Stiles breezed through the back door of Deaton's clinic, a wide grin on his face. "Hey guys, I-"
"What are you doing here, Stiles?" Scott demanded.
Stiles stopped, confused, and looked around the room at the assembled pack and Deaton. Everyone had gotten there before him. Scott and Isaac arrived together, but Isaac had immediately gravitated over to where Allison stood by Lydia. The twins, Aiden and Ethan, sat next to each other in folding chairs Deaton thoughtfully provided, boredom written on their faces. Peter leaned against a wall, keeping his motivations shady. Ignoring Scott's accusing glare, Derek motioned Stiles closer to the table where they'd set up.
"I'm here for the Emissary meeting."
"No, you can't be here." Scott shook his head. "The Emissary is coming to interview the pack. Only the pack. We need to make a good impression."
Stiles stilled, pain clawing at his heart. He sent a questioning look to Derek who was scowling at the True Alpha. Stricken, he turned back to his best friend. "You don't think I'm pack?"
"Of course you're pack." Lydia sent a death glare Scott's way. "Why are you saying he's not?"
"Stiles, you know I love you, man, but you're not a wolf, or a Banshee and can't defend yourself against the Supernatural." Scott crossed his arms over his chest and addressed the rest of the pack, "He's going to get himself killed. If not him, then one of us because we're more focused on protecting him than defeating our enemies."
"Stiles is pack," Derek spoke for the first time since Stiles arrived. "He's always been pack."
Scott shook his head stubbornly. "We've indulged Stiles long enough. How many times do we need to go over this?"
Stiles turned to Derek. "You've talked about kicking me out of the pack?"
Derek tore his eyes away from Scott, his glower softening into sympathy as he took in Stiles' hurt expression. "Scott talks about it. I didn't tell you because I kept thinking he'd pull his head out of his ass."
Scott let out a frustrated sigh. "Stiles, come on, we need this Emissary. They're supposed to be really strong. Deaton has been helping us until now, but he's planning on retiring in a few years. Without an Emissary, we won't be able to protect the territory as well. If another pack comes to Beacon Hills with their own magic like the Alpha Pack did, and we don't have our own... people could die."
Stiles looked over to where Deaton stood, impassive. "You're just closing up shop? Planning on turning everything over to the new guy?"
Deaton gave a serene shrug. "Everything except the clinic. I imagine my replacement will consider a different career path. Of course, that is if they elect to take the role of emissary to the Hale-McCall pack. After this interview, they may decide this particular pack, such as it is, might not be a good fit."
"That's what I'm talking about." Determination set in the True Alpha's uneven jawline. "The interview is already going to be tense since we're a pack with two Alphas. Having humans in the pack is going to make us look weak."
"What? I'm human." Allison glared at her ex-boyfriend.
Scott flushed. "You're a trained hunter."
"And I'm just poor, defenseless Stiles, huh?" Stiles said bitterly, his eyes burning.
"You're not defenseless," Derek insisted to Scott's dismay. "You've saved all of our lives before."
"Stiles, you're my best friend, and I love you, but you're not a wolf. You don't possess the strength or the instincts that comes with being a werewolf."
Peter snorted. "You're an idiot."
Scott glowered at him.
The older wolf sighed as if the True Alpha's very existence was symptomatic of all that was wrong in the universe. "My second biggest regret in life, after Laura's death, is biting the wrong kid in the woods that night. You may be a True Alpha - an aberration I blame more on your stubbornness than your strength or morality - but you have no instincts."
"No one asked you," Scott snapped.
"A failing I was willing to overlook." Peter's words were serious but his face told a different story. He looked like a man who'd been told Christmas had come early and every present under the tree was for him. "Without Stiles, you'd have been dead the first week. Chris Argent would have killed you if Stiles hadn't helped you learn control."
"I learned control when I figured out Allison is my anchor. All Stiles did is hit me with Lacrosse balls."
"Way to minimize my contributions, Scott."
"Scott has a point," Aiden said. "Stiles isn't a wolf."
"Even though he's a nice guy-" Ethan started, then paused. "Well, no. You're kind of an asshole."
Stiles grinned. "Okay, valid. But then, so are you guys."
"We like to play to our strengths," Aiden conceded.
"So say we all," Stiles agreed.
Scott growled at the interruption. "I'm trying to do what's best for the pack and for Stiles. He can't win against a werewolf."
"That's a lie." Stiles jab his finger at Scott. "When you wolfed out and attacked me in the locker room, I stopped you. And I've faced everything, same as you, only I did it without the benefit of wolfy super powers." Stiles stopped, a grin suddenly spreading across his face. He turned that bright smile on Derek. "Dude, I'm Batman."
Derek chuffed. "Moron."
"Pssh," Stiles waved off the insult. "You know you love me."
Derek stiffened, then shrugged.
Stiles stared at him, everyone else momentarily forgotten. "Really?"
"Can we talk about it later?" Derek lowered his voice, obviously uncomfortable with their audience.
"Ye..yeah. We'll talk. Later. With the talking. And.." Stiles trailed off, then shook himself back to reality. "Where was I? Oh, yeah, I'm Batman."
"You're not Batman," Scott yelled. "Nobody is Batman."
"Certainly no one with that attitude," Stiles grumbled. "You know what? I'm tired of talking about this. If you don't want me in your pack, fine with me. Good luck with the not dying."
Stiles gave everyone a tight smile, and started walking toward the door. He stopped, turning back when he heard Derek say, "I'm out, too. I can't co-Alpha a pack with you, Scott. I was willing to try for Stiles' sake, but now I don't need to put up with you."
"Finally," Lydia said happily. She picked up her designer purse. "I'm only in this pack because of Stiles."
At Derek's suspicious look, she sighed. "I have no designs on your boyfriend, not that you've DTR'd yet. I'm going to be in the Hale Pack. Stiles is my friend and I trust you to be a better Alpha than McCall."
"Lydia!" Scott protested. "We're your friends."
Lydia leveled him with an unimpressed look. "No, Stiles is my friend, which makes you the friend of my friend. Although, I think you've successfully changed that to the ex-friend of my friend."
Derek gave her a nod. "I would be delighted to count you as pack, Lydia."
"Of course you would." She lifted her chin regally, but gifted him with a grateful smile.
"Can I come, too?" Everyone turned to where Isaac shifted uncomfortably, shoulders hunched in. "I mean, we haven't always gotten along, but-"
"Never think you aren't welcome, Isaac." Derek appeared surprised but pleased. "You're family."
Isaac brightened, flushing pink.
"This is crazy," Scott shook his head, then turned a wounded expression on Isaac. "Do you seriously want to leave with Derek? Derek? The guy who kicked you out?"
Isaac looked at Derek and nodded. "Stiles told me Derek did that because he thought the Alpha pack would view me as less of a target if I didn't live with him. He said Derek always tries to do the right thing, but sometimes he's bad at the execution."
Derek raised an eyebrow at Stiles, who gave a nervous laugh. "Not wrong, dude."
"Don't call me dude," Derek muttered.
"That's better," Derek said fondly. "You're right, I wasn't always the best Alpha."
"There was a rather steep learning curve," Stiles reminded him. "Crazy Alpha Peter, Kanimas, Re-Peter the Undead Zombie Wolf-"
"Rude," Peter scoffed.
"- Alpha Packs, Scott."
Ignoring Scott's outraged sputtering, Stiles beamed at the Hale Alpha. "But now, I'm here to help you with all of this." He threw his arms out expansively.
"Are those jazz hands?" Isaac whispered to Peter.
"Unfortunately," he said with a grimace.
Stiles stopped waving his hands and tucked them behind his back. "Jazz hands. No. I don't know what you're talking about."
"Let's go." Derek shook his head at Stiles' antics.
Isaac held a hand out to his conspicuously silent girlfriend. "Allison?"
She bit her lip, looking from her boyfriend to Scott. "I'm sorry." She took a step back. "There's just been so much history between my family and the Hale Pack. The Argents hold no grudges against the pack, and we'd be willing to sign a treaty, but I... I just can't."
Isaac dropped his hand. "Goodbye, Allison."
"Wait, you can't just break up with her because she doesn't want to switch packs," Scott said angrily.
"It's not that. I'm not the one she wants."
"I'm sorry." Allison sniffled, avoiding his eyes.
Stiles hated the pain he could feel coming from the heartbroken Isaac. True, he'd considered it unhealthy for an abuse survivor like Isaac to date a girl who'd stabbed him repeatedly in a fit of rage. But, that didn't lessen the hurt now. Later, after he'd had a chance to comfort his packmate, he might talk to him about boundaries and not falling into an abusive cycle. He'd have to tread carefully. Make sure Isaac knew he was loved and not being attacked. Hmm. He'd do some research. Maybe ask his Dad. As Sheriff, he had experience with the psychology of domestic abuse victims.
"This will hardly come as a surprise to anyone, my allegiance is with the Hale Pack," Peter said smoothly. "Not only do I consider my nephew the better alpha, and Stiles' brains and cunning a welcome addition to the pack, but I would rather pinch myself until I bleed than spend another five minutes with you as my alpha, Scott."
"Nice burn." Isaac bumped his shoulder in appreciation. The older wolf blinked in surprise, then nudged him back.
"There's no sense in hanging around here," Derek said over the sound of Stiles' amusement.
Stiles stopped giggling and looked around the room uncertainly."What about the emissary?"
"Let the McCall Pack take the interview." Derek turned to the Druid. "If the emissary declines the position, would you see if they're willing to consider the Hale Pack?"
Deaton, who'd silently observed the break-up of the Hale-McCall pack, inclined his head. "Of course."
"Like an emissary is going to turn down a True Alpha, strong wolves and a Hunter," Scott said with a sneer. "Especially for the Hale FailPack. Granted, you've got Isaac and a Banshee, but you also have a bad Alpha, crazy Peter and the human Stiles problem."
Derek gave an unconcerned shrug. "The original Hale Pack had several humans. They were important members of the pack. They made us better, kept us human. If the emissary has a problem with humans, then they're not right for our pack. I'd rather have Stiles and Lydia at my back any day."
"You're a keeper," Stiles purred, then laughed when the alpha's ears turned red. Spinning around to speak to Deaton, he nearly lost his footing, and was saved from falling by Derek's steady hands. He flushed pink, ducking his head shyly. "Ahem. Thanks for everything, Deaton. This has been - like every other time I ever came here - educational."
"Any time, Stiles." Deaton's lip curved, "I'm glad everything worked out for you."
"Thanks." Stiles smiled, took the hand Derek offered, and slipped out the door with his pack.
Silence reigned inside the veterinary clinic for a few moments. Deaton moved to his desk to deal with some paperwork. Allison tried to sooth the visibly upset Scott, stroking his arm reassuringly while he leaned against her. "It'll be okay," he told them. "Once we convince the emissary to go with us, Isaac and Lydia will see they've made a mistake. We'll take them back."
"What about Derek and Peter?" Ethan asked.
Scott frowned. "I'm not sure about them. I don't know if I can ever truly trust either of them again."
"And Stiles?" Allison asked.
Scott sighed. "He's been my best friend for years. I don't want to lose him over this." He thought for a moment, then brightened. "We can tell him he's pack-adjacent. Make him feel included. We'll even let him do research for us. You know how much he loves research. He's always asking Deaton about stuff, right?"
"Hmm." was all Deaton said.
"Great. Now that we've gotten that figured out, we just need to get through this interview." Scott paused and checked the time on his phone. "This emissary is running late. How long did you say the interview will take?"
Deaton looked up from where he was looking over the notes he'd taken on a cat he'd treated for a skin condition that afternoon. "Well,-" he cut off when his phone dinged. Pulling up the message, he scanned the contents. "The emissary has declined the position with the McCall pack."
"But the interview hasn't even started," Scott sputtered.
"Actually, it just ended. The emissary thanks you for your time, but has decided to go with the Hale Pack," Deaton read from the text.
"What?!" Scott stated at him in disbelief. "They didn't even talk to us."
The phone dinged again. Deaton smiled briefly at the contents. "He feels he can't be in a pack with someone who 'doesn't accept his inherent Batman-ness.'"
Scott felt like the air had gone out of the room. "Stiles? The emissary was Stiles?"
Deaton nodded. "Stiles began training as my replacement last year."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Tradition dictates the student learns in secret until they are deemed ready to serve a pack. That way the student can learn in peace without having to worry about being courted by prospective packs."
"He could have said something when he came in. If I'd known he could do magic, none of this would have happened." Scott looked lost. "Why didn't he say something?"
Deaton sighed. All this drama was giving him a headache. "I imagine he hoped his alpha would want him for himself and not for what he could do for them."
With that, he turned off his desk lamp and made shooing motions at the door. "If you don't mind, I would like to close up now."
"Huh?" Scott said, still in a daze.
"Supernatural airs tonight. I hear Chuck is going to appear in the episode." He ignored Scott's shocked expression. "I love that character. The regular guy everyone underestimates, but is secretly more powerful than anyone imagines. Too bad there aren't more people like that in real life, right? Ah, well. Off you go."