffic is stopped dead, so he gets it out and he and Tom manage to trace out a route that will get them around the blockage.

“That’ll take three hours,” Finstock complains.

“Better than the six to eight it’ll take if we sit here in stalled traffic,” Tom says. “We can stop to give the kids a quick break when we get off the highway. Looks like there’s a truck stop there.”

“But we’ll miss the meet!”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Tom says. “We should probably just turn around and go home.”

“We are not turning around!” Finstock says, blowing the whistle at him. He turns to the bus driver and says, “Carl, I’m holding you officially responsible if we don’t make it in time!”

Tom exchanges a look with Carl, who rolls his eyes so hard that he probably sees the back of his skull, and decides he’s done talking with Finstock for a while.

It takes almost half an hour to make it the two miles to the exit, and Carl pulls off at the truck stop despite all of Finstock’s yelling. “Hey, I do what the cop tells me,” he says, when Finstock tries to tell him to keep going. The kids are already pouring off the bus, so it doesn’t really matter.

“Daddy-O!” Stiles bounces up to his father’s side. “Got any cash? I didn’t bring any but if I’m going to be trapped on the bus for another three hours I need caffeine – ”

Tom hands him a five dollar bill and says, “Grab me a Dr. Pepper, will you?”

“Sure thing,” Stiles says, heading into the convenience store attached to the truck stop.

Tom takes a few moments to enjoy the fresh air. Okay, it’s polluted air, drenched in the smell of thousands of cars, but it’s still better than the stink of compressed teenager. He sees Finstock stomp off towards the coffee shop and rolls his eyes. Off to one side, he hears Danny say, “Be right back,” and turns to see him jogging towards the store, leaving the twin he’s been flirting with behind.

He decides to take advantage of the moment, sidling over to the twin in question. “Afternoon,” he says. “Tom Stilinski.”

The twin gives him a wary look, but says, “Ethan.”

“How old are you, Ethan?”

Now Ethan really looks wary. “Why do you care?”

“Just curious, really. I mean, I know you’re not actually a high school student, so don’t try to convince me that you’re seventeen. You’re twenty at minimum.”

“Twenty-two,” Ethan says.

“So why are you hanging out here, joining a high school track team?”

Ethan grimaces. “Aiden and I flipped for who actually had to join the team, and I lost.” He shrugs and adds, “But Duke wanted us to keep an eye on your pack, and this was the best place to do it. Never pegged Peter Hale as a pedophile.”

“Good,” Tom says. “Don’t. For one thing, pedophilia is the attraction to prepubescent youth, not postpubescent. Secondly, I don’t recall any sex being involved when Peter was giving people the Bite. Maybe it was different where you come from.”

That made Ethan give a snort of laughter. “Okay. Fair points. Still, he did turn a bunch of teenagers, so that’s why I’m here.”

Tom nods. “Well, you seem like a pretty reasonable person. Mind if I ask why you’re part of this mess?”

Ethan shrugs. “We owe Duke. We weren’t alphas when we met him. We were omegas.”

“You didn’t have a pack?”

“No, not like that. In actual wolf packs, omegas are the scapegoats, the last to eat, the ones who take abuse from the rest of the pack.”

“You know, most of what we know about wolf pack hierarchy is based on a faulty study from the 1940s – ” Tom realizes that he sounds far too much like Stiles, who not-so-incidentally is why he even knows that, and waves a hand. “Never mind. Go on.”

“The werewolves in our pack were killers. The kind of werewolf that gives werewolves as a whole the reputation that we have. And our Alpha was the worst of them. Deucalion taught us how to fight back. We took down the one whole pack, one by one, and then we killed the alpha together.”

Tom nods. “Okay. So you owe him. I get that. But that doesn’t make what he’s doing okay.”

Ethan shrugs. “What exactly is he doing? He’s made an offer. Peter will accept it, or he won’t. If Peter kills you all, that’s his choice, not Deucalion’s.”

“Sure, but what about if Peter refuses? Deucalion hasn’t really showed that he’s going to take no for an answer. And he formed this pack what, seven, eight years ago? Peter can’t be the first alpha he’s recruited, and he can’t be the first one who’s refused, either. So what happens then?”

“Usually what happens is that the alpha tries to kill Deucalion, and he kills them.”

“Okay. But what if Peter just says ‘thanks but no thanks’?”

“I don’t know,” Ethan says. “I guess, if he does that, we’ll find out.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

It’s a little weird for most of the pack to be out of town at one time. Rebuilding the pack, letting people in - Derek hadn’t really wanted it while it was happening, and it was only now that most of them were gone that he realized he had gotten used to it. That he liked it, and not just because of Tom and Stiles. He enjoyed the noise and the commotion of having a house full of people. 

On the other hand, it’s also a little nice to have some time to himself for a couple of nights. He supposes Peter is an option for company, but he still doesn’t like spending social time with Peter. He’s not sure he ever will. Peter is his uncle, and he loves him. He loved him before the fire and he loves him now. But he still can’t look at him without thinking of Laura. When there are other people around to act as a buffer, it’s not too bad. He can think of Peter as ‘Tom’s boyfriend’ or ‘the alpha to these unruly teenagers’. When it’s just the two of them, he can only think of him as his uncle, Laura’s killer.

Besides, he highly suspects that Peter is following the team, despite Tom telling him it’s unnecessary. So even if he wanted to spend time with him, he couldn’t. So he works at his loft for a little while before getting itchy feet and heading out to the bookstore. 

Books had been his solace after the fire. He spent hours curled up in corners, reading everything he could get his hands on. It helped take him away from the bleak landscape of his life. Even now, despite vast improvements in almost every category, he still loves to read. It’s one of the things he truly enjoys about his relationship with Stiles. Not just that they can both be book nerds together, but the contentment he feels reading in Stiles’ room with the noise of Stiles puttering around in the background. It took time to get used to the fact that Stiles was never still, that he was always talking to himself and switching activities and moving around. Now that he is used to it, he finds it a comforting sort of white noise, a constant reminder that he’s not alone.

He’s vaguely wondering if Stiles would like Japanese manga as much as he loves American comic books when he walks around the end of a display and nearly walks into someone. It startles him, because his reflexes are normally better than that, but not nearly as much as it startles her. She takes a few steps backwards and drops her books. “Oh, sorry,” Derek says automatically, and then recognizes her. It’s Stiles’ English teacher, the pretty one. He kneels down and starts picking up her books.

“Oh, you don’t have to – here, I can – ” She stammers a little before helping him gather the books. Then recognition sets in for her as well. “Oh, hello. Uh, Derek, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah,” he says, handing her the last book.

“Sorry about the other day,” she says. “I didn’t mean to be rude. It was just, well, you know. The Sheriff actually came over and talked to me about it.”

“It’s fine,” Derek says. He’s wondering vaguely how to get out of this conversation, but she seems nice. His gaze lands on the top book in her stack. “The Crucible, huh? Is that what you’re teaching next?”

“Mm hm. I spilled coffee on mine so I needed to come get a new copy. Among, you know, a few other things.”

“It’s an allegory for McCarthyism,” Derek says, for no reason that he can particularly discern. 

Jennifer smiles, looking amused. “Yes, I’m aware of that.”

“Yeah, I guess you would be. Worse things to teach, I guess. Certainly politically relevant at the moment.” Derek shakes his head and adds, “I don’t get why the school system seems determined to design their curriculum around books that are going to make teenagers never want to read again.”

“Some of the literature we teach is really good,” Jennifer protests, although she’s still smiling. “I really love Heart of Darkness.”

Heart of Darkness is a great book, but for seventeen year olds? And Ernest Hemingway? I remember reading The Old Man and the Sea in high school. My grandfather read it, too, and said that it was a really profound, amazing piece of work, providing that you were old enough to be ready to die when you read it.”

Jennifer gives an abrupt laugh, one hand covering her mouth. “That is so accurate. What would you teach? What literature do you think could get past the school board, that seventeen year olds would enjoy?” She pauses, then says, “Do you want to grab a coffee? I think we’re blocking the aisle.”

“Yeah, sure,” Derek says. He doesn’t have anything else to do. And Jennifer seems nice, possibly even worth talking to. They go up to the little shop up front. He gets tea, and Jennifer gets a latte. Once they’re sitting down, he says, “Okay, literature that teenagers should actually read and wouldn’t make them want to give up literature forever? Toni Morrison. Kurt Vonnegut. Ray Bradbury. Depending on the maturity level of the class, they should read The Handmaid’s Tale, The Kite Runner, and Night by Elie Wiesel.”

“You’ve thought a lot about this,” Jennifer says, clearly impressed.

“I like to read. Plus I’ve been listening to Stiles complain about his summer reading for the past month. The Grapes of Wrath, are you kidding? The only thing worse than living through the Dust Bowl is reading Steinbeck whinge about it.”

Jennifer gives a snort. “I don’t pick the curriculum, you know.”

“Yeah, I know.” Derek realizes he’s been spouting off his own opinions the entire time and says, “What book would you teach, if you could choose?”

“Ooh, good question. If we’re restricting ourselves to things that could get past the school board, I would go for The Book Thief. That’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever read.”

“Yeah, I liked that one.”

They chatted for almost another hour, mostly about books, but some about Jennifer’s arrival in Beacon Hills. It’s her first year of teaching high school, and she’s excited about it. Derek is surprised when he realizes how late it is, how long they’ve been sitting there. He’s drunk almost all his tea, and thinks he wouldn’t have even looked at the time if his phone hadn’t chimed. He has a text from Stiles, just letting him know that they’re stopped at a sketchy hotel with real ‘Overlook’ vibes. Derek isn’t really worried, since Tom is with him, so he just smiles fondly at the text and tells Stiles ‘good luck at the meet tomorrow’.

“I should probably get going,” Jennifer says. “It’s been lovely talking to you.”

Derek nods, then says on impulse, “Can I get your number?”

Jennifer flushes faintly pink and says, “Sure.” Derek hands his phone to her, and she enters it into his contacts. “I’ll talk to you soon?”

“Yeah,” Derek says. “Soon sounds great.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

When the bus pulls over at the Motel Glen Capri, Stiles looks up at it and says to Scott, “Well, this looks like a great place to get murdered.”

Scott gives a snort of laughter. Up at the front, Finstock shouts, “Okay, listen up! The meet’s been pushed to tomorrow because so many teams got stuck in traffic. This is the closest motel with the most vacancies and least amount of objection when it comes to accepting a bunch of degenerates like yourselves. You’ll be pairing up. Choose wisely. And I’ll have no sexual perversions perpetrated by you little deviants. Got that? Keep your dirty little hands to your dirty little selves!”

The teenagers start to pile off the bus, and Stiles finds his father standing outside, reading something on his phone with pursed lips. “Hey, Dad! Are you going to have to room with Finstock?”

“God forbid,” Tom mutters. “No, I’ve got a single room, he said. I assume you’re going to room with Scott?”

“Yeah, and Isaac will room with Boyd, so, you know, we’ll be good.”

“Uh huh.” Tom looks skeptical, but doesn’t push the issue. “Okay, have fun. Come find me if you need me.”

The room isn’t as bad as Stiles pictured it being, but it reeks of nicotine. “Barf,” he mutters. “Aren’t we supposed to have a non-smoking room? We’re impressionable youths. This shouldn’t be allowed.”

“Mm hm,” Scott says. He’s been pretty quiet for the last hour or so. “I think I’m gonna shower.”

“You okay?” Stiles asks, trying to squelch the pang of anxiety in his stomach.

“What? Oh, yeah.” Scott shakes himself. “Sorry. It was just a lot of time on that bus. You might’ve had the right idea not accepting the bite. Everyone packed in like that for hours, the sounds, the scents . . . I’ve got a massive headache.”

“Okay. Well, I’ll go grab us some towels that aren’t drenched in cigarette smoke.”

“Thanks,” Scott says, heading for the bathroom.

Stiles heads down the stairs and towards the lobby. He immediately forgets about the towels when he sees the hanging numbers inside the lobby, proudly displaying ‘198’. “Hey, what are those? Those numbers?”

“It’s kind of an inside thing for the motel,” the terrifying lady behind the counter says. “My husband insists on keeping it up.”

“No seriously, what is it? Is it the number of people who have been murdered here? Because I’ve gotta tell you, it seems like this would be a popular murder destination. You know, not to be rude or anything, though I guess there’s no way that’s not rude, but anyway, murders?”

Amused, the woman says, “Suicides, actually. Since opening, we have the most guest suicides out of any motel in California.”

“Oh!” Stiles says. “Oh, okay. That’s actually way less creepy. I mean, suicides at hotels are actually pretty common. A lot of people decide to go to a hotel to commit suicide so their family won’t have to find their body, or so they won’t taint a common living space – you probably don’t actually care. Although I guess it’s weird that you have the most, but then somebody has to have the most, so I don’t know if that’s really statistically significant. It is weird that you display the number on the wall, though. I mean, your husband has a really weird sense of humor – ”

“Did you want something, hon?” the woman interrupts.

“Oh, yeah. Towels? That don’t smell like cigarette smoke? That’d be super.”

The woman hands him two, and he heads back to the room, but when he gets there, Scott is gone.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

“Hey, I got those crackers that you wanted,” Boyd says. “Despite the stupid vending machine’s inability to work properly.” He stops just inside the door, frowning at where Isaac is sitting in front of the television, flipping channels. They’re all displaying static. “Don’t tell me the cable’s out.”

“Huh?” Isaac startles a little. “Oh . . . yeah, I don’t know. It seems like none of the channels are working.”

“Great.” Boyd rolls his eyes. “Want to head to Scott and Stiles’ room? Stiles probably brought his laptop. We could see if he’s getting any wi-fi.”

“No, I just . . .” Isaac rubs both hands over his face. “I really don’t feel great. That bus ride was awful. I think I’m just going to lie down for a while.”

“Okay.” Boyd glances at his watch. “It’s only seven, so I guess I’ll go hang out with the guys, unless you want me to stay?”

“No, I’m fine.” Isaac manages a wan smile. “I just want some quiet.”

“Sure. Hope you feel better.” Boyd grabs one of the room keys and heads out of the room. Down the hall, he sees Scott standing at the vending machine. “Oh, hey,” he says, heading over. Scott is staring into the vending machine, where the packet of crackers he was going to buy is hanging half on the hook. Boyd laughs. “Same thing happened to me. Hang on, I’ll give it a little – ”

Before he can finish his sentence, Scott puts his fist through the glass of the vending machine. Boyd can’t hold back a startled noise, as Scott pulls the crackers free. There’s a little blood on his hand, but the wounds vanish a second later.

“Hey, man, are you okay?” Boyd asks.

“Huh?” Scott blinks at him, startling in a way just like Isaac had a few minutes earlier. It makes the uneasiness already brewing in Boyd’s gut intensify. “Oh, yeah, I . . .” He frowns at the broken glass of the vending machine, the crackers in his bloodied hand. “Sorry, I don’t remember. Was I getting these out for you?”

“No, you just punched through the glass all on your own,” Boyd says. “Isaac wasn’t feeling well, either. Said it was because of the bus ride, but I’m not sure . . . how about we go check in with Sheriff Stilinski?”

“Sure, okay,” Scott says.

Boyd heads up to the sheriff’s room – he had texted all four of them with what room number it was – and knocks on the door. Nobody answers. The lights are on in the room, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone there. “Huh, weird,” he says, trying to peer around the edge of the curtains. “Scott, can you hear if – ” he starts to say, but then realizes Scott isn’t behind him anymore. He stares at the empty space and wonders what the hell is going on.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom can’t quite say why he left his hotel room. He just feels itchy, restless, like he needs some fresh air. He still feels vaguely nauseous and the headache is pounding at his temples. He walks out into the parking lot and towards the back of the hotel. It’s away from the highway, and therefore quieter. He takes a few deep breath and tries to steady himself.

“Tom?” a voice says, and he freezes. It can’t be. It’s not possible. It can’t –

He slowly turns.

“Tom, where are we?” Claudia asks. She looks around, pulling at the hem of her shirt, a fretful gesture he remember so, so vividly from her spells. Stiles does the same thing when he’s anxious, and it’s always like a stab to the gut. “How did we get here? Am I . . . what happened to me?”

“Claudia,” Tom manages to choke out.

“You couldn’t save me,” Claudia whispers, meeting his eyes. Tom wants to look away, but he can’t. He feels frozen, numb. “I don’t think you even tried. You didn’t want me anymore. Easier if I was just gone, right?”

“Claudia, no,” Tom says desperately. “No, sweetheart, I loved you, I love you – ”

“You love a killer,” Claudia sobs. “I know who you’re with now. I don’t even recognize you anymore. I don’t know who you are.”

“It’s me, Claudia, I just – ”

There’s a loud noise somewhere behind me, maybe a gunshot, maybe the backfiring of a truck on the highway. He jerks around, lifting one hand instinctively to shield his face, but nobody is there. When he turns back, neither is Claudia. But her voice lingers, a mournful whisper.

“You couldn’t save me, Tom . . . so you should at least come join me.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Boyd has just lifted his hand to knock on the door of the room Stiles and Scott are sharing when Stiles yanks it open. Boyd takes a step back, startled, but then sees that it’s Stiles. “Hey, I’m glad you’re here. Something weird is going on.”

“You’re telling me,” Stiles says, stepping out of the room and closing the door. “Scott was acting weird and now he’s gone. Nobody’s answering at my dad’s room and I can’t find him and I’m freaking out, man. I texted Peter because you know that weirdo was following us, and he’s on his way but he said it’d be about twenty minutes because he went to a different hotel because this one smelled like cigarette smoke. So I came back here to see if Scott had come back but he hadn’t and – ”

“I was with Scott just a second ago,” Boyd says. “He literally punched through the vending machine when it didn’t drop his snack. I was going to take him to your dad, but when I looked back he was gone.”

“Shit. Okay. This is weird. This whole place is weird, like . . . dark, somehow.” Stiles shivers slightly. “Can you feel that?”

Boyd hesitates. “Not really? I mean, it’s got a creepy vibe, but I think that’s based more on how it looks than anything else.”

“Maybe. I don’t know. They literally have one of those things with turning numbers in their lobby, but instead of ‘it’s been ten days since our last workplace accident’ it counts the number of suicides that have taken place here. I mean, who does that? Who?”

“Let’s check on Isaac,” Boyd says. “He was going to lie down a few minutes ago. I want to make sure he’s okay.”

When they get to Boyd and Isaac’s room, the television is still turned to static, but the bed is empty.

“Shit,” Stiles says. “Hang on. Wait. These sacrifices, they come in groups of three, right? But we don’t know who all the groups are. What if one of the groups is werewolves? There are three werewolves here, and they’re all acting weird and now they’re all missing.”

“No, there’s four,” Boyd corrects. “Ethan.”

“Oh, yeah. Well, maybe he doesn’t count. Maybe they all have to be from the same pack or something.” Stiles rakes a hand through his hair. “We’ve got to find my dad. He’s got to be here somewhere. We need to get out of here, pronto.”

“I don’t think even your dad can hijack a school bus,” Boyd points out.

“Whatever, we can steal a car, we can hitchhike, we can walk, whatever gets us away from the creepy suicide hotel. We can – ”

From next door, they hear a sudden, loud buzzing.

“What the fuck is that?” Stiles asks.

They both tumble towards the door and find a room that looks like it’s under construction. In the center of the room is a table saw, and leaning over it is Ethan. Stiles yelps, just thinking about what it will look like when the saw slices Ethan open. He runs forward and grabs it, trying to wrestle control of it away from the alpha. Seconds later, Boyd yanks the power cord from the wall and the saw hums to a halt.

Ethan drops it and starts trying to claw at his own stomach. Stiles grabs one of his arms and Boyd the other. They all stumble into the space heater on one side of the room. Ethan gives a little yip as it burns one of his hands, and wrenches free of them. He stares at them, stunned. “What just happened?”

“You tell us, dude, you’re the one who almost ripped your own torso op – hey!” Stiles grabs for him again as Ethan hastily retreats from the room. “Get back here, God damn it!”

Boyd swears. “The hell is happening?”

“I don’t know, but we’ve got to find my dad,” Stiles says, grimly holding the panic at bay. “We’ve got to find him right God damned now.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

Tom’s not sure when he got to the other side of the hotel. He’s watching the lights of the cars go by on the highway. There are so many of them. Ordinary people, going about their ordinary lives. So ignorant of the monsters that they walk by every day, never knowing they’re there. He’ll never be able to protect them all.

“Dad?” Stiles asks, and Tom half-turns. His son is pale, and Deucalion is behind him, with one hand wrapped around his throat, his claws digging in. “I’m sorry, Dad,” Stiles says. “I’m really sorry.”

It’s the exact same thing he said when Kate had taken him and strapped a bomb to his chest. Tom says the same thing now that he did then. “This isn’t your fault.”

“Dad . . .”

“It’s my fault,” Tom continues, closing his eyes as if he can banish the sight of his son in danger. “I never should have let you get involved in this. All of this is my fault.”

“Dad, please . . .”

“Don’t worry,” Tom says, determinedly keeping his eyes shut. “I can fix this. I can fix all of this.”

~ ~ ~ ~

“Shit, I left my phone in my room,” Stiles says, patting down his pockets. “Let me go grab it. Maybe he’ll answer this time.”

“Okay,” Boyd says, and follows him. As soon as they get back into Stiles’ room, they can both tell that something’s wrong. There’s water running into the bathroom.

“Scotty, is that you?” Stiles asks, jogging over to the bathroom. He opens the door and shouts, “Oh my God!”

Boyd runs over to see what he’s yelling about, and sees that the bathtub is full to the point of overflowing, and that Scott is at the bottom of it, completely submerged. There’s something heavy on top of him that looks like a safe. He and Stiles both immediately scramble to try to move it, but it’s too heavy, even for both of them put together. Stiles starts trying to unplug the drain instead.

“He blocked the drain with something, I can’t get to it,” Stiles pants, and starts shoving at the safe again.

“How long can a werewolf stay underwater?” Boyd asks, grunting as he strains to shift the heavy safe.

“I don’t – ” Stiles’ shoe skids on the wet tile, and he falls backwards, nearly cracking his head open. He misses the wall but hits the heater instead, and lets out a sharp cry of pain. But then he stops, his eyes going wide. “Wait, the heater. Ethan came out of it when he burned himself on the heater.”

“It’s wolfsbane,” Boyd realizes. “Peter says that fire burns out wolfsbane, right? Somehow they’ve been poisoned. That’s why they’re all acting so weird.”

“We need fire,” Stiles says. “How the hell are we going to get fire underwater?”

“Wait – wait, the bus,” Boyd says. “On the bus, they’ll have emergency road flares. They can burn underwater.”

“Are you serious?” Stiles asks.

“Yes. Go!”

Stiles takes off from the room at a dead run. The bus is closed, but he manages to pry the door open and find the emergency kit, spilling it all over the place but grabbing a few of the flares and running back towards the hotel. Boyd grabs it from his hands when he sees that he doesn’t know how to light it, yanking off the cap, striking the flare to light, and thrusting it into the bathtub.

Underwater, Scott screams. He lunges upwards. The safe rocks but doesn’t quite dislodge. Stiles drops to his knees beside Boyd and they both shove at it hard while Scott scrambles underwater. A few moments later, it rolls free far enough for Scott to squirm past it, breaking the surface of the water and heaving for breath.

“What the hell,” he pants. Stiles pulls him into a hug, oblivious of the fact that he’s soaked. “What the hell happened?”

“Everyone’s been poisoned by wolfsbane and it’s a shitshow,” Boyd tells him. “We’ve got to find the others.”

Scott grabs a towel and rubs it quickly over his face and hair. Then he stiffens. “Someone else is in the room. I can hear four heartbeats.”

Stiles grabs a flare and leaves the bathroom, looking around. He doesn’t see anybody else. “Closet, maybe?” he says, mostly to himself, pulling it open. It’s empty as well.

“Under the bed,” Scott says. He gets down on the floor, looking underneath. “Hey, Isaac,” he says gently, the same way he talks to frightened animals at the clinic. Boyd strikes a flare and hands it to him. “Got something for you, buddy,” he says, and tosses the flare underneath the bed.

There’s a yip of pain and then Isaac scrambles out, one flailing foot catching the flare and shooting it out the other side of the bed. Stiles grabs it before it can hit the curtains and send the whole motel up in flames.

It takes a minute to explain things to Isaac, who’s dazed but recovering quickly. Stiles is practically out of his mind with the need to find his father. He’s several steps ahead of the others as they run down the hall, but then Scott grabs his arm. “Oh, shit,” Boyd says, behind them. Stiles turns to look into the parking lot and sees that one of the road flares he left behind has been lit. His father is holding it, standing in a puddle of gasoline.

“No no no no,” he manages. He tries to bolt but Scott still has a hold of his arm, and pulls him back.

“Don’t rush him,” Scott says. “You might startle him.”

Stiles nods and somehow forces himself to slowly walk across the parking lot, towards his father. He’s standing there with the flare in one hand, his entire body drenched, staring off into the distance with an almost vacant expression on his face. “Dad?” he says quietly, trying to breathe.

Tom blinks and focus on his son. “I’m sorry, Stiles . . .”

“No, it’s okay, don’t be sorry,” Stiles says, gripping at Scott’s hand for reassurance. He wishes Peter was there, to talk to Tom. He wishes Derek was there, to tell him what to do. He wishes his mother was there.

“It just keeps getting worse,” Tom says. “I thought after we put Gerard away, things would be better. But they’ll never really be better, will they . . . people are going to keep getting hurt and I won’t be able to do anything to stop it.”

“Dad, listen to me,” Stiles says, swallowing the bubble of panic and summoning up some stern confidence to his voice. He sounds like a stranger to himself. “This isn’t you, okay? This is wolfsbane poisoning. This is some stupid little voice in your head telling you to do this.”

“What if it is just me, though?” Tom asks. “This might be the best thing I could do for everyone. I couldn’t save your mother, Stiles . . . I couldn’t even be there with you when she died. Ever since all this started, I’ve tried to make the right decisions, but maybe it would be better if it went back to the way things were before. You could be a normal kid again.”

“Screw normal,” Stiles says. “Okay? Screw that!” He shakes Scott’s hand off and takes a step forward. “I don’t want to be normal if it means losing you. You’re my dad. Okay? I need you.” He takes another step. “You – you’re all I have left and I – I can’t do this alone. If you’re going to do this, you’re going to have to take me with you.”

He’s standing with both feet in the gasoline now, and he slowly reaches out and wraps one hand around the flare, the other resting on top of his father’s hand where he’s holding it. Tom just stares at him for a long moment and they stand there, frozen.

“Dad, it’s okay,” Stiles says quietly, keeping one hand on the flare while prying his father’s grip off with the other. “It’s okay, you’re gonna be okay, I’m here.” He gets the flare free and throws it to the side, far enough away that it lands on the dry pavement. He’s not sure how they’re going to bring his father back to his senses. They can’t burn him until they’ve gotten all the gasoline off of him. But he can feel some of the tension ease out of his body now that the flare is out of his hand. A gentle breeze kicks up, and he takes a deep breath.

“Stiles!” Scott shouts, and suddenly his father lunges at him, knocking them both backwards and to the dry ground. There’s a roar of noise as the flare rolls into the gasoline and sets it alight, and Stiles flinches away from the intense heat. He looks up at where his father is shielding him from the worst of it, and sees the gold in his father’s eyes to momentarily flare red.

“What the fuck?” he chokes out, but then they’re gold again, and he wonders if it was just a trick of the light.

“Are you okay?” Tom demands.

“Y-Yeah,” Stiles manages, patting himself down. “Are you?”

“I think so.” Tom frowns, looking around. “What happened? Why am I covered in gasoline?”

Stiles lets out a shaky breath. “Uh, a lot happened. Wolfsbane poisoning, mostly. But how did you know to knock us down?”

Tom frowns and looks around. “I’m not sure. I just knew you were in danger and reacted, I guess. I don’t really remember what happened, exactly.”

Stiles tries for a smile and almost manages it. “You saved my life, that’s what happened.”

Tom looks at his son for a second and then says, “Come on. Let me get cleaned up and then you can explain everything.” He looks down at his phone. “Shit. I have four missed calls from Peter. I’d better call him back.”

“He’s already on his way,” Stiles says. “I texted him when I couldn’t find you. But I guess he didn’t want to stay here.”

“Yeah, he told me earlier,” Tom says. “He decided to go a few more stops to a hotel that – how did he put this? – didn’t look like a set from American Horror Story that got rejected by the producers for being ‘too much’.” He’s tapping his phone as he speaks, and a few seconds later. “Yeah, it’s me. I’m okay. Are you – okay. Yeah, okay.” He hangs up and says, “Yeah, he’ll be here any minute, he says.”

None of them really want to go back into the motel, but Tom still reeks of gasoline and decides he’s willing to chance it. Whatever was going on probably wasn’t caused by the hotel, since all the werewolves agree that they were starting to feel the headache and nausea of the wolfsbane before they got there. Still, Stiles isn’t going to let his father out of his sight, so Tom has to agree to showering in his underwear so Stiles can sit on the toilet and chew his fingernails. Tom does as quick a job as possible, but by the time he’s done, Peter’s there and greets him with a quick kiss and then a frown. “You smell like wolfsbane.”

“Yeah. I’m not sure how we got exposed.”

Peter grimaces. “Come on. If you all squeeze into my car, we can go to my hotel. It’s about twenty minutes down the road.”

“Six people are not going to fit into that trophy car you drive,” Tom points out. “Especially not two grown men and four teenaged boys.”

“We can strap Scott to the roof rack,” Peter says, and heads outside. Stiles looks torn between laughing and telling Peter off. Laughter wins, and he’s still snickering as they get down to the parking lot. The others have been waiting outside, not wanting to go back in beyond a quick trip to get their things.

“Seriously, we’re not all going to fit,” Tom says.

“We could sleep on the bus,” Scott suggests.

Peter looks skeptical, to put it mildly, but after a moment he sighs and heads towards it. The teenagers pile on, but he stops as soon as he hit the steps. He prowls further inside, cautious, and then shakes his head. “No. This is where the wolfsbane was. I can smell it.”

Tom scents the air cautiously. “I don’t smell anything other than condensed teenager.”

“It’s subtle, and in small amounts. It wouldn’t have had any affect if you hadn’t been inhaling it for hours. But still, it’s more concentrated here than it was in the hotel room. This is the source.”

“That means it’s probably safe to sleep at the motel, I guess,” Tom says, gesturing to the building.

“I suppose so,” Peter says.

“Can we all stay in one room, though?” Stiles asks.

Tom reaches out and hooks an arm around his son’s shoulders. “How about, I’ll sleep in you and Scott’s room, and Peter will sleep in Isaac and Boyd’s room.”

“Yeah, okay, I guess,” Stiles says.

“But at the moment, you still have to tell me what exactly happened,” Tom adds, and Stiles nods. They all head up to Tom’s room. Boyd and Stiles give a quick account of everything that had happened. Most of the werewolves look utterly baffled; none of them have any memory of doing what Boyd and Stiles describe.

“I still don’t get how Sheriff Stilinski snapped out of it, though,” Boyd says, frowning. “None of the others did without being burned.”

Peter shrugs. “He saw his child in danger. That provided a base motivation that no amount of mental manipulation could have hindered. And then the heat of the explosion, so close to him, did the rest of the work. Fire works best, certainly, but in this case it was the shock of the sudden heat. It worked that way because this was a chronic exposure, not an acute one. But that’s what bothers me about this. Chronic, low-dose wolfsbane . . . that would certainly cause headache, nausea, hallucinations. It’s not going to cause you to douse yourself in gasoline and set yourself on fire. The wolfsbane made you vulnerable, but something else was at play here.”

“We were thinking maybe the Darach was trying to get them to sacrifice themselves,” Stiles says.

“No, this wouldn’t have counted as a sacrifice. Those are far more ritualistic. Besides, she wouldn’t have done it outside Beacon Hills – it needs to be on the ley lines. But, it’s still possible that it was the Darach, and they were targeting us for some other reason.” Peter shakes his head. “We can talk more about it later. I’m guessing you still aren’t feeling well.”

“I’ve had better days, that’s for sure,” Tom says. “But I feel a lot better now than I did earlier.”

“Really? I feel like crap still,” Isaac says gloomily.

“Same,” Scott says.

Tom shrugs. “Maybe I burned it off quicker for some reason.”

“Maybe you . . .” Stiles hesitates. “When you shielded me from the explosion, I saw . . . or at least I thought I saw . . . your eyes were red. Like an alpha’s.”

“Huh,” Tom says, blinking. He looks at Peter. “What would that mean?”

Peter looks just as surprised. “I’m not sure, honestly. It would explain a few things. An alpha would metabolize the wolfsbane faster. Maybe it’s possible to borrow power from your alpha in moments of danger . . . although I’d think that I would have heard about it by now if that were true.”

“Maybe I’ve just got a little alpha in me,” Tom says.

He regrets the words as soon as he’s spoken them. Peter’s eyes actually light up with glee at the opening and he says, far too quickly, “Would you like – ”

“Nope,” Tom says. “Absolutely not. If you finish that joke, I will beat the shit out of you.”

“It was more of an offer than a joke,” Peter says with a smirk. “But okay, I’ll be good. Let’s get some sleep and puzzle out the rest of it in the morning.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Stiles is quiet on the drive back to Beacon Hills, quiet during dinner, even quiet during his reunion with Derek instead of asking a hundred questions about what he’d been up to while they were gone. Tom knows it doesn’t bode well, and he can’t blame Stiles for being freaked out by what had happened. He’s thinking that maybe he should send Peter home, but then again Peter is pretty unhappy about everything, too. But he makes a point of letting Stiles know to wake him if he needs anything, even if it’s just to talk.

It’s around midnight by the time Tom and Peter head upstairs. Peter ducks into the shower; Tom changes into pajamas and gets into bed.

A few minutes later, the door eases open and Stiles pokes his head in. “You, uh, I heard you come upstairs and . . .”

“Come on in,” Tom says, waving at him. He hopes that Peter has the good sense not to come out of the bathroom naked. Stiles comes into the bedroom the rest of the way and sits on the edge of the bed, his body tight, arms folded over his stomach. “How are you feeling?”

“I don’t know,” Stiles says. “Just . . . shaky, I guess.”

“That seems pretty fair to me.” Tom reaches over and squeezes his shoulder. “But hey, you and Boyd did a great job. I’m really impressed with how both of you handled that.”

Stiles nods. “I’m glad Boyd didn’t get the Bite,” he says. “Otherwise I would’ve been in it alone, and just . . .” He shudders. “I don’t know why I came in here. It’s not like there’s anything you can do to fix it. I just. I can’t sleep. Even with Derek there. Every time I close my eyes, I see you holding that flare and I just, I’m just freaking out, Dad.”

“Hey.” Tom takes Stiles’ chin in his hand. “Hey, look at me. That wasn’t me. Okay? I would never, never leave you like that. That was the wolfsbane, the - ”

“It doesn’t matter!” Stiles yanks away from him. “It doesn’t matter why you nearly did it because you did and it’s just, just more fucking nightmare fodder and I’m fucking sick of this! I’m sick of having a perpetual panic attack, I’m sick of lying awake at night not being able to sleep because I’m afraid of what will happen, I’m sick of all of this! I don’t want this!” He looks away from Tom and wipes his eyes with the back of his hand, letting out a choked little sob. “I don’t want this anymore. I want to go back to the way things were.”

“I know.” Tom pulls him into an embrace and hugs him as tightly as he can, then remembers werewolf strength when Stiles squeaks, and loosens his grip slightly. “I know, and I would give you that if I could. But I will do anything to keep you safe, you hear me? Nothing will ever hurt you if there’s a single thing I can do to prevent it.”

“But what if there isn’t?” Stiles asks.

“Then Peter will protect you. Or Derek will. Or you’ll protect yourself.” Tom squeezes his hands. “We’ll all look out for each other. That’s what the pack is for.”

In the bathroom, the water to the shower shuts off. Tom glances at the door, but it doesn’t open.

Stiles snuffles a little more and then heaves a sigh. “Yeah. I mean. I guess I don’t really want to go back because that would mean never having met Derek. And still having to watch your cholesterol.”

“Two things of equal importance,” Tom agrees solemnly.

“Plus you never would have met Peter. Although, you know.” Stiles shrugs.

Tom arches his eyebrows at his son. “You know, what?”

He half-expects some snarky commentary, but instead Stiles chews on his lip for a few moments before saying, “Does he make you happy?”

“Most of the time,” Tom says, and sees Stiles purse his mouth like he’d bitten down on something sour. He laughs quietly. “He’s not perfect. And it’s not a perfect relationship. There’s no such thing as perfect, not in the real world. I’m not perfect, and neither was your mother. Sometimes Peter and I argue. Sometimes your mother and I argued - you just didn’t see it, because you were only a kid. But overall, yes, Peter makes me happy, and I think the good outweighs the bad.”

“Okay. I guess.”

Tom decides that’s probably as good as he’s going to get, at least when it comes to Stiles’ endorsement of Peter. “You should get some sleep. Do you want to stay in here?”

“No, I think . . . I think I’ll be okay. Derek’s here.” Stiles stands up, then adds, “Thanks, Dad.”

“Any time.” Tom watches fondly as his son leaves the room. A few moments later, the bathroom door opens and Peter comes out, naked as expected. “Sorry to exile you.”

Peter shrugs. “I was enjoying eavesdropping.” He drops onto the bed next to Tom and presses a kiss into the underside of his chin. “You really don’t think I’m perfect?”

“I think you’re perfectly obnoxious,” Tom says, and Peter laughs. He leans in for a real kiss, which Tom returns. “Come on, let’s get some sleep.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Stiles is halfway down the school’s front steps when a hand snags his elbow, and he nearly launches himself down the steps in an effort to get away. The aforementioned hand keeps him from falling, as he half-twists around to see that it’s Ethan.

“Hey, sorry I startled you.” Ethan lets go of him, shoving his hands down into his pockets and looking ill-at-ease. “Got a sec?”

“Maybe,” Stiles says suspiciously. He looks out into the parking lot to see Derek waiting for him, leaning on the hood of the Camaro. The other pack members are trailing out of the school, too; they had already agreed they would head back to the den directly after school. “What do you want?”

“Look, I don’t know what happened at that weird motel, but I’m pretty sure you and Boyd saved my life,” Ethan says.  “So I just wanted to give you a head’s up that Deucalion’s going to want Peter’s decision soon. When you see our symbol again, that means he’s run out of time. Okay?”

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles says. “What happens then?”

“I guess that’ll depend on Peter,” Ethan says, and walks away before Stiles can stop him, although he supposes he wouldn’t be able to.

“What was that about?” Derek asks, when he gets down to the parking lot.

“He wanted to tell me that when we see that ugly symbol again, it means Deucalion’s gonna come kill us all, probably,” Stiles says.

“Stand up guy,” Derek says dryly.

“Right? Nice of him to drop a warning.” Stiles rolls his eyes.

Derek leans over and presses a kiss against Stiles’ temple. A friendly, affectionate kiss that seems more familial to Stiles than boyfriend-ish. He supposes he should be grateful for what he’s got.

“Hey, Derek!” a female voice calls out, and then Ms. Blake trots over to them, and Stiles has to resist the urge to hiss and spit like a cat. “I’ve got that book we were talking about.”

“Oh, thanks,” Derek says, accepting the book she’s holding out to him. “I’m looking forward to it.”

“Let me know what you think,” Ms. Blake says.

Derek is smiling at her, his real, genuine smile. “Did you get a chance to read 1Q84?”

“I haven’t started it yet! I was busy grading essays.” Ms. Blake is smiling, too, and Stiles has never felt more invisible in his life. “I liked hearing you talk about it so much, maybe I put off starting it.”

Derek laughs. He laughs. He hardly ever laughs, even when Stiles is at his most ridiculous. Stiles thinks about launching himself off a cliff. “You’ll like reading it more than you like listening to me, I promise.”

Stiles can’t take it anymore. He clears his throat and says, “Hey, uh, my dad’s going to be wondering where I am . . .” and then immediately regrets it. He can’t believe his interruption of choice was reminding Derek that he was dating a high schooler, someone who still had to regularly report in to his father.

For his part, Derek doesn’t seem to notice the awkwardness of the interruption. He just nods and then says to Jennifer, “I should go. I’ll text you later.”

“Okay,” Ms. Blake says, then adds, “Bye, Stiles. See you in class tomorrow,” and Stiles wishes a hole in the ground would open up for him to jump into.

Once they’re in the car, he thinks about trying to address what just happened. Derek seems oblivious to his discomfort, and he doesn’t really want to make a big deal out of it, but he also can’t contain his curiosity. “So, uh, you and Ms. Blake are like . . . talking?”

“Hm? Oh, yeah,” Derek says. “We ran into each other at the bookstore and wound up chatting about books, so we exchanged numbers. She’s actually pretty smart.”

“No, I know that, I mean, she’s a good teacher,” Stiles says miserably.

“Yeah? We were talking about the curriculum and she says – ”

“I think we should break up,” Stiles blurts out.

Derek goes silent. He pulls up to a stop sign and then turns to look at Stiles. “What?”

“I’m gonna walk home,” Stiles says, desperate to escape the conversation. He unbuckles his seat belt and reaches for the door handle. Derek hits the accelerator before he can open it.

“Put your seat belt back on,” Derek says. “I won’t drive anywhere if you’re not wearing it.”

“Yeah, that’s why I took it off – ”

“Put it on, Stiles.”

Miserably, Stiles buckles himself back in.

“Now tell me you’re not trying to break up with me because I made friends with your English teacher.”

“It’s not that,” Stiles says. “I mean, it is a little, but it’s not like, I’m not jealous, it’s just, you deserve better than dating me. Ms. Blake is smart and beautiful and, you know, your age, so you could actually date her and be happy and stuff.”

“I don’t want to date Jennifer.”

“See, you’re on a first name basis! You can call her Jennifer because you’re her peer, and I have to call her Ms. Blake because I’m still a high school student. You don’t even want to date me – ”

“That is not true – ”

“You just probably felt, like, obligated because I was nice to you and stuff, and I told you I liked you and you probably felt sorry for me – ”

“Stiles, for God’s sake, stop talking,” Derek says, and Stiles falls silent. “Text your dad. Tell him we’re going to my loft for a while instead of going straight home. We need to talk and I don’t want an audience.”

“Okay,” Stiles says. His misery is starting to melt into this weird numb feeling in his chest and stomach, although it’s done nothing to dissolve the lump in his throat. He texts his father and says nothing as Derek navigates the downtown streets and parks by the loft, still says nothing as he follows Derek up the stairs.

Once they’re inside, Derek turns to face him with his arms folded over his chest. “I thought we had talked this through. That I had told you I didn’t want to break up.”

“You did, but . . .”

“But what?” Derek says, when Stiles’ voice trails off.

“But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t,” Stiles says. “Look, you’re amazing, okay? You, you deserve someone you can be with, wholeheartedly, without reservation. You should be dating someone smart and beautiful that you can be attracted to without feeling bad about it. I know you don’t want to hurt me but watching you smile at Ms. Blake while technically dating me actually hurts more than it would if you just broke up with me. So, so I’m gonna get it over with because I can’t just wait for you to fall in love with someone else while still dating me. I can’t do that, Derek.”

Derek rubs both hands over his face. “I’m not in love with Jennifer. We’ve had a total of three conversations.”

“But you could be,” Stiles says. “You could be, Derek. You could date her and fall in love with her and get married and have cute babies. She, she can give you so many things that I can’t. I want what’s best for you, okay? Because I care about you. You being my boyfriend has been awesome but if it’s not what’s best for you then I don’t want it.”

Derek falls silent for a long minute. He seems to be struggling to find the words to express what he means, before he finally heaves a frustrated sigh and just snaps, “No!”

Stiles blinks. “No? No, what?”

“Just no! No to all of this. No to you deciding what’s best for me. No to you deciding what I want. No to breaking up.”

Stiles’ mouth works soundlessly for a few moments.

“I don’t want to date Jennifer. I don’t want to fall in love with her and have babies with her. I like talking to her and it’s nice to have a friend outside the pack, but that’s all it is. You have to trust me on that, Stiles. I don’t want to stay up until two AM playing Halo with Jennifer. I don’t want to talk about a painting and somehow end up hearing about a wild theory than Van Gogh was actually murdered with Jennifer. I don’t – ”

“That theory is based in solid historical record – ”

“ – want to debate the cultural relevance of fanart and fanfiction with Jennifer and I sure as hell don’t want her to know about my secret tumblr account, I don’t want to fail making a new recipe and laugh over ordering pizza with Jennifer. I want to do those things with my boyfriend, and I want that boyfriend to be you. End of story!”

Stiles wipes his eyes and manages, “Okay.”

“And for the record? I can’t wait for you to turn seventeen and a half so we can start making out. I’m very excited about your upcoming eighteenth birthday and the fact that I will then get to see you naked. I have absolutely no desire to see Jennifer naked and in fact would like to never entertain the idea again. And now I’m going to kiss you.”

“Okay,” Stiles says again, and then Derek’s kissing him and it’s glorious, the sort of kiss that leaves him threading his hands in Derek’s hair and hanging on for dear life. He’s gasping when Derek pulls away.

“Feel better?” Derek asks.

“Nn hn,” Stiles pants.

Derek eyes him suspiciously. “Are we going to have to do this every time I smile at someone?”

“If breaking up with you gets you to kiss me like that?” Stiles says, and Derek groans. “I’m just saying. You’ve set a terrible precedent here – ”

Derek kisses him again, for several long moments. When he pulls away, he flicks Stiles’ nose and says, “C’mon. Let’s go home.”

“Okay.” Stiles can’t resist leaning in for another kiss. “Yeah, okay. Let’s go home.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

Tom looks at the symbol that’s been spray-painted across the sliding glass door that leads into the backyard and sighs. “Now this is just rude,” he complains. “They couldn’t put it on the front door so I could paint over it again? This is going to be a bitch to remove. I’m going to have to call somebody.”

“That’s your biggest complaint?” Peter asks, clearly amused. “They’re clearly intending to come kill us tonight, and your concern is your home aesthetic?”

“I don’t intend to die, so yeah, a little common courtesy would be nice,” Tom says, and Peter just laughs. “Do we have any sort of plan? We should send the kids to stay somewhere safe.”

Peter shakes his head. “I don’t know that splitting up is a good idea. After all, there are five alphas. They could easily go get the kids while we were here. There’s safety and strength in numbers.”

“Last time I thought that, Gerard Argent surrounded us all with mountain ash and guns, and burned my house to the ground.”

“Fair point,” Peter says. “But I don’t know where we would send them that any of us would consider safe. Argent’s, maybe, but then we don’t have the option of calling him to help out.”

Tom sighs. “I’m not sure what Chris could do.”

“Set up a sniper rifle, preferably.”

“I’m not sure that would be the best idea.”

“What do you think is going to happen when I tell Deucalion to fuck off for what will be the last time?” Peter asks, arching an eyebrow. “Do you think he’s just going to say ‘oh, sorry to have disturbed you’ and leave? I very much doubt that. Therefore, we need to be prepared to strike first.”

“But that’s the whole problem,” Tom says. “According to Ethan, Deucalion uses the first strike as an excuse to kill the entire pack. We don’t know what will happen if we just tell Deucalion to leave, because nobody has ever done it. We should – ”

Peter rolls his eyes so hard that his whole head moves. “That twin says nobody has ever done it, and for some reason you believed him. Are you kidding? Deucalion’s not going to let somebody say no. He’ll murder every last one of us, and I for one intend to make sure that doesn’t happen, even if it means I have to murder him first. And I’m so very sorry if His Lawfulness doesn’t agree.”

“Don’t be a prick,” Tom says.

“I’ll be a prick when it’s called for,” Peter says. “You’re being ridiculous. Deucalion doesn’t need more than one move to kill us. Yet you want me to stand back and give Deucalion the opportunity to make that move, so you can feel it’s justified when we kill him.”

“No,” Tom says, “what I want is to have a rational discussion about this like adults, without you diving headfirst back into mocking me for my moral compass.”

“I’m not mocking you – ”

“Yes, you are!” Tom struggles with his temper. “Call me ‘his lawfulness’ again and I’ll clean your clock.”

Peter’s mouth thins. “All right. That was uncalled for. But my point stands. I don’t intend to let Deucalion make the first move, and I don’t care whether you like that or not.”

“Well, if you’d allowed me to actually make my point instead of assuming you knew what I was going to say, my point was going to be that it’s stupid to make that move exactly when he expects it. When he shows up to issue his ultimatum, he’s going to be expecting us to attack. We need to handle tonight another way, and make our move at a different time.”

Peter is blinking at him, and he clears his throat and says, “Yes. That does make sense.”

Tom folds his arms over his chest and says nothing.

“What did you have in mind?” Peter asks.

“Avoiding the entire meeting,” Tom says. “We don’t need to be here to receive his ultimatum. We already know what it’s going to be, and you’ve already given him an answer. That will show Deucalion exactly what we think of him. Then, we need to figure out where they are. The twins attending high school is Deucalion’s way to keep an eye on the betas; I say we turn it back on him. I’m sure Chris has any number of tracking devices we can have one of the kids stick on their car or backpack or whatever. Then we make a plan of attack for when they won’t expect it.”

Peter nods slowly. “God, that’s hot.”

“You know, you can’t just sidetrack me with sex every time I’m mad at you,” Tom tells him.

“Don’t be mad. I said I was sorry.”

“No, actually, you didn’t,” Tom says.

“Well, I am.”

“Then say so, and moreover, cut this shit out. I mean it.”

“I am sorry,” Peter says, “and you’re brilliant, and I don’t deserve you.”

“Okay,” Tom says, and is vaguely thinking about whether or not they have time for a quickie when his radio crackles. “Stilinski,” he says.

“Boss, it’s me.” Tara’s voice is troubled. “We found another body . . . and it’s even weirder than usual.”

“Text me the GPS, I’m on my way,” Tom says. He looks at Peter and says, “What do you think is safer? Your apartment or Derek’s loft?”

“Probably the loft. They almost definitely know where I live, but they probably haven’t bothered to follow Derek around.”

“Okay. Pick up the kids after school and I’ll meet you there.”

Peter leans in for a quick kiss. “You’re a terrible beta, you know that?”

“It’s the alpha in me,” Tom can’t help but tease.

Peter’s eyes gleam. “Raincheck, apparently.”

“Raincheck,” Tom agrees.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

The first thing Tom notices is that the sacrifice, if that’s what it is, wasn’t done by the same method. No head injury, no throat wound, not even any ligature marks. Just straight up asphyxiation. “This actually seems less weird than the others,” he remarks to Tara.

“Except for the part where she was abducted from her car literally while she was driving in it?” Tara says, and Tom blinks at her. “This is a doctor, right? She was on her way in to the hospital last night. Traffic cam footage shows her here.” She sets down a photograph of the doctor in her car. “But then not three minutes later, the car drifts into the parking lot at the hospital and hits another car. Like she just disintegrated.”

“Or like she jumped out,” Tom says.

“But there’s no evidence she jumped out,” Tara says. “The body had no bruises, no abrasions. Even at low speed . . . and get this. Her seat belt was still buckled.”

“Jesus,” Tom mutters, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Yeah, that’s . . . unlikely.”

“Plus, there’s another doctor missing,” Tara says. “He was on shift last night and just went up in smoke. Nobody saw him leave, none of the cameras picked up anything weird. He’s just gone. That was about four hours before Dr. Hilyard’s car crashed.”

“So he may still be alive somewhere,” Tom says, although he’s not sure why the Darach would have changed methods, not just in the way they killed, but in the timing. “Okay. I’ve got to make a few calls. Let me know if anything else comes in.”

He goes down to the hospital to check the security footage himself, but it’s just like Tara had said. One minute the ER physician was seeing patients. The next he excused himself to the restroom, and he never came back. There was no camera that took in the bathroom door, so the most likely explanation that Tom can come up with is that he went into it and was somehow abducted from there.

“Why would it be different?” he asks Chris, since he doubts Peter will know anything. “I know you said healers was one of the sets of three. But why kill them in such a different way?”

“Something symbolic, probably,” Chris says. “But you think one of them could still be alive?”

“I think it’s possible,” Tom says. “Hell, the third one isn’t even missing yet, or if they are I don’t know about it. These are people whose disappearances would be noticed right away.”

“Okay. I have kind of a theory. Can you make some time?”

“Yeah, sure,” Tom says, and waits expectantly.

“It’s a visual thing. I’ve got maps.”

“Oh, okay. I’ll be over in about ten minutes.”

He puts in his Bluetooth, which he hates, and checks in with Peter while he drives. All quiet on the home front, Peter assures him. He’s at Derek’s, and they’re talking about buying some snacks to keep the teenagers occupied if they’re stuck at the loft all evening.

Chris greets him with a handshake and shows Tom into his office, where he’s got a large map of Beacon Hills and the surrounding area tacked up on his wall. “Where was the latest body found?” he asks, and hands Tom a pushpin. He walks over and pushes it into the map, and Chris nods. “Okay, that’s what I thought. Whoever the Darach is, they’re leaving the bodies on the ley lines. They’re probably making the sacrifices there as well.”

“Okay,” Tom says. “What the hell are ley lines, actually? Peter says they’re like power lines.”

“That’s as good a way to put it as any. It has to do with geomagnetic fields, the way they move and are affected by the atmosphere. Where they overlap most frequently, it creates pockets of power, and the lines between those pockets of power are the ley lines.”

“And the bodies are being found – ”

“In the pockets. Yeah. But they have to be sacrificing the victims on the lines as well, if they want the full effect.”

Tom grimaces a little. “That’s still a lot of searchable land.”

“Well, yes and no. It only takes a few seconds to dump a body. The sacrifice itself will take longer. They’re not going to do it in the middle of the street. I’ve narrowed down some possibilities.”

“Okay. I – ” Tom’s phone rings and he resists the urge to say ‘what now’. He glances down at the screen and sees a local number that’s not saved into his phone. “Hello?”

“Tom? It’s Alan,” Deaton’s voice says. “I hate to trouble you like this, but I’m afraid you’re my only hope. I’m going to be taken. I need you to find me.”

Tom wonders why he even got out of bed that morning. “Taken? Taken where? By who? Listen, you cryptic – ” He realizes he’s talking into dead air, curses, and shoves his phone back into his pocket. “We have to get to Deaton’s clinic.”

It occurs to him halfway there that Peter will probably be annoyed that he’s charging into danger without him, but he doesn’t want to wait, so he’ll have to endure the lecture later.

But there is no danger, or if there was, it’s long gone. The clinic is empty and quiet. He supposes that he can’t be positive Deaton was calling him from the clinic, but it’s one PM on a weekday. It’s where he should have been. “Do you think a veterinarian counts as a healer?” he asks Chris.

“A regular one? Maybe not. But Deaton . . .?”

Tom grimaces. He knows that Deaton isn’t the typical vet. “Guess we’d better get started searching those spots on the ley lines.”

Chris nods. “I’ll drive.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Derek glances over as he hears his uncle’s phone buzz with an incoming text, and then hears his heartbeat pick up. “What is it?” he asks, his shoulders going tense despite himself.

“Apparently Deaton’s gone and gotten himself abducted by the Darach,” Peter says, then shrugs. “Ah well. Not my problem. And if Tom’s busy all day hunting ley lines for him, he won’t get into trouble with Deucalion.”

“Were we worried about that?” Derek asks dryly.

“With Tom? It’s a real concern, yes. I can never tell when he’s suddenly going to throw himself into the maw of danger because he feels like it’s the right thing to do. Besides, this will give me the chance to do a few things without having to defend myself against his moralizing.”

Derek gives him a sideways look. “You said Tom already agreed that we’re going to kill Deucalion. What is he moralizing about?”

“Oh, you know, everything,” Peter says, waving this aside.

Derek sighs. “And what is it that you want to do?”

“Tom doesn’t want to make a move tonight, because it’s what they’re going to be expecting. And – don’t look at me like that, I’m not going to ask you to help me lie to Tom – I agree with him, but I doubt Deucalion is going to. The hope is that we can avoid the whole thing by just not being where they expect us to be. But we can’t be sure they don’t know about the loft, that they won’t find us here.”

“Then why don’t we go somewhere else?” Derek asks. “I mean, there are places that could be safer. Chris Argent’s house. The police station, surrounded by cops. The moon.”

“Unless you have Elon Musk on speed dial, I doubt the latter will work,” Peter says. He shakes his head a little and adds, “There’s nowhere in Beacon Hills that we’d truly be safe. We don’t know exactly how much Deucalion and his pack have found out about us, or if they have other ways to track us. If there’s even a small chance that they can find us, I’d prefer it be somewhere like here, and I’d prefer to be prepared for it.”

“Okay,” Derek says, nodding. He agrees with Tom, that it’s better to avoid the confrontation if possible, but he can see where Peter’s coming from, too. Even if he turns out to be incorrect, the impulse to guard, to protect, lingers in both of them. Neither of them had seen Kate Argent’s attack coming. Neither of them would ever completely recover from the paranoia that left in them.

“Then let’s go pick up a few things at Home Depot and get to work.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom very quickly finds himself frustrated. Driving along the ley lines is impossible because of the way they cut through buildings and forest, so their journey is hit or miss at best. Sometimes they’re on foot, and although he’s certainly in better shape than he used to be, he keenly feels the press of time. Peter will be picking the kids up any minute. He wants to be back at the loft before the sun sets.

His radio crackles, and he picks up with, “Hey, what’ve you got?”

“They found Dr. Hilyard’s body,” Tara says grimly. “Same manner of death as the other doctor.”

Tom swears. “Forward me the coordinates, okay?” he says, figuring they can add it to Chris’ map, and maybe it will magically shed some light on where Deaton’s going to be.

“Okay. And I’ve got the ME on the horn for you. He says he knows more about the COD.”

“Great, patch him through,” Tom says.

He puts it on speaker so Chris can hear, because at this point he figures what the hell, why not. “I’ve figured out how the asphyxiation happened,” the medical examiner says. “There’s no ligature marks, which you knew, but there are very deep marks on the wrists. He must have been suspended.”

“Meaning?” Tom says.

“Hanging like that, you’re fighting against gravity to breathe. You have to pull yourself up in order to take a breath. Eventually, the person loses the strength to do so and can’t lift themselves up anymore. It’s actually how crucifixion kills.”

Tom files that under things he never particularly wanted or needed to know. “Once the victim no longer has the strength to pull themselves up, how long before death?”

“Minutes,” the ME responds.

Tom thanks him and hangs up, then looks at Chris and says, “Okay, so we can rule out a lot of places on this map if it’s somewhere that they’re going to leave a victim suspended for hours. I’m not a fan of pull-ups myself but when it’s that or death, I’d think it would take a while for it to happen.”

Chris nods. “But we’ve already checked most of the places like that.”

“Shit.” Tom pushes both hands through his hair. “I want to go back to the clinic. There might be a clue there that we’ve missed. And I think I’m going to have Tara call the next-of-kin at this point. I know Deaton has a sister. Maybe she can do the same sort of Druid stuff and help us find him.”

They’re halfway through searching the things in Deaton’s clinic and finding nothing useful when the front door opens and a woman walks in. She looks calm and reserved, and introduces herself as Marin, Deaton’s sister. Her voice is vaguely familiar, and trying to remember where he’s heard it before nags at him. He knows she’s a guidance counselor, so he’s probably met her before, but can’t actually recall having done so.

Tom isn’t sure how to go about asking her if she knows about werewolves and magic and all of that, without possibly making her think that he’s crazy. Fortunately for him, Chris has a lot more experience with that sort of thing. He offers Marin a disarming smile and says, “We’ve been looking through Dr. Deaton’s things and have found some . . . unusual items. We were hoping that you might be able to tell us more about them, if they might have anything to do with his disappearance.”

“Of course,” Marin says, and stays silent while Chris shows her some of Deaton’s books and the little jars and vials he keeps of what’s obviously ingredients for spells. Tom gets distracted by the proceedings when he sees that one of the little vials has a familiar symbol on it.

“Do you recognize this?” he asks Marin, trying to remember when he’s seen it before.

Marin shakes her head. “I’m sorry. I don’t.”

She’s being so quiet and useless that Tom is starting to think that it must be an act. There’s no way Deaton’s sister would be so completely clueless about his life to not even know about the fact that he was a Druid. He supposes it’s possible that she’s not saying anything because she doesn’t want them to think she’s crazy. But that seems unlikely. Deaton’s sister should know who he is, who Chris Argent is. If she’s not saying anything, there has to be a reason.

“Sheriff,” she says, drawing his attention back to the situation at hand, and he jumps a little as he realizes where he’s heard her voice before. “Please, whatever you can do to find my brother – ”

“How did you know where Erica and Boyd were?” Tom interrupts. Chris looks up from what he’s doing, a frown creasing his face.

Marin blinks, taken aback. “I’m sorry? I don’t – ”

“I just figured out why your voice was familiar. You called me when Erica and Boyd were missing, to tell me they were being held in the vault. How did you know? And why did you tip me off anonymously instead of coming to me with more detail?”

“Maybe because I knew you’d want to know how I knew,” Marin says, her face going calm and expressionless.

“Good call. Because I do.”

“And I’m afraid I can’t tell you.”

Tom narrows his eyes at her, thinking all this over. “Alan was Talia’s Emissary, and I came here to ask him about Deucalion after Boyd and Erica went missing. Right after that conversation is when you called me. Which means to me that Alan called you and told you to call me so I could help the kids.” He focuses on her heartbeat. It’s slow, steady, unconcerned. “Or Alan called you and told you that I was close. That I was going to find them soon. So you acted to preempt me.”

Her face is still blank and unworried, but her heartbeat ticks up at those words. “Sheriff, I was just doing what I thought was best.”

“Uh huh. He was pissed, wasn’t he.”

“My brother doesn’t really get ‘pissed’.”

“Not Alan. Deucalion. He was pissed off because I plastered his face all over the news. Because people were snooping around, mundanes who had no idea of how powerful and important he is, or at least perceives himself to be. He was primed to do something violent, something that couldn’t be undone. Then Alan calls you and tells you that I came to see him, that it’s clear that I’m not just going to sit back and wait for Deucalion to make a move.”

“None of this is relevant to the fact that my brother is missing,” Marin says.

Tom raises his eyebrows. “You think so? From where I’m standing, it couldn’t be more relevant. You clearly have inside information on Deucalion’s movements. Alan somehow neglected to tell me that his own sister was involved with the Alpha Pack. Now he’s ‘missing’, despite not exactly matching the Darach’s victim profile for this group. The other two were doctors; Alan is a veterinarian.”

“He’s a healer – ”

“He’s a Druid whose alliances aren’t clear who has withheld crucial information from me on more than one occasion,” Tom replies. “None of the other victims managed to make a phone call before disappearing. So from where I’m standing, it looks like there’s a strong possibility that Alan isn’t missing at all. That he’s set me off on a wild goose chase to keep me occupied and separated from my pack while Deucalion makes his move.”

Marin is starting to appear genuinely frustrated. “The Darach doesn’t work for Deucalion, Sheriff. She’s going to kill my brother if you don’t find him.”

“But how do I know that? Am I supposed to take your word on it?”

“I helped you rescue those kids.”

“Sure. But I don’t think you did it for them, and I know you didn’t do it for me.”

Marin’s mouth purses. “What do you want, Sheriff? How can I convince you that the danger to my brother is real?”

“Let’s start by you telling me how you knew where those kids were.”

There’s a moment of silence. Then Marin huffs out a breath. “I’m Deucalion’s Emissary. I have been for over a decade, but we aren’t close. When he went off on his killing spree, I stayed here. He called me a few months ago to let me know he was going to be coming back to Beacon Hills. We’ve met up a few times since he got here. When he kidnapped those two kids, it was supposed to take you months to find them, by which point the girl would be feral when exposed to the light of the full moon. And yes, he was enraged that you called in the mundane cavalry. That’s not ‘how it’s done’.” She makes air quotes. “I told him you weren’t like other werewolves, and he was furious that I hadn’t foreseen what you would do. It was clear that his plan to keep the girl separated from moonlight for months wasn’t going to work, so yes, I nipped it in the bud before things could get worse.”

“Does he know? That you called and told me?”

“No. He thinks you just found him using the police officers.”

“Okay. So you’re still in his confidence. Great. Where is he staying?”

Marin’s mouth thins. “I’m not going to tell you that, Sheriff.”

Tom studies her for a few moments before deciding that he’s not going to push on that particular issue. They’ll have other ways to find Deucalion and his henchmen, and he doesn’t trust that Marin won’t either lie or warn Deucalion that he’s been exposed. “Okay. Who’s the Darach?”

“How would I know that?” Marin asks, exasperated.

“Well, you clearly have more of an idea than we do,” Tom says, and Marin just looks at him blankly. “You said ‘she’. ‘She’s going to kill my brother’. You’re assuming it’s a woman. Why?”

Marin goes still. “I suppose I was just thinking of what kind of person would kill innocents to gain power.”

“And that made you think it was a woman?” Tom shakes his head. “I don’t buy it. You might not know who it is for sure, but you’ve got an idea. So let me ask you a different question, Marin – who was left alive after Deucalion’s first killing spree?”

“Nobody,” Marin says.

“You’re sure of that?”

“Positive.”

“Nobody survived? Not even, say, one of the other Emissaries? Who could have used her own power to save herself, who’s lived biding her time until Deucalion came back to Beacon Hills, who could be sacrificing people for power so she can get her revenge?”

Marin meets his gaze. “None of the other Emissaries survived, Sheriff.”

“Then why did you?” Chris speaks up for the first time, glowering at Marin from the corner. “Why did Deucalion leave you alive?”

“You’d have to ask him.”

“I don’t think I do,” Chris says. “I think killing an Emissary is dangerous. It only works if they don’t see you coming. I think Deucalion didn’t want to risk taking you on.”

“You’re entitled to think whatever you want,” Marin says.

“If you’re going to continue to insist all the Emissaries were killed, how about you tell us who they were,” Tom says. “That way I can double check. There would only be two, right? You survived, and Aiden and Ethan didn’t have their own packs. That means it’s only Kali and Ennis’ Emissaries that we’d have to worry about.”

Marin stares him down. “If I give you those two names, you’ll do your best to find my brother? To save his life? You’ll give me your word?”

Tom nods. “You have my word.”

Marin lets out a breath. “Kali’s was a woman named Julia Baccari. Ennis’ was Raven Olsen.”

“Okay.” Tom jots the two names down. He slides the piece of paper into his pocket and says to Chris, “Let’s get back to work.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

Peter and Derek are waiting for the last bell to ring, and Derek is pacing around the parking lot, unable to help it. Peter is sitting on the hood of his car, waiting. He’s tense as well, although nothing in his posture betrays it. They have a lot of work to do before sunset. And despite the fact that this is easier without Jiminy Sheriff on his shoulder, he’s distracted by worrying about Tom, by the fact that he can’t keep an eye on him while there’s danger. The fact that Tom is with Chris Argent helps, but it’s not a substitute for an alpha’s protection.

“Your heartbeat is quite fast, for you,” Deucalion says, leaning against the front bumper of Peter’s car next to him.

“Get your ass off my car,” Peter says. “You can’t afford her. Or me.”

Deucalion laughs and doesn’t move. “Worried about your Emissary, I assume?”

“Wouldn’t you be? If you weren’t a psychopath, that is.”

“I could help you find him,” Deucalion says.

Peter glances over at Deucalion with a frown, and at this, Derek turns towards them as well. Peter lifts a hand to gesture Derek to silence, not to correct Deucalion’s assumption that Deaton is his Emissary. It’s a reasonable assumption to make. Emissaries are nearly always Druids, and Deaton had been Talia’s. He’s not sure how Deucalion being wrong about this might help in the future, but there’s no sense in giving him any information. “Is that so?”

“Now your heartbeat is even faster,” Deucalion says, chuckling. “But it’s not fear, is it. It’s anger. You think I might have something to do with Deaton’s disappearance, but you know I’m not the one slashing up innocent people, praying to ancient gods or gathering herbs, or whatever the hell Druids are supposed to do.”

“Sweet Jesus,” Peter says. “I hope your ignorance isn’t contagious.”

“I can give you an important clue,” Deucalion says. “Let the current guide you.”

Peter stares at him for a moment before he turns to Derek and says, “Derek! Did you know about ley lines? I literally just found out about them, this moment, from this person sitting next to me! I had never heard of them before and I certainly didn’t know that the Darach was committing sacrifices on them!”

Derek gives a snort of laughter despite himself. Deucalion looks faintly irritated and says, “Nobody likes a smartass, you know.”

“Are you kidding? Everybody likes a smartass. Don’t you watch television? Well . . . ‘watch’ is probably the wrong word, but still.”

“You know, as clever as you think you are, you can’t escape what’s coming for you.”

Peter rolls his eyes. “I thought I had until tonight before I had to put up with this bullshit. Come back and kill me then. Until then, stop touching my car. I’m already going to have to wash it.”

Deucalion stands up. “Until tonight, then.”

“Pretentious prick,” Peter mutters, as Deucalion walks away. But he’s frowning, and once Deucalion is out of earshot, he says to Derek, “I’m beginning to lend credence to Tom’s theory that the Darach is after Deucalion. He’s worried about it. There was no other reason to come talk to us.”

Derek nods, thinking this over. “He already had everything set up for tonight. But then Deaton disappeared, so he came to talk to us even though he painted his stupid sign on the door. So he tries to set us up against the Darach. Maybe he figures he can use us to figure out who it is, or where they are.”

“Mm hm. I suppose I’ll text Tom to give him an update.”

“Okay.” The last bell is ringing, and teenagers are starting to come through the doors. By the time Peter is done texting, all the betas, including the human ones, have gathered around the cars.

“So what are we doing?” Stiles asks. Derek had texted him a couple times during the day, and he’s obviously talked to the others.

Peter smiles. “Gather round, children, and I will tell you my plan.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Derek expects Stiles to be upset when his father isn’t back by sunset, but he shakes his head when Derek brings it up. “I mean, am I thrilled that he’s out there searching for an evil witch? No. But it’s not like it’s any safer here. So it might be better that he’s out there.”

“At least he’s got back up,” Scott says.

Allison nods. “My dad won’t let anything happen to him.”

“Wish we could see it.” Erica lets out a wistful sigh. “Sheriff Stilinski and Mr. Argent? That’s the dream team right there.”

Several of the betas snicker. “Better watch out, Peter,” Stiles says. “Chris might steal my dad from you.”

“Actually I somewhat agree with Erica,” Peter says. “It’s heartbreaking that I’m stuck here babysitting while Tom and Chris are out there, kicking ass and taking names. Hopefully somebody will think to film it.”

“Who, exactly?” Derek asks, rolling his eyes at his uncle, and the betas laugh again.

The atmosphere is tense, charged, so they’re all a little jittery. They’ve prepared for a lot of eventualities, and although Peter seems confident, there’s obviously a lot that could go wrong.

Tom checks in regularly. He and Chris are methodically checking anywhere along the ley line that Deaton might be. His messages to Peter, which Derek is keeping half an eye on, get more sarcastic over time, although his messages to Stiles stay reassuring. It’s clear that Tom is still unconvinced that Deaton is actually in danger. Around seven thirty, he texts saying they’ve got three more places to check and then he’ll head to the loft, whether he’s found Deaton or not.

Two minutes later, the perimeter alarm that Derek and Peter rigged up goes off. Everyone scrambles for their places – Peter closest to the door, and the betas in two groups – one on the staircase and one on the far side of the loft.

The door opens.

Three self-triggering Molotov cocktails drop to the ground.

Ennis, halfway through the door, is immediately enveloped in flame. He screams, a horrible, prolonged scream. Kali, behind him, flinches backwards and manages to avoid being caught in the inferno. Peter wastes no time jumping on Ennis, grabbing him by the back of the neck and hurling him across the loft and through the plate glass window. He gives another scream, and then there’s a thud.

“You son of a bitch!” Kali shouts, charging the rest of the way in. Derek darts forward from where he was hidden by the door as it opened, jamming the shock stick into her back. Her body spasms, but it doesn’t have as much effect as he hoped. She wrenches it out of his hands and gets him in a headlock. “I’m going to tear your precious nephew apart, Hale, what do you think of that?”

“I think you’re supposed to let Deucalion give his pompous speech first, most likely,” Peter says, as Deucalion comes in with the twins behind him.

“Now, really, Hale,” Deucalion says. “Why are you always so rude?”

Peter shrugs. “Character flaw. Sure you want me in your pack? I’m not likely to change.”

“I think we can probably come to some sort of arrangement,” Deucalion says with a smile. “You’ve thoughtfully gathered all, or at least most, of your betas here. So pick one, Peter. Pick one beta to kill, or Kali will kill Derek, your nephew, your only other remaining – ”

His smile vanishes when Stiles grabs the shock stick that Kali had thrown and jams it into her side. She lets out a snarl, her grip tightening on Derek, and Stiles shouts, “Get your filthy hands off my boyfriend!”

One of the twins starts forward. A moment later, there’s a sharp twang and an arrow sails through the air, lodging itself in his shoulder. He lets out a yelp, grabs the next arrow before it can hit him, but is too slow to get the third. It sinks into the meaty part of his thigh, and he stumbles.

While Allison is shooting, the rest of the werewolf betas rush forward. Under normal circumstances, an alpha could handle three betas, but with Stiles repeatedly jamming the shock stick into her ribs, Kali has trouble fending them off. They manage to get her to loosen her grip enough that Derek is able to squirm free. She recovers with a snarl, and the betas scatter.

“Those arrows are laced with wolfsbane,” Peter says, as one twin comes to the other’s aid and starts to pull them out. “Better be careful removing them.”

“The next one is going in someone’s throat,” Allison adds from her position on the stairs.

Deucalion holds up a hand. The fire is starting to spread, and he’s clearly decided that discretion is the better part of valor, at least at the moment. “We’ll go. But this isn’t over.”

“I can’t imagine why not,” Peter says, “but when you’ve buried Ennis, let me know so I can come pay my respects . . . oh, wait. I don’t have any.”

Kali snarls again. “If Ennis is dead, I’ll tear you limb from limb.”

“Only if your Emissary doesn’t catch you first,” Peter says, “now get out.”

Deucalion turns and leaves; the twins follow him with one supporting the other. Kali’s gaze has faded from anger to uncomfortable uncertainty, and after a long moment of tension, she ducks away.

Derek goes and looks out the window, watches as they scoop up Ennis’ body. It’s limp and unresisting. If he isn’t dead, he’s tougher than most of the werewolves Derek has ever met. Kali casts a glare up at them before they head around the corner. The other betas are scrambling for the fire extinguishers that they had laid in, putting out the flames before the entire building could go up.

“All right, did anyone get a GPS chip into Kali’s pocket?” Peter asks. He’d given one to each of the betas, not sure who would get close enough.

“I did!” Scott declares proudly, and Isaac raises his hand as well.

“Excellent,” Peter says. “All we have to do now is wait and see where they go.”

“How do you know it’s her Emissary that’s the Darach?” Allison asks, collecting the arrow that the twin had caught and then dropped.

Peter shrugs. “I don’t. But it’s a fifty-fifty shot. She can’t know if it’s hers or Ennis’ either . . . unless she left hers alive. And from the look on her face when I said that, I’m thinking that maybe she did. Which I imagine Deucalion won’t be very happy to hear.”

“Nice,” Erica says, smirking. “Divide and conquer.”

Derek gets an arm around Stiles’ waist. “I don’t recall you attacking an alpha to be part of the plan.”

Stiles wrinkles his nose at Derek and says, “I don’t recall you letting go of the shock stick as part of the plan. I improvised.”

Derek presses a kiss against his temple, then against his mouth. “Thanks for the save.”

“You’re welcome,” Stiles says, flushing pink. His phone buzzes and he glances down at it; Peter’s buzzes a second later. “My dad,” Stiles says. “One more to go.”

~ ~ ~ ~

“He had better be here,” Tom mutters as he stares up at the bank that the alpha pack had been holding Erica and Boyd in. He had written it off as a likely possibility because why the hell would the Darach use a place that the alpha pack knew about? But he should have figured that of course Deaton was going to be in the last place he looked, no matter where it was.

His phone chimed, and he glanced down to see a message from Peter that reads, ‘Duke stopped by the loft, but we handled it. We’re heading back to the den now.’

“Shit,” Tom mutters, pissed beyond belief. He takes the stairs three at a time, not even realizing or caring that he’s leaving Chris behind. The whole damned thing was idiotic, just a ruse to get him away from the pack so they’d had to deal with the alphas on their own. It’ll be a miracle if nobody was hurt. Stiles could have been hurt, and he wouldn’t have been there. He had promised Stiles that he would protect him, and now instead here he is prowling around an empty bank, looking for someone who’s just taunting him –

Deaton is strung up by his wrists in the vault.

“Holy shit!” Tom says, startled despite himself. Deaton’s heartbeat is faint and rapid; there’s sweat beading on his forehead and he’s clearly only half-conscious. If it is a ruse – if they had been one step ahead of Chris and Tom the whole time and only suspended him at the last moment – it’s a damned good one. Tom takes a step forward and hits the barrier of mountain ash. “Shit,” he snarls, pressing his hands against it, trying to sink his claws in despite knowing it won’t do any good. He wasn’t able to get out of a burning house; he sure as hell won’t be able to get through it now.

“Here, let me,” Chris says, coming up behind him. He swipes his hand through the mountain ash on the floor, and there’s a sudden release of tension. Tom actually stumbles a few steps forward. Then both he and Chris are supporting Deaton, and Chris reaches up to cut the bonds around his wrists.

They get him sitting down and Chris jogs down to the car to get a bottle of water. Deaton takes a few sips and rasps out a thank you, then looks at Tom. “Your eyes were red. Bright red.”

Tom frowns. “That happened last week, too. Or that’s what Stiles said, anyway. What would cause that?”

“It’s rare,” Deaton says, taking another swallow of water. “It only happens once every hundred years or so. A beta can become an alpha without having to steal or take that power. They call it a true alpha. One who rises purely on the strength of their character, by virtue of sheer force of will.”

“Huh,” Tom says. “Okay. I take it that it happens gradually?”

“Gradually, and then all at once,” Deaton says.

Tom makes a mental note to talk about this with Peter later. “I’m going to call you an ambulance,” he says. “You look like you could use some IV fluids and a flat surface to lie down on for a while.”

Deaton nods, although he seems a little nonplussed that Tom doesn’t seem to have much interest in the subject of true alphas. Tom calls for the ambulance, and he and Chris get Deaton down the stairs. It arrives a few moments later. Tom takes the time to get Deaton’s statement, although it’s not very helpful. He doesn’t think he can do much with ‘my clinic was smothered in moths’.

“I’ll come check on you tomorrow,” he says, as Deaton is loaded into the ambulance.

Deaton nods. “We’ll have plenty to discuss.”

Tom shakes his head a little and turns to Chris. “Since this didn’t work, is the Darach going to take a third victim?”

“Probably,” Chris says grimly. “But I don’t see how we can stake out every point on the ley lines, or set up a guard on every doctor in Beacon Hills, if a guard would even be able to do anything.”

Tom nods. He wants to do something about it, but Chris is right. And at least he’s got more to go on now. Two names that he didn’t have at the beginning of the day. But he decides to pick up Melissa McCall on the way back to the den. If the Darach was willing to expand her list of victims to a veterinarian, she also might include a nurse. “Thanks for the assist. Let me know if you find anything through your channels.”

“Will do,” Chris says.

It takes most of the drive to explain things to Melissa, who isn’t thrilled to hear about the new developments. The betas are sprawled out around the living room in various repose, although Stiles jumps off Derek’s lap to give his father a hug when he comes in.

“Alan’s okay,” Tom says immediately, and sees some of the tension ease out of Scott’s shoulders. “They’re taking him to the hospital.”

“So he really was kidnapped?” Peter says. “Huh. I honestly wouldn’t have guessed that.”

Tom gives a snort. “Admittedly, I was a bit surprised, too. But after talking with his sister, I think we can narrow down our list of suspects for the Darach to two women.”

“I think we can narrow it down to one, given Kali’s reaction when I brought it up.”

“Great,” Tom says. “But we’ll do the heavy lifting in the morning. I’ve been on my feet all day and I’m exhausted. Kids, don’t stay up too late.”

“Okay,” the betas chorus.

~ ~ ~ ~

Tom sleeps restlessly, and needs a lot of coffee the next morning before he feels even vaguely competent. He and Peter have a quick breakfast, exchanging the facts of the night before. Chris had made a few quick calls to see what information he could get on the two Emissaries after they had talked to Marin, so that’s their next stop.

“So have you heard of this ‘true alpha’ thing?” he asks, as they clean up the dishes from breakfast.

“It sounds vaguely familiar,” Peter says. “I might have seen it in a book at some point, I suppose.”

“I half-expected he was just making it up,” Tom says.

Peter gives a snort of laughter. “While I wouldn’t put it beyond Deaton, I don’t think so. Remember, Stiles saw your eyes turn red, too. And to be fair, if there’s one man on earth I can picture becoming an alpha through sheer willpower alone, it’s definitely you.”

Tom gives him a sideways glance. “Would you be okay with that? If it happened?”

“I said you’d make a better alpha than me and I meant it,” Peter says. “Not that I have any intention of becoming a beta, but still. You as an alpha would be the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Good to know,” Tom says, amused.

“Speaking of alphas . . .” Peter goes into the living room and gets his laptop. “Let’s see where our little GPS chips have gone.”

Tom leans over his shoulder while Peter pulls up the program. It gives a set of coordinates which he then plugs into the map. “Looks like downtown. That’s either an apartment building or a hotel.”

“Great.” Tom can’t help but grimace. Either possibility involves a lot of doors, a lot of civilians, a lot of ways to get it wrong. “Can we do a hot-cold thing once we get closer?”

“Not with the chip. They were very basic. And I can’t sense any of the alpha pack; they’ve been hiding their presence from me, as I have been from them. Only sensible, really. But, we may be able to narrow it down further with surveillance footage or, if it’s a hotel, information from the front desk.”

“I hate the idea of attacking at a place like that. There’s a lot of ways innocent people could get caught in the crossfire.”

“It’s not my preference either.” Peter shrugs and closes his laptop. “One thing at a time. Let’s go talk to a man about a Darach.”

They head over to Chris’, who says he’s collected all the information his contacts have sent him but hasn’t gone through it yet. Tom gets another cup of coffee and quickly leafs through the folder. “Okay, Peter, looks like you were right,” he says, and Peter looks smug. “Neither of the two Emissaries in question have any records for the last seven years, but Ennis’ has a death certificate. Looks like she was killed seven years ago. Her mother verified that it was her. So if there’s an Emissary who survived, it’s Julia Baccari.”

“So where does that get us?” Chris asks.

Tom grimaces. “Not as far as I’d like. Knowing who she is doesn’t do us a lot of good if she’s not actually using that identity. She’s obviously got a new one.”

Chris frowns, studying the driver’s license photo of Julia Baccari in Tom’s folder. “I don’t get it,” he says. “I mean, she obviously wants revenge on Kali and Deucalion. That makes sense. She’s using the sacrifices as a power up. That makes sense. But why attack your pack? She has to know that Deucalion is a common enemy.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t necessarily make us her ally,” Peter says, “especially since she can be sure that Tom doesn’t approve of her sacrificing innocents.”

“And you do?” Chris asks dryly, and Peter shrugs. “But why doesn’t she team up with you so she doesn’t have to sacrifice innocents?”

“Because she wouldn’t trust us,” Peter says, then shakes his head and says, “She may honestly not be capable of trust. You can never understand the sort of psychological and emotional scarring being betrayed by your alpha would cause. And I can’t really say ‘imagine if your father tried to kill you’ because your relationship with your father is . . .”

“Complicated,” Chris says.

“Sure,” Peter says, looking a little amused. “But that’s the closest human comparison. Julia Baccari was betrayed, nearly murdered, by somebody she would have loved and trusted above all others. She’s never going to trust again. She’s obviously hell bent on revenge, and she won’t let anyone stand in the way. We’re as likely to be hindrance as we are help, so when she saw a chance at us, she took it. That’s all.”

“You don’t seem upset,” Chris says.

“I’m not. It wasn’t personal. We’re a possible obstacle between her and her goal.” Peter shakes his head. “I can understand better than anyone how driven she is. Not only did Kali try to kill her, but Kali succeeded in killing all her packmates, her brothers and sisters. As far as I’m concerned, we should just get out of her way.”

“Except that she’s still got six more innocents to kill before she actually gets to Kali and Deucalion,” Tom points out. “Which I find unacceptable.”

“True. I’m not saying we shouldn’t stop her. I’m just saying that I can sympathize with her motivations. You’re not typically a fan of the death penalty, Tom. What exactly do you plan to do if we find her?”

Tom can’t help but grimace. “I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Like you, I can understand her motives. If all she wanted to do was wipe Kali and Deucalion off the map, I’d cheer her on. But she’s killing innocent, uninvolved people. We have to stop her.”

“Yes,” Peter says, “but what then? Is it even possible to imprison a Darach? Let alone capture one.”

Tom looks at Chris, who says, “Capturing her would be . . . difficult. It’s hard to gauge the extent of her powers. Darachs are rare, and they can do a lot more than Druids because they’re willing to cross lines Druids won’t cross. They can’t be contained by mountain ash, although I think there are other methods.”

“Uh huh.” Tom thinks this all over, frowning. “Okay, look. I just have a really hard time with the idea that you guys don’t have any options between zero and execution. You guys don’t seem like the forgiving types, but really, what if you catch a werewolf shoplifting? Is it really standard to execute a supernatural creature who can’t be put in a human prison for relatively minor crimes?”

Chris sighs. “It’s not like I’m the one in charge of every hunter in the country,” he says. “Everyone follows their own rules. Is it possible to imprison a supernatural creature? Yes. But as you yourself have seen, it takes a lot of money, manpower, and attention to detail.”

“I’m aware, thank you,” Tom says.

“Most hunters don’t have the resources - ”

“Or the inclination,” Peter interrupts dryly.

“ - to go that route. So yes, there is a line, and yes, minor crimes do go unpunished. We’re not hunting down werewolf shoplifters and jaywalkers. We let them know that they’re on thin ice and then watch them to see if they shape up. Some of them do, some of them don’t. But any violent crime is usually punishable by execution.”

“Nothing,” Tom presses. “No in between. No gray area. Not even you.”

Chris hesitates.

“God damn it,” Tom says.

“There’s a facility,” Chris says slowly. “But I don’t use it, because honestly, I’ve always felt like death was more merciful.”

Peter’s back stiffens. “You’re not talking about Eichen House,” he says, and Chris nods. “You consider that a viable alternative to prison?”

“No, I don’t,” Chris says, his voice growing heated. “Which is exactly why I don’t use it and why I’ve never mentioned it.”

Tom holds up both his hands in an effort to calm the waters. “Where is Eichen House?”

“Eichen House isn’t a where,” Peter says. “It’s a what. A who. A thing. A monstrous, hungry thing that eats people whole.”

Tom gives him a sideways look. “Literally or metaphorically?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure.”

Chris interrupts. “Eichen House is a psychiatric facility on the north side of town. You’ve probably driven by it dozens of times without ever noticing it.”

“It prefers not to be noticed,” Peter says in an undertone.

Chris continues without responding to Peter. “It’s used by regular human doctors and regular human patients. But underneath, there’s a maximum security ward that’s used to contain supernatural creatures. I don’t know that it’s a what or a who, but I do know that it’s extremely unpleasant. I would never sentence anyone there myself.”

“Who runs it?” Tom asks.

“I’m not sure,” Chris says. “It’s never come up.”

“It runs itself,” Peter says, and both men look at him. He gives a huff that’s half-sigh, half-growl. “Listen. I know I’m prone to melodrama. But you have to take me seriously on this place. Talia tried to shut it down, back about ten years ago now. She beat her head against a brick wall for six months trying to find who was in charge. But nobody is. Everyone gets orders, sure, but if you try to track down their origin, you can’t. You’ll go in circles. The people who work there get instructions from their superiors, who get instructions from their superiors, who either don’t exist or can’t be found. Eichen House is more than a building. It’s more than a prison. It’s a sentient, living thing – and it is as close to true evil as I have ever experienced. It feeds off chaos and pain and destruction. I spent one hour there and I will never set foot in that place again, and if I have my way, neither will anyone in my pack.”

When he stops talking, he looks a little surprised at himself. Chris shifts in his chair, uncomfortable, and Tom reaches out to give Peter’s wrist a squeeze. “I have no intention of throwing myself into the jaws of true evil,” he says, and Peter relaxes slightly. “Although if you’re willing to talk to me about it a little more later, I’d appreciate it. If innocent people are being hurt, we’re going to have to do something about that. But we don’t need to talk about it today.”

Peter nods. “All right.”

“None of this helps us figure out what to do about Julia Baccari,” Tom says.

“We got a little sidetracked,” Chris says. “But to be honest, there is no good answer. Let’s say we manage to stop Baccari before she kills anyone else. That we kill Deucalion and Kali and that satisfies her need for revenge. What then? If she’s no danger to anybody else, do we let her go free and clear? Is that justice for the people she murdered?”

Tom pinches the bridge of his nose. “Look, if we get into an ethical discussion of rehabilitation versus punishment of criminals, we’ll be here all day. It’s a complex issue with multiple points of view that are equally valid. I think, in the supernatural world at least, this sort of thing will have to be answered on a case-by-case basis.” He pauses, then says, “Why are you both looking at me?”

“We’re waiting for you to tell us what the right answer is,” Peter says. “In Julia Baccari’s case.”

“I don’t know,” Tom says. “I guess I’ll have to think about it. And a lot will probably depend on whether we can capture her at all, so let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.”

“Then what’s our priority?” Chris asks. “Deucalion, or Baccari?”

“I think it has to be Deucalion,” Tom says. “As much as I hate what Baccari is doing. We don’t have any idea where she is or what name she’s using. Now that we know where Deucalion is staying, we should focus on taking him down. Maybe once we’ve done that, Baccari will stop.”

“Then let’s go check out their location and come up with a plan,” Peter says.

Tom nods. “But first I have to have a chat with Dr. Deaton.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

After some thought, Tom decides to head into Deaton’s clinic by himself. It’s tempting to bring Peter, just to make Deaton uncomfortable, but since he really had been kidnapped, Tom figures he’ll cut him some slack. Peter begrudgingly agrees to wait in the car, since Tom says he doesn’t expect this to take long. He knocks on the front door of the clinic before letting himself in, as the outer door is unlocked. 

Nobody is behind the counter, and he can’t cross it without someone letting him in, since it’s made of mountain ash. But it’s only a few moments before Deaton comes out from the back and lifts up the counter to let him through. “How are you doing?” Tom asks him. Deaton looks a little tired, but otherwise no worse for the wear.

“Oh, well, I’ve certainly had worse days,” Deaton says, with his usual neutral smile. “Coffee?”

“Please and thanks,” Tom says.

Deaton turns and pours him a mug, and hands it over saying, “You should know that Ennis is dead. Deucalion and the others brought him here last night in the hopes that I could save him. I actually might have been able to, but then Deucalion killed him. Either out of mercy because of the pain he was in, or to absorb his power, or just to make Kali more pissed off at you. Could be any of those things.”

“Mm hm.” Tom sips his coffee. He’s not sad to hear that Ennis is dead. One less problem to deal with later. “And you’re telling me because . . .?”

“Well, you seemed very upset that I wasn’t sharing information with you,” Deaton says, then adds dryly, “Marin tells me she got quite the earful.”

“Marin’s correct. But I’m a little surprised it swayed your opinion. Nothing’s changed since the last time we had this discussion. I’m still Peter’s beta.”

“For now,” Deaton says.

Tom considers that and decides against stepping onto that mousetrap. “Maybe we should start back at the beginning, then. I understand you don’t like Peter. That you think he’s undeserving of the alpha position. But that still doesn’t explain why you didn’t say anything back when he was on a rampage. I came to you more than once, asking questions, and you deliberately withheld information from me.”

“I didn’t know how much you knew,” Deaton says. “I couldn’t just go telling you about werewolves if you didn’t know about them.”

“Come on, Alan. Don’t tell me you’re not smart enough to drop a couple subtle questions to figure out how much I knew. If you were Talia’s emissary, you knew Peter back in the day. You probably figured out who was killing people faster than either Chris or I did. And if you didn’t want to go to me, you could have gone to Derek. Like you’ve pointed out repeatedly, his sister had been killed. If you were loyal to Talia, why wouldn’t you help Derek?”

Deaton is silent for a moment. “How much do you know about how Kate killed the Hales?”

“Pretty much everything,” Tom says.

“I actually doubt that very much,” Deaton says. “You’re probably unaware of Derek’s role in things.”

Tom sits back, his mouth slightly ajar. “Wait. Hang on. Are you saying the reason you didn’t help Derek is because you blame him for what Kate did?”

“No. I blame Kate for what Kate did. And similarly, I blame Derek for what Derek did. Which was to disobey his mother’s rules, trust a stranger, and give her information that she would have had no other way of obtaining. Information that allowed her to do what she did.”

Tom stares at him for a long moment.

“What?” Deaton says.

“Nothing, I just . . .” Tom shakes his head. “It’s really something to sit in a room with a guy you’ve known for twenty years and have him suddenly feel like a complete stranger.”

Deaton frowns. “I don’t follow.”

“Alan . . . Derek was just a kid. Kate lied to him, manipulated him. You blaming him is just . . . it’s completely out of line. It’s wrong.”

“You didn’t know Derek when he was young. He was spoiled, cocky - kind of a rebelllious little shit, to be honest. He broke Talia’s rules even knowing full well that she had them for a reason. He was so full of himself that he couldn’t see the obvious, that a woman like Kate had to have an ulterior motive to be interested in him.”

“Yeah, that’s probably all true,” Tom says. “But I don’t care. He was fifteen. He was a child. And now you’re telling me that you let Peter run around killing people because you didn’t want to talk to either Derek or me, yet you’re still somehow pissed off that he’s the alpha now.”

“Stopping Peter wasn’t my job,” Deaton says.

“Putting aside whose ‘job’ it was, my point is just that you’re a day late and a dollar short to complain about the fact that he’s the alpha. And look, I don’t agree with every decision he makes. But I understand he killed Laura because he was in agony and killing her ended the pain, so I don’t hold it against him even though I can’t condone it. He’s actually not a half bad alpha. I think you’d see that if you would give him a chance.”

“But that’s my whole point,” Deaton says. “We don’t have to accept Peter as the alpha of this territory. Especially not with what’s happening to you.”

Tom sighs and decides to let it go, at least until he’s gotten more information. “Yeah, what is happening to me, precisely? What is a true alpha?”

“It’s an alpha who gained their position through willpower alone, without having to kill another alpha to take their power. Who attained that power just by wanting it, by being the sort of person able to strike that spark inside themselves without needing to steal it from someone else.”

“Okay.” Tom thinks this over, frowning. “So can a pack have two alphas?”

Deaton grimaces. “You’re missing my point.”

“No, I absolutely got your point, but I’m disregarding it. Just answer the question.”

“I don’t know if a pack can have two alphas. I’ve never seen it happen, but I suppose nothing is impossible.”

“Good to know.” Tom stands up. “I think I’ll handle the rest of this without your assistance, if you don’t mind. I can’t trust you. I certainly don’t trust your sister. So if you could do your best to not get kidnapped by the Darach again, I would appreciate it.”

“Believe me, I have no desire to repeat that experience.”

“Great.” Tom drains his cup of coffee and sets it down on the table. “Thanks for the coffee, Alan. I’ll be seeing you, I’m sure.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

The location indicated by the GPS chips turns out to be a hotel. Somehow Tom isn’t particularly surprised by that. Deucalion seems like the type of person who would want to live in style. Peter agrees, saying, “He’s probably got one of the suites, the pretentious bastard.”

“Tactically, that doesn’t give us a lot of options,” Chris says, rubbing his hand over the back of his head.

“What about fire?” Peter asks. “It’s the weapon of choice for troublesome werewolves, apparently.”

Tom chews on his lower lip. “That might work. A fire on the top floor might not spread to the lower floors, or at least not so quickly that civilians couldn’t get out.”

“Yeah, but how do we keep Deucalion and the others in their suite while it’s on fire?” Chris asks. “It’s one thing to surround a house with mountain ash. I don’t think we could do that in a hotel suite.”

“True,” Peter says, grimacing. “An explosive device, perhaps? Put on their doorstep, or the ceiling of the suite below?”

“Way too much risk of civilian casualties,” Tom says. “We could damage the integrity of the entire building structure. Plus there’s the risk of debris falling on the street and hitting bystanders.”

Peter rolls his eyes, but is smart enough not to actively challenge Tom on this. “All right. Let’s assume for a moment that we can act when it’s only Kali and Deucalion here. The twins have been going to the high school, and once we’ve killed Duke they’ll probably leave town. If Stiles and the others can confirm the twins are there, then we can take on Kali and Duke alone. Even so, taking on two alphas at once isn’t my idea of a good time. Especially considering that they’re both more powerful than the average alpha. Just shooting them in the face isn’t going to be enough.”

“Maybe we can weaken them first,” Chris says. “If we can gain access to their rooms while they’re not there, we could plant wolfsbane inside.”

“Dirty,” Peter says, his tone approving. “I like it.”

“Wouldn’t they realize we’d been there?” Tom asks. “Peter, you can hide your presence, but you can’t hide your scent.”

Peter shrugs. “I’d prefer not to bribe a cleaning lady, since we need to know things were done exactly perfectly. Chris’ scent is far too distinctive – silver and cordite are instantly recognizable to any werewolf – but we still have three humans in the pack. Any one of them could sneak in as long as we’re sure the alphas are elsewhere. I’d prefer Allison – a young, female scent is what they would expect from a housekeeper.”

“I don’t want her any more involved in this than she has to be,” Chris says, his jaw set unhappily.

“Have you told her that?” Peter asks, arching an eyebrow. “Because the first thing she said yesterday when I said we were setting a trap at the loft was ‘let me go home and get my gear’ and then immediately picked out her own position and told me exactly what tactical abilities she could add to the situation.”

Chris grimaces. “Even so . . .”

Tom sighs. “Chris, she’s seventeen. You’ve been teaching her hunter stuff. What did you expect to happen?”

“I wanted her to learn to protect herself,” Chris growls.

“Well, from what I can see you’ve done an excellent job,” Peter says, and changes the subject before Chris can continue to protest. “We’ll have to lure Duke and Kali out of the hotel somehow. Thoughts?”

“We know who his Emissary is,” Tom says. “We could use her to send a message. Set up a meeting.”

“Why would he actually come to it?” Chris asks. “We don’t have anything he wants.”

“He does love to hear himself talk, though,” Tom says.

“What about Gerard?” Peter says.

Chris frowns. “What about him?”

“We could use him as bait,” Peter says. “Even if Deucalion doesn’t technically hold a grudge against Gerard for what he did, he’d probably still leap at the chance to kill him. He’s a killer by nature, after all.”

Tom pinches the bridge of his nose. “Peter . . . no.”

“Oh, come on,” Peter says. “It’d save us a lot of money in the long run.”

“Peter, for God’s sake,” Tom says. “I have what is clearly a moral objection to using an unarmed prisoner as bait, and your response is to talk about how much money it would save?”

“You have a moral objection to everything,” Peter says, rolling his eyes again. “I don’t know how you can even sleep at night. You probably agonize over every spider you accidentally step on.”

Tom takes a deep breath as Chris attempts to fade into the walls and pretend he’s not there. “Peter. I am going to ask you for the last time to cut this shit out. I get that you don’t always agree with my values. Disagreeing with me is fine. Mocking me is not. Are we absolutely clear on this?”

“I’m just teasing,” Peter says, edging towards a sulk.

“You’re being an asshole. This is the last time we’re going to have this talk. Are we clear?”

“Clear,” Peter says.

“Great. I’m going to go check out the layout of the hotel,” Tom says, not because he really feels like he’ll see anything exciting inside, but just because his temper is riding high and he wants to get away from Peter for a few minutes. “See if I can confirm that Duke is in the penthouse. Come up with some ideas on how to lure him out that don’t involve an unarmed, elderly prisoner.”

He walks away before either of them can protest, heading inside. It’s a pretty standard hotel lobby. There’s a breakfast area off to one side, with some tables and chairs, a counter along one end that’s currently empty, since it’s afternoon. The woman at the front desk smiles and asks how she can help him.

“I’m looking for someone who I think might be staying here.” Tom shows her his badge, although it’s probably unnecessary since he’s wearing his uniform with the star pinned to his shirt. Then he takes out his phone and pulls up the picture of Deucalion from the initial investigation into Boyd and Erica’s disappearance. “He’s a person of interest in an investigation.”

The receptionist looks at the picture and nods. “Oh, yes. He’s staying in the penthouse suite.”

“Great. Can I get all his information?”

“I think I have to ask my manager,” she says, frowning faintly, clearly unsure of what she is and isn’t able to release.

Tom waves this aside. “Never mind. I’ll just go up and see if he’s there.”

He doesn’t actually have any intention of doing so. Peter would kill him, to say nothing of what Stiles would say. But he doesn’t want the receptionist asking a lot of questions, either. So he heads over to the bank of elevators and hits the button.

The door slides open to reveal Deucalion himself, and he smiles pleasantly and says, “Going up?”

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Tom says, for lack of a better idea. “You know what? I think I’ll take the stairs.”

Deucalion laughs and follows him. Tom heads for the stairs, but then goes out the back door of the hotel, onto the street that runs parallel. “Kali found the tracking chips in her jacket this morning,” he says, as if Tom had asked. “So we were keeping an eye out for you. When you came inside, I got in the elevator.”

“Thanks for sharing,” Tom says, heading down the street.

“There’s something a little different about you, did you know that?” Deucalion tilts his head to one side and then leans in disconcertingly close to Tom, taking in a long breath.

“Smell me like that again and I’m pretty sure Peter will rip out your olfactory nerve,” Tom tells him.

“It’s alpha,” Deucalion tells him. “Just a little, underneath. Not Peter’s scent, layered on top – which it very much is, by the way – but your own little alpha scent. That’s fascinating. I’ve never met a true alpha before. You must be something special.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“I don’t suppose you’d be interested in my offer,” Deucalion says. “Having a true alpha in my pack would be the crowning jewel of achievements.”

“When in the past few weeks have I given you any indication that I would say yes to that?” Tom asks.

Deucalion shrugs. “I figure the longer you spend with Peter Hale, the more likely you are to want to kill him.”

That being entirely fair, Tom changes the subject, turning the corner so he can head back to the front of the hotel. “Well, I’d say that I don’t want to kill my entire pack. I thought that was a prerequisite, but apparently not?”

“Oh, it is,” Deucalion says.

“Uh huh,” Tom says. “Is that why Julia Baccari is in town, murdering innocent people in order to power up and kick your ass back to whatever level of Hell you came from?”

Deucalion’s mouth thinned slightly. “People like Julia Baccari are precisely why killing your entire pack is a prerequisite. Kali will deal with the little problem she’s created, and that will be the end of it.”

“That so?” Tom says.

“I guess we’ll see, won’t we.” Deucalion stops walking as Tom reaches the front of the hotel, letting Tom head out onto the street without him. Tom shakes his head and rejoins the others.

“Whatever you’re planning, forget it,” he says wearily. “Kali found the tracking chips. They know we have their location, so they’ll be gone by tonight.”

“Shit,” Chris says.

“It’s not the end of the world,” Peter says. “We all agreed this place was a tactical nightmare anyway. I think we should use Morrell to lure them somewhere, even if she doesn’t realize she’s doing it. Maybe we can let her ‘find out’ some information about Baccari. An opportunity will present itself, if we’re vigilant.”

Tom nods. “Let’s let it go for today. Yesterday was a long day and I have a feeling tomorrow will be too.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

A few days pass without much happening. They make several plans, but nothing comes of them. Tom talks to Morrell again and drops some information that will hopefully give Deucalion an idea about where to find them. Either she doesn’t pass it along or he’s too smart to fall for the trap. The next time Tom tries to talk to her, she won’t take his calls. He even bullies Deaton into letting him borrow his phone so the call will look like it’s coming from him. But she hangs up as soon as she realizes it’s not. Annoyed, he calls back and leaves a message, telling her that if she doesn’t want to end up arrested for aiding and abetting a kidnapping, she’d better call him back.

She doesn’t, and Tom doesn’t like to threaten and not follow through, so he goes to a judge to get a subpoena to interview her about Boyd and Erica’s kidnapping. The judge is willing to take Tom’s word that she had called him, so he gets it. But Morrell is playing least in sight. She’s taken a leave of absence from work and isn’t at her house.

“She’s probably staying with Duke and the others,” Peter says.

“Well, I’m thrilled that after I saved her brother’s life, she’s decided to fully throw her lot in with Deucalion,” Tom says.

Peter shrugs. “You can’t rely on everyone to be honorable, you know.”

“Trust me, I know.”

It’s a Friday evening. They’re sitting over the remains of their dinner, alone in Tom’s house. Stiles is over at Derek’s loft, ostensibly to do his homework, although Tom doubts much of it will get done before Sunday night. The other betas are hanging out at Scott’s house, because Melissa makes the best snacks. It’s nice to get a little peace, quiet, and privacy.

“So what now?” Peter asks. “If we can’t draw Deucalion out, our options are limited. He probably won’t see fit to warn us before he shows up next time. Which means he could attack any minute and we won’t see him coming.”

“Which makes me wonder what the hell he’s waiting for, honestly,” Tom says.

“Who knows?” Peter gives another shrug. “He’s a drama queen and crazier than a shithouse rat on top of it. He’s probably still trying to come up with some way to force me to kill my betas and join his boy band.”

“Fair.” Tom thinks that Deucalion is definitely the sort who won’t want to acknowledge that he’s lost. He’ll be trying to get Peter into his pack until long past the point of reason.

“How long has it been since the Darach sacrificed the healers?” Peter asks.

“Over a week now.”

“So she’ll probably strike again soon.” Peter ruminates on that for a moment. “Frankly, I don’t think there’s much we can do at this point. Let’s just let the Darach and Deucalion kill each other, then mop up whoever’s left.”

Tom sighs. “That would be a great plan except for the fact that she’s going to drop six more bodies before she takes him on.”

“Which sucks, agreed, but it’s not like there’s anything we can do to stop her.” Peter crumples the bag from In-N-Out and tosses it towards the trash, hitting it dead center. “We haven’t even been able to find her.”

“Okay, but we can’t just kick back and let her kill six innocent people,” Tom says. “We can’t be okay with that.”

“It’s not like I’m throwing a party,” Peter says. “I’m just acknowledging the reality of the situation. The fact that we can’t stop her, and we can’t find Deucalion, so there’s nothing we can do at this point but allow it to happen and then see who wins. We can’t protect everyone, Tom.”

“That’s not a reason not to try to protect people. If we try and fail, fine. But we can’t just not try.”

“Oh, Lord, here we go again,” Peter says. “Captain Righteous to the rescue – ”

Tom’s claws dig into the table, scoring marks into the wood. He has to stop and take a deep breath before he can manage to speak in an even tone. “Get out.”

Peter’s sentence stops in his tracks. “Excuse me?”

“We’re not doing this again. I told you that. I’m done. We’re done.”

“Done?” Now Peter actually sounds a little alarmed. “Done how?”

“Done, as in, relationship over, done as in ‘get out of my house’.” Tom can barely keep his voice steady. “I told you that we weren’t going to have this discussion again.”

“I was just teasing, for God’s sake – ”

“No, you don’t get to say that. I accepted that the first, the second, even the third time. This isn’t about whether or not you were joking. This is about the fact that I asked you not to mock my beliefs. I told you that it bothered me. You’re clearly unable to respect my wishes on the matter, unable to respect me. And I’m not going to be in a relationship with a man who doesn’t respect me.”

Peter’s mouth works for a moment. “But – what about the pack, the – ”

“I don’t know. We can talk about it later. Tomorrow, or maybe next week. Right now I’m asking you to leave. Don’t make me ask you again.”

Peter stares at him for a long moment before he abruptly pushes back from the table. He stalks out of the room. The sound of his heartbeat fades, and then the front door slams. Tom has to stop and take several more deep breaths before he gets his claws to go back in. He rubs both hands over his face and wonders what happens next.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

Derek is working on a landscape painting when the door to the building opens downstairs. He immediately goes tense, but then instants later recognizes the feeling of his uncle, his alpha. Stiles, unaware of both the sound of the door and the aura of alpha, doesn’t look up until Peter comes in. Derek opens his mouth to ask Peter what he’s doing there, but Peter speaks first, seeing Stiles and saying, “Good, you’re both here. I need your help.”

“With?” Derek asks warily.

“Tom broke up with me.”

There’s a moment of surprised silence before Stiles blurts out, “Oh, thank God!”

Peter gives a low growl. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means exactly what it sounds like it means,” Stiles says, not intimidated in the slightest, despite the fact that Peter’s expression is going from pissed off to homicidal. “I’ve been hoping he’ll do it for weeks. You’ve been a complete and utter piece of shit, and he deserves better.”

Peter’s jaw tightens, and Derek is starting to wonder if he’s going to have to get between them. “This is not permanent,” he says. “This is just – he’s just upset. That’s why I came here. So you can – ”

“So we can what?” Stiles interrupts. “Help you win him back? I can’t even begin to explain how little I am interested in doing that.”

“Talk some sense into him,” Peter snaps.

“Are you kidding? Dumping your sorry ass is the most sensible thing he’s done since he met you,” Stiles fires back.

“You – ”

“Both of you shut up,” Derek says, raising his voice. Peter snarls at him, but Derek is unfazed. He reaches out and squeezes Stiles’ shoulder. “Hey. I need a little time with my uncle. Why don’t you head home and make sure your dad is okay?”

For a moment it looks like Stiles might argue, or say something about the buddy system, but the allure of making sure his father is all right wins out. “Yeah, fine. But if you actually try to help this walking trash heap, you’d better make sure he cleans up his act.”

Derek nods, ignoring the fact that Peter’s scowling. He listens to Stiles’ heartbeat as he thumps down the stairs, watches as he gets in the Jeep and pulls away. Then he takes out his phone and texts Tom, saying, ‘I sent Stiles home. Text me when he gets there.’

Peter paces around the loft while he’s doing this, and when Derek puts his phone down, he snaps, “Well?”

“I can help you,” Derek says, “but first you have to convince me that I should. Why did Tom break up with you?”

“Because I told him we might as well just let the Darach make her sacrifices and kill Deucalion, since it wasn’t like we were having any luck stopping her or finding him.”

Derek looks at him. He hopes he looks as disappointed as he feels.

Peter sighs. “And because I teased him about his moral compass when he told me that we weren’t going to do that.”

“Teased?”

“The word he used was ‘mocked’,” Peter mutters.

“So you deserved it,” Derek says.

“No! He just takes himself too seriously. Every damn time I say something about it, he gets upset.”

“Uh huh.” Derek moves from disappointed to judgmental. “That explains why you continued to ‘tease’ him about it. Because you know it upsets him, and you . . . like upsetting him?”

“You’re twisting my words.”

“No, I’m trying to make you understand what a fucking asshole you are.”

“Are you going to help me or not?”

“No,” Derek says. “Not with you behaving like this. Door’s to your left.” He turns back to his painting.

Peter snarls and goes through the door. But then, a few moments later, he comes back. Derek studiously ignores him, continuing to work on his painting and refusing to even look in his direction. Finally, Peter says, “Okay. I deserved it. But I didn’t mean to hurt him.”

Derek puts his paintbrush down. “What did you mean to do? Because from over here, it looks like you knew damned well that you were going to hurt him.”

There’s a long moment of silence before Peter admits, “I don’t know.”

“Okay.” Derek walks away from the painting and goes over to where he has an electric kettle, some mugs, and a collection of tea. He busies himself making them each a mug. “You know, when I was a kid, I was afraid of you sometimes. You could get really mean. You would make fun of me. Mom always told you to cut it out. One time, I think I was twelve, I told her I hated you. And she sat me down and said, ‘the thing you have to understand about Peter is that when he cares about people, he’s mean to them’. I told her that was stupid, and she laughed and agreed.”

Peter’s jaw is set in a tight frown. “What’s the point of this walk down memory lane?”

“You don’t see what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. I’m explaining it to you, so maybe you’ll cut it out.” Derek turns the kettle on and turns back to Peter. “Mom said that you were always hurting on the inside. And the way you made yourself feel better was to hurt other people. She said that you felt like you weren’t good enough, but instead of trying to build yourself up, you tore other people down. Especially if you were intimidated by them.”

“You think I’m intimidated by Tom?”

“I think anybody with half a brain is intimidated by Tom,” Derek says. “I think dating him must be terrifying. I think you’ve convinced yourself that you’re not good enough for him, so you started pushing him away so it would hurt less when he figured that out and dumped you.”

Peter says nothing.

“I think Tom’s goodness really bothers you,” Derek continues. “You admire him for it, but you assume that it means he’ll eventually realize he doesn’t want to be with you. So you kept throwing it in his face. You kept making it a point to him that you knew he was better than you. You tried to tell him – hell, you tried to tell yourself – that his goodness is something you disdain, something you’re impatient with, something you will, at best, tolerate. That his goodness actually makes you better than him, and not vice versa.”

“Okay, maybe a little,” Peter says, “but it’s not like he doesn’t do the same thing to me. Every suggestion I make, he brushes off like he’s not even considering it.”

“Okay,” Derek says. “I see why that would bother you. Have you ever told him that it bothers you?”

Peter opens his mouth, then shuts it and looks away, frustrated. “I’m not good at shit like this.”

“I know,” Derek says. “And I’m sure the fact that Tom kept brushing off your suggestions only made you more sure that he’d eventually dump you. But he doesn’t know that, Peter. He’s not a mind reader.” The kettle starts to whistle. Derek pours water into both mugs. “I don’t blame you for thinking you don’t deserve him. He’s an amazing guy. But in the end, the only one who can decide if Tom wants to be with you is Tom. The only person who can decide if you’re good enough for Tom is Tom. So you need to stop trying to make that decision for him. Because you might notice that he chose to date you knowing exactly who you are. He doesn’t have a problem with it, or at least he didn’t before you started throwing it in his face. So stop convincing yourself that he does.”

Peter studies his mug of tea. “It might be too late.”

“It might be. And I’d give him a couple days to cool off first. But then, try something wild like a sincere apology, and see where it takes you. If you feel like Tom doesn’t take your suggestions seriously, tell him that. If you feel like he doesn’t appreciate you, tell him that. Use your words.”

“That sounds revolting,” Peter mutters.

Derek shrugs. “I’m not going to make you do it. I’m going to have to listen to Stiles hit the roof if Tom actually takes you back. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t. But you asked for my help and that’s the best advice I’ve got.”

Peter sighs. “I suppose I’ll consider it.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom has to admit that he’s nursing a glass of whiskey when he gets Derek’s text, and he sighs as he gulps it down before going for a breath mint. He’s not even drinking to get drunk; liquor barely has any effect on him anymore. Still, old habits die hard, and he hadn’t been able to shake the impulse to go to the liquor cabinet after Peter had left. He suspects that Stiles’ old habit to hate seeing his father drinking won’t have changed either.

Stiles bursts in a few minutes later. “Dad! Are you okay? Do you want me to kill him? Because I will totally kill him if you – ”

“No,” Tom interrupts, putting his hands on Stiles’ shoulders. “I don’t need you to kill him. I’m fine. Yes, I’m a little upset, but I think I’ll survive with no major scarring.”

“Yeah, well, he showed up at Derek’s so be prepared for whatever grand gesture he makes next,” Stiles says, sounding grumpy. He hesitates, chewing on his lower lip. “Was it a big fight? Like, really big?”

Tom sighs. He’s really not in the mood for this. He already feels bad about what happened. Not about throwing Peter out – he had deserved that – but that he hadn’t stopped to think about this before it got that far. Peter was a prick sometimes, sure, but the way he kept poking at this with a sharp stick made Tom feel like there was something he was missing. Something underneath what Peter was doing, some reason why he wouldn’t let this go. They should have had a conversation about this after the second time it happened; he should have stopped and asked Peter what was up instead of assuming it was just Peter being Peter.

He’s not sure what he should do next. He doesn’t really want to break up with Peter over this. He wants to talk to him about it. But he knows that Peter might not be as amenable to the idea, and he also doesn’t want to agree to keep seeing him until he knows why Peter keeps doing this. Because if the answer is just that he’s a prick, Tom’s not going to go back on what he said.

He had been thinking about calling Melissa to see if she had any advice when he had gotten Derek’s text. Maybe he’ll call her after Stiles goes to bed. Or tomorrow, given Stiles’ propensity to stay up until midnight. “Yes, it was a big fight. But I don’t really want to talk about it. So mind your Ps and Qs. Got it?”

“I guess, but only if you come watch fun YouTube videos with me so you’re not just stewing in it.”

That makes Tom laugh. “Okay. I’ll make the popc – ” His radio crackles. “Or not,” he sighs, tapping the button. “Stilinski.”

“Hey, boss,” Tara says. “Got another one.”

“I’ll be right down,” Tom says. He looks at his son, who’s giving him puppy eyes, and can’t help but shake his head. “Why don’t you come down to the station with me?” he asks, and Stiles does a fist-pump. “I don’t really want to leave you here on your own, given everything going on.”

“Awesome,” Stiles says.

Tom’s still not in love with the idea, but he knows that he would prefer to keep an eye on Stiles than leave him by himself. He shepherds Stiles into the Cruiser and heads down to the station. Tara is waiting with a report of the body that was found. This one was killed in the same method as the first batch of sacrifices. Tom briefly ponders why she changed methods and then changed back, but isn’t sure he cares.

Unlike some of the others, this body was very fresh, enough so that paramedics had worked on him and transported him to the hospital, where he had been declared dead. That makes sense to Tom. The Darach has to leave her bodies at certain points along the ley lines, and she’s running out of ones that are in the middle of the forest. She hasn’t duplicated, and Tom assumes that there’s a reason she doesn’t want to. That means it’s inevitable that bodies are going to start to turn up sooner rather than later.

“What’s the fourth group?” Stiles asks, on the edge of his seat.

Tom checks his notes. “Philosophers.”

Stiles blinks. “What the shit? I mean, come on. That could mean practically anything. Are we gonna put out an APB for everyone who thinks about life on the toilet?”

Tom can’t hold back a snort. “I suspect it’s meant to mean particularly intelligent or educated people. Which also doesn’t help us narrow it down.” He rubs a hand through his hair, thinking back to the argument with Peter. “I don’t know, kiddo. I feel like there must be a way to stop her, but I can’t find it. By the time we find one body, she’s usually already killed the other two. The groups are far too vague to narrow down the victim pool.”

“She’s doing the sacrifices on the ley lines, right?” Stiles asks, chewing on his thumbnail. “And you said she was running out of places that aren’t public. Maybe we can stake out what’s left?”

“Maybe . . .” Tom pulls up the map that Chris had sent him and sends it to the printer. A few minutes later, he has it up on the wall and he and Stiles are marking and numbering the locations of all the bodies. “Maybe it’s in a specific order,” Tom says, frowning at the map. “Based on the power of the ley line or something.”

“They shift, right?” Stiles says. “Derek said so. Maybe it has something to do with that.”

“Maybe.” Tom spares a thought to wish that he trusted Deaton, who’s probably the best equipped to answer these questions.

Before he can decide what to do next, there’s a knock on the door and one of his deputies pokes his head in. “Hey, Sheriff? There was a disturbance reported down at the high school. Tara went down to check it out and she’s not responding on the radio.”

Tom frowns. That’s unlike Tara, who’s typically very conscientious about her work. “I’ll go with you to check it out,” he says, and the deputy nods as Tom reaches for his radio and gun. “Grab Ramirez and Young and have them suit up.”

“Dad,” Stiles whispers, as the deputy jogs out of the room. Tom looks over at him to see Stiles tracing one of the ley lines on the map with his finger, and stopping when it reaches the high school.

“Shit,” Tom snarls, thinking about Tara Graeme, captain of the debate team in high school, bachelor’s degree in psychology, fluent in three languages, his best deputy, who always used to help Stiles with his math homework. “Stiles, stay here – ”

“But Dad – ”

“No buts! I’m not going alone; I’ll call Chris and have him meet me there, along with a few other deputies so we can sweep the place faster. Call Derek, have him tell Peter to meet me too. Just because we had a fight doesn’t mean he won’t help with this. Then have Derek come here and wait with you. Stay here. That’s an order. If all ‘philosopher’ means is ‘too smart for their own good’, you definitely qualify. Am I clear?”

“Yes, sir,” Stiles says, and Tom sees him tug at the bottom of his shirt before he holsters his gun and runs out the door.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Stiles has to take what feels like a dozen deep breaths before he manages to call Derek. “Hey, is Peter still at the loft?”

“Yeah, why?”

“He needs to meet my dad at the high school. One of his deputies stopped responding while she was on a call there, and we think it might be the Darach.”

“Where are you?” Derek asks, his voice urgent.

“At the station,” Stiles says. “I’m safe, I promise.”

“Peter’s on his way,” Derek says, a moment later. “Do you want me to come stay with you?”

“No,” Stiles says. “You stay at the loft where you’ll be safe. Okay? Please?” His voice trembles, and it’s entirely genuine. He knows that he’s about to get into bucketloads of trouble, but there’s no way he’s going to sit at the station while his father rushes to confront an evil witch. And he doesn’t want Derek in danger.

As soon as he’s hung up with Derek, he calls Scott, who only lives a few minutes away. “Hey, come pick me up at the station, bring anyone who’s there with you,” he says. “I’ll tell you what’s going on once you’re here.”

He paces out front until Scott arrives and then dives into the back seat with Isaac. Allison is up front, carrying her bow. Stiles manages to give them the bare bones as Scott drives towards the high school, occasionally pausing to tell Scott to drive faster. He doesn’t mention his father’s command to stay at the station. They’re all smart enough to know that there’s no way they should be doing what they’re doing, but if he doesn’t say it out loud, they might escape Tom’s wrath later.

“Split up, Isaac with Allison, Scott with me,” Stiles says. He doesn’t want anyone alone, but he wants to find his father – and Tara – as fast as he can.

“Dumbass, we can follow his scent,” Isaac says, already jogging down the hallway. Scott, in fact, is a few paces ahead of him.

“Oh, right – ”

“Hey, what are you kids doing – hey!” one of the deputies shouts. “Stiles, God damn it, we know you’re not supposed to – ”

Stiles ducks around the corner before the deputy can grab him, with Allison hot on his heels. Isaac practically skids as they go up the stairs, and Stiles momentarily overtakes him, following Scott into a classroom.

He has just enough time to see Tara slumped in a chair, see his father leaning against the far well, see – “Ms. Blake?” he blurts out, too stunned to think that he shouldn’t draw attention to himself.

Her gaze darts over to him and she flings one hand out to the side. He feels a wave of air hit him, stronger than the strongest wind he’s ever felt. He goes flying, knocking over Scott and Isaac on the way. The door slams shut behind him. “No, God damn it!” Stiles flings himself back to his feet and slams both fists against the door.

“Let me,” Scott says, throwing his shoulder against the door.

“Kick it!” Allison says. “Just above or below the lock! You can get the most force that way.”

Scott kicks with all his might, but the door doesn’t budge. Isaac tries as well, but it makes no difference. “Maybe we can break in from the room next door,” he says, panting for breath, and the three of them bolt down the hallway.

Stiles presses his face against the small glass window, slamming his fists against the door in frustration. He can’t even hear what’s going on. There’s blood on Tara’s throat, but she looks at least partly conscious, pressing one hand against the wound. And his father – Stiles’ heart leaps into his mouth when he sees the knife lodged in his father’s shoulder. He’s got his gun trained on Jennifer Blake, but she knocks it aside easily. “Dad!” Stiles screams, as she grabs Tom by the throat.

There’s a huge noise as the glass windows of the classroom shatter. Stiles flinches away from it involuntarily. When he looks up again, the room is empty except for Tara. He kicks the door and to his surprise, it opens easily. He bolts inside to skid to a halt in front of Tara, who’s gasping for breath. “My dad! Where’d she take my dad?!”

“Window,” Tara pants, pointing.

Stiles runs over and looks down. There’s a lot of shattered glass on the pavement below, but no Darach. No father.

Others have heard the commotion and are running towards the room. Scott peels off his shirt and folds it into a compress, holding it against the wound in Tara’s throat. Stiles is still standing by the window, and down below, he sees Peter’s car pull up. It fills him with rage that can’t be controlled or contained. He slams his way out of the room, past the other deputies, and runs down the stairs.

“You!” he shouts, as Peter is coming up the front steps. “Where the hell were you?”

“Where’s your father?” Peter asks.

“Gone, you shithead!” Stiles heaves for breath. “The fucking Darach grabbed him and took off, and you – you weren’t here! You were supposed to protect him!”

Peter looks up the shattered windows, then snarls as Chris Argent comes out of one of the building’s side exits. “Why don’t you yell at him?” he asks. “He was actually here. Why didn’t you keep Tom safe?”

“Because it was a trap!” Chris snaps. “She knew that Tom would come for his deputy. She used one victim to cause a disturbance to lure the deputy in. Then she left that one in one place while she sacrificed the other. I went to help the dying history teacher while Tom went to try to at least stall her long enough to – ”

“Who gives a shit!” Stiles yells. “I don’t blame Chris, I blame you! You should have been here! If you hadn’t been such a dick to my father earlier, he wouldn’t have dumped you, and you would have been here with him, you would have protected him! What the fuck is wrong with you?!”

“Stiles, stop,” Scott says, getting an arm around Stiles’ chest and pulling him back. “Come on, breathe, bro. You’ve gotta breathe.”

Stiles is aware that he’s right. That he’s actually breathing too fast; he’s hyperventilating. He’s having a panic attack. The fact that he knows only makes it worse, because he knows that he should be able to stop it but he can’t. “Dad,” he chokes out, as Scott supports him. “Please. Find my dad. Please, Peter. You have to find him.”

“I will,” Peter says. “Stiles, I’ll find him.”

The conviction in his voice allows Stiles to focus on his breathing. Peter had saved his life when Kate had strapped a bomb to his chest; Peter had saved all their lives when Gerard Argent had tried to burn the house down around them. Peter can save his father now. He manages to swallow and say, “The Darach is Ms. Blake. She – she’s our English teacher. I don’t know if knowing that helps, but – ”

“Well, it sure as hell doesn’t hurt,” Chris says, already on his phone.

Peter is frowning. “The English teacher. The one Derek mentioned, that he’s been having coffee with?”

“Yeah. I don’t – don’t know why she would do that.”

“Get an in with the pack,” Peter says immediately. “Try to get information on us, keep tabs on us. Maybe try to use Derek against us somehow. But she might have let something slip. All of you get to the loft. See if Derek knows anything that might be helpful. Text me when you get there.”

Stiles nods. He’s starting to feel numb, and he’s ready to obey Peter without argument.

“Come on, I’ll drive,” Scott says quietly, squeezing Stiles’ shoulder.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

Derek has been worriedly pacing the loft, waiting for news, when he hears the noise of a car pulling up. He pulls aside the plastic sheeting over the window to see that it’s Scott’s. Stiles is out of it before it’s even come to a complete halt, heading for the stairs at a dead run and stumbling into the loft a few seconds later. Derek has to grab him before he can face plant, and Stiles is spilling out a story about following his father to the high school (for which Derek is going to kill him, but he figures he’ll address that at a later time) and his father facing the Darach and something about Jennifer Blake - 

“Hey, Stiles, breathe,” Scott says, and Derek realizes belatedly that Stiles is having a panic attack. He steers Stiles over to the sofa and has him sit down, softly talks him through several deep breaths. His entire body is shaking by the time he finally slows down enough to get in a full breath. 

While he’s doing that, Scott tells Derek what happened at the high school. He listens mostly in silence, shaking his head occasionally. Somehow the news that Jennifer Blake is the Darach doesn’t surprise him. He should have known better than to think anybody would actually want to be his friend.

“So then Peter sent us over here to talk to you and see if Jennifer had said anything that might be, I don’t know, helpful,” Scott concludes. He gives a vague gesture at Stiles as if to indicate that Peter had also wanted to get Stiles somewhere safe, in case he had a total meltdown. That doesn’t surprise Derek either, because he can see that meltdown coming, and it’s not far off.

“Okay.” Derek kneels in front of Stiles. “Hey. We’re gonna find him. Okay?”

Stiles nods but says nothing.

Derek rubs both hands over his face, thinking back. The truth is, he doesn’t really know anything about Jennifer. She had always wanted to talk about him, and looking back on things, he had always been far too ready to do that. Some of their conversations actually seem a little foggy in retrospect, and he prays fervently that he didn’t tell her anything that helped her hurt the pack.

But he racks his brain anyway, trying to come up with something, anything, that might help them find Tom Stilinski. “I know what car she drives,” he says. “I mean, it’s a red Prius. I’m not sure how much that actually helps - ”

From the window, Allison pipes up. “Given that a red Prius just pulled up outside? It might help a lot.”

“Shit, she’s here?” Scott says, and Stiles’ head jerks up. His hands curl into fists as he rockets off the sofa.

Derek grabs him by the shoulders. “Hey,” he says quietly, and waits for Stiles to look at him. “Hey, let me talk to her. She doesn’t know that I know who she is. Maybe I can find something out. Let me try. Okay?”

“I’m going to kill her,” Stiles grits out.

“I’ll help you,” Derek says, “after we find your dad. Okay?”

After a moment, Stiles nods. He takes a deep breath, lets it out, and allows Scott to steer him into the next room, where they’ll be able to hear what’s going on but won’t be seen. Allison and Isaac hasten to follow.

A few seconds later, there’s a knock on the metal door, which is mostly open, and Jennifer comes tumbling in. She looks disheveled and her face is tear-stained. Derek feels an automatic pang of sympathy for her. It’s clear she’s gone through hell, and - 

He realizes what’s happening and shuts the train of thought down as hard as he can. Whatever she’s doing to him, she’s clearly still doing it, and he’s going to need to stay clear-headed. “Hey, what’s wrong?” he asks, taking her upper arms in his hands in an attempt to steady her.

“Something - something happened at the school,” she says, and a few more tears spill over. “I, I knew I had to get here and talk to you before anybody else did.”

“It’s okay, I’m here,” Derek says. “Tell me what happened.”

“I stayed late at school to grade some papers,” she says. “And Sheriff Stilinski came in, and he . . . he . . .”

Derek’s not sure what gives them away. The creak of the floorboards in the other room, the psychic and olfactory panic that Stiles is emanating, maybe even just the look on his face when she brings up Tom. But her expression shifts, and she says, “They’re already here, aren’t they.”

That’s all Stiles needs to join them. He bursts out of the other room and demands, “Where’s my dad?”

“How should I know?” Jennifer replies. She turns to Derek and gives him an appealing gaze. “Derek, tell me you don’t believe this!”

Derek has to stop and force himself to take a deep breath. “Do you know anything about what happened to Sheriff Stilinski?” he asks, hoping that she’ll tell him something, anything, that might be useful.

“No!” Jennifer looks between Stiles and Derek. “Stiles, I know you’re upset about what happened, but you have to believe me - ”

“Nobody believes you!” Stiles retorts. “I was there! I saw you! I saw you grab my father by the throat and lift him off the ground and then the next thing I knew, you were gone! And if you don’t tell me where he is right fucking now - ”

“Derek, please,” Jennifer says, but one look at Derek’s face and it’s clear she knows she’s lost. Her face screws up in anger and frustration and she snaps, “This is ridiculous! I have been spending the last six weeks working every seduction spell I know on you, and it feels like I’m trying to seduce a brick wall! Are you seriously so in love with this seventeen year old spaz that you can’t even look at anybody else? What is wrong with you?”

“Nothing’s wrong with - wait, hang on,” Stiles says, momentarily distracted by Jennifer’s words. “All this time I’ve been worried about the fact that he’s talking to you, thinking that it meant he didn’t like me, but he actually likes me so much that it protected him from you? From your magic?”

Jennifer groans, looking like she’s ready to jump out the window to end the entire conversation, but Derek barely notices. Stiles is looking at him like he’s seeing him for the first time, like he’s actually seeing him and not some amazing older man up on a pedestal he can never reach. His gaze and his scent are full of awe and love and he looks like he’s about ready to burst with it. Derek can understand that, because he feels exactly the same way.

Then Jennifer takes a step backwards, like she’s about to make a run for it, and Stiles’ gaze snaps back to her. “You’re not going anywhere, you bitch, I’m going to – ”

“If you lay a finger on me, you’ll never find Sheriff Stilinski,” Jennifer says. “You need me.”

Something in Derek snaps at those words. He’s thinking not of Stiles’ panic and pain, but the days after he got to Beacon Hills, the way Tom had helped him when nobody else did, when nobody else cared. How Tom had taken him in and never tried to replace his family but given him a new one nonetheless. He charges forward, knocking his easel out of his way, and tries to grab her. Scott and Isaac have to grab him and hold him back before he can rip out her throat on instinct alone.

Jennifer’s hands come up and her eyes have gone a ghostly white, and Stiles shouts, “Don’t you fucking touch my boyfriend – ” as he shoves his way in between them.

Derek’s not sure what happens next. Jennifer thrusts both her hands forward and a wave of force comes out of them, but it’s not just force, it’s something foul and dark and repellent. Stiles staggers backwards and Derek only barely manages to catch him, and the whole lot of them tumble to the ground. There’s a sharp twang and then the thunk of an arrow embedding itself into wood, and when Derek manages to look around, Jennifer’s gone.

“Shit, sorry, I thought I could get her in the leg but she turned and fucking dove out the window,” Allison says, running down the loft stairs.

Derek isn’t paying any attention to her, because Stiles is shuddering and gasping in his arms. “Stiles, hey,” he says, smoothing down Stiles’ hair. “You okay?”

“I – I’m all right,” Stiles stammers, but as soon as they get him back on his feet, he sways and then collapses again. “Shit,” he mumbles, his head lolling against Derek’s shoulder. “I don’t feel so good.”

“You’re okay, you’re fine, you – ” Derek can barely keep the panic out of his voice as he lays Stiles carefully on the sofa and Scott starts checking him for an injury. Derek’s hand brushes over Stiles’ forehead as he smoothes his hair back again, and he hisses. “He’s burning up.”

“There doesn’t seem to be anything physically wrong,” Scott says, frowning worriedly.

“I’m calling Peter,” Derek decides, because he doesn’t know what Peter will be able to do, but he knows what he personally can’t do, and that’s fix Stiles. Peter doesn’t answer, and Derek curses out his voicemail and tells him to get to the loft immediately because Jennifer had done something to Stiles.

Fortunately for Derek’s sanity, Peter texts a minute later, just reading ‘omw’. Stiles’ condition isn’t deteriorating; he’s pale and sweaty and unconscious, but at least he seems stable.

While they’re waiting, Scott calls Boyd, who says he and Erica will be right over in case they’re needed. Peter gets there first, and he looks Stiles over with a frown, taking in his labored breathing, his pallor, his fever. “You said she attacked him?”

“I don’t know what she did,” Derek says, frustrated. “It happened really fast. We were arguing, Stiles got in her face, and she threw out this wave of force that knocked us all over. But it felt like more than just air. It felt wrong somehow.”

“There was some kind of powder in it,” Allison says. “Pale green, almost white. I could see it from the stairs.”

“Mistletoe,” Peter murmurs, almost to himself. “Probably the aggressive kind.”

“How can mistletoe be aggressive?” Derek asks, resisting the urge to tear out his hair. “Why would mistletoe hurt Stiles at all? He’s not a werewolf or a Druid.”

“Not yet,” Peter says, “but he is a mage. He has that spark - he’s just never been trained in how to use it.” He sees the way Derek is blinking at him and waves this off. “Something to talk about on a different day. Mistletoe comes in different strains, and some of them spread in a supernatural creature’s system faster than others. From the way Stiles is looking right now, this must be a strain that spreads very quickly.”

“What will it do?” Derek asks. “I mean - obviously it made him sick, but it’s not - it’s not serious, right? She just did it to get him out of the way.”

Peter doesn’t make an attempt to soften the blow. “No, it will kill him, if it spreads far enough. It causes a fever so high that it will lead to organ failure in a matter of days if not hours. We need to get him to Deaton.”

Derek scoops Stiles up in his arms, and the teenager moans quietly. “He’ll be able to fix it, right?”

“Yes. I’ve seen him do it before - back when your mother was alpha. Come on, we need to hurry. The rest of you wait here, since Erica and Boyd are on their way.”

“Okay.” Derek doesn’t even bother to put on his shoes, following Peter down the hall and out of the building. Peter gets behind the wheel of his car and burns rubber on the way out of the parking lot. Derek doesn’t say anything as Peter drives, watching the set of his jaw and trying not to panic. He’s thinking back to that moment in the loft, where Stiles had looked at him like his heart was going to burst, like he had finally, finally figured out how much Derek cared about him. He holds Stiles’ limp body in his arms, listening to the weak, rasping cough.

It doesn’t take long to get to Deaton’s, and perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s already there. He looks up as they come in, has them lay Stiles down on one of the tables. He’s calm and reassuring as he listens to what Derek tells him about what had happened, as he examines Stiles and agrees with Peter’s assessment of the situation.

“All right,” Deaton says. “When mistletoe poisoning is this serious, there’s only one way to heal it.” He sets his stethoscope down and looks at Peter. “You’re going to need to use your alpha spark.”

Peter’s back goes tense. “You’ve got to be joking.”

“I assure you that I’m not.”

“I know you can cure mistletoe infusions, Deaton. I was literally there when you did it for Hallie, back in 1998.”

“That was a different strain of mistletoe,” Deaton says.

Peter grabbed him by the front of his shirt. “Listen to me, you piece of shit - ”

“Let him go!” Derek snaps, getting in between them. “Stiles’ life is on the line here. This is not the time for you two to have a pissing contest. If Deaton wants to be the worst person on earth and refuse to help Stiles because of his ego, he’ll be the one who has to deal with Sheriff Stilinski later. In the meantime, we have to help Stiles. So what is he talking about, using your alpha spark?”

Peter takes a step backwards, although he’s clearly reluctant. His jaw is set in an expression that’s gone from fear to anger. “It’s like taking someone’s pain, but more so. An alpha can be instrumental in healing their own pack. Transferring some of that alpha spark’s power to another pack member. But it’s dangerous. It can burn out the spark entirely.”

Derek nods, understanding, and turns back to Deaton. “So you won’t heal Stiles, because you don’t want Peter to be the alpha of this territory.”

Deaton’s calm expression doesn’t change. “I won’t heal Stiles because I can’t, Derek. Whether you believe me on that matter or not. Peter is the only one who can save him.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

The loft apartment is silent. Scott is sitting next to Stiles, dabbing his forehead with a damp cloth. His brow is creased in a worried frown. He hasn’t talked much in the past half hour. After hearing about what Deaton had said, he had tried to defend him, saying that he was probably telling the truth. Whether or not that was true, Derek still wasn’t sure, but it was the last thing he wanted to hear. He had snarled at Scott, and now Scott was sitting in subdued silence. 

The other betas are pacing back and forth. Erica stops besides Stiles occasionally to squeeze his wrist or tell him to hang in there. 

Peter has been on the phone for the past hour, talking in more than one language as he tries to find some way to help Stiles. But everyone agrees, there are only two - the Druid’s ritual or the alpha spark.

“I’m gonna go talk to Deaton,” Scott finally says, standing up. “Maybe I’ll be able to convince him to help.”

“I’ll go with you,” Isaac says.

Derek doesn’t stop them, but he knows that it doesn’t matter. Deaton has committed to his ‘I can’t save Stiles’ plan. If he backs out now, he’ll be proving that he could have saved Stiles any time, and he knows that Peter - not to mention Tom - will never forgive him for that.

Since Scott is gone, he walks over to Stiles and sits down beside him, taking in his labored breathing, the sweat beading on his forehead. He picks up the cloth Scott had been using and wipes his face down. Stiles lets out a quiet groan but doesn’t really wake.

Peter says something that sounds very uncomplimentary and jabs the end button on his phone with extreme prejudice. He looks at the phone for a moment before saying, as if to himself, “I really miss being able to slam a phone back into the cradle. Even the old flip phones you could snap shut are better than this high-tech nonsense.”

“Peter,” Derek growls.

Peter ignores him, closes his eyes for a long moment as if meditating, and then makes another call. Derek decides not to hold it against him. He’s keenly aware that not only is Stiles’ situation dire, but every moment Peter spends trying to find a way to help him is a moment he’s not spending looking for Tom.

Derek smoothes down Stiles’ hair and wonders why Jennifer had kidnapped Tom instead of just sacrificing him. He would know – they would all know – if Tom had been killed. Their pack bonds are tight enough for that. So Tom is alive. Why?

Since Peter has gone up the stairs and they can only hear him faintly talking above them, he asks the question out loud. Allison frowns and says, “Well, he’s not exactly a philosopher, is he?”

Erica gives a mirthless little snort. Boyd says, “He could be. He’s super smart.”

“Yeah, but he’s not . . .” Derek shakes his head. “Allison’s right. A philosopher is someone who thinks about life, about . . . about finding a hundred different answers to the same question. Tom’s worldview isn’t exactly black and white, but he’s very fact-oriented. He wants to know how things are, not how things could be.”

“What was the fifth category again?” Erica asks.

“Guardians,” Allison says.

“Well, he sure as shit fits that one,” Erica says. “So maybe she just nabbed him because the opportunity arose, but she has to wait to sacrifice him for some reason.”

Peter comes down the stairs and says, “The last set of sacrifices will put her at the height of her power. She’s going to do it at a very specific time, probably in about eighteen hours. There’s a lunar eclipse.”

“Does that affect us?” Erica asks.

“Yeah, we become temporarily human,” Derek says. “So it would put Jennifer at her strongest when Deucalion would be at his weakest. Jesus, that doesn’t give us a lot of time, though.”

“No it doesn’t,” Peter agrees. His phone rings and he heads into the other room. He seems to like to move while he’s talking, something Derek can sympathize with. He’s only keeping himself in one place by reminding himself that it won’t help Stiles to carry him around the apartment.

Minutes drag by. Derek can comfort himself with the fact that at least Stiles isn’t getting worse, but he knows it won’t last. “You’re not allowed to die,” he says softly to Stiles. “We’re going to find your father, and rescue him, and if you die he’s going to be very mad at you. So, you know, jot that down.”

His phone rings, startling him. He glances at the screen, sees that it’s Scott, and frowns, picking it up and putting it on speaker. “Hey, what’s up, what did Deaton say?”

“What?” Scott sounds flustered. “Oh, nothing useful, forget it, but I – I decided to drop by the hospital on my way back and see my mom. I mean, I thought she might have some ideas about how to keep Stiles from getting worse while we tried to find a solution, or maybe she would know a way to treat mistletoe poisoning, stranger things have happened, but – I can’t find her. Derek, I can’t find her. She should be here, her shift lasts until eleven, but nobody’s seen her in an hour – ”

“Tell him I’m on my way,” Allison says crisply, grabbing her bow.

“We’ll go with you,” Erica says, jamming her feet into her shoes.

“Be careful,” Derek says to them. Back into the phone, he says, “Scott, Allison and the others are coming to you. I have to stay here with Stiles. Just hang tight and try to stay calm. They’ll help you look for her.”

“Okay. I – yeah, okay,” Scott says.

Derek hangs up as the door slides shut behind the three teenagers. He looks at Stiles, who hasn’t moved during this conversation, and then becomes aware of Peter watching him from the door to the other room. “Guardians,” Derek says, mostly to himself.

“Guardians,” Peter agrees, and pinches the bridge of his nose. “God damn it, I don’t have time for this!” he says, gesturing to Stiles’ unconscious body.

Derek feels fear thick in his throat, wondering if Peter is about to leave them there, leave Stiles to die, while he goes looking for Jennifer or Deucalion. “Uncle Peter,” he chokes out, but then stops. There’s nothing he can say. Peter knows how he feels. 

Peter tosses his phone across the room, raking his hand through his hair. “You don’t need to beg, nephew. I’m aware of what I have to do.” He stops and takes a deep breath before dragging a chair over and sitting down next to Stiles. “It’s going to knock me out for a few hours. Stiles should recover almost immediately, though, within a matter of minutes. Keep him here, do not let him run off and do anything stupid. You might want to call Chris Argent and see if he has any ideas. I’m sure he’ll be brimming with them.”

“Okay,” Derek says. His throat feels tight and sore, but he manages to squeeze out, “Thanks.”

“Don’t thank me yet, Derek. It still might not work.” But despite his dire words, Peter takes Stiles’ hand in his, twining his fingers through the teenager’s, and closing his eyes.

“Hey, Uncle Peter?” Derek says quietly. “Alpha or no alpha . . . you’re still the smartest, strongest person I know. Even if you’re not an alpha anymore . . . you’re going to be fine, and you’re going to figure out what to do and we’re going to get Tom back.”

Peter lets out a breath and then nods. “Thank you, nephew.”

Derek has no idea what this is going to look like, and he’s a little alarmed when Peter’s body goes taut and rigid, his mouth curling in a silent snarl. The red in his eyes flares brightly, intensifying to the point that Derek can’t look directly at it. Then it gutters out, and Peter collapses backwards. Derek grabs him before he can fall, helping him to the floor.

Stiles sucks in a deep breath and then starts coughing weakly, rolling onto his side. Derek gets Peter lying down and then leans over Stiles. “Hey, can you hear me?”

“Yeah,” Stiles rasps out, and lifts a hand to rub it over his face. His hand is trembling, but some color is returning to his cheeks. “What – what happened? The last thing I remember is . . .” His voice trails off as he looks up at Derek, then says, “Holy shit,” and lunges into Derek’s arms and kisses him.

Derek returns the kiss for a few moments before pulling back. “The last thing you remember is what, exactly?”

“Your dramatic love confession! Which, okay, Ms. Blake made on your behalf, but still!” Stiles flails at him, then sees Peter on the floor. “Um. I feel like a lot has happened since then. Where’s my dad? Have we found my dad? What’s wrong with Peter, is he okay? What – ”

Derek holds up his hands and then starts to explain. While he does that, Stiles heads for the kitchen, pours himself a glass of water, and starts guzzling it down. By the time he’s finished, Derek has gotten Peter onto the bed and tucked in. It feels odd to be taking care of Peter, to see him unconscious and vulnerable. Stiles watches this and tugs at the hem of his shirt. “I was such a piece of shit to him and he . . .”

“Don’t,” Derek says. “Yeah, you were a dick to Peter. And he was a dick to Tom in some ways, and Tom’s been a dick to him in some ways. There’s been a lot going on, you’ve all made mistakes, but none of your mistakes were malicious. We’re just a group of pretty fucked up people to be honest. But this is Jennifer Blake's fault, and Deaton's. Not yours.”

Stiles thinks about that and then nods. “So what now?”

“First we call Scott and check with him about his mom,” Derek says. “Then we call Chris Argent and see if he has any ideas on how to find your father, or Jennifer.”

Stiles chews on his lower lip. “I’ll call Scott, you call Chris?”

“Okay.” Derek reaches out and squeezes Stiles’ hand. “We’ll find him, Stiles. And he’ll be okay until we do. He’s tough.”

“Yeah.” Stiles manages a weak smile. “Yeah, he is.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

Peter comes back to consciousness slowly, his senses coming back online one at a time. He feels exhausted, like he’s run a marathon. His mouth has a sticky, cottony feel to it, and trying to open his eyes is nearly impossible. He feels weighted down, like iron is attached to every limb. There’s no pain, just that sensation of gravity, of the air being too thick and heavy for his limbs. It’s weakness, he realizes. He had grown accustomed to the feeling of being an alpha, and now his body is trying to adjust.

“Hey,” Derek says, from somewhere nearby. “You’re awake, great. Here, let me help you - ” he adds, seeing Peter struggling to sit up. He gets an arm around Peter’s waist and eases him into a sitting position, then holds a bottle of water to his lips. Peter drinks thirstily, letting Derek support him more out of necessity than anything else. He’s sure that if Derek lets go, he’ll slump right back over.

Finally, he manages to rasp, “How long was I out?”

“A little over three hours.” Derek’s expression is grim. “And things have gotten much worse.”

Peter’s head throbs dully, and he struggles to focus. He takes a few more swallows of water and says, “Worse how?”

Derek sets the water bottle down. “Chris said he had a lead on the Darach. He took Allison and Isaac with him. Then he tased Isaac and handcuffed Allison to the wall and let the Darach abduct him.”

“Shit.” Peter rubs a hand over his face.

“It has to be symbolic, right?” Derek says. “The three parents of three of the pack members. That or she’s just really trying to piss us off.”

The gears in Peter’s mind start to sluggishly turn again. There’s a reason for this. She’s abducting the victims one at a time, not killing them right away. He would have known if Tom was dead. He was right about the eclipse. And there’s only one place Jennifer would feel safe leaving her victims; she has to have them at the Nemeton. “You aren’t half-wrong. She did it because she knows that we’ll spend the next fifteen hours doing nothing except trying to find and rescue them. It’ll keep us from teaming up with Deucalion and kicking her ass before she’s had a chance to execute her plan. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” Peter gets to his feet. He’s wobbly but does it with minimal help, his body adjusting to the feeling of being a beta. “Where are the others?”

“Scott wanted to go talk to Deaton, because he might have a way to find the Nemeton. Stiles went with him, because he figured if Deaton saw him back on his feet, he’d know that you gave up your alpha power and he might not be an absolute douche about things. The others are on watch, Allison and Isaac on the front and Erica and Boyd on the back.”

“Okay.” Peter heads for the refrigerator and views the interior with a wrinkled nose. He takes out a two-liter of Mountain Dew, undoubtedly Stiles’, and starts chugging directly from the bottle. It’s revolting, but it’s sugar and caffeine and he needs both. “How can Stiles drink this shit,” he mutters.

“Easily,” Derek says, his tone slightly amused. “Frequently. I don’t know, it’s kind of growing on me.”

“Like a fungus,” Peter says, putting the bottle back. “I’m going to take a cold shower to finish restoring consciousness. Why don’t you order some food?”

“Okay,” Derek says.

Much to Peter’s own surprise, the cold water does have the effect of restoring most of his mental faculties. He still feels physically weak and tired, but his mind is working again. He gets out of the shower and finds that Derek has tossed some clothes onto the counter for him. They’re a little loose, but they’ll do. He dresses and runs a comb through his hair, not bothering to shave, and checks his phone. He’s not surprised to see several texts from Chris Argent. They read, ‘Seems like the Darach needs a third sacrifice. I’m going to load up for bear and see if she’ll take me. Hopefully she won’t find all my weapons. I’ll have a sonic pulse emitter and two GPS chips, too. You better save my ass, Hale.’

There’s a link, which should pull up the GPS locations, but doesn’t. That doesn’t surprise Peter. The electromagnetic fields surrounding the Nemeton would short them out. It might at least give him a direction to start in, but it won’t be enough. He files all this away and heads back out into the apartment.

There’s pizza, and Stiles and Scott are back. All the betas have gathered around the food. Scott is pacing back and forth, but Stiles seems to have momentarily sunk into a state of calm. He stands up when Peter comes into the room, and stuns Peter by wrapping his arms around his shoulders and squeezing him hard. “Thanks,” he whispers. “I know I can’t, like, get what you gave up, but - ”

“It’s fine, Stiles.” Peter awkwardly pats Stiles on the back. “I may not be an alpha right this second, but, well. There are quite a few candidates for me to take that power from, so I think I’m going to be all right. How’d the visit with Deaton go?”

“Well, he was glad to see me up and around.” Stiles releases Peter so he can go for the pizza. “Said he was glad you had done the right thing, the dick. But he says he doesn’t know where the Nemeton is. He said he would look into some options for helping us find it.”

Whatever those options are, Peter is sure that they’re going to be terrible. Deaton knows damned well where the Nemeton is. There’s no way a Druid who’s lived in Beacon Hills his whole life wouldn’t. Especially not one who was Talia’s Emissary. Deaton can lead them to the Nemeton - but he’s going to have to want to do it.

With that realization, the plan locks into place. He goes over it a second time in his head while eating, and finds few flaws. A contingency plan here and there, and he’ll be good to go. He finishes eating, drains the last of his soda, and says, “All right. I’m going to go see Deucalion. We’re going to team up against Jennifer Blake, and then once those two have finished with each other, I’ll kill whoever’s left.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Stiles says with a firm nod.

“Derek, Stiles, wait here for a second. There are a few things I need to go over with you in private. The rest of you, I want you back at Deaton’s. He’s a complete and total dick, but you’ll be safer there than you will be here. He won’t turn you out now that I’m not alpha anymore.”

There’s a murmur of agreement, and the betas shuffle out, except for Derek and Stiles. Derek reaches out and twines his fingers through Stiles. “What do you need us to do?”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom isn’t sure how long he’s been underground, but he’s pissed. He’s tied to the root of some enormous tree. His shoulder throbs from the knife wound even though his werewolf healing had taken care of the worst of it. His mouth is dry and he feels like every inch of him is somehow caked with dirt.

Jennifer dragging Melissa in doesn’t improve his mood. He says some words that he hopes aren’t in Stiles’ vocabulary. Jennifer ignores him, as she ties Melissa to another one of the roots. Melissa waits until she’s gone, then looks at Tom and says, deadpan, “Fancy meeting you here.”

At that, Tom manages a snort of laughter. “Don’t worry. I’m sure Peter is working out a way to rescue us as we speak.”

“What time is it, do you know?” he asks Melissa, because he only has a vague idea of how long he’s been in the chamber.

“I was working the overnight,” Melissa says. “I think it was about midnight when she showed up. Not sure how much time has passed since then. What’s she . . .” Melissa’s voice wavers slightly despite herself. “What’s she planning to do with us?”

“We’ll be the last set of her sacrifices.” Tom doesn’t bother to try to cushion it. Melissa’s an adult and she can handle the information. “I’m not sure when, though. There have been pretty big gaps between the other batches, as much as a week sometimes.”

“Is she going to keep us down here that long?”

“I don’t know,” Tom says. “Frankly, I doubt it. She wouldn’t want to give the others that much time to find us.”

Melissa nods and looks around. “Where are we? Any ideas?”

“I’m gonna presume we’re at the Nemeton,” Tom says. “It’s this big tree thing.” He gestures to the root system surrounding them. “And it’s the center of all the ley lines, of the, the flow of supernatural power. Or something like that.”

“That seems like a pretty obvious place to stash us,” Melissa says. “So the others will look here, won’t they?”

“I don’t think they know where it is. Peter mentioned that it was the sort of place you could only find if you were meant to find it.”

“Great,” Melissa says.

“Yep.”

Minutes trickle by and turn to hours. They talk about what’s been going on in their lives. Tom has been so busy that they haven’t talked in a while. He tells her about the argument with Peter and breaking up with him, and asks, “Do you think I overreacted?”

“In that specific moment? No. You drew a line, he deliberately stepped over it. But I think you’re right that there’s more going on than Peter being a dick. It sounds like he might have genuinely been hurt that you wouldn’t consider his ideas.”

“His ideas were terrible,” Tom says.

“From your perspective, sure. But clearly he didn’t think they were terrible, or he wouldn’t have suggested them. And you don’t have to like his ideas. You don’t have to think they’re good ideas. But you do have to treat him like they’re valid. Or else you’re just being a jerk.”

Tom grimaces and thinks back. They hadn’t really fought over what to do about Deucalion. It was obvious to Tom that he would have to be killed, as soon as he knew what kind of person he was. And to be honest, the way he had continued to harp on Tom for trying to track down the Darach had mostly been out of a protective instinct, a need to keep Tom safe. After everything he had lost, that made sense. Tom lets his head thunk back against the wall. “So I’ve been an asshole, is what you’re saying.”

Melissa shakes her head. “I don’t think you’ve been an asshole. I think that you have some understandable trauma around Peter’s decision-making process because, let’s not forget this, he attacked you and tried to force you to hurt Stiles. And you know that he wouldn’t hurt you again, but knowing that and feeling that are two different things.”

“I hadn’t thought about that in a while,” Tom says. “I guess I figured I was over that.”

“Maybe you were, until danger knocked on the door again.” Melissa sees the look on his face and says, “You and Peter are two very different people. And you obviously care about him a lot, and vice versa. I think you can fix this, if you talk to each other. But it’s also possible that at the end of the day, you two aren’t right for each other. That doesn’t mean either of you is a lesser person. It just means that not every couple who cares about each other is meant to be together.”

“I want to be with him, though,” Tom says, realizing that it’s true. “I don’t want to lose him over this.”

“Then tell him that,” Melissa says, then adds dryly, “you know, presuming we live through this.”

They talk for a little while longer. Both of them doze for a while. Tom is startled awake when the door opens again and Jennifer Blake comes in with Chris Argent. “Shit,” Tom says, and Jennifer laughs. Chris is only partly conscious, and it seems like she’s done some sort of magic on him, because he doesn’t resist while she searches him and removes more weapons than Tom thought a person could physically carry at once. Then she makes him sit and ties him down, and leaves without another word.

Chris jolts a little and starts to wiggle. Tom watches him for a moment, then says, “Hate to break it to you, but she took your ankle knife.”

“And the knife that’s in your sleeve,” Melissa says.

“And the switchblade that was in your other sleeve,” Tom adds.

“And the taser in your jacket pocket,” Melissa finishes.

Chris huffs out a sigh and says, “Son of a bitch. Did she check my shoes?”

“She looked at them, but I didn’t see her take anything,” Tom tells him.

“Good, then she missed the second GPS chip. Hopefully, Peter will be able to use it to find us.”

Tom feels his heart skip a beat, and he can’t help asking, “He is . . . looking for me?”

Chris gives him a funny look. “Why wouldn’t he be?”

“I kind of dumped him,” Tom says. “I mean, I wasn’t planning on getting abducted by a homicidal witch an hour later.”

Chris gives a snort. “Great timing. But yeah. He’s looking. And now, hopefully, he’ll be able to find us.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Peter knows that he’s more prone to melodrama than most, but even he finds himself rolling his eyes as he enters the shell of the old distillery. “Here? Really?” he asks Deucalion, as he emerges from between some of the equipment.

“What better place to meet an old friend?” Deucalion asks.

“Starbucks, for one,” Peter says.

Deucalion gives an amused snort. “Sorry to disappoint. What do you want, Peter?”

“I want to wipe Jennifer Blake off the face of the planet,” Peter says, and Deucalion’s eyebrows go up. “She’s sheriff-napped my beta, and I find that wholly unacceptable. Once she’s killed him, along with two others, she’ll be coming for you. And I don’t think you want to let her get that far, Deucalion. Which means that, as much as I loathe you with every fiber of my being, the logical thing to do at this point is work together.”

“That was always the logical thing to do,” Deucalion says. “You never wanted to do it before.”

“You weren’t offering it. You wanted to subjugate me. You presumably still do. Before this, I didn’t have incentive to team up with you.”

“What’s to say you won’t stab me in the back?”

“Of course I will. I absolutely will, at the first opportunity. But I don’t think you’re afraid of me, Deucalion. Not the way you fear Jennifer Blake.”

“Frankly, I don’t fear either of you. So why should I help you?”

Peter sighs. “You’re really going to insist that you can handle Blake alone?”

“What I’m going to insist is that if you want my help taking down the witch causing you a problem, then you’re going to have to do better than saying you loathe me and you intend to stab me in the back. You’re going to have to take your place in my pack, Peter - and you know what that means.”

After a long moment, Peter lets out a breath, trying to hide his relief. Deucalion hasn’t realized he’s no longer an alpha, which he was banking on. He’s been hiding his alpha presence ever since Deucalion had gotten to Beacon Hills, so he shouldn’t feel any different. But there was always a chance that Deucalion would see through it. “One beta. I’ll kill one beta. After which, you will leave my pack alone. And regardless of what you think of the addictive qualities of murder, if I choose not to kill the rest of my pack, you won’t force me to do so. And you won’t murder them either.”

“Agreed,” Deucalion says immediately, clearly not thinking that this is an actual possibility. “Shall we?”

“Oh, you want me to do it right now?” Peter says.

“The eclipse is in twelve hours. There’s not a lot of time for fanfare. And yes, of course I’m going to watch you do it. You think I would trust you?”

“Not really, no.” Peter jerks his chin in the direction of the exit. “Let’s go.”

“You’ll have to drive, of course,” Deucalion says.

Peter rolls his eyes. “You’re hilarious. Why don’t you shut the fuck up for a while?”

He doesn’t. In fact, he spends the entire twenty minute drive back to Beacon Hills talking, mainly about each of Peter’s pack members, the data he’s gathered on them, and which one he thinks Peter should murder. He leans towards Derek for the poetic cinema of it all, saying that Peter should really eliminate the last member of his blood family if he’s truly going to be on his own. Besides, Derek might someday decide to get revenge for Laura, and it’s never a good idea to leave a loose thread like that hanging. That’s what Kali did, and it resulted in the entire unfortunate situation that they’re dealing with now. He also still thinks that Peter will kill them all once he’s had a taste of the power it will give him, and talks at length about that. Peter focuses on his breathing and maintaining the self-control not to drive into a tree just for the joy of ejecting Deucalion out the front window.

“Here,” he says roughly, as he pulls into a parking space outside the veterinary clinic.

Deucalion gets out of the car and can immediately tell where they are. “Your Emissary? An interesting choice. But a logical one, especially given what’s going on right now.”

“Didn’t I tell you to shut up?” Peter asks. He heads to the back door and knocks rapidly. 

Stiles opens it and stands back to let him in. “Where the hell have you been?” he asks furiously, as Peter glances around to see all the teenagers, as well as Derek, anxiously waiting in the exam room. “We had a plan, God damn it, we were gonna get my dad back and now you’re coming in here with this douche? I’m gonna kick your ass all the way to - ”

“Where’s Deaton?” Peter interrupts.

“I’m here,” Deaton says, coming out of his office. “Peter, you’re - ”

Peter doesn’t wait. He can’t give Deaton a chance to talk. If he mentions either that Peter is no longer an alpha, or that he’s not actually in Peter’s pack, then the whole plan will fall apart. And Deaton might be expecting a lot of things, but a sudden, violent attack is not one of them. He’s only two words into his sentence when Peter’s claws rake over his throat. Blood goes everywhere, and Deaton staggers backwards. Several of the betas scream.

“Jesus fucking Christ!” Scott shouts, grabbing Deaton before he can hit the ground. Deaton is clutching at his throat, making choking, gasping noises. “Peter, what the fuck, what the fuck did you do that for - ”

Peter ignores him, turning to Deucalion as the betas gather around Deaton to attempt to administer first aid. He gives a little shiver and says, “I suppose it wasn’t nothing. Maybe it would be more powerful if I had liked him more.”

Deucalion gives a snort. “Well, I think we’ve got places to be, don’t we?”

“That we do,” Peter says.

“Peter, you son of a bitch,” Stiles says.

Peter gives a little wave, wiggling his bloody fingers. “See you later, Stiles,” he says, and follows Deucalion out of the building.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

The sound of the front door of Deaton’s office closing is somehow very loud. Stiles’ gaze is trained on it, and as soon as it closes, he says, “Derek, the - ”

“On it,” Derek says, grabbing a bag that he’s slid underneath one of the tables.

“What’s going on?” Scott asks, clearly an inch away from a full blown freak out. He’s still applying pressure to Deaton’s wound, but the cloth he’s holding is starting to soak through with blood. Deaton is conscious, his hand locked around Scott’s wrist, but he isn’t saying anything. Derek doubts that he can. When Derek pulls out a bag of medical equipment, Scott’s eyes go wide. “Son of a bitch, did you know what Peter was going to do?”

“Yeah,” Derek says, pulling out the IV bag and the needle. “I’m O neg. Universal donor. Stick me.”

“I’ll hold the - ” Stiles gets as far as saying, before he and Scott are changing places. Stiles presses the cloth against Deaton’s throat. 

“This will work as a stop gap measure, but we have to get him to the hospital,” Scott says. “No matter how much blood we pump into him, we can only slow the bleeding so much. And it’s not as simple as just putting some band-aids or even stitches on the wound; he’s going to need internal stitches, in the vein itself.”

“We’re not taking him to the hospital.” Stiles’ jaw is clenched firm, and he’s pale but unyielding. He reminds Derek a lot of his father in that moment. “We’re taking him to the Nemeton.”

There’s a moment of blank silence before Isaac says, “We don’t know where it is, I mean, that’s kind of the whole problem.”

“You’re right, we don’t,” Stiles says, and jerks his chin at Deaton. “But he does.”

Light dawns on the betas. Allison says, “So Peter wounded Deaton so he’ll have no choice but to show us where the Nemeton is, if he wants to live.”

Stiles nods, and Scott says worriedly, “What if he doesn’t know where it is? He said he doesn’t.”

“He’s a lying piece of shit,” Stiles says. Scott’s anxious frown gets deeper. “Sorry, Scotty, I don’t have time to fucking mince words right now. He’s lived here his whole life. He draws his power from it, he was Emissary to the ruling alpha. There’s no way he doesn’t know where it is, just like there’s no way he couldn’t have saved my life without forcing Peter to give up his alpha spark. He’s a lying liar who lies, and he’s going to take us to the Nemeton if he wants to live.”

“Scott,” Deaton rasps out. “Hospital. No Nemeton.”

“Shut up,” Stiles says.

Scott looks between Deaton and Stiles for a long moment. He takes a deep breath as he gets the IV hooked into Deaton’s arm, starts Derek’s blood pumping into it. “Dr. Deaton,” he says, and his voice is pleading. “This is my mother. Ms. Blake is going to kill her in a matter of hours if I don’t find her. Can - can you look me in the eye and swear to me that you don’t know where the Nemeton is?”

“Don’t,” Deaton says.

Stiles grabs Deaton by the shoulder and wrenches him around, and the Druid lets out a weak noise of pain. “Look me in the eye, you piece of shit. Tell me that you were willing to let me die because you don’t like Peter being the alpha, something you absolutely could have prevented if you had bothered to get off your ass last year. Tell me that you’re willing to let my father die rather than help me save his life, because you don’t like Peter being the alpha. Convince me, and maybe I won’t let you bleed out right here on the floor of your God damned clinic.” He lets Deaton go without waiting for a reply, and stands up. “Get him in the Jeep. We’re going to the Nemeton.”


~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

Peter hums quietly to himself as he pulls Derek’s phone out of his jacket pocket. Derek had given it to him earlier, and he had put everything on silent. Now he’s in the rafters of the distillery, listen to Deucalion grandstand to the other members of the pack. One of the twins is lapping it up; the other looks a little bit uncomfortable. Kali is pacing and snarling about how she doesn’t understand why they can’t go find Julia and kill her right now, and Deucalion keeps telling her that good things come to those who wait. That since she’s the reason Julia is a problem, she’s going to do what she’s told.

Peter pulls Jennifer’s contact information up and texts, ‘What did you do to Stiles?’

There’s no response for a long minute. Finally, Jennifer replies, ‘Only what I had to.’

Peter rolls his eyes at the melodrama of all of it, ignoring Deucalion rambling in the background. Peter texts, ‘If I help you against Deucalion, will you help Stiles?’

This time her response is gratifyingly quick. ‘Of course. I never wanted to hurt him.’

Peter wonders if this could be considered confirmation that the Druid’s ritual could have cured Stiles, that Deaton could have saved him. He supposes that it can’t. Jennifer would absolutely say she could help Stiles even if she can’t, if she thinks it will get her something that she wants.

There’s only so much he can do with this ruse of pretending to be Derek. From the text history, their conversations have been extensive, and he’s bound to give himself away sooner or later. Then there’s always the possibility that Jennifer will want to meet in person. So he texts, ‘I’m going to have Peter text you. He’s pretended to join forces with Deucalion, so he’ll have information you need.’

Almost immediately, Jennifer replies, ‘I don’t trust Peter. I trust you. I know you’ll do anything to save Stiles.’

‘I will. But Peter understands you. He did the same thing that you’re doing now – got revenge for his pack. He hates Deucalion anyway.’ Peter lets that sit, and when he doesn’t get a response, he adds, ‘Peter said from the beginning that we should help you. That’s why he wasn’t with Tom at the high school. They fought about it.’

After a few moments, Jennifer responds, ‘I’ll talk to him. But I don’t make any promises.’

‘Okay,’ Peter replies, tucks Derek’s phone into his pocket, and takes out his own. He waits a few minutes to make it seem more legitimate, then texts Jennifer a picture of the distillery below, of Deucalion lounging on his throne while Kali paces. Then he adds, ‘Hello, Julia. Do you like the view from where I am?’

‘Don’t call me Julia,’ she replies. ‘Julia is dead.’

‘Fair enough,’ Peter says. She doesn’t say anything else, so he says, ‘They’re know you’re coming, you know. They think they’ve got it all figured out. They know you’re going to show up during the eclipse. Do you think they haven’t planned for that?’

‘I don’t care what they’ve planned,’ Jennifer says. ‘When I’m at the height of my power, nothing will be able to stop me.’

‘Nothing?’ Peter replies. ‘Nothing at all?’

‘Nothing.’

Peter sighs. ‘What about 35000 feet of empty air?’

‘What about it?’

‘You don’t think Duke and the others are still going to be here for the eclipse, do you? That they intend to just sit around and wait to become vulnerable? Of course not. Duke may be a pretentious blowhard, but he’s not an idiot. They’ve got tickets on a flight out of Redding. They’re leaving in an hour and they’ll come back after the danger is over.’

Jennifer says nothing.

‘You’ve forgotten something very important, Jennifer. I forgot about it sometimes too, when I was in your shoes. The vendetta is so consuming that it’s easy to forget that the target doesn’t care about you. Duke’s not here for you. Kali’s not here for you. They don’t care about you. You’re a nuisance to them, at best. They’re not going to waste time on you; they’re not going to put themselves at risk to fight you while they’re momentarily human and you’re at the height of your power.’

Nothing.

‘If you kill Tom and the others, it’ll be for nothing. The high will have worn off by the time Deucalion and Kali get back. And you’ll not only have to fight them, but me, and believe me, Jennifer, I will destroy you for touching my pack, just as surely as I destroyed Kate Argent and her cronies. But if you let Tom live, if you come to fight Deucalion now, when you’re at ninety percent, I’ll be on your side. I’ll help you. And once they’re dead, you can heal Stiles and then walk away.’

‘I don’t trust you,’ Jennifer says.

‘You don’t need to trust me, Jennifer. If I betray you, then kill Tom and the others. If I betray you, let Stiles die. But if I don’t betray you, then I’ll expect you to live up to your word.’

Seconds tick by, agonizing seconds, while Deucalion laughs with Kali about how Julia Baccari is never going to see them coming.

‘Where are you?’ Jennifer says.

‘The distillery on the north edge of town, where Deucalion lost his eyesight.’

Another pause. Then: ‘I’ll be there in twenty minutes.’

Peter waits for a lull in the conversation below him before he tucks his phone away and hops down from the rafters. “Well, Duke, what now? I’ve passed the initiation. I’m part of your super secret boy band. I still don’t feel compelled to go murder a bunch of teenagers, and Julia Baccari is on her way.”

Kali blinks. “What? How?”

“Oh, I texted her to let her know where we are,” Peter says, and gives them all a beatific smile. “Told her that you planned on going out of town for the eclipse, so best to strike now while the iron is hot.”

“I don’t recall telling you to do that, Hale,” Deucalion says.

“I don’t recall giving a shit about your opinion,” Peter replies. “I told you from the beginning that I wanted Baccari dead. What did you think I was going to do, sit around and wait for her to kill her last set of sacrifices and become even more powerful?”

“We had time before that. Time to work out a plan.”

“Time for you to figure out what orders you wanted to give, you mean,” Peter says. “No thank you, Duke. I trust my own intelligence a hell of a lot more than I trust yours. Besides, you told me that if I wanted your help taking down the witch giving me trouble, I’d have to join your pack. Well, here I am. Time to pay the piper.”

Deucalion’s mouth thins, but then he shrugs it off. “Fine. When she gets here, we’ll take care of her. Then we’ll discuss your problem with authority.”

Peter laughs. “Good luck with that. My father was trying to deal with it since I was four years old, and he never had much luck.”

“Interesting that you have such a little crush on the sheriff,” Deucalion says. “He’s about as authoritarian as they come. Isn’t that what makes a true alpha?” He pauses, then says, “Oh, you did know about that, don’t you? That was planning to usurp you, steal your pack?”

“The type of authority Tom wields is the type you could never understand,” Peter says. “It’s the strength of will and mind that gives him the ability to become a true alpha - something you could never do, and something that yes, I absolutely knew about. Tom is better than you, better than me, better than all of us. I don’t particularly care what you think of him - and I can assure you that he cares even less.”

“Please let me kill him,” Kali says. “He killed Ennis.”

“Actually, I didn’t,” Peter says. “Wounded him, yes. But my Emissary saved his life - right up until Deucalion crushed his skull.”

“Wait, what?” one of the twins - the uneasy one, so Peter assumes it’s Ethan - gets to his feet. “What happened?”

“It was far more convenient for Deucalion if Ennis died,” Peter says, and then laughs. “None of you figured that out? Really, none of you? Good lord, I really am operating in an intellectual black hole with this pack.”

Kali is gaping at Deucalion, but it quickly becomes a snarl. Deucalion is unfazed. “The lies people will tell when they’re begging for their lives.”

Peter shrugs. “It’s not my life that’s in danger. Julia will be here any second. And as far as I’m concerned, at that point my problems are solved. Good luck after that, because you won’t be getting any help from me.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

The Jeep bumps to a halt on the rough terrain of the Preserve, and for a moment, the car is completely silent. Then Stiles turns to Deaton, who’s sitting in the front seat. Scott is sitting directly behind him, leaning up into the seat so he can help keep pressure on the wound. Derek is behind Stiles, his face dark and intent.

“That’s time,” Stiles says. Derek nods and pulls the IV out of the crook of his elbow, wincing a little. He can’t give blood forever. Even with his werewolf healing helping him regenerate blood cells faster, there’s a limit. Peter had said not to do it for more than twenty minutes. “Okay, doc,” Stiles says. “Which way?”

Deaton looks at him, meets Stiles’ gaze but says nothing. The silence drags on, and on, and on. Derek has to clench his jaw to avoid breaking it, and reaches out twice to elbow Scott when it looks like he might say something.

It’s nerve-wracking, but Derek knows it’s their only choice. Peter was very clear in their instructions. “The one thing you absolutely cannot do,” he said, “is let Deaton think you’ll blink first. He knows where the Nemeton is. But if he thinks for one second that you’ll break and take him to the hospital if he doesn’t reveal its whereabouts, he’ll bank on that.”

“It’s chicken,” Stiles said.

Peter nods. “The highest-stakes game of chicken there is. And you can’t blink, Stiles. Blink and your father is dead.”

So Derek watches, his claws digging into the palms of his hands, and doesn’t intervene. Stiles just stares Deaton down.

“We have to – ” Scott begins.

“Get out, Scott,” Stiles says.

“W-What?”

“You don’t have the stomach for this. I don’t blame you. Go wait in Allison’s car.”

Another long moment of silence. Then Scott mumbles, “I’m sorry, Dr. Deaton. It’s my mother.” He exits the car and jogs behind them, to where Allison is waiting in her father’s car with the other betas.

Stiles says nothing further. In fact, he pulls out his phone and pulls up a YouTube video. One of those silly ‘honest trailers’ videos that he loves so much. He devotes his attention to it as if there isn’t a man bleeding out in his passenger seat, as if he’s not ten minutes away from becoming an accessory to murder. After the first minute, he says, “Any time, Dr. D.”

Derek sees Deaton’s face and feels a pang of fear twist his stomach. Not that Deaton won’t show them the way – he sees in that moment that Deaton truly believes that Stiles is willing to let him die – but of what Deaton will do them afterwards. There’s an ugly rage in the normally placid veterinarian’s eyes, not at having been injured but at having been forced to give way.

It’s there and then gone and Deaton lifts his hand and points, ahead of them and slightly to the left. Stiles stops the YouTube video, tucks his phone away, and starts driving.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Jennifer makes her entrance by blowing the entire door open, and Peter has to admit that in terms of presentation, she gets full marks. She’s wearing a black leather jacket with her all-black outfit, and Peter thinks that in a different world, they might have been friends. He wishes that she had just come to him from the beginning, even though he understands why she didn’t.

“Who wants to go first?” Jennifer asks, and Kali snarls. Peter melts into the background where he can keep track of things without getting involved. 

Or at least, that’s his intention, but Deucalion is between him and safety, with his arms folded over his chest. “And just where do you think you’re going?” he asks. “We had a deal.”

“We did indeed,” Peter says. “I agreed to join your pack, and you agreed to kill Jennifer Blake. Then I made a deal with Jennifer, that if she would let Tom live, I’d help her kill you. So you can see the position I’m in. I think it’s best if I just sit this one out.”

“You lying piece of shit,” Jennifer snarls. “You said you’d help me.”

“And I did! I told you where they were.”

During Jennifer’s moment of distraction, Kali lunges forward. Jennifer whirls around and thrusts one hand outward, slamming it into Kali’s chest and throwing her backwards. The exertion of power causes her glamour to falter, revealing her true face, one that’s pale and drawn and scarred like something from a horror movie. Kali makes it to her hands and knees, but then sees Jennifer’s face and gives a quiet gasp.

“That’s right, Kali, look at my face,” Jennifer says. “Do you know what it takes to be able to look normal? To hide what you turned me into?”

Peter feels another pang of sympathy for her, but apparently he’s the only one. The twins both step forward to move protectively between Jennifer and Kali. Ethan puts his hand on Aiden’s back, and suddenly they merge together into one enormous werewolf. “Well, that is something I’ve never seen before,” Peter murmurs, taking another prudent step backwards.

Jennifer doesn’t seem impressed. In fact, as they charge forward, she hooks an elbow around their throat and bodyslams them to the ground. When they try to get back up, she lets them get to their knees, then grabs them by the neck and gives it a savage twist. They drop to the ground, unmoving.

Kali screams, and Jennifer thrusts both hands out, shattering the wall behind her into a hundred shards of metal. “I should’ve ripped your head off!” Kali shouts.

The shards come flying forward, and Peter barely has time to throw himself behind one of the metal beams. When he peeks out, he sees Kali pierced in a dozen places. She goes to her knees and then folds forward.

“Yes, you should have, darling,” Jennifer says. She nudges Kali’s body aside with one foot as she walks forward. Then she looks around, catching Peter in her gaze. “Where’s Deucalion?”

“Hiding behind the shelving over there,” Peter says with a shrug. “Waiting to see if you could beat Kali and the twins.”

“Please, Hale, I am not hiding,” Deucalion says acerbically, stepping out. “What do you say, Jennifer? Shall we kill this double-crossing, conniving piece of shit together, before one of us kills the other?”

“Absolutely not,” Jennifer says, spreading her hands in front of her. The ground rumbles uneasily, and a wind picks up outside. “We had a deal that if he betrayed me, I would kill his lover . . . so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

It takes about five minutes of driving carefully over the dirt road before Deaton gestures for them to stop and points ahead. There’s a narrow trail that the Jeep won’t fit down. “How much further is it?” Stiles asks, and Deaton gives a little shrug. He hasn’t said anything the entire time, giving his directions by pointing. Derek isn’t sure he can talk anymore. Stiles doesn’t let this bother him, saying, “Okay, let’s go. Derek, can you get him?”

“Yeah, but someone is going to need to keep applying pressure to the wound.”

“Right. Okay.” Stiles hops out of the front seat and jogs back to Allison’s car. A few moments later, he comes up to the passenger side with a few of the others behind him. Scott is noticeably absent. Isaac, as the tallest, is nominated to keep the pressure against the wound. Derek gets out of the car and carefully picks Deaton up in a princess carry. He tries to ignore the silent rage and menace that Deaton is somehow emanating, even while this close to death.

They make their way down the trail, and a few seconds later, Stiles’ phone chimes. He glances down at it and some of the tension goes out of his shoulders. “Okay, Peter just texted to say that Jennifer’s showed up where he is and she’s having a big fight with Kali, so we’re good to go in once we get there.”

Derek feels some of his own tension leave. That was one of the biggest possible problems with the plan. Peter had been fairly sure that he would be able to lure Jennifer away from the Nemeton, but there was no way to be positive.

“So we’re good to go?” Allison says.

“We’re good to - ” Stiles starts, before the ground gives a sudden tremble. It’s mild enough that none of them lose their balance, and Stiles says, “An earthquake?”

“Mayb - ” Boyd begins, before there’s another tremor. This one is more violent. Isaac half-falls into Derek and Deaton and nearly loses his grip on the compress he’s holding against Deaton’s wound. Allison and Stiles both sprawl onto the ground. Scott has to grab a tree to prevent being thrown off his feet.

The tremors don’t stop, and Stiles shouts, “What’s happening?” without trying to get up. There’s a crash nearby as a tree topples. Derek has to resist the urge to drop Deaton so he can protectively crouch over Stiles.

“Sacrifice,” Deaton rasps.

Stiles’ and Allison’s heads snap up at these words and Scott whirls around, horrified. “I thought she was going to wait for the eclipse,” Scott says.

“She’s jumping the gun,” Stiles says. “She needs the power up. Maybe she’s losing her fight with Kali. It doesn’t matter, we, we have to go, right now, we have to get there - ”

“Then let’s go!” Erica grabs Stiles by the elbow and hauls him to his feet. They sprawl back to the ground a few moments later.

“Crawl,” Boyd says, getting to the ground beside them. “It’ll keep your center of gravity lower, and you’ll have four limbs to balance on instead of just two.”

It takes a lot of effort to keep the compress against Deaton’s throat while dragging him along the ground, but after the first two times Derek nearly falls on top of him, he decides that Boyd is correct and he’ll be safer on the ground. A small eternity passes by while they crawl through the forest, occasionally stopping to protect their heads from falling debris, dodging dislodged rocks and the roots of trees torn free from the earth. Once, Isaac falls into a small crevice that opens right beneath him. Erica practically goes flying at one particularly severe tremor. It’s agony to make their way through the forest an inch at a time, knowing that time is exactly what they don’t have a lot of.

Derek breathes a prayer of thanks to a deity he’s not sure he believes in when he sees the broad trunk of the Nemeton. He’s never seen it before, but there’s no mistaking what it is. In the dark forest, it’s giving off a faint golden glow.

With a grunt, he and Isaac haul Deaton up onto the trunk. He’s immediately enveloped in that light, and it condenses around him.

“Do we need to do anything?” Scott asks, panting for breath.

“With Deaton, no,” Stiles says. “Peter said that once we got him here, he’d take care of the rest. But we need to figure out how to get in.”

A chunk of the ground nearby gives way, and Erica lets out a yelp as she nearly falls through. Boyd grabs her before she can be swallowed by the sinkhole. “This whole thing is about to collapse!” Boyd yells.

“Then we need to get inside right fucking now!” Stiles shouts back.

While they’re yelling at each other, Derek stops and takes a breath. Focuses on the scent of the forest, the newly churned dirt, the blood on his clothes, the pack. Searches underneath it for other scents. For Tom, who had held him as he cried, after Kate abducted and tortured him. The scent of gunmetal and bacon cheeseburgers and aftershave and the blue ink pens he uses, of strength and hard work and fairness and love. And it’s there. He follows it to a small gap at the base of the tree. Too small for a human to fit through. Jennifer must have used magic to get them inside.

“Over here!” he calls to the others. 

Stiles crawls over and looks at the tiny gap in dismay. “Dad!” he shouts into it, but the sound of the earthquake swallows any noise that might be coming from inside. Stiles starts clawing at the dirt with his bare hands, and Derek wants to tell him that it won’t do any good, but he doesn’t because he doesn’t have a better solution.

Then there’s another tremor and the chasm splits farther open. Stiles’ head and shoulders disappear into it, and Derek lets out a yelp despite himself. “Stiles!”

There’s a muffled, “I’m okay!” and then Stiles starts to wriggle forward.

“You’re going to get stuck!” Derek shouts at him.

“No, I - ” Stiles says, before inhaling a mouthful of dirt and practically choking.

“Dumbass, let somebody smaller try!” Erica says, helping Derek grab Stiles by the legs and haul him backwards. He comes out dirt-stained and cursing. Erica pushes her way past him as the others gather, carefully easing herself into the tunnel. “I think I can make it!”

“Even if you can make it in, how are we going to get the others out?” Isaac asks. 

“One thing at a time,” Derek says, focusing on Erica’s feet and trying to ignore the scent of Stiles’ panic.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

Tom has been hearing muffled voices for a little while, but he hasn’t said anything to the others, because he doesn’t want to give them false hope. The sound of the shaking earth is so loud that he can’t make out who the voices belong to or what they’re saying. All he can do is hope that Peter has found them.

But when Stiles shouts, “Dad!” down the little tunnel, they all hear that. Melissa lets out a little cheer as Tom calls back, “We’re here!” Then there’s silence, more muffled voices, and suddenly Erica’s head and shoulders pop into the little cavern.

“Hey, sailors!” she says, in that jaunty, cheeky tone she uses that always makes Tom smile. She twists herself around and manages to drop into the room. A few seconds later, Allison follows her. She immediately throws her arms around her father for a hug before pulling a knife out of her sleeve and starting to cut them free.

“It’s too narrow to get anyone else through,” she says, and seconds later there’s a loud crack and Erica throws herself on top of Melissa to shield her from falling debris. “How are we going to get you out?”

Chris rotates his shoulders. “Which car did you bring?”

“Yours. I knew you’d want your gear once we got you.”

“Great. Under the back passenger seat, there’s a black case. It’s got some explosives in it.”

“Is it legal to carry - you know what, I don’t want to know,” Tom decides. Erica is already throwing herself back up the tunnel to relay this information. She makes it halfway before deciding it’s quicker to shout up to the others than to try to crawl up to them. “Who all is here?” Tom asks.

“Everyone, all the betas, just not Peter,” Allison says. “He had to lure Jennifer away so we could come get you.”

“How did he do that?” Tom asks, worried.

“I’m not sure,” Allison says. “He didn’t tell anyone the details of his plan except Stiles and Der - ”

There’s another enormous crack. The ceiling sags towards them. Chris shields Allison, and Tom and Erica both hasten to push all their weight against it. But it’s too heavy. It feels like the entire world is coming down on top of them. They’re not going to be able to hold it. They - 

“Here!” Melissa shouts from near the mouth of the tunnel, and she squeezes in between Tom and Erica, wedging the aluminum baseball bat between them and the ceiling. It doesn’t give them a lot of room, and it won’t last for long, but it’s better than nothing.

“Where did you get that?” Tom asks her.

“Someone tossed it down the tunnel,” she says, gesturing and then holding up a black plastic case. “Along with this.”

Chris grabs it from her and pops it open. “Take cover on the far side of the cavern,” he says, “and cover your ears.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Jennifer and Deucalion both look a little surprised when Peter’s reaction to her dramatic statement is no reaction at all. He catches Jennifer’s uneasy glance, then shrugs and says, “Actually we broke up. And we cured Stiles already, so, you know.” He gives her a charming smile. “Lying, conniving piece of shit, remember?”

“You’re going to pay for this - ” Jennifer snaps, and this time Peter doesn’t quite manage to dodge fast enough. He at least gets his arms up in front of his face and throat, so the shards of metal only pierce his abdomen and legs. It’s painful, but he’ll live. His eyes flare blue in instinctive response. Jennifer lets out a delighted laugh. “No alpha power anymore? Is that how you kept Stiles alive?”

“Son of a bitch,” Deucalion says under his breath, as he realizes how thoroughly Peter had played him. 

“True, my mother and I never got along,” Peter says, yanking one of the shards of metal out of his thigh. “But I still don’t like listening to people insult - ”

He doesn’t have time to finish the sentence before Deucalion backhands him so hard that his feet actually leave the air and he goes flying backwards. He slams into a set of exposed pipes and gives an involuntary scream as one pierces his abdomen. 

But it works the way he intended. He knows that neither Jennifer nor Deucalion think of him as a real threat - certainly not compared to the other. As soon as Deucalion looks away from Jennifer for a split second, she’s throwing shards of metal at him. He wheels back towards her, leaping forward and almost catching her by the throat.

Once they’re fully involved in fighting each other, Peter eases himself off the pipe and lowers himself to the ground. It’ll bleed more that way, but he can’t heal while it’s still there. He’ll have to take his chances. “Good enough,” he mutters to himself, and lets his eyes fall shut.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom doesn’t know what the hell to expect when he gets out of the cavern, and for a few moments he’s too busy hugging Stiles and reassuring him that he’s all right to really look around. Then he sees Deaton’s body on the Nemeton, wrapped in that glowing golden light. “What the hell is going on there?”

“Oh, uh, Deaton’s using the power of the Nemeton to heal himself,” Stiles says. “You know, he didn’t want to help us find you and Peter, uh, persuaded him.”

Tom examines that statement from all angles and decides he doesn’t want any details. At least, not right now. “Okay. Where is Peter?”

“He’s with Deucalion. They agreed to take on Jennifer together. Then, uh, he and Jennifer agreed to take on Deucalion together. Basically he’s played all sides of the room and I think he’s gonna just hang out and take a breather while they kill each other, then murder whoever is left standing.”

“Where, specifically?” Chris asks.

“That old distillery on the north edge of town,” Derek says. 

“Okay.” Tom looks at the betas and takes charge. “Derek, take the kids and get back to the den. I guess somebody should stay here with Alan - Scott, Melissa, why don’t you - ”

“Uh, no,” Stiles says hastily. “That might not be a great idea. He’s, um. He’s going to be pretty unhappy with us.”

Tom studies his son, then looks at Derek, who simply nods. “Okay, then, all of you go back to the den. Except you, Chris.”

“We can take my car,” Chris says. “We’ll want my stuff, anyway.”

“Agreed,” Tom says. 

“Dad, can’t I - ”

“No,” Tom says. “Absolutely not. Get back to the den, stay safe. Don’t think we’re not going to have a talk about how you followed me to the high school after you promised me that you were going to stay at the station. That talk is coming.”

Stiles grimaces a little, and Tom softens the verbal blow with a quick tousle of his hair before he turns and follows Chris. The ground is still shaking, and it’s difficult to stay on their feet. They decide to put some space between them and the Nemeton before stopping to look through Chris’ gear. By the time they reach the main road, things are stable again. Whatever Blake is doing, it’s only affecting the Nemeton, which doesn’t surprise him.

“Here,” Chris says, handing Tom a pistol before flipping open a case with a rifle that he preps for himself. “I have more back at the house, if you want to stop there.”

Tom shakes his head. “Handgun will do me just fine.”

“The bullets are laced with wolfsbane, but that’s not a fast kill unless you get it in the head, the heart, or the base of the neck,” Chris says. “Here, take this, too.” He takes out a knife in a leather sheath, and Tom hooks it to his belt. “Notches are filled with silver.”

“Great. Let’s roll.”

They plan strategy on the way there. Tom has never been to the distillery, but Chris has. His father used it many times, he says, and Tom doesn’t ask in what ways. Of course, simply knowing the layout isn’t good to help much. They have no idea what they’re walking into, who will still be alive when they get there. Tom half-expects to find that Peter will have already reigned victorious and will just be sitting there, grinning like a smug little shit.

What he finds instead is Peter crumpled in a pool of blood while Jennifer and Deucalion trade blows. “Jesus,” he says, skidding to his knees at Peter’s side, cradling Peter’s face in his hands. “Peter, can you hear me?” He feels for a pulse and finds one, and it’s faster than usual, fluttering under his fingers like a bird’s wings. “Peter, hey. Open your eyes, look at me.”

Peter’s eyes open, flicker a few times, and then shut. He mumbles, “Five more minutes.”

“Well, look who’s joining us,” Deucalion says, and Jennifer’s head whips around. The color drains out of her face when she sees Tom, realizes that she won’t be sacrificing him any time soon. Her moment of distraction is costly. Deucalion’s fist lashes out and she goes flying through the air, crashing through the shattered metal remains of one wall.

Tom is also distracted, mostly by Deucalion’s alpha form. “Why are you blue?” he asks, despite his better judgment.

“Oh my God, Karen, you can’t just ask people why they’re blue,” Peter murmurs, and Tom feels a snort of laughter bubble up.

“You smell even more like an alpha than before,” Deucalion says. “You’re not quite there yet, though. Imagine what that transition would feel like. Then since Peter’s already dying anyway, you could - ”

“Why isn’t he healing?” Tom interrupts. He carefully examines the wound in Peter’s back and stomach, sluggishly leaking blood. He’s not really interested in a conversation with Deucalion, but figures he might as well keep him talking for a little while. He needs to buy Chris some time.

“Well, betas don’t heal wounds that they receive from alphas,” Deucalion says with a smirk.

“Betas?” Tom frowns. “Peter, what - ”

“S’all right,” Peter says, and then the moment is broken when Jennifer gets back to her feet and throws an entire window at Deucalion. He bats it aside with the same ease that a human would bat aside an annoying fly. Tom decides that Peter had the right idea, and he’s just going to stay very still and not attract attention to himself until after at least one of the two of them is dead. 

Unfortunately for him, Jennifer seems to have a similar idea. Next time she goes flying towards them, she gets back to her feet but stays behind them, leaving them in between herself and Deucalion. “How about a little help, boys? He’ll go through you just as soon as he’ll go around you.”

Tom instinctively glances down at Peter to see what he thinks, but it looks like he’s lost consciousness. “Deucalion won’t kill me,” he says, putting some confidence into his voice that he doesn’t at all feel. “He still wants to have a true alpha in his pack.”

“You’re not a true alpha yet,” Deucalion says, then smirks. “On the other hand, I think I might know how to help you make that final step . . .”

He moves so quickly that Tom has no chance to fire his gun, not even any time to dodge. He grabs Tom by the throat and slams him up against the wall, breaks the bloodied pipe off the wall and stabs it into Tom’s abdomen. “Betas don’t heal wounds from alphas,” Deucalion says, twisting the pipe. Tom grits his teeth against the pain. “That won’t kill you quickly, Sheriff, but it will kill you. Unless you can strike that spark inside yourself, become the alpha you’re meant to be.” He sees Tom reaching for his gun and laughs. “I know you won’t kill me, Sheriff. If you kill me, you’ll never become a true alpha. You want to be the special one, don’t you. You’re better than the rest of us and you know it. You want that power without the price of taking a life. If you kill me, you’ll never be able to prove - ”

Tom fires the gun twice into Deucalion’s chest, and he staggers back but doesn’t fall. “I don’t give a shit about any of that,” Tom pants, and uses his other hand to drive the silver-edged knife into Deucalion’s heart. He pries Deucalion’s hand off his throat and lets him drop to the ground, his body wracked with shudders as the silver races through it. “And there’s no such thing as power without price.”

He pulls the pipe out of his abdomen and tosses it aside. It hits the floor with a clank that he doesn’t notice. The wound is burning from the inside out, but moments later the pain fades. He feels good - strong, healthy, alert to the tiniest sounds and shifts of air around him. 

A quiet clapping sounds behind him and he turns around to see Jennifer standing with the heel of her shoe pressed into Peter’s wound. Tom starts forward and is stopped in his tracks by the line of mountain ash. “Excellent job, Sheriff,” Jennifer says. “It’s almost enough to make me forgive this waste of oxygen for betraying me.”

Tom takes a deep breath and lets it out. “Jennifer, you don’t have to do this,” he says. “Kali and Deucalion are dead. You’ve gotten your revenge. There’s no reason you need to hurt anyone else.”

“Oh, I don’t need to,” Jennifer says, grinding her heel into Peter’s stomach. He lets out a choked noise and grabs her ankle, but he’s too weak to move her. “I just really want to.”

“Nobody else has to die,” Tom says.

Jennifer smirks at him. She lifts her hand and the pipe flies off the floor and into her palm. She spins it around and positions it to thrust down into Peter’s chest.

There’s a sharp crack. Peter winces away as the blood spray hits his face, and Jennifer crumples to the ground, the pipe falling from her limp hand. Tom rubs both hands over his face, trying to ignore the pang of regret. He walks forward, but the mountain ash still stops him, even though Jennifer is dead. “Thanks for the help,” he says, as Chris climbs down from the rafter he had positioned himself on.

“Any time.” Chris swipes his hand through the mountain ash. He looks around at the bodies and says, “I’ll make a few calls and to get this taken care of.”

“Leave Jennifer,” Tom says. “She’s the one who’s been murdering people in Beacon Hills.”

Chris looks vaguely uncomfortable. “I’m a little loath to leave the one body I’m actually responsible for.”

“It won’t come back to you,” Tom says. “You have my word.”

Chris regards him for a moment, then nods. Tom turns away and kneels down next to Peter, taking Peter’s hand between both of his. Without even thinking about it, he draws away some of Peter’s pain. Peter lets out a little gasp and his eyes open. “I lived, bitch,” he mutters, and Tom chokes out a laugh despite himself.

“Can you sit up?” Tom asks, and Peter nods. Tom checks on the wound again once he’s sitting. It’s ugly, but it looks better than it had a few minutes ago. “It’s healing, just slowly.”

Peter nods. “Incidental injury,” he says. “Deucalion didn’t administer the blow himself; he just threw me into the pipe. That means I can heal it even as a beta. It’s just slower.”

“But why are you a beta?” Tom asks worriedly. “Is that something I did? With the whole true alpha thing? Can a pack not have two alphas?”

Peter shakes his head slightly, then groans. “No. Something else. Long story. I’ll tell you about it later.”

That makes Tom frown, but he decides that he doesn’t want to get into it. It’s late at night. He wants to get home and check on the kids. Peter needs to rest and heal more than Tom needs answers right now. “Okay,” he says, and helps Peter off the floor. Or at least that’s what he tries to do. He’s unaware of how much stronger he’s gotten, and nearly ends up throwing Peter onto the ceiling. Chris manages to steady them before Tom overbalances. “Sorry about that.”

“S’fine,” Peter wheezes. “Can we just - go home?”

 “Yeah,” Tom says, smoothing back Peter’s hair. “Let’s go home.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

It takes a little while to get everyone settled back at the den. Tom realizes that he’s starving, and he has no idea what time it is. A quick glance at the clock – he has no idea where his phone wound up – shows that it’s nearly midnight. Too late to order anything. Fortunately, having teenagers over all the time means there’s always food available. He makes himself two sandwiches, adds a pile of chips and a banana, and sets to it. Melissa and Chris similarly dive into his refrigerator.

The kids camp out in the living room and put on a movie. After he’s done eating, Tom glances over and sees that Stiles and Derek aren’t with the rest of them. He downs the last of his soda and heads upstairs. He quickly checks on Peter and finds that he’s sound asleep, his wounds slowly healing.

Tom closes the door most of the way and heads for Stiles’ room. Derek and Stiles are sprawled on the bed with Stiles half on top of Derek, and from the way his hands are underneath Derek’s shirt, it looks like his seventeen-and-a-half birthday has come a little early. Tom shakes his head a little and clears his throat.

“Hey, Dad,” Stiles says, not quite pulling all the way away from Derek as he turns to look at his father. Derek flushes pink and shoves Stiles off of him.

“Relax, I’m not the fun police,” Tom says, amused despite himself. Making out is one thing; he’s very sure that Derek won’t agree to actual sex until Stiles is eighteen. “But I do need to have a little chat with my son, who disobeyed a direct order from me and is going to be extremely grounded.”

Stiles winces but doesn’t argue. Derek nods and rolls off the bed, not quite meeting Tom’s gaze as he edges out of the room.

Tom walks in and sits down on the edge of the bed. “So. Want to tell me what the hell your thought process was?”

“Uh, well,” Stiles says. “I couldn’t just let you walk into danger without me backing you up. If . . . if something had happened . . . which it did, I mean . . . and I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself afterwards. I mean. I would’ve lost my freakin’ mind.”

Tom sighs. “Yeah. That’s about what I figured your thought process was. I guess I should be grateful you called the others to come with you.”

“I didn’t have my car with me,” Stiles says, then realizes he probably shouldn’t have admitted that. “I mean, I would have called them anyway,” he lies hastily.

“Uh huh.” Tom rolls his eyes. “Okay. Your punishment is going to have two . . . no, three parts. First off. You are grounded for two weeks. Beta parties will be at Scott’s house or Peter’s apartment and you aren’t allowed to attend, in person or via Skype. No TV, no video games.”

“I . . . okay,” Stiles says with a sigh.

“Part two: during this grounding, you will do every chore I tell you without complaint, and you will not badger Derek into helping you, or make puppy dog eyes at him so he helps you anyway.”

“Okay,” Stiles mumbles.

“Part three.” Tom considers for a moment, then sighs and gives in. “You’re going to start training with Allison and Chris.”

Stiles blinks. “I’m what?”

“I can’t trust you not to go into dangerous situations,” Tom says. “And frankly in your shoes I honestly don’t know if I would be doing anything different. So if you’re going to insist on doing it, you’re going to be able to protect yourself. Chris can train you in physical combat. I’ll take you down to the firing range so you can get familiar with firearms. You won’t be able to carry one, since you’re only seventeen, but I’ll buy one for you to learn to use under my supervision and put it in a lockbox here in the house, so if you really need it, it will be available. I’m going to trust you to make the call on when that’s going to be necessary. If I ever catch you doing it when it’s not necessary, or playing with it, or not showing that firearm the respect it commands, you will lose all privileges previously mentioned, and the grounding you receive will make this one look like a pleasant dream. Clear?”

Stiles nods, a little subdued. “Yes, sir.”

“Don’t get me wrong; I don’t expect that to happen. I know that you’ll take this seriously. I trust you, Stiles. But I’d still be remiss if I didn’t say it.”

Another nod, although this one is accompanied by a slight smile. “Okay.”

Tom tousles his hair, then stands up. “Don’t stay up all night.”

“Yes, sir,” Stiles says, with a roll of his eyes that shows he’s done being parented for the night. Tom can’t help but laugh as he leaves the room.

Derek is lurking in the hallway, something that doesn’t surprise Tom at all. “Don’t help Stiles with his chores,” he says.

That makes Derek laugh. “Okay.”

“I assume you’re going to sleep in here tonight?” Tom asks, and Derek nods. “Great. I’m gonna crash in your room, unless you have a problem with that. Peter’s sleeping in my bed and I don’t want to disturb him.”

“Sure,” Derek says. He hesitates, then adds, “I’m really glad you’re okay, Tom.”

Tom hooks an arm around Derek’s shoulders and gives him a hug. “Thanks. I’m glad you guys are okay. And thanks for looking out for Stiles while I was gone.”

Derek nods. “I’m also really glad you’re my alpha.” He smiles a little as Tom pulls away. “You’re not my mom, but . . . you’re gonna be a great alpha.”

“I’ll do my best.” Tom tousles Derek’s hair, the same way he always does to Stiles, and then heads to Derek’s room. He kicks off his shoes, peels off his clothes, and collapses onto the bed, asleep before he can bother to draw up the blankets.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

The next day is a busy one. Tom heads down to the station, checks in on Tara, writes approximately a pound of paperwork. Unlike when he had killed Kate Argent, nobody’s going to come asking questions about Deucalion. Chris’ team had made sure his body – along with Kali’s – wouldn’t be found. The twins, surprisingly, had still been breathing. Chris says that he had been trying to decide what to do about that when Morrell had showed up and taken them with her. Whether or not they survived, he doesn’t know.

Tara is recovering well, and both she and Melissa back him up on the fact that Jennifer was the serial killer. A couple of Tom’s deputies mention how weird the whole thing was, but they let it go. They’ve all seen some shit, and they all know that sometimes, the best thing to do is pretend everything is normal.

Of course, Tom still doesn’t even know half of what happened while he was gone, and he’s thinking about how at some point he really needs to sit down with Derek or Stiles and find out. Especially before he goes to see Deaton. He heads home at the end of the day with that in mind.

The betas have all gone home, and the house is quiet. Stiles, who had spent most of the day scrubbing floors, is reading comic books in his room while Derek sketches.

Tom half-expects that Peter will be gone by this point, but he’s sitting at the kitchen table, sipping a mug of tea and scrolling on his phone. He looks up when Tom comes in, and says, “Can we talk?”

“Yeah,” Tom says. He grabs a beer from the fridge and sits down, gesturing with the bottle. “Sure. Let’s talk.”

Peter takes several deep breaths before folding his hands on the table. “So. First of all, I’m sorry. You were right to dump me; I was being a dick. I hate talking about my feelings so this will probably come off as terribly awkward and insincere, but there are a few things I want to say, if you’re willing to listen.”

Tom nods. “I can do that.”

“I’m not a good person,” Peter says. “Honestly, I’ve never really wanted to be. The few people I do care about, I would walk through fire for, literally, but the majority of people I’ve ever met just irritate me. I’m not the sort of person who worries about doing the right thing, or helping other people, or really anything other than helping myself and my pack.”

“Okay,” Tom says, mostly because Peter pauses, and he feels like he’s waiting for a response.

“It’s not like you didn’t know that,” Peter says. “You’re one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and you’re certainly not one for self-delusion, so I don’t think you would have started dating me knowing that I am anything other than I am. But . . .”

His voice trails off. He’s quiet for a long minute.

“I think,” he finally says, “that I was just waiting for you to decide you couldn’t be with me. Waiting for you to realize you could do better. I don’t think it honestly ever occurred to me that you might want to be with me in the long-term. I mean, why would you? I’m not the sort of person that someone like you would want.”

Tom opens his mouth, then closes it, deciding to let Peter finish before he said anything.

“So I self-sabotaged,” Peter concludes. “Derek told me a charming story about how my sister once said that I always hurt other people to keep them from hurting me. And I think that’s true to a certain degree. I’m not one for much self-analysis, and God knows I don’t want to try to explain all the things in my youth that probably contributed to this. But there was always that feeling of not being good enough, in my family. That was the reason I became a criminal. My parents decided when I was five years old that I was going to disappoint them, and, well. I’d hate to have not lived up to that.

“I never had a serious relationship before Olivia, and I never got the chance to push her away the way I tried to do to you. It was an arranged thing - alliance between her pack and mine. Our parents set it up. When I met her, she was everything I typically didn’t like in a woman - timid, eager to please, almost . . . fawning.” His nose wrinkles slightly. “But I realized quickly that her parents had treated her like shit her whole life, and given her to me with the expectation that I would do the same. And my father had chosen her for me knowing I would dislike her. God, there’s so much to unpack here. I’m getting sidetracked.” Peter pushes both hands through his hair. “Long story short. I looked at Olivia the night we married and I swore to her that I would protect her. And then I couldn’t.”

He falls silent again. Tom reaches over the table and takes Peter’s hands in his, giving them a squeeze.

“Maybe I wasn’t ready for this,” Peter finally says. “For loving someone again.”

“It’s okay if you’re not,” Tom says. “You know that, right?”

“Oh, I know. The problem is that I don’t know, because I went and fell in love with you anyway, like some kind of idiot. So even if I’m not ready . . .” Peter shrugs. “Here I am.”

“Here we are,” Tom says, and sighs. “Look. I never thought I was going to make you into a police officer. Hell, I never even thought I’d make an honest man out of you. And I’m pretty sure you never thought you’d make a criminal out of me. But that doesn’t mean we can’t meet somewhere in the middle. That’s what we were doing, like the whole thing with Gerard and his cabin in the woods, before you got all insecure and weird about it.”

“Guilty,” Peter says.

“But this isn’t entirely on you. I was being a jerk, too. I didn’t mean to act like your suggestions weren’t worth considering. Honestly, the idea about using Gerard as bait wasn’t a terrible one. And you were one hundred percent right about what happened at the loft, about needing to prepare for them finding us.”

Peter’s shoulders loosen. “Well, those were the suggestions that didn’t involve murder.”

Tom snorts. “True. But the point stands. I was too quick to dismiss your ideas. You’re a really smart guy, you know.”

“I know,” Peter says, smirking slightly despite himself. But the smirk quickly fades, and he looks away. “Since we’re being honest and ‘using our words’, as Derek would say . . . it did bother me. I already felt like you were better than me, and it felt like you were rubbing it in.”

“I’m sorry,” Tom says. “I never meant to make you feel like that. And I don’t think I’m better than you. I think I’m different. We won’t always agree on things. But I can disagree with you on some things without it meaning that I don’t want to be with you.”

“Presuming you still do.”

Tom took Peter’s hand and pressed a kiss into his palm. “Maybe you weren’t ready for loving someone again. But I was. I am. So yeah, I want to be with you. Because despite what you may think, you are brilliant. You’re tough as nails and you’re brave as hell and you are every bit as amazing as you obviously think I am. So try to take it easy on yourself, okay? I don’t want you to be anything other than who you are.”

Peter leans over the table and kisses him, but only briefly, before he settles back into his chair. “Okay. Now I should tell you how I lost my alpha power.”

Tom frowns. “I hate the fact that you waited until after the previous discussion to bring that up.”

“You know how a werewolf can take someone’s pain?” Peter asks, and Tom nods. “Well, an alpha can do more than that. They can actually absorb damage, injury and illness. It’s not a pleasant ritual, and they risk burning out the alpha spark when they do it. Which is what happened to me.”

Of all the things Tom had been expecting, that clearly wasn’t it. “So you lost it helping someone? Shit, why didn’t you want me to know that?”

“Because it was Stiles,” Peter says. “After you were taken, he didn’t react well. He confronted Jennifer, and she attacked him. Infused his system with mistletoe. We brought him to Deaton, but Deaton said there was nothing he could do, said that I was the only one who could save him. Now, I’m ninety-eight percent sure that’s bullshit, that Deaton pulled that because he wanted me to lose the alpha position, but honestly it doesn’t matter. We couldn’t just pull another Druid out of our collective back pocket, so I used my alpha power to save Stiles.”

“Okay, leaving aside whether or not it matters that Deaton was willing to put my son’s life at risk to get you out of the alpha position, because that is roughly ten thousand percent not okay, I still don’t see why you didn’t tell me.”

“Because I didn’t want you taking me back because I had done it,” Peter says, “and I didn’t want you thinking I only did it so you would take me back.”

Tom studies him for a moment. “Why did you do it?”

“I told you. The few people I do care about, I would walk through fire for. I didn’t blame you for breaking up with me. Even if I had known for a solid fact that you were never going to speak to me again, I still would have given up my alpha power for Stiles. I know what it’s like to lose a son. I would never, ever wish that on you.”

Tom leans over the table and presses a kiss against Peter’s forehead. “Thank you, Peter. For saving my son.”

Peter lets out a breath. It sounds a little shaky, but his voice is even. “In any case, then you killed Deucalion, so now we have an alpha again. So it all works out.”

“If that’s what you want to call this,” Tom says with a snort. “Look. I’m glad you didn’t tell me at first, because you’re right. I’m glad it’s not why I gave you another chance. But I want you to know that it does make me love you a little bit more.”

“Well, I certainly won’t argue with that,” Peter says.

“Now, why don’t you tell me the whole story,” Tom says. “I’ve gotten bits and pieces of it out of order, but I think I should know exactly what happened – especially with Deaton.”

Peter nods. “Yes, you should.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Stiles rests his chin on Derek’s shoulder for a few moments as he sketches, then sprawls across the sofa next to the easel. “I can’t believe my dad is having me train with Chris.”

Derek glances over at him. “I can’t believe your dad didn’t ground you for the rest of your life,” he says, and sees Stiles wrinkle his nose. “Don’t make that face at me. We still haven’t talked about the fact that you lied to me and told me you were safely tucked away at the station, before heading to the high school to try to protect him from a witch.”

“Oh, yeah.” Stiles winces. “I didn’t want you in danger.”

“I know.” Derek huffs. “You’re an idiot. But I’m glad you’re training with Chris. You should know how to protect yourself.”

“Yeah. And I guess I could be a Druid or something? Which is why the mistletoe fucked me up so badly? But Peter says he doesn’t know anyone I could learn from except Deaton, and that’s obviously out. He’s gonna look around, though, I guess call a few people. He knows a lot more people than I would have expected after being in a coma for six years. He’s one of those people who’s got a guy for everything.”

Derek smiles slightly. “That’s Peter, yeah. He always liked to trade favors and buy information. I guess it’s one of the things that made him such a good criminal.”

“Wonder where he learned that skill.”

“I don’t know. God knows it’s not genetic. Or if it is, my mother didn’t get it, and she sure as hell didn’t pass it down to me.” Derek takes on a gloomy tone despite himself. “I thought I made one friend and she turned out to be a homicidal witch trying to kill my pack. I guess that’s still better than Kate.”

“Hey.” Stiles gets off the sofa and walks over, wrapping his arms around Derek from behind. “It’s not your fault that they tried to use you. That is not your fault.”

“I know that,” Derek says. “I mean, in my better moments, I know that. I definitely know that about Jennifer. Still . . . still on the fence about Kate sometimes.” He leans back into Stiles’ embrace, accepting the comfort he offers. “But really, when I found out about Jennifer, I wasn’t even surprised. It made more sense that she would want to use me to get close to the pack than that somebody would actually want to be my friend.”

Stiles lets him go and circles around so they’re facing. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“My blooming social skills,” Derek says dryly. “I thought that was obvious.”

“Why are you saying you don’t have any friends?”

Derek sighs. “I don’t want you to feel like you don’t count, but it was different with you, it’s – ”

“I’m not talking about me, dumbass. I’m talking about the pack.”

Derek looks away. “We all hang out together, that’s all. I’m there because I’m part of the pack.”

“Oh my God. You’re an idiot.” Stiles pinches the bridge of his nose. “Who does Isaac talk to about those weird British dramas he likes?”

“Me, but only because I’m the only other pack member who watches them.”

“And who does Boyd talk to about becoming a teacher and how he’s trying to decide if he wants to teach English or science, and if he’d rather young kids like first graders or maybe more like fifth graders?”

“Me, but – ”

“Who does patterns on Erica’s nails? Who sends gymnastics fail videos to Allison to laugh at them together? Who gave Scott the idea of doing wildlife rehab instead of being a regular veterinarian so he wouldn’t have to deal with bad owners and stupid people, something about which he’s more excited than any suggestions I, his best friend since kindergarten, have ever made?”

Derek is flushed pink. “Well. Me. But – ”

“Every single member of the pack would call you a friend, including my dad, who you might recall uses you as a sounding board sometimes when there’s werewolf stuff going on and he wants an outside opinion that’s less, you know, Peter. Or about teenaged drama because you get a ringside seat so you understand it better than him. You have lots of friends! And you, you know, have me. Boyfriend. Emphasis on friend. Because yes, it was different with me, there was a lot going on when we met and there was some bonding over shared trauma and stuff, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re friends.”

“Okay, okay,” Derek says, holding his hands up. “I surrender. Please stop telling me how many friends I have.”

Stiles gives him a suspicious look. “Because you understand and you believe me, right?”

“Yes,” Derek says. “It just feels . . . weird.”

“Good weird?”

“Yeah.” Derek finds that he’s smiling and leans in to rest his face on Stiles’ shoulder, let Stiles wrap his arms around him, press a kiss into the top of his head. “Really good weird. Just like you.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom has to take a deep breath before heading into Deaton’s clinic. As usual, he’s stopped by the mountain ash gate just inside. Deaton comes out from the back office, with Marin behind him, and this time he doesn’t lift up the gate to allow Tom in. His throat has a jagged scar down one side of it. Tom can immediately see from its placement that Peter had been incredibly careful with his attack. The scar is parallel to the tendons, so none were severed. The windpipe and esophagus likewise would have remained intact. Blood loss would have been the only concern.

“Alan,” he says with a nod. “Healing up okay?”

“Yes.” Deaton’s voice is a little softer than usual. “No thanks to your boyfriend. I assume he did tell you what happened?”

“He did,” Tom says. “And he’s doing fine, too, by the way. Adjusting well to being a beta.”

“And your son? How is the budding little sociopath you raised?”

Tom arches his eyebrows. “He’s great. No thanks to you.”

Deaton sighs. “I see there’s no point in discussing what happened.”

“Oh, no, I absolutely want to discuss what happened,” Tom says. “I want you to justify to me why you were willing to put my son’s life on the line in order to get Peter out of the alpha position.”

“There was nothing I could do to save Stiles,” Deaton says. “Regardless of what Peter has told you.”

“Do you honestly expect me to believe that? At the very least, you could have tried contacting other Druids to see if any of them were able to save him. You could have tried the ritual to see if it worked, even if you believed it wouldn’t. Then we could go into the fact that I’ve talked to the kids since last night and they told me that rather than bringing them to the Nemeton, you offered to do some sort of insane surrogate sacrifice that would have involved drowning them all in a tub of ice water. Which would have had negative effects for the rest of their lives. Something about ‘darkness around the heart’? That seems weird to me. Why would that be your solution when you could have just given them directions?”

“I don’t expect you to understand the reasons for any of what we do,” Deaton says. “But since you insist on pressing the issue, fine. Yes, it was worth Stiles’ life to get Peter out of the alpha position.”

“Okay,” Tom says. “Fine. If that’s what you believe. But that means you have no right to call my son a sociopath. You were willing to let him die; he was willing to let you die. That seems pretty fair to me, honestly. At least he was doing it to save my life, rather than whatever the hell your bullshit reasons were.”

Marin speaks for the first time. “We act to maintain the balance.”

“The balance.” Tom considers that for a long moment. “The balance of what, exactly?”

Morrell blinks, clearly taken aback by this question. “The balance of everything.”

“Uh huh.” Tom nods. “So this is like a Star Wars thing. You know, bringing balance to the force. Like the balance of good and evil.”

“Exactly,” Morrell says.

“And what is so great about that?”

Morrell blinks again. “Excuse me?”

“Why would we want good and evil to be balanced? I’m not a fan of that at all. I think evil should be vastly outnumbered and outgunned by good. I think saying you maintain the balance is just a way to get out of accountability for the fact that you sat on your ass and did nothing while Deucalion hurt innocent people. So why don’t you take your ‘balance’ and get the hell out of my town.” He turns back to Deaton. “You should go, too.”

“Tom.” Deaton pinches the bridge of his nose. “You don’t want to do this. You’re going to need us.”

“Am I?” Tom can’t help but look skeptical. “For what?”

“For the battle that’s coming.”

Tom shakes his head. “Nope. I’m done with your cryptic remarks. I’m done with your half-helpful advice that always comes a little too late. And I’m definitely done dealing with the man who would have let my son die. You wanted me to be alpha of this territory, well, you got what you wanted. And I don’t need an Emissary that I can’t trust.”

“I wanted you to be a True Alpha,” Deaton says. “But you’re not, are you. You killed Deucalion. You’re just like all the others.”

Tom has to take a deep breath. “Let me explain something to you, Alan. I didn’t care about the whole ‘true alpha’ thing when you brought it up. I didn’t care about it when Deucalion had a pipe in my gut and tried to tell me I wouldn’t kill him because doing that would mean I could never be a true alpha. And I sure as hell don’t care about it now that you’re using it to tell me I’m a bad person or whatever the hell you’re trying to imply. I gave up my chance to be a true alpha when I killed Deucalion because that was what was necessary. I would do it again if I had to. And I honestly could not care less what you think of me.” He folds his arms over his chest and stares Deaton down. “I want you out of Beacon Hills, Alan . . . and I don’t want to have to tell you twice.”

He turns and leaves the office, letting the door slam shut behind him.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tom had taken the precaution of leaving Peter on the phone while he was at Deaton’s, and he’s not at all surprised to find that Peter had recorded the conversation. The rest of the pack has gathered, and he looks around at the teenagers and thinks about telling them that they shouldn’t be involved. Then he sighs and disregards it. Far too much has happened for that to work. Peter had basically made all of them accessory to attempted murder, and although he doesn’t think Peter was wrong, there’s no going back now.

“Dad! What’s he talking about?” Stiles immediately demands. “The battle that’s to come? What the fuck battle is that?”

Tom raises a hand and gently presses Stiles back into his chair. “First of all,” he says, “there’s at least a fifty percent chance that he was just saying what he thought was necessary to make me keep him around.”

“Seems likely,” Derek says, rubbing a soothing hand down Stiles’ back.

“But we have made a lot of waves lately. The hunter community is still probably pretty riled up about what happened to Kate, and now that I’m the alpha, they might have some opinions about that. I doubt Deucalion has any friends that are going to come knocking on the door, and Jennifer Blake seems to have kept to herself. But still, we’ll be prepared for anything.”

“What about Peter’s alpha power?” Stiles asks, darting a sideways glance at Peter. “Are we going to try to get it back?”

Amused, Peter says, “I can’t ‘get it back’. That’s not how the alpha power works.”

“No, but, I mean.” Stiles won’t quite look at his father. “Should we try to find an alpha for you to kill?”

Peter looks at Tom. “Chris could probably find one, don’t you think?”

Tom opens his mouth to protest, but then realizes it’s actually a very valid suggestion. He’s accepted that it’s impossible to imprison alpha werewolves. He’s seen the damage they can do. Chris, with his connections in the hunter community, very likely can find one that deserves the death sentence. He nods and says, “We can ask him.”

“You’re okay with that?” Peter asks, looking at Tom closely.

“Am I in love with the idea? No. But your power was stolen from you, and you deserve to have it back. If this is how we can accomplish that, it seems fair to me.”

Peter relaxes slightly. “Okay. And if Deaton’s not lying about some type of battle coming around the corner, we’ll handle it. Together.”

Tom lifts Peter’s hand and presses a kiss into his knuckles. “That’s exactly what we’ll do.”

 

~season 3A fin~